What a Week!….

A week ago I was looking forward to a long drive up to Eugene, OR to get better acquainted with a woman I met at a meditation retreat and with whom I had a correspondence and a number of long telephone conversations. We seemed to be similar sorts and of like interests and just two years apart in age, so seemed like a situation which was rife with potential. I went up there with expectations and hopes.

Turns out that is not the best baggage for travel when dealing with another human being and some known and unknown wishes for a relationship based in some version of reality. Long story (not really), short, I turned around the next day and came back in two stages.

The drive up of 10 hours showed me I’m not the Road Warrior of Old. So, lonnng trip back and fully loaded with baggage of regret, feeling foolish, mis-understanding people and myself, lonelier than I was because it felt like a last chance that had been a foolish mistake. And there are elements of that. Nevertheless, life goes on. ‘Til it don’t.

It’s taken several days to settle down and not be despairing and unsettled, because “I’m supposed to be more together than this.” “What the F…were you thinking, you fool!?” “How could you be so…?” On and on, and feeling lower and lower and a sense of mis-apprehending everything and I couldn’t find my way back.

Then, a moment yesterday. “What happened to all your meditation, years of training, lofty advice given to many over the years as they experienced their own versions of this human aspiring?”

Oh, Right! I can and I must sit with (WITH!) this, and see!

Allow it to just be there, and Here.

It’s harder when I have to do that, rather than offer it as advice. Practice makes practice Real.

Live and learn. Live and be willing. What is Acceptance? How to do all those things? Sitting still

Just bit ago I had a piece of pizza and some small salad looking forward to talking to some friends about this in the next couple of days, but still feeling that “Less than!” which people often say to express a Lostness. As I was pushing away from the table I recited the gratitude verse at the end of the meal.

“The Universe is as the Boundless Sky,

As the Lotus blossoms above unclean water.

Pure and Beyond the World is the

Buddha Nature of the trainee.

Oh, Holy Buddha we take Refuge in Thee.”

And I wept.

In gratitude.

For This life.

What a day…?

Sublime to the ridiculous can indicate a rather full day and so it was of me yesterday.

Spent the morning doing health care, accupuncture etc, then cleaned up house for some out of town visitors and had a nice few hours chatting and walking to a nearby restaurant for a light lunch. I was looking forward to having a light dinner with a good friend who is going through a lot of personal and internal life transitions and the plan was to go to a 12 step meeting afterward and generally just have a reasonable evening of sharing about life and going to a familiar setting with other folks in recovery.

After a nice companionable dinner with great conversation including my own surprised story of a small connection that was forming with a new friend at some distance that I had met at a recent retreat. Then on to the meeting.

When I got there I was immediately disoriented and felt completely out of place, these are meetings I’ve been going to in various places for over 39 years in sobriety. Almost the same period of time I’ve been a fairly serious student and practitioner of Buddhism, mostly Soto Zen. So, I’ve always been comfortable in either of those settings.

The disorientation I experienced was very strong, and kept me almost immobile and still in a meeting where I’m usually very comfortable, outgoing and mixing in. During the activities of the meeting, a speaker, raffle, Sobriety chips given for anniversaries etc; I began to feel more and more at distance and dis-ease. Totally separated and apart.

Very strong current of emptiness, loneliness, sorrow and deepening sense that I was not now, and had never been, connected to anyone, anywhere, in any fashion. That there was no meaning or purpose to anything. People were coming up to me and being their regular selves and I could not talk to anyone, about anything.

I was casting myself out and rejecting ordinary interactions by not being able to respond kindly or appropriately to their gestures and greeting and such. Completely lost and not understanding or being able to offer anything except incomprehension and inability or a desire to communicate, about anything.

During those few minutes, my friend who has a great heart and is full of compassion, was trying to help me but realized there was something quite off and I was unwilling/unable to express anything except fear, contempt, confusion and incomprehension. So she worriedly watched me cross the street to my car and I drove off.

When I got home I was a real mess. Regret, remorse, shame, confusion and vast incomprehension swirled about me and in me. I finally saw what the word ‘Tempest’ means as a mental state.

My friend called me shortly after I got home and helped me get through the last phase of my ‘experience’ by listening and talking with me in a caring way, that allowed me let things settle down and eventually to get some sort of sleep and rest.

This morning of course abounds with regret, remorse and shame because of my behaviors and also not really knowing at all, what is going on with me and within me. I have had some cognitive decline recently and now need to address it at a variety of levels and see what’s up and what’s down.

There’s a good chance that what is ‘going on’ has a spiritual aspect to it because recent retreat experience and some other indicators show me that something is moving, and/or asking for help within me.

Sometimes we show our hearts

Allow the world to see us, and

Sometimes we show our fears, and

Want the world to hear us. Some

Times we just are who and what

We Are at that moment, and there

Is a glimpse at the Heart of the

Opportunity in our Humanity, by

Observing the Kindness of Others

Raining down and swirling about

Us All.

In gratitude.

