On Tuesday, I will drive through the winding hills near Stinson Beach and arrive at a Zen Buddhist monastery, Green Gulch Farm. I intend to stay there for the next two months: practicing meditation, being in stillness, and resting in nature.
I am following the calling of my heart to this monastery along the California coast. To explain why is to share the peace in my body as the fog settles into the redwoods, the clarity of my mind after a dip in the ocean. It is to capture the feeling of arriving after a long drive through the trees, opening the car door, and inhaling my first breaths of crisp forest air. I have arrived, I am home, I am here.
I am leaving my home in San Francisco and my career at Etsy to follow this path.
After teaching, I began my software engineering career on the Localization and Translation team at Etsy. For the past two years and three months, I’ve built tools to localize Etsy’s English, US-based site for our international community of buyers and sellers. I’ve spun up spelling correction and autosuggest services, trained customized translation systems, investigated outages and non-ASCII character sets, and automated evaluation of our translation systems using Mechanical Turk. I’ve learned Java, PHP, React, Scalding, and best practices for coding and collaborating within a Scrum environment. Along the way, I’ve had the fortune to work with colleagues who genuinely care about making the world (and our office) a better place.
Two and a half years ago, I met and fell in love with the first person I could imagine a future with. Together, we experienced such incredible joy, joy that made my heart sing and my mind quiet. I was often dazzled by the sacred nature of our love: by the ability of another person to inspire and to hold me, by the silly and adventurous way we were together. Together, we jumped into frigid ocean water, explored clay beaches, danced through four weddings, hiked mountains in rain and sunshine. I learned to stay with discomfort and difficulty by loving Scott, to articulate my own needs and to see his clearly, and finally, last December, to love myself enough to walk away.
Two years ago, I finally accepted my sexuality, coming out as bisexual to my parents, friends and coworkers (today, I identify as queer but not bi). I dated women for the first time, took refuge in a bisexual support group at the Pacific Center in Berkeley, and marched in the Pride parade in New York City with Etsy coworkers. I explored alternatives to heterosexuality and monogamy, and arrived at my own understanding of commitment and love.
One year ago, I started a three month journey of yoga teacher training at Laughing Lotus. In five-hour workshops on weekend afternoons, I became friends with my body and learned to listen to and care for my own physical needs. I developed rigor and discipline in my yoga practice: discovering freedom and space in wheel, in crow, in a simple downward dog. Since becoming a certified yoga teacher, I’ve facilitated community classes at the Lotus studio, and led breathing and mindfulness exercises at Green Gulch and in community.
And one year ago, I found my Buddhist sangha in a peaceful living room in the Mission. On Monday evenings, with clementines for snacking and Tobi the dog for company, the practice truly came alive for me. We practiced sitting in stillness and coming back to the breath, utilized wise speech and deep listening in group discussions, and shared our own lives with love and honesty. The sangha made space for me to be present with myself, and to explore the questions on my mind without judgment. How do I respond to anger? What is suffering and what is love? How can I nourish my relationship with my family? What is my true purpose?
In this sangha, I learned to offer myself fully to a community, to trust that there is space for my truth (and everyone else’s) to exist and to be held, and to experience in my body the perfection of generosity: that there is no giver, no receiver, and no gift. It is from this sangha that I draw the strength and resolve to move forward into the unknown of monastery life.
I acknowledge the fear and doubt in my own mind about this path. The fears of leaving a stable career, a long-term relationship, a loving community of friends, and a city that celebrates my identity: I am sometimes lost in the collective darkness of my fear. At the same time, I recognize that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather, the recognition and embracing of it. Without fear, courage cannot exist; my courage arises when I hold my fear gently and continue to follow my path.
This year, it is my intention to cultivate love for myself and for all beings. May I greet each moment that arises with a non-discriminative mind and an open and loving heart.
Thank you for reading, my friend. I will be away from technology entirely for the next two months, and I look forward to connecting when I return. I wish you the best in your journey.
With respect and love,