Today we start a new series of real women’s stories. These women re-invented themselves and give us all courage and hope. Meet Janet Taylor, our first contributor, who has an amazing story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
How did a Texas girl who was raised Methodist, with an MBA and twenty years working for a Fortune 100 company, end up as a Buddhist Minister in Kansas City?
The short answer is that I became willing to explore then follow my deepest passion. The willingness to take the next step, even if the ones beyond aren’t yet known, has enabled me to now live a life full of joy, peace and happiness beyond my wildest imagination.
My name is Janet Taylor, and three years ago, I became a Buddhist minister at the Temple Buddhist Center, which is part of a spiritual center called “Unity Temple on the Plaza” in Kansas City, Missouri. We are blessed with a beautiful building that houses three sanctuaries, multiple meeting rooms as well as a Montessori school, a vegetarian restaurant and a bookstore. You can find out more about it at the following two websites: www.unitytemple.com and www.templebuddhistcenter.org.
The longer answer includes many twists and turns. I began studying Buddhism in college, but once I graduated, I decided that making money was the most important thing. I got married three times, hoping to find happiness in a relationship, but instead ran away from anything that forced me look at my own insecurities and shortcomings. I was blessed with a beautiful daughter, who is now 27 years old. I moved to Kansas City with my job. Along the way, I realized that something was missing in my life, and a relationship or job or family alone was never going to fill the hole in my heart. I began to dread going to work, every morning. Every morning, I thought about turning the car in another direction and taking a mental health day--every single workday. I felt confined and miserable, even though I finally had enough money to have and do many nice things.
I started by just getting back to reading Buddhist books and going to local Buddhist events. Slowly, I began to find other people who were interested in the same things that I was. My hobby became my spiritual path. I went on silent retreats, I started a study group. I went wherever my interest led me. I became energized by what I was doing after work, enough to trudge through a few more years until my daughter graduated from college. One evening, I broached the subject with my husband, offering up that I might want to eventually quit my corporate job—I remember the exact spot in the park where we had this conversation. He quickly replied that wasn’t part of the deal. I guess he thought the marriage contract included a “till death do you part” for my job as well. The relationship went downhill from there.
I volunteered at the Spiritual Center where I attended services and got more involved. In, 1998, I met and committed to an American Buddhist teacher, Lama Surya Das, who has encouraged and supported me for over a decade. I continued to walk towards my passion, still not sure where it would lead me.
Along the way, my personal life began to crumble. My brother-in-law died of cancer at an early age, slapping me in the face with the preciousness of this life we are given. My marriage fell apart. My father passed away. I quit the job I had for twenty years. I moved to another state (four of the top five stressors in life!) Then, I met the most wonderful man and began having the most beautiful relationship based on trust and deep love. I thought I finally had what I wanted in life, until he suddenly died.
Through all this turmoil, I continued to work my spiritual practice, taking another step towards my passion, another step away from the life I knew I needed to leave behind. After twenty years of volunteering and deeper involvement at the spiritual center, the minister finally asked if I wanted to come work there full-time, for a third of what I was making at the time. With the blessing of an inheritance and my savings, I was finally able to say, Yes! And he asked if I would like to also take over responsibility for the Buddhist activities from the man who just left after thirteen years? The answer? Yes Yes Yes Yippee!
Today, I have found a place where I can be deeply happy, a place just right for me. I wake up every morning, excited to find out what the day will offer. I marry people, bless babies, lead meditations, visit people in the hospital, say a prayer for healing, and so many other ways that I am allowed to serve others.
At 54 years old, my dream has come true, one step at a time. I had many mis-steps and detours, wrong actions and wrong timing. I had a few years when I just gave up all together, only to find that I could no longer go back to the old way of living. I just kept doing more of what I loved and less of what I didn’t. I gently and compassionately let go of things and people in my life that no longer served me or them. The process includes a lot of grieving.
I hope my journey can be of some encouragement to any woman who wants to let her heart sing, but isn’t sure yet how to get there. I’d encourage her to see the possibilities, even in the worst of situations and to pay attention to what brings her joy, instead of listening to those who might fear change. I would encourage her to forgive herself when she fails, then get up and get going in the right direction again. I am reminded again and again of the simple phrase, “This too shall pass”. I use it when things are awful, and I need to just hang in a little longer. I also use it when things are wonderful, to make sure that I appreciate those most joyful moments in life.