Urgyen Trinley : Matt Foster

About Me

One of my favorite allegories of Buddhist tradition is that of the boat reaching another shore. On a grand scale, it’s about moving from where we are now to the ultimate freedom of enlightenment. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the island life. There are many shores and beaches on this journey, and surfing the waves of experience and learning to accept both the ups and the downs of life has been challenging and rewarding. (Plus, an island metaphor is nice when you live in landlocked Kansas City.)

I entered the Buddhist path from a secular angle, drawn in by the promise of self-improvement. Though I grew up and flourished in a household that supported individuality and science, my adolescent years saw the struggle of having religion used as a tool of division. After many years away, I’ve returned to matters of the spirit, and I think many people my age can relate. We’re interested in the mystery of being, but we’d like to find it for ourselves thank-you-very-much. In Buddhism, we can explore individually to our hearts’ content (sometimes guided by experts along the way, in whatever form that may take in this one lifetime), and as we travel our path I think an expansive and growing compassion for others creeps into our existence in surprising ways.

A support in my Buddhist practice has been the surprising path of simply living. In my professional life I’ve been a barista, a piano instructor, a youth education director, and currently I direct the day-to-day operations of a children’s museum. Personally, I love decorating my home, Washi tape, gardening with flowers and vegetables, and spending time with my husband. I’m nowhere I ever thought I’d be, and that’s the essence of the Dharma: everything thus far has led to this moment, and it’s wonderful.

About My Dharma Name

My namesake is shared with the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Though thousands of miles apart, we share an interest in environmentalism and the cultivation and preservation of the natural world. The name “Trinley” was given to me during my Bodhisattva vow ceremony and translates to “enlightened activity.” As I have an affinity for the gravity of my sofa, I appreciate the constant reminder to go beyond myself and be of benefit not only to myself, but also to the world and to all beings. I’m good at tending my own garden. Year by year, I get better at lending a hand to others in tending theirs.

About My Perspective

I’m interested in the long view and the short view. One of the most formative experiences in my Buddhist practice has been the idea of moving from gross to subtle, striving constantly and curiously for refinement. Taking the short view, this present lifetime is a precious opportunity for practice and progress. Taking the long view, I also know I have a long way to go – lifetimes, centuries, and eternities – so let’s chill out and enjoy the middle way!

Like many others, I began this practice because my life was filled with anything but chilling out. In time, I’ve learned that living a Buddhist philosophy can increase happiness and wellbeing and reduce suffering (as advertised!). My practice is pragmatic and minimalist. I feel strongly that there’s no wrong way to experience or practice Buddhism so long as you are guided by the true intention to be of benefit to all beings, even if that wish starts with just helping yourself.

As a teacher, I feel I’m not different than anyone else. I’m not a master and I’m not an expert. I’m a guide and a friend, and I’m interested in learning about this path in a collaborative manner. I’m not interested in telling you what to do or how to get somewhere. Rather, I know we can learn from each other. Individual experience is key to creating a two way street in which we are equals on the road to enlightenment.

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