Sunrise Ehrenberg

sunrise-ehrenberg

 

Laid up with nasty colds. Feverish. Weak. Ugly smelling. Hacking coughs. At night we sweat so much we both get up a few times to change our sleeping gear but I’m kind of a monster and my side of the bed is like the edge of the sea, damp and briny all the time now. Our eyeballs hurt. Too damn cold. Too damn hot.

Our only comfort is that we are doing it together. Like inmates walking the yard, bitching about the man. That and the fact that we have nothing to do. Nowhere to go. No one asking anything of us. That’s something to be grateful for, and we are. That, and the vast and empty silence of this desert. All that time in the city and then back to the cooped up feeling at Sam’s with rigs on either side of us and now this openess- well, my body can feel it. It opens up into that space. My whole awareness expands to the horizon with a big sigh. It’s funny to me how the outside makes the inside feel different. I know, I know, but still- it keeps surprising me.

I read Peter Heller’s book, “The Painter” over the last two days. It had it all for me, you know, it did or it sure wanted to. I wanted it to. Big manly guy, painter, the real deal, plus fly fisherman, plus violent and dangerous, sensitive, smart, tortured- lost his daughter to murder, lost his marriages, lost his bearings and half of his soul and the book about working in that deep grief towards what might be the light. Anchored in the physical world with attentive and spare prose of uncommon beauty, and girded on all sides by love, and intelligence. And fly fishing. So much goddamn fly fishing it alone could kill you with tender awe for the world and the creatures in it.

I read his book “The Dog Stars” and it is one of my, what, ten favorite books? Up there. His first novel and written at fifty-three. I like it because I like it and because at fifty three. Maybe there’s still hope. Anyway that book is technically just flawless. This other one I can’t say that about but it doesn’t matter. A bigger book, I think, a deeper reach and broader scope, he flexes a little bit more in this one. So I’m not sure about every step, not sure about certain aspects, but I’m happy to have gone on the trip with him and I’m happy he’s in the world and writing. He is my kind of man, is what. Plus he has the best cops in this book- he nailed what it is and can be about the good ones, the ones who put down cases- anyway I like that. Probably because I felt it was flattering and I identified with them and it made me remember doing that job and knowing I was throwed in with something.

 

***

 

So we are out here in Eherenberg just over the Ca/Az border dry camping with a big scattered group of folks who are all standing by to shift over to Quartzsite in a day or two for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. Which name I despise. Just for the record. But the thing itself not. Bob Wells from cheaprvliving.com has been putting these on for four or five years now and it just keeps growing. Folks new to van-dwelling and full-timing and old hands all gathered up to hang out and learn from each other, help each other fix up their rigs, teach workshops on solar and electrical systems, working on the road, safety, first aid, cooking, camping, you name it. A tribal gathering is what.

Yesterday I met Shawn. He drove into camp in a little Nissan hatchback thing, looking for Bob. Said it was his first day to camp. Been driving three days from DC to get out here and where was he supposed to go. I pointed out Bob’s camp and we wandered around talking. Ran into Bob and I introduced them.

That’s how it is. New ones show up every day. Full of anxiousness and hope and grit and to some degree or other getting distance from some bad thing. Like how it was moving west is what it seems to me. It wasn’t the happy ones who loaded up the wagons and lit out into desolation and violence to find something new at the end of the world. If you could stand it at all you stayed put.

***

My wife is sore put out with this illness I think I better tend to her and leave you all to fend for yourselves for a spell.

 

I am glad for your company I always am.

 

 

***

Namaste.

 

***

 

 

Advertisements

Lars and The Real Girl and the Nature of Mind

larsrealgirl

 

***

Lars and the Real Girl and the nature of mind

 

I watched Lars and the Real Girl last night and it left me sobbing like a baby. I always cry at sweet movies but this was like gut-wrenching sobbing, deep and powerful. It felt like dying and it felt so wonderful. Do you know the story? Lars is a twenty-seven year old recluse who lives in the garage behind the family home, which is occupied by Lars’ older brother and his expectant wife. Isolative, socially awkward, unhappy, but also longing for love. His mother died giving birth to him and he was raised by his now dead father. His older brother left home as soon as he could, leaving Lars alone with his dad.

