I’ve long been drawn to the biblical story of Mary and Martha, to contrasting characters’ modes of action. I think of myself as having strong Mary tendencies while admiring Martha-type industriousness from a far, but many who know me in daily life might disagree.

Anyway, these two came to mind because with sudden urgency I went plundering a decade’s worth of emails last night, looking for the Buddhist refuge name I’d shared with just one friend. (I’ve taken on practices more comfortable than any in ages, so it seemed right to search for ‘my name’ as a locator…part of a set of coordinates, if you will.)

I’m turning 52. When I took refuge 12 years ago, my name was written on a small card I promptly lost. The meaning of the name was written on the card as well, but I couldn’t read it and was too shy to ask clarification.

Thankfully, although I couldn’t find it, my friend could. 🙂 It’s a funny name really; it’s visual representation would be something like this:

A note I happened upon when searching, regarded the Mary and Martha story. In it, the same wise friend shared the sensibility that we’re both Mary and Martha at different times in our lives, or, he said, “More accurately, we are always both Mary and Martha.” They may be presented as a contrast, but are not truly in competition.

I didn’t see this simple truth when first given this name, I felt I had to not place much importance on what I thought of as trappings of the journey I was embarking on. I was untrusting of myself, suspicious of falling into similar cult-like ‘obedience and conformity’ behaviors as I’d experienced in churches when young. Praise from elders and connection within groups is a deep longing for those who yearn for family, and the idea of available love can be very seductive. Thankfully, something in me always kept some light of questioning, even back then.

[In a a vivid dream of walking down a busy highway with Jesus, I
turned to ‘evangelize’ to a group of ‘unsaved’ people my age,
Jesus didn’t. When I noticed and looked back, he
was still walking, so I abandoned course and jogged to catch up
with him instead. It took me weeks to come to the conclusion
that I had to question, even go against,
what my church was urging. I’d prided myself then, as many seem to now,
on being willing to go so far as to embarrass myself ‘for my faith’.
Many can recognize this when they see it from others,
especially in political buffoonery, but don’t most
religions have some version of killing ego? ]

My rebelliousness, what my ex-husband called my feralness, won out. Perhaps the Lama could see that as the case? I like to think now, that he picked up on an underlying ferocious when he chose the name. 😉

“Emptiness and appearance do not negate each other. Just like a rainbow
can appear, but doesn’t have to have truly existing entity. Knowing this
true nature of all phenomenon is the darshan of Manjushri.”
-Dzongzar Kyentse Rinpoche

I described to my therapist the feeling when, after waiting and waiting, with many buses stopping and going, a bus finally approaches that seems to be your bus. The numbers are fuzzy but there are the right number of digits. Then, those digits slowly take shape; their edges become clearer. It’s within this context that I’m willing and happy to take on more structured practices now. It isn’t performative, and if it’s just for a time again, that’s okay.

Speaking of names (I’ve mentioned this before), I work across the street from the bus stop a boyfriend wrote as the setting in ‘our song’. The lyrics describe our second meeting, two years before we became involved–a very long time when young: “Won’t you be my friend, and tell me, what’s your name? Won’t you be my friend, don’t turn and walk away. Won’t you be my friend, believe me when I say, I have hopes that some day we’ll meet again.”

He was a lovely person, and although the relationship lasted a blink, the bus stop is a daily reminder to me that auspicious timing is worth waiting for, and names can be like signs over the doorposts of life chapters. When I later met my (now ex) husband, I asked him jokingly “Don’t you know who I am?” He startled, believing I might be someone ‘important’, which indeed I became to him.

So many worlds in play, none of them ‘me’,
May be sitting in a garden somewhere,
Under a tree.


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