My birthday is soon approaching and I get to begin talking about life after 40. Not something that anyone looks forward to necessarily; but there is a sense of calm that comes with the territory. Most of my adult life I've struggled with the societal and familial norms that were placed upon me versus my own desires and wishes for my life. Did I want to get married and have children because I was told to want those things or because I actually wanted them? As it turns out, it wasn't something I needed to figure out because it never happened. But still, a good thought experiment nonetheless.
Now, after 40, with the likelihood of my ever marrying growing statistically slimmer with each passing day, the question still haunts me. Did I want it because I wanted it--or because I was told to want it. Nature or nurture or some combination of both?
I tend toward the latter--a bit of both. It's human nature to long to bond with another person; it's the juice of life--longing, love and lineage. It's also nurture--familial expectations, societal norms, and the longing to belong. Being single, as I've written about before, is a kind of plague: terrifying to others and isolating to oneself.
If I'm really honest, in all the years I longed to be married--whether coerced by societal and familial expectations or spurred on by God-given hormones--I was never actually ready. There was always a doubt, a question: would I really be happier? It always looked so hard.
Recently I realized that despite it all--or maybe because of it--I was actually finally ready. Ready to serve someone; ready to express kindness and love in very simple, even pedestrian ways; ready to see, receive and be--love. And now that I'm ready, it would take a statistical anomaly to actually make it happen, otherwise known as a miracle. (smile) I can't help but laugh at the irony. It takes what it takes....so,
Until you're ready, wait.
Movement is only a distraction.
When you know you're ready, wait.
Stillness is the miracle.
Patience is the flower.
Contentment is the fragrance.
Grace is the garden path.
Only emptiness can manifest everything--
and don't you want everything?
One door closes . . .
. . . and another door opens. I've never been a big fan of aphorisms; probably because they've never applied to me. But on this, the first new moon since Summer Solstice, I can honestly say that one door has closed--and another may be opening. Surprising.
I've been going through a deep internal process of letting go. For the past 14 days I've prayed and meditated and chanted--all in the effort to release myself from a very old pattern and invite something new in. That pattern was immediately tested--and I don't know whether I passed or failed--but the test is now behind me and today something new has begun.
As the new moon moves to full, I'll continue to chant and pray and meditate and invite in the new--and the surprising--even as I release and heal the old patterns and wounds that have kept me so stagnant for so long. As I open up to the Infinite, I recognize how limited I've been. As I open up to my innocence again, I realize how cynical I've allowed myself to become over the years. And my ego-mind says, "rightly so!". Nevertheless, it's the same pattern: attachment to that which doesn't work.
Meanwhile, soul is calling out to the universe--in all its innocence, radiance, faith and hope--and the universe may just be answering.
Today is the 40th anniversary of man walking on the moon. It's also the 40th anniversary of my first baby steps in the world--and this many years later it still feels like I'm learning how to walk sometimes: how to negotiate the relationship with my family, how to bow to what is while keeping faith with what I hope for, how to be happy.
This dharma gives us lots of things to do--infinite ways to practice, to meditate, to pray, to sing. The disciplines continue on to the horizon. But the bottom line is that you have to do them in order for them to work. I feel like I'm taking those baby steps again. Keep getting up when you fall down. Keep making right effort. Keep opening the heart. Keep practicing and pretty soon I'll be up and running again.
on yourself and others.
Do one good thing for yourself
and two for someone else.
Don't think too much.
Go for long walks.
Laugh at your dog--
and listen to your cats
Sing. And then sing some more.
Sit quietly and wait.
and with it, the light.
Last night I was looking into the Tratakum and experiencing a lot of anger and resentment. I was basically giving the universe the big bird. And in the middle of my emotional turmoil, I began to laugh. My life in so many ways has become an absurdist's play. Struggle and pain and tears--and it's all just in my head. Nothing is happening--and yet everything is happening all at once.
As I heard myself laugh, I realized that as natural as it is to desire; and as insistent as my mind clings to the notion of being desireless, desire is inherent even in that! No, the solution is to empty myself. Shuniya is my only solution to myself, my wants, my needs, my attachment, my addictions, all of it. The never-ending want machine that is m my mind just has to stop. Take a breath. Practice gratitude. And then empty itself again.
It's not exciting. But it is the work. It is the solution to my life today.
