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Suffering is impermanent. Liberation is possible.

One of the first things I learned on the Dharma path is the impermanence of all phenomena. Yet, when it comes to the big pain or intergenerational trauma, there is a sense of solidity and permanence.
Suffering is impermanent. Liberation is possible.
My altar as it currently is

I made my altar a little over a year ago. I am proud of this altar. It is a distinct representation of my bodhicitta, my enlightened state. I have on it all the different cultures and philosophies that have influenced me over my decades of existence in this body - Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Indigenous wisdom and even African spirituality. Buddha. Mahavira. Green Tara. Red Tara. Kuan Yin. Mahakali. A cross with my favorite Bible verse. A green heart chakra Tibetan singing bowl. Rudraksha beads. A bundle of sage. An Ubuntu bowl. Photos. Paintings. Books. I sit in front of it on a blue-white floor meditation chair gifted to me by my sister.

It has been a transformational space for me. I have my favourite shawls and blankets. They represent the important people in my life. My mother. My sister. Teachers. Spouse. Friends.

Since the beginning, I noticed that my father was not represented at this altar. I wondered what I could do to represent him. But it was hard. My parents had different styles of imbibing spirituality and religion into my sister and I. My mother never instructed us to do anything. She had her own practice. And I watched her meditate 2x daily until she could not anymore. My dad too had a ritual he performed in the morning after his shower, and in the evening when he came home from work. Often he would tell my sister and I to light the lamp for the evening. I used to resent this. For no reason other than being told to do it. It also would frustrate me that he would light incense in the home even though I complained that it was hard on my breathing.

A few months ago, in conversation with one of my teachers, Lama Justin, I talked to him about my altar and how I felt my practice had benefited immensely. I asked him if I needed to do anything to hone this or even honour this relationship. To offer light and flowers had been his suggestion. It felt like a lightbulb moment to me. The lamp, of course! The lamp would be my version of my father’s practice.

I’ll be honest. I do not often light the lamp. When I do, I find it distracting and even irritating.

Last week, uncharacteristically, toward the end of my meditation, I felt compelled to light incense at the altar. I ignored it for a day or two, and it only got stronger. I was sad that I did not have incense, and even half glad. Then I remembered. A while ago, an acquaintance had sent me a spiritual care package. In that, was a box of agarbatti, the long rolled incense which were a staple in my home. Without giving it much thought, I put it under the altar, never expecting to light it.

I lit it. And immediately the sensation of  throat irritation enveloped me. I could not breathe. A feature of my childhood. Of being unheard. Yet I let the stick stay lit and I left the room. When I returned an hour later, the entire room was blooming with a most pleasant scent. This time I returned to childhood and was filled with a sense of immense love and devotion.

I was blooming with affection for my father. I scanned my body to see if there was any hardness or resistance, and there wasn’t any. Only subtle flowy bubbly sensations all over. This is what my teacher, S.N. Goenka refers to as bhannnng…bhannnng… meaning dissolution.

This was my experience of bliss through dissolution of suffering. The rage and hurt from the relationship with my father that had shaped my psyche over four decades. I never thought it would be possible to not have even an ounce of anger when I thought of my life, our life together.

I am not naïve. I do not have any expectation that this is how I will always feel. What I am sitting with is that I did not think it was possible, but it was. It is.

The next day, as I reached for the incense box, and lit it, I heard Green Tara from the altar speak to me. “It was me,” she said, “The offering of fragrance was to me, and I was moved by your desire for liberation. Here is your gift.”


There is so much to unpack here. This Green Tara has been in my home for three years. I have never nurtured my connection to her except to place her on the altar. But I also know that I could not have not had her on my altar. I have meditated on her serene manifestation, and I have intellectually understood that she is compassion incarnate. I have aspired for that sort of love and understanding, and also knowing that my judgy grudgy self could never get there. Or could I?

I have spent so much time working hard to heal, and yet when I experience the space that comes with it, I am gobsmacked. What a funny type of ignorance! It should be self-explanatory, but the time spent working hard sometimes reinforces a sense of helplessness. This was an awakening. A learning. That my work will eventually yield fruit. I only have to release the timeline.


There is a lot about my dad and my relationship that I will leave unsaid out of respect for him. My only wish for him is to be free of all pain and suffering in this life, and onwards.


I dedicate the merit to all those seeking ancestral healing. May peace and freedom be yours.