 

Lars ends up buying a life-sized sex doll and has the delusion that she is real, that she is his girl friend. He makes up a whole story about her past, he buys her a wheelchair so he can push her around, he cuts her food and eats it for her, and interacts with everyone through her. With Bianca at his side, he slowly enters the stream of the real world, even as he maintains his delusion that she is a real person. Patricia Clarkson plays the town doctor, who also is a psychologist. Under the guise of treating Bianca for low blood pressure, she sets up therapy sessions with Lars and provides the space to explore his experience of the world. Under her instructions, the brother, sister, and eventually the whole small town begin to treat Bianca as if she were real, too. It begins as a awkward, difficult, strange exercise but flowers quickly into something that is profoundly affecting Lars and all of those around him. There’s a sweet girl who is interested in Lars, but he is in no way ready to engage with her on the real world’s terms- it is simply too frightening for him.

 

Bianca’s presence allows Lars to shift his awareness from self-consciousness to outer-directed consciousness- with everyone talking to and with Bianca through him, he obtains a kind of outsider’s view of the sweetness and love underlying most human interactions, and begins to slowly warm up to these experiences. She provides a safe filtering mechanism, what Jungian therapists refer to as a “transitional object.” Initially that transitional object is represented by a blue blanket worn by Lars that was knitted for him by his mother before her death. At twenty-seven, he was still carrying around his baby blanket. In Jungian psychology, the relationship between mother and infant is one of first, wholly nurturing and supportive love that gradually gives way to disillusionment as the mother teaches the child that he is not the center of the universe, that other people do exist, that they are separate, etc. The blanket as transitional object is the first “not me” object the child relates to, and they use those objects to help them navigate the ground between being everything, being non-dual totally, to a dualistic identity of “self” and “other.” Once that transition has been successfully navigated, the object can be abandoned and the child can interact directly with the world and the people in it.

 

So the movie begins with the blanket as transitional object, one we can all recognize in our own lives as a direct experience. When we see the blanket, we understand Lars’s interior landscape directly. We know what he’s feeling. When Bianca appears and he starts acting as if she were real, we are thrown off initially. We think he’s crazy, that he’s lost his mind. And in a way, he has. But what’s really happened is that Lars has upped his transitional object game. A blanket no longer provides quite enough of a protective screen between him and the harshness of the outer world, and it isn’t enough for him to make the leap into that world. Bianca, as a simulacrum of a grown woman who loves him, is that transitional object, as well as a love object and a manifestation of female love and affection standing in for his dead mother.

 

Over the course of the movie we watch as Bianca’s life, at first totally run by Lars and centered on him and his needs, gradually expands to include those in Lars’s social circle. Bianca attends church with the family. She’s offered a job in a clothing store a few days a week. She volunteers at the hospital. Town people pick her up, drop her off, and include her in the very fabric of their small town lives- all as a way of showing love for Lars- which he can’t yet see. Lars finds himself threatened, disillusioned by Bianca’s increasingly independent life and his own, still unmet, needs. They begin to fight. He goes bowling with the cute girl from work while Bianca is at a church group. He begins to see and feel the real world in a direct way for the first time, and to be drawn to its possibilities for true interaction and love. Something more than Bianca can give him.

 

As he is drawn more deeply into the real world, he no longer is served by Bianca’s presence in his life. She falls deeply ill, and over the course of a week or so, she dies. Lars has the opportunity to grieve her death, to come to terms with his grief over his mother’s death, and to begin the slow movement towards an authentic life and interacting directly with things as they are.

 

So this movie ends with him at the gravesite after the funeral, with the girl from work standing next to him, and he asks her “Do you want to go for a walk?” and she says, simply, “Yes.”

