Sitting with a Monk, by Susan Sklar, LMHC
I met Bhante Dhammawansha in 2006 when I was a therapist at an alternative treatment center for adults in Clearwater, Florida.
Bhante ‘sat’ with clients twice monthly to talk about cultivating mindfulness and compassion and ending suffering. He would arrive early to the Center and walk to my office at the end of the hallway. I would leave my door open and his chair ready. Each visit, I had a question for him to answer. Once I asked him how my 2 older siblings could ignore my mother in her old age. I asked, “Doesn’t everybody have a conscience?”
He sat for a moment (as he always does) and smiled. “Susan…don’t advise. Lead by example.”
From that day forward I no longer put my attention to what my siblings did or did not do. I no longer yearned for an answer to that question. All I had to do was focus on what I was doing.
I have maintained a dear relationship with Bhante. Nothing is more wonderful than getting a call or a text from a monk! My entire way of thinking changed through meeting and sitting with Bhante, and studying about Buddhism.
I incorporate Buddhist principles in my therapy practice as I do in life.
Life is very different when focusing inward rather than externally, and reacting to the world. Focusing inward helps me to respond, mindfully, instead.
It also empowers me to take responsibility for what does not benefit me under my own skin. I understand that the quality of my experiences is always up to me.
Everything I know now I owe to the monk.