By Andrew Costanzo
When I was 25, I realized I was one of the most angry and unhappy people I had ever known. I decided to get into psychotherapy, which I thought would change my life. As time passed, my therapist introduced me to the books of Thich Nhat Hanh. I realized that the basis of all my therapist's teachings were in some ways divined from these writings. A few months later, she told me that Thay was coming to give a talk at Harvard and that I might enjoy seeing him. I went, and it was wonderful. Seeing and feeling how much of a difference one person can make strengthened my resolve to continue with some type of practice.
I was keenly aware that my life would go in a new positive direction, but I did not know what that direction would be. I began to feel that I was done with my traditional therapy and that I had to venture out on my own to search for answers deep inside of me. After ending therapy I felt a little lost and even considered calling my therapist again when I remembered that she had mentioned the Providence Zen Center. I felt some fear about going to the Zen Center, but did it anyway. My introduction to meditation there was intense. I was given 15 minutes of instruction and was shown to the room where everyone sat. Then chanting began. I was a little uncomfortable at first and realized how attached I was to preconceived views of different ways of life. After chanting and sitting with everyone I felt a peace that I had only just begun to realize was possible. I began kong-an interviews with a very kind and understanding teacher and built some strong ties with the Sangha.
Some time after this, my wife of eleven years and I had decided to have a child. Within a year she was pregnant and we were both extremely happy. But a few months later, I felt that something wasn't quite right. I wasn't sure what it was, but I could just feel it. A few days later I awoke to find Catherine Marie laying on the floor of our room doubled over in pain. She had miscarried. I rushed her to the hospital where she delivered the fetus and went through a D & C procedure. I will not soon forget the feeling when the doctor dropped the fetus into the little cup to be sent away to the lab. I can't begin to describe the look on my wife's face. As I held the hand of the woman I loved and looked into her eyes, it was almost unbearable to see her emotional pain. She did recover physically and emotionally in a few weeks, which helped to lighten the load.
I was able to weather this storm and also to help my wife and family find peace in the midst of this tragedy. I know with my whole heart and being that I was able to do so because of the commitment that I made to myself to practice and to look for the answers to the big questions of Who am I? and What are we all about? I have been told by a number of people that my performance at work has improved and that, in their words, I have become a better person. It's almost scary to think that this "better person" has always been here but I just never realized it. The fact that others have seen a change tells me that they may have benefited from my practice, which has always been part of the intent. I have always been uncomfortable with any form of recognition, but what I've been told about the changes seen in me by others has served as something of a gauge and has helped to keep me on the path.
If you are new to the practice, please know that by reading this you've taken the first step to helping yourself and others. Don't stop now. Get in touch with your local Sangha and start to help end the many sufferings of our world. The planet Earth can't wait for someone else to do the work. Action means everything and it starts here and now with each one of us. Don't be afraid to just do it. I would like to thank all those who have in some way touched and helped me change my life. If our paths have crossed in any way, I am indebted to you.
Andrew Costanzo is a production manager for Roger Williams University in Cumberland, Rhode Island.