 

I cried like two or three babies. I was slain. And throughout the movie I was so touched by Ryan Gosling’s performance. I loved him. I wanted him to be happy. I felt his pain and sorrow and loneliness. He opened my bodhisattva heart and aroused profound bodhichitta in me and my tears were sweet and hot and endless. Lars and the Real Girl opened me and made bodhichitta flow through me like a vast river. I feel like I was blessed by the movie.

 

It wasn’t until the next day that the penny dropped for me and I saw the movie entirely from a dharmic perspective. I realized that just as Lars used Bianca as his transitional object to allow him to safely navigate the abandoning of a delusion that comforted him but ultimately kept him trapped in suffering; in the same way I use my ego as my Bianca. I am Lars. I believe that my Bianca is real, and I lug her around with me everywhere I go. I make the people who love me interact with Bianca instead of letting them see me, the real me. I believe that my ego is me, that it is real, that it exists, that it protects me and keeps me safe and makes me happy and needs me to take care of it and protect it from a harsh and cruel world. We are locked in a delusional dance, but there’s only me dancing. The world around me does it’s best to talk to Bianca, since I insist upon it, even though it would rather just be with me directly, without the delusion and the protective screen.

Our world is populated almost entirely with Larses. We are all of us Lars. All terrified and lonely and longing for love and jumping out of our skins with unhappiness and suffering. We cling to a delusion that we created to protect us and love us, but it IS a delusion, nothing more. No matter how many people talk to her, dress her, cut her hair, or take her to church, she isn’t real. She can’t be. Our task is to wake up to this delusion and to let go of it. To let Bianca “die” so that “we” can live. As long as we persist in maintaining and feeding the delusion that our “selves” are real, that they exist as solid, independent, true objects, we are bound to our suffering. But once we begin to wake up to the truth, we have the chance to save ourselves, to gain the courage to interact directly with things as they actually are, and we can leave our suffering behind.

 

The whole of the dharma is simply that process of letting go of Bianca and stepping into the real world. Once we become aware of her shortcomings, she’s no longer as intoxicating and alluring as she was in the beginning. It isn’t that Bianca is bad- she’s entirely neutral. She can be useful. She can protect us at times. She can give us a cushion and space when the real world is too frightening for us- but only briefly, never for good. The Dharma acts as a wake-up call to us, and shows us another way. We can set Bianca down. We can let her die, or simply let her rest without our attention. We can begin to look around, test the air, feel the ground in a way that is no longer deluded. We can be unprotected because nothing can harm us. We can love because we are love. We can wake up to our situation and then we can wake others up to theirs, one by one. It’s simple, really. It’s about growing up, about stepping into the world, and gaining the courage to love everyone who is going through exactly the same thing.

 

Lars and The Real Girl is dharma teaching. A really, really good one.

 

 

All of the psychological concepts and terms were taken from this great article by Margaret Jordan, PhD. Any mistakes in use or understanding are mine, not hers.

http://www.cgjungpage.org/learn/articles/film-reviews/917-a-psychoanalytic-look-at-qlars-and-the-real-girlq

 

A PSYCHOANALYTIC LOOK AT LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

Margaret Jordan, PhD | Visit her website at www.drmargaretjordan.com

 

All the dharma stuff is just my own thinking and any errors are solely mine. May this be of benefit to all beings.

 

 

***

 

Namaste.

 

***

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you know the movie. Or go watch it, then come right back. I’ll be here.

 

***

Glory of the mundane world

20161216_064703

 

This is what it keeps looking like out here.

 

I can’t help how it does.

 

I’m just reporting.

 

***

We’re out in the desert again like we like. Quiet and spare. Neighbors, sure, at a neighborly distance. But lots of space still. No one managing anything, no one saying what can or can’t be done. No one saying come or go. No one to pay for staying here.

Just some sand and rocks. Ocotillos and creosote bushes and a big, gaudy sky. Last night we went to El Borrego for dollar taco night and had fish and carne asada and carnitas tacos. I had a Pacifico to wash them down. Before that we hiked up the hills behind us and looked down on our encampment. Looked at some stone sculptures left up there, a snake of rocks and a labyrinth and some other odds and ends. A lobster. A big horn sheep.

