Face to Face in Atlanta
by Nicole Carlson
The Atlanta Shambhala Center has been conducting “Face to Face” interviews with their community members. This one focuses on Irene Morin.
Irene has been coming to the Shambhala Center for 7 years, after moving to Atlanta from Baltimore. Upon moving, she decided not to join a traditional church, but she loved meditation and contemplation. She lives in a senior living community, Clairmont Oaks, which is near the Center.
Irene grew up Catholic and after experimenting with other denominations, she now considers herself a hybrid Buddhist/Catholic. “I’m the only one I am aware of, in my building of 300+ seniors, who attends a Buddhist Meditation Center,” she says with a laugh. “People there are not sure what to make of that sometimes. They assume that I must be rejecting Jesus and the Bible.”
Although she worked for years with practices of meditation and contemplation in Catholic prayer groups where she was first presented with the writings of Pema Chodron, she had never heard of the Shambhla lineage before moving to Atlanta. “I drove by the Shambhala Center many times after moving here,” she said, “but it took me a few months to work up the nerve to come in for the first time.”
Irene also credits her professional study of family systems in her career as a social worker for having taught her to look differently at intense feelings and question, for instance, whether love and hate were opposites. “I had to unlearn this idea, among many others, and see for myself that the intensity of feelings determines the level of attachment, whether positive or negative. I had to recognize their many similarities.” Through classes and training levels in Shambhala she saw many similarities between the teachings and her own, self-realized truths about life. “I’ve used my regular practice of journaling for many years to help me know my own mind and organize my thoughts of life and living,” she said. “I’ve used meditation mostly as a way to train my brain in service to moving towards being the kind of person I wanted to to be.”
Recently, Irene published a memoir of her life called The Dance of Heart and Mind: A Memoir. This is actually her second memoir. Once retired and moved to Atlanta, she was able to focus on writing. The first was the story of an 11-year relationship with her gay son who contacted HIV in its early years and died of AIDS in 1992. “Writing my memoirs helped me identify my own life lessons and develop compassion for myself and others when taking into account the forces that impinge on all of us.”
Her current passion is about the possibility for cross-generational dialogue through memoir. “I would love to see more people, especially older people, write their memoirs. I think the world could benefit when people who have lived long lives reflect and evaluate what really mattered and share that with younger generations who may see life and the world differently.” Working toward that vision, Irene is facilitating a senior memoir writing class at the Toco Hill Branch of the DeKalb Public Library that began in May.
She participates primarily in Sunday gatherings at the Center and is a member of the Elders Group. Since her own life lessons have centered on connection to self and others, she advises, “It’s big world out there. If you don’t get what you need from your own family, or your peer group, or your world in general, keep looking. Somewhere there is a place where you can express and be who you truly are. For me, I love coming to the Shambhala Center,” she says, “I always come away feeling well-received.”
Have a Face-to-Face interview you want to share with the larger community? Send it to us by clicking here!