Archive for the ‘buddhism’ Category

It is late considering how early I have to be up and out tomorrow, considering that OWL didn’t feel well at bedtime and what the night holds is unknowable. And yet, here I am with a freshly carved potato stamp transcribing lines from Adrienne Rich poems onto pieces of paper and discovering that intimacy is derived from the same root as intestine, trying to remember my most true self, to locate those pieces that were misplaced along the way, the ones that splintered and marched off at age three, five, eight, fifteen. Do I only flow in one direction, or in many?

I sat for 10 minutes, staring at the thing I will offer up tomorrow when I take the Bodhisattva Vow, the thing I will let go of, the thing that stands between me and my ability to see what is. Specks of gold glimmered in the candlelight. Its heft was visible and I realized that it could not be folded as I’d hoped to do. I will have to present it as is, not made into a generic shape that can hide its interior.

Khyung Nyi-ö feels so foreign and yet familiar. Too big and yet tailored to my shifting body.


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My essay In Falling is published here, through the Shambhala Publications 35<35 project, personal essays from Buddhist practitioners under the age of 35.


PS’s & dedications:

*so so so much gratitude to the lovely Ms. Meredith Arena for loving me through this madness

*loves to my sister Cindy for listening out loud at the EXACT right moment

*congrats to my brother Chris for the courage to share and be himself in the world

*and always to OWL, for saving & enriching my life

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It is a beautiful Spring day, the kind with magic in the drizzle and almost warm air, and listening to the planes and bird songs on the walk to the co-op with the tired OWL-babes in the pack, I felt like superMama. It’s a strength I wish I could crawl inside of right now, as babes naps through the sun break and I sit here instead of cleaning. I suspect though, that it is indeed that strength that allows me to write through this tangle instead of shutting down among the brooms and mops.

Last Friday, I looked different. Like a small worry that had grown too big for itself lifted and dissolved. But the other night I noticed that it is back, and I hardly recognize myself again. The lines in my face, the shape of my cheeks, the definition of my torso and soft curve of my belly. I tried to trace all my lines, follow the turns, the rise and fall of breath inside my chest. I tried to examine the expressions, the places that no one ever sees, so that someone bears witness to all these changes, the shifts in the gravity of love and birth and loss. But I don’t know if I can, if I have the courage to study and stay, to inhabit the compassion I need. Stand like mountain, give like water, shine like the sun.

I find myself dwelling in that place of small mind, the one where I can draw a straight line through all my mistakes and fuck ups to this exact moment and say – “Aha! Of course I am here. It all makes sense and there is no way through or out of this mess!” Every little thing is attached to the storyline of never good enough, never enough. And I mean really, that well appears quite limitless.

The problem is that I cannot start where I am, at this moment in time, from this place. Because all those years of waiting – waiting for things to be okay so that they could get great – are heavy and big and I can’t figure out how or where to set them down. Because all those years of self-restricted forward motion – half steps and big slides back – are like a dam that will not hold, even though small mind is scrambling like mad to plug the holes with guilt and inadequacy and fear. But my heart also knows that the price of waiting, for me, has been non-action, never doing, and not necessarily better or wiser decisions. I’ve learned to let go of (some) outcomes, and trust that the path will provide the opportunities. But can I also let go of the path I see, the path for which I plunged myself into the murky depths of mental illness and worked my ass off to reach?

And didn’t I already start where I was when I stepped out of my skin and onto a cushion in a room full of strangers and committed to wake up, to feel and be present? The thing that’s a bitch, I see now, is that the whole point is that we start we are over and over again. OVER AND OVER. AGAIN. Small mind feels duped. And vast mind is…. on vacation? Hallucinating topographic maps and listening to birds?

I’ll write and clean and sit and wait for its return.

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It seems like forever since I’ve been on here, and I suppose the point of a blog is to actually write often. Well, I have been writing a lot, like all the time, but not posting, which is neglectful of me. But if you lived in my mind, you’d understand the absence.

The new year has already found me giddy with anticipation, distraught over false starts, curled up like a cat for hours reading, lost in my mind for days on end, obsessively checking my email for notifications, and writing page after page of words that will likely never see the light of another day.

I’m in a state of absorption and exploration. A state of getting cozy with my craziness, inviting it to tea and dinner with a tablecloth and 3 courses and dessert and a bubble bath. Observing it as it fans out across the steam. Watch it rise and fall over years in a matter of minutes. I’m learning to be still as the chaos swirls around me. And it is very sad. There are times when I wonder if…. Those are the thoughts I interrupt. Because I have to believe that I can and that I will, even if the time hasn’t come.

Here’s the short of it. I’m finally reading Anne Lamott’s bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and it illuminated quite a few things, connected some dots.

Perfectionism. It stands the way of my everything. Writing. Mothering. Connecting. Now, let’s combine that with Jealousy, the belief that everyone is ultimately better than I am, and that their lives are ultimately better than mine because they are so great and wonderful and their parents loved them right so of course their spouses and children and pets love them too and they engage in meaningful careers or shitty jobs that allow them to live meaningful lives and they have great hair and…. REALLY? Yup. It’s all in there.

So the winter rains illuminate my darkest corners by leaving raindrops on the spider webs that catch the tiny glimpses of light. I see I see I see. But I still don’t know how to change it, how to turn things around, make those connections, find work, get a date that isn’t already dating someone else and eating bagels with her when I show up for lunch with my son, how to be the first in line.

