Karuna: Hi, I’m. I’m the founder and executive director of Mind Oasis, and with me today is my friend and teacher and fellow practitioner Elizabete Gomes. Elisabete, how are you?
Elizabete: I’m, good. Great, actually, but we’re good here.
Karuna: Good! So this is Meditation Happy Hour, Tea Talk and Truth with Karuna. And you have an upcoming series on Mind Oasis. This is good, you’ve got the tea covered, called Buddhism 101. And this is not the first time that you’ve offered a Buddhism 101 or a Buddhist based course. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your background in Buddhism?
Elizabete: Oh, sure. I’ve been into Buddhism philosophy and theory more more heavily, I should say, or more interested since 2006. So about 14, 15 years now and ever since I’ve been studying methodically these ancient texts that have been translated into English; an English that makes sense to me. And I’ve completed all 36 courses. There are two sets of 18 courses and what I decided.. I have been…back up a little bit, these teachings have really opened my heart to the sense of living my life differently, in the sense of making it easier for me to actually navigate this constant, constant change in life, this constant struggle to just be human. Right, and having sanity, for lack of a better word, because nothing really is stable and nothing is guaranteed. And so has really, really helped me make sense of my own life and how to live my life, how to navigate the world. That’s basically the meaning of it for me after this many years. Of course, it’s it’s very meaningful and important to me.
Karuna: Yeah. So you’ve studied the Asian Classics Institute courses.
Karuna: And that must mean you have lineage and teachers. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Elizabete: Oh, OK. Yeah. So in 2006, I met Geshe Michael Roach, who is a translator of all these texts that he learned from his teachers in Tibetan Buddhists, Tibetan monks, and then he translated and consequently, subsequently taught these courses. And I, so I met him in 2006 and started taking started taking these courses through his group, Three Jewels, in New York, who held the archives and then took classes directly from him; took classes directly from his students. And fast forward and then, of course, you have this whole journey with your teacher and teachings. And then fast forward, I had another personal teacher, also a student of Geshe Michael, Lama Chukyi, who is, you know, is called Heart Lama. So she’s the one that still, holds my hand and and walks me through the details of the practice. And she is the one that teaches me more about meditation and about mindful practices. And then Hector – Hector Marcel is another teacher, that has taken me to to deeper teachings. And he is a fantastic teacher. So he actually… He teaches me how to teach. He just he just teaches from his heart. And he has really inspired me to do the same thing. So these three teachers are my main teachers and without them…um… I’m going to cry. But without them, I couldn’t understand these teachings, for one thing, and I couldn’t make sense of these teachings in the way that it opens my heart and it blows my mind sometimes.
Karuna: Yeah. I’m so happy that you shared about your teachers, because one of the qualities of you as a teacher that I respect so much is that you are a highly qualified teacher. And then the question is, well, what makes the list of a highly qualified teacher? And it’s because you have studied extensively, you have taken your responsibility as a student seriously, right? Which then allows you to take your role as a teacher seriously. But coming to one of your classes, is it going to be all serious?
Elizabete: (Laughter) I hope not! In the sense that I feel like whatever I share, and these are deep, deep teachings, but the way that I have been able to share and the way that I have approached it is that it it very relatable. It is something that you can just walk out the door and apply in your life, in your work or family or relationships; pandemic. And it’s not that I make it fun. I make it light. I make it heartfelt. I don’t, because it doesn’t work for me, a heavy ‘must have to do’ kind of attitude doesn’t work for me. It has to be light, it has to be gentle. But it has to have meaning at the same time. It has to have heart. And I really try to bring that in the connection, not only between me and the students in the class, but also the connection with the teachings. If he doesn’t make sense to you, to your heart, if it doesn’t make you go “Mmmm, yum”, it’s… It might not work. You can you can discipline yourself and you can have effort, but eventually you drop it. So it has to really sweeten you as opposed to hardening you. Does that make sense?
Karuna: It makes a lot of sense. So I think your your class starts this Friday. And and the topic that you’ve chosen for this four week series is Buddhist Refuge. Can you just give us a really high level introduction to what “refuge” means?
Elizabete: I love that, the high level, you know, because it is it can be really, like, amazing and it can really be a kind of term that turns people off and depending on how your background is, you know, religion or how you take on even terminology. But the way that I am, the high level approach here is that ultimately you can only take refuge in your spiritual practice. You can only take refuge in your own spiritual experiences, and in a way, you can only take refuge in a stable mind, stable emotions and in a way, a stable ability to hold you to your own truth, a truth that you have access to directly. So, it doesn’t really matter what a teacher tells you or what a good book tells you, unless you have direct experiences about those inspiring teachings or an inspiring poem. Unless it touches your heart, it is just words, right? So the idea is that you will take refuge in an understanding that brings… that comes to your heart and also you rely on something that you experience directly. And these teachings just give you a path or a gateway to access this internal wisdom that is you and only you. That’s yours and only you can access. So I think this is the high level, the ultimate goal. And then there is the mundane aspect where, you know, we’ll just go through the lists of like, and these are some techniques you can use to go through how worldly things don’t really help or can’t be relied on because they change and shift. And then if you practice these mindful practices, or if you meditate in a certain technique, you might gain some mental and emotional ability to hold a space for wisdom to come in. So there is a technique, there is that logistic of of how you access this wisdom as though it’s not like you just hope that you have wisdom one day. But it’s actually very logical.
Karuna: Elizabete, do you have to be a Buddhist to attend one of your classes?
Elizabete: No, absolutely not. I was going to say I don’t think so, but no! (Laughter) No, because this is a teaching that is coming from a very long tradition of Buddhist teachings. But if you compare it to any other, it’s not even religion, by any other spiritual teachings, it is very similar to other teachings. Compared to some traditions, the one difference it might be that I will say this in class probably more than once; don’t believe anything I’m saying. Go and check for yourself. Meditate or do some mindful walks or reflect on this one aspect and see if it makes sense for you, see if it really resonates for you. So I will say that; don’t believe what I say. Test it for yourself. Check it, see if it’s true for you. So in that sense, I think it’s very different from a lot of religions, but it is similar to a lot of traditions that invite you to explore your own truth and your own wisdom.
Karuna: I love it. Elizabete, where in the world are you?
Elizabete: I’m in Austin, Texas, in the middle of a very sweet, sweet city with lots of greens, beautiful people and good weather most of the time. Except summertime, which gets too hot.
Karuna: Yeah, there you go. And I always end my podcast with the same questions. So you have the tea. Thanks for bringing the tea. We’ve had some talk. So now I want to know from you, what’s your truth, Elizabete?
Elizabete: Oh,boy, I’m going to cry already. I can feel it. My truth is that I cannot be…I cannot be anywhere that I want to be without my teachers. And that can be my mom, my dad, my brothers, my friends. I cannot exist independently as as this individual; I exist in connection. And the most important connections are the teachers that teach me how to be this being that I am and can’t see. I can’t come up with anything else. That’s the…that’s the the best I can come up with, what my truth is, is the life that I have from my teachers.
Karuna: It’s a beautiful truth. It’s an important truth. And it shines through in your teachings, so thank you for being a teacher. Thanks so much for joining me today Elizabete. You can learn more about her beautiful series, Buddhism 101. This particular four-weeker is on refuge, which is something particularly in these strange times, to have a place to “More” is so beneficial. And Elizabete is gentle and loving and a lot of fun to be around. So I recommend you check it out at MindOasis.org. You go to the “Learn” tab and under “Workshops and Series” you will see Elizabete’s beautiful face. Thanks for being with me today.
Elizabete: Thank you, Karuna.
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