Pour yourself out like fine wine
at the feast
Feel yourself barren as the high desert
Remove the cloak and watch it fall
in folds upon the floor
Notice what remains and bring out your broom
and sweep it away
the beginning of all things
On the Rise
Processing processing processing...I feel like an old '80s computer--or the new vista system (smile)--with the little icon swirling and turning and keeping me from doing anything else! But at least it's moving--no longer frozen. I feel a little more like myself everyday.
I've stayed steady with my practice--even in the face of all my doubts--because I've realized that the practice and the prayer are for me. Funny, when I asked a fairly eminent teacher about someone recently, he made this awful face and recoiled. In my ignorance, I believed he was recoiling in reaction to the person I was asking about. I now recognize he was recoiling at me! (smile) It took a while but it's finally registered. I'm the one that's out of balance. I'm the one not accepting things as they are--which makes people recoil. Brings to mind the word 'cloying'. Makes me claustrophobic just saying it. But I recognize the response and I'm slowing cutting the branches away so that eventually I can reach the root--and can dig it out.
May you always give yourself the time
to see clearly
May you always practice compassion
once you begin to see
May you always merge compassion
with hope--so that you can move forward
May you always be ever rising, and free.
I have a Patti Smith song running through my head today, Gone Again. The self-sensory human experience is really interesting. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. And all I can do is continue to practice. Something will shift--most likely me.
I feel completely raw--undone. Unlike a carnival ride in rural baja california, you can't stop the ride and get off. Life continues on. So, I smile. Enjoy the little things like my cat's paw lightly touching my arm--sensing I need my space but also knowing I need the touch, the affection, the small voice saying, I'm here. Laughing at my dog Vinnie's ever-present goofy smile. Enjoying the quiet of my home; but also missing the comaradarie of my guests: cooking, visiting, soaking.
Gone Again. But I'm still here, with a still small hope of love springing up when I least expect it.
I've been working with my attachment issues lately. They could just as easily be called abandonment issues--and I find that interesting, because on the surface they seem so counterintuitive. But in the life of the human heart, one often gives birth to the other.
Originally I was going to call this post practicing non-attachment, but I realized that what I really want to practice is acceptance. Turning the language around can go a long way toward turning the mind around.
For example, I feel rejected; but in reality, I'm not rejected but rather I'm rejecting the situation as it is. I'm unwilling to just allow life on life's terms--and that's a recipe for unhappiness, which I'm not willing to participate in any longer. Such a waste of time, when I could simply be open and loving and pray for the best and highest good--for myself and the one I love. Everything else lies in guru's hands. And as my friends continue to suggest--Next!
I've never been good at next. I've always clung to the past, thinking in some way I could influence it or change it, if I only tried hard enough. Now I recognize that it's simply the way I'm wired. And the only way I can re-wire it, is to begin thinking and responding in new ways. Language is a key to that fundamental shift in perception. So, I accept that things are perfect--just as they are. I accept that relationship is wider and deeper and broader than any limited definition I might want to impose on it. I accept that I'm in the land of Big Love and everything I think I want only serves to limit that Big Love. So--I just love. And I expand. And I pray. And I wait....
...because something good is already within me and something good is always coming.
Return to Life
I've come down from two weeks on the Mountain, Ram Das Puri, and the return to regular civilian life seems strange--a bit disconcerting. From living in a tent, to a house full of guests, to being back to my regular, mundane routine. Others left the mountain for fabulous places around the world--and I returned to work to write a five-year vision, which is entirely appropriate since my life is here. But this time, somehow, it just didn't seem to fit.
I feel myself trying to stretch out and beyond my normal, comfortable limits. I feel myself compelled to reach beyond my usual grasp. I feel myself wanting to expand. Maybe it was the air at Ram Das Puri. The notion of being inside now feels claustrophobic, suffocating even. I can no longer take comfort in the notion of being small. This little life, which for so long was home to me, now feels foreboding, ominous. I can't breathe.
Yet, I do. I breathe and I live and I work and I feed the animals and I catch up on the news and I bow to my life as it is. My expansion will have to arise in sadhana. My limitlessness will have to express itself through my songs. My love will have to flow through my own breath.
That breath which comes and goes and comes again. I am here--living--and it's good. I sat behind the guru on Sunday for a long time--and in that seat I recognized how much I had changed and continue to change: how much I had blossomed, how much I had left behind, and how much I still have to let go of. I saw myself for the first time in a long time--and I smiled--because life is good and love is limitless.
May your journey
always return you
to the home of your heart
and may you always
know that you have a home