For the last year and a half I have been crunching through the thicket of a very intense, emotional breakup.  It has been quite the dharma lesson.  Facing my ex's rage and anger as well as my own has been one of the hardest and intense journeys of my life.  Often I have felt so much pain, confusion and turmoil that I just wanted to give up moving forward altogether. 
Water Dragon Kuan Yin by Sue Halstenberg

Water Dragon Kuan Yin by Sue Halstenberg

However, a great many wonderful gifts and blessings surfaced through this intense journey.  I continue to learn about taking accountability for my own choices, facing fears and emotional storms and recognizing over and over again that indeed love prevails all trauma.  One of the many many helpers along the way has been Quan Yin, the inspiring goddess of compassion. Quan Yin's name means She who hearkens to the cries of the world and is one of few goddesses that was once a god.  Originating in Tibet as Avalokiteshvara, the Tibetan Buddhist deity of compassion, as his shrines travel through Tibet, China and into Japan they slowly transform from a masculine deity into the female form now known as Quan Yin. Quan Yin is similar to Mary and also the White Tara of Tibetan Buddhism, a gentle, clear quiet form of the divine feminine.  She hears all the suffering of the realms and is so moved by compassion that she reaches out to touch us with her graceful and loving presence.  Carrying a vase of pure water or divine nectar, she attends to those in need sprinkling them lovingly with drops of compassion. On a recent winter road trip I encountered the beauty and pristine awareness that is embodied by Quan Yin.  As my girlfriend and I traveled across gorgeous snow and icy landscapes, I was moved by the solid crystalline  lakes and ponds.  I was struck by the colors of many shades of blue, white, indigo a kind of ethereal navy that moved through the clouds and over the landscape especially around dusk.  After decades of being away from the mainland in winter, the stillness of the ice, the beauty of the snow blanketing the hills and the sharp piercing air of winter was literally, breathtaking. In Montana we stopped at a the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.  While I lived in Hawaii, my friend had told me about this place several times, saying if you're ever in Montana, you have to see these 1000 Buddhas... I never thought I'd EVER be in Montana anytime soon, but that mention stuck in my mind and there we were.  The terrain reminded me of what Tibet must be like, cold and intense air, surrounded by mountains and a huge sky.  I wondered about the Tibetan monk who had decided to create the place. Buddha 1000        garden 1000 buddhasIMG_1244       We wandered through the mandala of a thousand Buddhas, leaving offerings and discovering quotes from one of our favorite bands, Medicine for the People which brought some tears and smiles.  At the center of the garden is Prajnaparamita, the Goddess of Transcendent Wisdom who is the depiction of the Heart Sutra, the main text of Mahayana Buddhism. Quan Yin ice pond On the outside of the garden I discovered Quan Yin residing over an ice pond in her quiet presence.  I was reminded of one of her stories I used in Fire of the Goddess:Nine Paths to Ignite the Sacred Feminine.  A woman is in labor when a massive snow storm hits their small village in the mountains.  The husband goes out to fetch the doctor, but can't find him and instead finds a midwife.  They get lost in the storm until, miraculously, a quiet and graceful woman with a light appears and guides them back to his wife who is about to give birth.  She says nothing on their journey back. As the man, so full of thankfulness and gratitude, goes to bring her tea, she has mysteriously disappeared.  When he looks out into the snow he see only his and the midwife's footprints leading to the house and knows that the guide was Quan Yin.   Quan Yin reminds us to effortlessly serve others in a way that is both joyous and illumined, but without expectation, without needing thanks or appreciation.  This is the true work of the Bodhisattva, someone whose every action is performed with clear intention, from the heart" ~ Fire of the Goddess: Nine Paths to Ignite the Sacred Feminine Quan Yin is the graceful presence of assistance who does not speak.  This is a powerful lesson for me in this time in my life.  In the midst of all the changes and turmoil in the last year and a half I have had to learn the lesson of the futility of speaking harsh words to someone.  Almost always, in my wish to 'help' the situation, upon reflection, my emails or phone calls with my ex that were often the result of being triggered and desperately wanting him to see my side of things which inevitably led to more anger, more shouting, more confusion.  It never led to peace. Near the Quan Yin statue in the garden, I found this carved on a rock: Never speak harsh words, for you will be answered in kind.  Senseless talk brings suffering for it is thrown right back at you.  But if you stay like a broken gong and never speak a word, the cycle of idle talk will break, and you will pass from your sorrow.  ~ Buddha Ultimately, we are on earth to learn to grow and stretch our hearts, to develop huge hearts as my teacher once told me.  This is a practice, it doesn't happen overnight.  Even though I have faced many challenges over these months, so has everyone on earth and we are all working on choosing love over fear again and again.  Using the guidance of Quan Yin, among others has been a sweet balm to soothe those pains of the heart that happen as it grows ever larger to accommodate even more love, more light, more beauty.