A Journey of a Ngondro Student

There was a subtle and quiet inner knowing that I needed to go to Pema Osel Ling in California, that slowly grew and became more clear over about three years of an online connection. 
It kept returning over years of slowly doing Ngondro accumulations, studying each day, endless reading and learning, and keeping a connection going as best as I could. Joining in. Integrating. Coming and going.
A strange inner pull to take a sacred pilgrimage, that I could not ignore. A heart pull, a different pull that I could not quite explain. The result of experiences of connection, softening, beauty, blessings, transformation, lineage, prayers, practices and these teachers that appeared before me. I fell in love with the prayers and words. I changed in many ways, and I slowly became stronger.
My whole life had become my practice, as imperfect as that may be at times, but devoted and engaged and transforming.
And then the pull to receive Troma Nagmo empowerment there started one year before going. Another reason to go.
But it would mean returning to a place where I had been 30 years before, and where a profound loss had occurred when my Aunt Anne disappeared as a homeless woman on the streets of San Fransisco around 2000, so resistance was there. Not quite wanting to return there. But still I knew that I had to go. 
I had to walk through my fears as they arose, prepare over time, and gather the support that I needed to make the journey.
It was a decision that took courage, and a walking out of the door of my comfort zone, vulnerable and uncertain, into the world. To fully embrace my journey and its challenges, to allow myself to be supported, to handle the difficulties that arose. And arrive.
Flying in over San Fransisco, warm tears fall in fully facing the loss of my Aunt Anne years ago, but reclaiming my place here in a new way. A new happiness replacing the old loss.
The magic of the crazy, winding road through hills of green redwood trees delighted me, and gave me a feeling of joy and freedom, and the kindness that greeted me was so appreciated. I felt a sense of softening and relief during my brief stay, and all that occured happened so easily and meaningfully.
A first and unexpected encounter with Lama Sonam in the shrine room on Saga Dawa, so suddenly appearing, was quickly and briefly embraced, and the opportunity to offer him a white silk khata scarf to honour him and show my deep gratitude for all that I had learned from him over three years was so profound and precious, and deeply felt. It changed me, and brought me a sense of deeper peace in my heart, a calming, having done something I deeply needed to do. So grateful, so fulfilled. At peace, more restful. Offering my appreciation as a humble Ngondro student. Happy tears shed in the shrine room. Feeling so blessed. Knowing that this was an important moment in my life. A deep happiness.
Jumping in to practice with others in the shrine room, and feeling held and supported by older students and a sangha together. Finding my place as myself, as I am, flaws and all. Entering, learning, showing up. The fullness of the experiences in the shrine room bringing it all alive for me, finally. Deeply felt and enciountered. Meeting new heart friends, learning from them, listening to them, being with it all, and then letting go.
The rewards of a journey taken, very much worthwhile, returning to feel more settled, and a deeper peace in my heart. Right timing, and everything coming together with ease and support. Feeling a new peace that was not there before. A difference in my embodiment and sense of self. A heart connection in the world, and trusting a new path.
The journey continues back into the world and in my return, back to being more alone on my path, but stronger, and knowing that I need to return when I can.

Dedicating my merit to my Aunt Anne, who disappeared in homelessness in California many years ago. May she be blessed and protected by the buddhas and bodhisattvas. May this be so.

Submitted by Sarah Marcus, a participant of the Ngondro Program since 2020.