 

What did we do today. Our neighbor Vince gifted us with a fly rod and some reels and taught us to cast out in the sand.

That’s something right there. I can see into a hazy, not to distant future where I’m hip-deep in a river in late golden light with a swarm of just-hatched mayflies hanging over the water and a big smile on my face. I can see that pretty good. Something muscular and swift moving under the water. Something in my heart, something in my throat. Like a song. Like that.

***

In a couple of days we’ll get on the heavier than air flying machine and be whisked across this big country to a big city where wonders await us. Family and new friends and big adventures. Meanwhile here the day turns to darkness and the silence only deepens. It is supposed to rain and we’ll probably fall asleep in our silver cocoon with the sound of rain on the metal skin like a million tiny drumbeats, like the beating of numberless tiny hearts.

 

***

 

Namaste, y’all.

 

***

 

 

go easy

bridgekeeper

 

I like to play with my toys.

 

***

 

I spent today setting up our new health insurance plan. Figuring out what works for us on the road full-time is not easy, but I think this new thing we got into might be just the ticket. Still, I hope we stay healthy a while longer.

 

***

We’re getting ready to leave our cushy spot at Sam’s Family Spa and Hot Springs where we’ve been for a MONTH! I am so spoiled with twice daily soaks and swims and saunas and steambaths that I will for sure go through withdrawals once we are back out in the wild scrubbing our dry asses with sand!

 

But it is time to go.

Time to go or stay and be tamed! I’m not ready for that yet, thank you very much. But it is nice to have found a place that is wonderful and friendly and inexpensive and funky and magical- it actually is magical. Like, magic happens here almost continuously. I really do love every single thing about it. And all the wonderful people who wander in and out, stay a while, stay forever, come back every year- it attracts good folks mostly.

 

I am so grateful to have had this time and place that was so nurturing and supportive of practice and relaxation and healing.

thank you, Universe.

 

***

I’m looking forward to getting wild again. And our visit to NYC! We are going to meet up with a couple of our online friends while we are there- it’s going to be a love fest! And Christmas in New York City, with friends and beloved family new and old and museums and monks and cold and snow and what what what. Thank you, again, Universe! We are going to have so much fun.

 

***

I am profoundly blessed. Blessed with the best wife. Blessed with a beautiful life. I have a healthy body and a wildly creative mind and a good soul and just the right amount of mostly imaginary problems to chew on. I have my path and my wonderful teachers. I have the intertubes and books and movies. I have good food and great places to eat in that are all new and changing and my yard changes all the time and so do my neighbors. My needs are few and growing fewer. I don’t have to work any more. I don’t owe anyone anything. I am free to do what I want and go where I want. I love this life. I’m so grateful for every single thing that has ever happened to me. Especially the bad things. And especially the good things. And even the boring parts. It’s crazy to me that at fifty-two my life feels like it is ramping up- getting more and more exciting, more fun, more rewarding, more challenging, more exotic, more of everything.

It would be wonderful to stay alive and healthy for a long time, and perhaps that will be my experience. But already I’ve been blessed with a full life, and if I die tomorrow I won’t have any regrets about it.

My life is full of good people like you. You come here and you read and sometimes you leave comments and I feel you here. I feel the connection. I feel the goodness and the love and for that I am so deeply grateful I could cry about it. Everywhere I look I have good people and more show up every day. Thank you for being my friends. You sustain me in my dark hours.

Things keep unfolding just the way they do. I’m happy to bear witness to it all.

 

***

 

I hope your holidays are bright and wonderful and filled with love. The one thing I’d urge you to do is to open up to them, don’t fret over all the stress and noise and difficulty but let that be the crunchy topping that you can break through to get to all the dark, gooey, sweet and sustaining goodness underneath.

 

***

May you be happy, may you be at peace, may you and everyone you love be free from suffering.

 

***

Namaste.

 

***

 

my ugly

The-Creature-in-the-Garden-

 

***

I have just emerged from a bout of very ugly crazy.