People always ask what I’m writing about, or what I want to write about, and I always come up with some thoughtless rambling answer and they inevitably ask if I blog and I say “yes, but that’s just to get me started and not very serious” (yes you can laugh your ass off at that, please). I leave these conversations feeling even worse than when I started because I should know. I should have some grand answer that is well thought through, has direction and holds the map to my future (remember that future that is right around the corner with so many doors just waiting to open since so many slammed in my face or hit me in the ass as I tried to exit with grace…). But I feel like a child. With questions I don’t know how to ask, hoping that someone will hear the gem in my ramblings, point to it, and I can say “Yes! That’s it! Thank you so much.”

But here’s what occurred to me. I have no idea what I want to write. None. And, that feels good. That’s my insight, that’s what I hear in my ramblings. And that’s the exact answer that was drowned out by my perfectionism and my jealousy. My little Virgo moon is in ecstasy over this, because it can fucking relax for a change. Breath in fresh air. Maybe it can focus on helping me find work now. Here is what I do know. I want to write, and I need to write. Since the 3rd grade this has been of the utmost importance, although along the way I’ve had many occasions to doubt it, to bail on it, to start and stop, to hide it and share it. And the fact that I want to write and need to write is what really matters. And I do it everyday. The subjects, Lamott’s book has assured me, will emerge from the act of writing. The characters and genres and subjects will reveal themselves. All I can do in the meantime is sit down everyday and write and type.

And my meditation practice is a big part of seeing this. Of finding this place. Of listening and observing and exploring. Which brings me to the second reason I’m hibernating with books.

(a day when it was fun work)

On February 6th, I’m taking my refuge vow. I don’t have words for this right now, at least not tonight. Because I decided to apply for grad school with less than 2 weeks until the application is due, and I’ve moved from this cozy one woman party to full on mental illness over this pursuit. So I’m writing shitty first draft after shitty first draft for my statement of interest essay (13 handwritten pages to 2 typed to 4 typed to a restart with 6 handwritten pages to 4 typed), day in and day out.

I am exhausted. And depressed. And a little worried that I may actually be crazy and destined to occupy these empty rooms for lifetimes. Because even though I managed to leave the house for a spell tonight and have a great dinner with a beautiful friend and her sweet son, I came home and went back to work and still feel like there is nothing to show for the 6-1/2 hours of writing I did today.

So it is off to cold sheets and an early alarm so I can begin again bright and early, before the light of the sun.

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Intellectually I know that the world is neither for us, nor against us. But damn, it would be nice to feel like someone was on my side.

I often take myself too seriously, and take too many things personally. There are times when it seems like the stars and the universe and the moon are all aligned with the sole intention of totally fucking me over. A karmic twist of the knife for a life lived long long ago?  Who knows. I’m just saying that I can make all this worry and questions and suffering for myself, and don’t care to put it on other people or be their source. I’m not in the mood to be judged and I don’t have the energy or authority to judge. I’m not in the mood to argue or pretend to be someone or something that I am not. All I can do is own my own shit.

I don’t know what the fine lines are, or how three or four sentences – words that didn’t even garner much thought in my head and were gone not long after saying them – turned into judgement, or someone feeling judged. I could say things differently. But there are no rehearsals. Then again, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this sort of thing….

None of this is making sense without the details, but there’s no reason to repeat them and I’m sorry to lead you to nowhere. And like I am sorry for so many things, that’s not an apology but rather an acknowledgement of the unfortunate nature of reality at times. I’m pulled in a million directions and really feeling it – a mama holding a great wide space around my son to grow & thrive, a woman trying to restart, to live and carve out happiness and connections, both with mixed success. And tonight, what I really wanted was the company of a friend, a person to comfort and hold. Because being there for someone else is how I hold myself and how I find compassion for myself. It’s a mama’s way, and a woman’s way. And totally unfair to everyone involved.

In the passing hour, I read this passage:

Survival psychologists have since discovered that the people who are most likely to live through extreme, life-and-death challenges are those who open their eyes to the wonders of the world around them, even as their own lives hang in the balance. To appreciate beauty is to experience humility – to recognize that something larger and more powerful than oneself is at work in the environment. And humility, it turns out, is key to recognizing that in order to survive, you must adapt yourself to the environment, that it won’t adapt to your needs.

The Indifferent Starts Above (pg 285) by Daniel James Brown

This settles me down, takes me out of bewilderment and frustration and disappointment. It reminds me that I have a practice. That I’m not always perfect. That in some ways my life is hanging in the balance, and in so many ways it is not even close to life-and-death. (This book is about the Donner Party.) It reminds me that things are basically good, that my smallness is a gift, and that through the thick & thin and ebb & flow of all this crisis that has been my life this past year, I still marvel at red leaves waving in the sunlight, the crusted snow under my boots, the light of the full moon through dark clouds from my window, the warmth of hands & lips, and the scent of simmering beans on the stove. I can still lose my reference points in the sound of heavy rain. That I feel and sense these things, that I take note and awaken to the tiny miracles embedded in everyday, is a signpost that I’ll get through this. Cross the mountains as a mama and a woman, with OWL at my side.

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