Riding to Retreat…

I remember when I turned twenty-five in 1972, thinking it was cool that I was a quarter of a Century old. Now I’m close to being 3/4 of a century old. That’s pretty cool too. A lot of water has passed under that bridge. And in 1972 I was somewhat sophisticated in underworld ways, and a total idiot socially, culturally and sexually. Although I had been steeped in the ways of the streets and had experienced many things I was still a child in terms of society and how most people experience life. I had done a lot of things by that age that most people can’t imagine doing or having done too them. I was an innocent, a fool and fairly clueless. Still am, and I’ve been very very fortunate, all things considered.

After I got sober in 1983 and started getting serious about my Buddhist practice for a number of years, I had occasion to be on a ten hour drive up to the Six Rivers National Forest to go on a week-long retreat at a Hermitage of our Order of monks. I had as passenger a Zen Buddhist Master whose lay disciple I had become. On the drive I had opportunity to divulge huge amounts of burdensome things that I had done, committed or had done to me. As my recitation was winding down, The Master commented, “You have had some astoundingly good merit in your life” or words to that I effect.

I sputtered, “Haven’t you been listening to all the stuff I’ve been telling you? You consider that ‘Good Merit’?”

He said, “Look where you are and where you are going”.

I got it!

Sometimes I forget it for a bit, but regain my perspective.

Gratitude and Compassion

Flowing Inward. In time it

Flows Outward and then

Continues On and on and on.

Set into motion Compassion

Flows in all directions. That

Is Its Basic Nature and

Condition. I can’t aim it.

The Heart pumps In.

The Heart pumps Out.

It’s a life…

I am surrounded by and in touch with many good, nice, intelligent and spiritually oriented people in my life that I can consider close friends; some relatively new and older ones for 20, 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years. Yet, I feel alone and lonely, because I don’t have that day in, day out connection that I had when Linda and I were together for 30 years. Someone to come home too. I was quite surprised when I realized that just in the last few days.

Always I was the loner, with acquaintances and friends everywhere, that I connected with in a variety of ways. I could spend lots of time by myself and was drawn to meditation and various aspects of solitude as a way of Being. Part of my ‘Practice’ and a way of styling myself for the world. So I was busy playing several roles at all times, because that was what active, intelligent, busy and well-adjusted people did.

Yet, here I am, alone. It is not how I thought I would end up. I actually had no thoughts about ‘how’ I would end up. I just assumed there would be a comfortable long-term settling into whatever changes precede that dying at a ripe old age, unforeseeable years into some future, seemed fair. It still seems fair. It just feels empty.

Did I really piss away a lifetime having no plan no ambition just doing the next thing that seemed interesting? The first half of it was all self-serving and criminal and drug and alcohol addled. The second half still fairly self-serving but with the intention of ‘doing good’ and becoming a ‘good’ person. OK! Now what?. Soon 75 years on a carousel? That’s what it kind of feels like.

From my Buddhist viewpoint I think I’ve been useful in converting loads of Karma, so that perhaps less is left behind for other beings that follow after me, to clean up. That seems fair and good and just. And it seems, that will have to be sufficient. Adequate actually, all things considered. Contentment is a mild off-shoot, so that’s sort of good; I just want more.

That may be the clue to the real human condition. We do our best and settle for ‘it coulda been worse’… and for many it is. And then get out of the way and let everything move on. It may just be that simple.

We come to life, we declare an I,

A Me and a Them and then off

We Go, to go, to do, to be, to

Come and sit and stay and

Move and roll and play and

Role and act and wonder. Is

All this worth the effort and

Time it takes to do, then to

Think, wonder and wish we

Knew more than

We know we do.

Sitting still facing a wall

Sitting Still facing a wall. Sitting still facing the person giving the Dharma talk. Letting the breath circulate, inhaling from base of the spine to top of head and allowing exhalation to naturally descend from Buddha crown at top, down the forehead and to the place where the front teeth and gums meet. Let it go inward and descent through the Heart into the Tan-Tien; three fingers below the bellybutton, near the cupped hands in the Cosmic Mudra. The Water of the Spirit flows freely.

The ears are hearing out to farthest reaches, the Sound of Silence appears and All is There, Different and One. The speaker glows a soft gold, as does the air in the room and there are infinitesimal movements of the Universe flowing and being still, simultaneously and all is well. Nothing special. The teaching enters and there is hearing but not listening there is receptivity but no holding. There is being and doing and non-doing, all together because that is how things are. For now.

A moment. Nothing special. The memories come in crowded, unbidden and smothering the willful effort of trying to meditate. Yet, there one is and there is no worry. Just sitting. Being still. Still. Allowing all things. God is either Every Thing or No Thing. Yes and No are not. Opposite they become maybe This, maybe That. It does not Matter. This shall pass. As will That. Neither coming nor going. Deep waters are still and alive within. No Thing stands still, everything seems Still.

The opposites arise and create apparent movement but once those oppositions are next to each other, there is no conflict no resolution. Its just how things are. Right now. Whoops there goes another Now. Where? Over there. Where? I can’t see It. Ok.