 

I did me some damage.

 

I blamed the creature, but of course I am the creature.

 

***

I am willing and eager for the pain of my human life. I don’t begrudge it. I walk around with my guts looped in my hands, grinning. But because I have pledged my troth to the woman on the verge, she often gets blasted by the bombs I set off everywhere. I light them and hand them to her, often enough.

 

“Here you go, honey. Hold on to this for a second for me, would you?”

 

boom.

 

***

I think it’s my drama, but often enough I dress her up in my costumes and hand her my props and block out her path on the stage. Shout “ACTION!”

I don’t know what all is wrong with me.

 

Okay, that’s a lie.

***

 

Anyway, she gets hit with a lot of shit that I fling around.

 

I’d like to take this moment to apologize to her in front of everyone.

 

I’m sorry.

 

***

What is happening to me. It is private, I believe. In a way. I don’t know if there is anything to be gained by talking about it or trying to talk about it. It sounds unhinged. It sounds unhinged to me when I tell myself about it. But I’m going to talk about it anyway. Perhaps it will be of benefit to you. Reading here on some dark night of the soul. In anguish. In terror. In horror at your own self. Unfit. Unfit. Unfit and dark.

I am at work.

I am at work.

I am creating and uncreating something wild and vast and limitless. I am uncreating what was built in me by those who built me. I am uncreating what was built in me by my own self after the others got started doing their work in me. They did a lot of damage and then I enthusiastically piled on a lot more. The depth and scope and vastness of the damage I did and have done and am still doing is difficult to comprehend but it is not insignificant. It is, in a way, serious and bad. I have done bad things, I continue to do bad things, and will probably keep doing so. And to whom. To those I most cherish. To those most innocent. To those least deserving.

It’s difficult to face this but I am doing it. It’s difficult to admit and it’s difficult to stop. But I am determined at it. I am undoing it. Undoing the causes of it. Undoing the errors that lead to unskillful actions.

I really believe that I am right. This is the most reliable indicator that I am completely wrong. If I feel totally justified, totally righteous, this is almost one hundred percent positive proof that I am about to do something mean and stupid and harmful.

This is a really important lesson to learn and one I learn but slowly. And must, it seems, re-learn repeatedly.

***

This time I dove so deep into it. I really, utterly believed my own line of shit. And that gave rise to a terrible chain of actions and words. I created this chain link by link and used it to beat on someone who was innocent.

See how I do?

***

But there is something here that isn’t just terrible and awful. I did all of this with a kind of terrible openness. A rawness of being. A relentless openness. I went and I went and I went, but each step I took I took refuge in the three jewels, I begged for understanding, I begged for openness, I begged for support and understanding, for peace and love and healing. It was like diving into the deepest pool of pure shit and swallowing all of it. Not asking to be spared, but asking to be transformed. To be, somehow, an agent of change in it. To go all the way into it, without hiding, without turning away.

but still, I caused harm. I don’t know. My zeal overmatched my capacity. I don’t know what the fuck I was doing. I am still so unskillful.

 

I was willing to be peeled by it, but I scalded my beloved as well.

 

Since we are as one I need to learn how to do this better.

 

***

 

Anyway. I emerged. And my long-suffering wife still abides by me. What I owe her cannot be measured.

 

***

 

So now I am on the other side of it. If there is another side. What I learned is that there isn’t any difference between the best thing and the worst thing, in a way. My massively powerful dark energy was pure and limitless energy. capable of anything. Magic or destruction. Samsara or Nirvana. Good or evil. Everything is the same, in this way. Our minds truly do determine our experience. Nothing is solid, nothing is lasting, nothing is anything but pure, limitless energy. Now in this form, now in that. If you want heaven you can have it. If you long for hell you can be there. If you seek confusion you will find it. If you want to be unloved you can find the proof for it in every second of every day. If you want to be loved the same thing is true.

Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is at is seems.

Everything is everything.

