I don’t know about monastic life, so I’d like to get some feedback about something totally outside my wheelhouse.
I have a casual friend, a woman, who is 42 years old. I don’t know her super well, but I’ve had a few deeper conversations with her. I know that she has some depression and some eating issues, lives with her dad and doesn’t have a job. Basically, she is living the human condition: life is unsatisfactory, the lifelong strategies still aren’t working and she doesn’t know to sit still, close her eyes and see for herself what is happening! Her therapist encouraged her to meditate and when I explained briefly about some super basic dhamma concepts, she seems open to it but doesn’t have any experience or perspective. I don’t have experience as a teacher, so perhaps I’m not helping her to comprehend. Being kind of a solitary practitioner, I don’t say much to people about my practice unless they ask. Yet, I have a lot of compassion for people and know the dhamma to be the way out, particularly when I can relate with a person’s dukkha. But I don’t have experience guiding people in ways like this.
I thought of the concept that she’s in a perfect logistic opportunity to go to a monastery and get the dust out of her eyes. Yet, I don’t have any inkling of what monastery life is like, whether she is mentally fit for such a thing or if a person like that is someone a monastery would be equipped to handle.
I’m happily married and, for the sake of myself, my wife and my marriage, I can’t and won’t get too close to her or enmeshed with her; that’s a role for others. But I don’t want just to turn away from a person deep in dukkha.
I’m not sure if I should bring it up to her, as it feels like it could be too big of a leap for a her. But on the other hand, there are compassionate, loving people reading this who know much, much more than I do about things like this.
Do you have any thoughts or advice about this situation? Any personal experience or alternatives to help a person like her discover the dhamma?
Why not share some literature with her, or send her an email with links to local centres so that she can make an informed choice as to whether to take it further or not.
This way you maintain your distance (very wise in yr case) and have given her access to the Dhamma - she is empowered to help herself.
I agree with @mpac. You can also send her links to any talks you think might help. Ajahn Brahms Friday talks have helped so many people.
You don’t say where you are and whether there are monasteries near you, but maybe she can just visit for the day and hang out in the peace.
One thing to consider is that If she has an eating disorder then being forced into 8 precepts (while staying) is probably not helpful. Though some places are flexible about eating in the evening for health reasons.
Thank you both for your suggestions. We are on the Central Coast of California, half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
I agree with the suggestions above. Putting her in touch with a temple would be beneficial.
Good that you are able to look after yourself as well as others, in this.
In that case you’re lucky. There are so many senior nuns in California. Even if a bit further north. Dhammadarini in Pengrove and Aloka Vihara in Placerville both spring to mind as places she might be able to reach for a day or weekend visit.
That’s really great news! I’m meeting her today and will use every suggestion. Thank you all.
How did it all go? A follow up would be great if you find the time.
I don’t have an inkling about your friend’s financial status, but in the event she has enough money to undertake foreign travel why not suggest a trip to Thailand? I was in a very serious funk a year ago. Before I found myself in a severely depressed state I had planned a trip to Thailand. The purpose of my visit was not to start practicing Buddhism. But when I got to Thailand and started to observe the life of the people there, all of a sudden I sort of “got it.” A kind person in Thailand explained the Dhamma to me and I had a chance to speak with some monks about Buddhist practice at a Wat in Chiang Mai where the monks seek out conversation with tourists. When I got back to the United States I sought out my local Wat (there is a sizable Thai and Lao community where I live), and the rest is history.
Anyway, my point is that I initially absorbed the basics of Buddhist teachings as if by osmosis on my brief trip to Thailand. There is something about being among people for whom Buddhism is a way of life that can be highly revelatory. Anyway, that was my experience.
BTW, in addition to the monasteries in Pengrove and Placerville mentioned by @Pasanna, there is a monastery with male monks in Mendocino County that I have been meaning to visit. It’s north of San Francisco, but could be well worth the drive:
Edit: Apart from the airfare, which could be rather spendy, Thailand is very affordable for Americans given the current cost of living in Thailand and favorable exchange rate.
Thanks for your concern, Pete. I’ve had several conversations with her and made her aware of the dhamma as well as many options for her to pursue. Perhaps she’ll come around at some point and take steps in that direction, but at this point I think she’s fully identified with her situation and isn’t able to even conceptualize that there is a way out. It’s remarkable to watch people confront something that doesn’t fit with their view and see how they’ll construct ways to avoid another possibility.
With metta, compassion, sympathetic joy and equipoise…