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Spoken Like a True Buddha

A series of stories edited by Carolyn Cleveland Schena and Sharron Mendel
to appear in the Mindfulness Bell

"When you are alienated from your roots, you seek Buddhas. When you are in touch (with who you really are), you are a Buddha."
                                     - Thich Nhat Hanh

Time and again, the power of one story has brought healing and inspiration in our lives. Other mindfulness practitioners' sharings about how they have overcome challenges in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances has kept us going in difficult times. We thought it would be wonderful to collect these stories and to share them with others. Thus began our venture into creating a book, a "borderless sangha" that could bring powerful stories to people whether or not they had a regular sangha with which to practice. Oddly enough, even though we did not know it at the time, we would need just such a resource as we ventured into new lives where there are no established sanghas.

The process of the book began with a call for submissions that was distributed during Thay's 2003 North American tour and via e-mail to sanghas worldwide. We received stories from practitioners around the world. Each author spoke about how they were integrating the practice into everyday life in their work, whether as psychologists or teachers, in their relationships with their spouses, children and dying parents, and in the tumultuous world of politics. The intimacy, authenticity, and deep insight we found in these stories caused us to entitle the collection "Spoken Like a True Buddha," for many of the authors were speaking from a place in which they were in touch with who they really were. Initially, we had conceived of the creation of a book, but upon reflection, we realized that although we had collected a number of stories, ultimately we did not have the quantity needed for the creation of a full-fledged book. The Mindfulness Bell became the perfect place to distribute these stories to be shared with the world-wide sangha. The first story, written by Nancy Hom, appeared in the most recent issue. The next issue of the Mindfulness Bell will have even more stories!

We are grateful to a number of dharma teachers and friends who supported the growth of this project, including Thay, Sr. Chan Khong, Anh Huong and Thu Nguyen, Richard Brady, Mitchell Ratner, Jack Lawlor (Lakeside Buddha Sangha), Sr. Chau Nghiem (Plum Village), and Sumi Loudon, author, with Jack Kornfield, of Blue Jean Buddha, and finally Paul Mahon, who supported us wholeheartedly during critical junctures.

The stories we received had an uncanny way of speaking to us directly, providing nourishment and healing to us both as we went through our own life changes. After completing the organizing of Thay's mindfulness retreat with Congress, Carolyn moved to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She and her new husband Gary Schena opened STUDIO 12, a paint-your-own-pottery business. Carolyn and Gary are now re-inventing themselves as local artists, and Carolyn is delighted to be drawing upon her undergraduate education where she studied fine art. Sharron and her former husband finalized their divorce with a ceremony of gratitude and blessings, and after 16 years away, she returned to her home town of Birmingham, Alabama. There she is the new Executive Director of Friends of the Railroad District, Inc., a nonprofit that is partnering with the City to build a park that will transform the way people live, work and play in downtown Birmingham.

Both of us have begun the process of creating of our own sanghas. It has made us even more grateful for the years of practice we had with the Washington, DC-area mindfulness community. Sharron's meditation group was appropriately birthed on the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!


Carolyn Cleveland Schena, Peaceful Flower of the Heart, sits regularly with her husband and friends on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She can be reached at 252-995-7899 or carolyn(at)studio12hatteras.com.

Sharron Mendel, Compassionate Vow of the Heart, now sits with a small group in her home in Irondale Alabama. She can be reached at 205-401-7541 or sharron_mendel(at)mindspring.com.

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