***

I used to think of the path as linear, but I experience it now as recursive. What looks like going backwards is the way forward. what looks like failure is the signpost of deeper growth. Deeper pain, wilder joy. More peeling. More letting go. Saying goodbye to the solid forms. Examining what underlies everything.

***

I can’t recommend hanging out around me.

 

***

 

Namaste.

 

****

 

 

 

 

 

the union of two rivers

thanksgiving-copy

 

 

 

***

 

She knows.

 

***

 

 

We are escaped from the small ones and are holed up. Tending to our wounds and to each other. Stepping out to soak in the tubs. Peering through the blinds warily. Yesterday I had a day of practice and yoga and soaking while Yolie scoured the thrift stores for winter wear for our upcoming trip to NYC. She scored a gorgeous plum-colored cashmere overcoat that matches her royal nature to a tee. Other beautiful things. She is a miracle. The world knows it and throws itself at her feet wherever she goes. As do I.

***

This last pass through the dark waters of disruption was hard on us. I don’t know what’s wrong with us. Ten days with the grandkids. We were looking forward to it but it kicked our old asses. We are spoiled. We like things our way. We don’t handle it when those little tyrants show up and demand the world turned upside down. We have, I have, these imaginary grandkids that are sweet and funny and who love us, and are easily distracted from their rages and unhappiness. Who don’t hit each other and take each other’s toys and scream and wail without ceasing. Then the real ones show up and I’m thrown for a loop.

I promise myself a thousand times that I’ll let go of my preconceived notions and meet directly with what is, that I’ll use my mindfulness and compassion and love in the present moment. Do what’s needed without reactivity, with wisdom and joy and gentleness. Then I fail. Then I fail again. Then I keep failing. Then they go home.

That’s just how it is sometimes.

 

***

So I’m taking a deep breath now. Going back to fundamentals. Practice. Breathing. Yoga. Soaking. Talking things through with my bride. Letting go of everything I think and want and have. Letting go again. Letting go deeper. Letting go of letting go. On and on.

There truly is only this one moment. Whatever is to be found is to be found here. What is to be let go of is to be let go of here, right now. Not later. Not by someone else. Not by a wiser me, but by this me right now. What is to be seen I am looking at. What is to be felt I am feeling.

 

blah blah blah.

 

Bob Loblaw. Bob Loblaw. Bob Loblaw.

 

***

Despite my flaws and failures I love my life. I love my mind and I love working with it. I love the imaginary work I do loving everyone and pretending that my limitless love and compassion truly do sweep out into the world and illuminate it, really do bring bliss and happiness and alleviate suffering. I enjoy sitting. I enjoy praying. I enjoy study and contemplation. I am grateful for my suffering. I am grateful for my unending opportunities to learn. I am grateful for the guides who gather around me and sustain me. I am grateful for you, for your love and support and guidance, my angels. You who read here and show your hearts to me. You who have been here in the dark hours and listened.

I know you. I love you for it.

I wouldn’t change a nickle of this show. Wisdom blossoms out of ignorance. Skill out of unskillfulness. Joy out of suffering. Connection from isolation.

 

Nothing is real- this is the emptiness aspect. Everything manifests ceaselessly- this is the luminous aspect.

 

So I’ve been told.

 

***

 

How I long for what is.

 

***

 

Namaste.

 

***

 

 

 

 

Brokedown Bliss

Nervous Hospital

 

We got them boys now. Thought we’d be smart and hole up in a fancypants rv park with hot tubs and swimming cools and electricity and on-demand chicken nuggets. but we was outplayed by illness and orneriness and bad capacity. We managed some good moments in there, but damn we thowed a lot of shoes and got tangled in miles of barb-wire and jumping cactus and plain old ugliness.

I still want things to be a certain way. I still get flummoxed when they don’t comply to my expectations.

I fail in ever new ways to be a good man. I lose my shit with those sweet boyos. I get mad. I am horrified to face how I get. How I let myself get. I love them but damn I fail at being a good human around them. And when the woman looks at me when I lose it. I want to die is what.

All them among you who’d cast a stone, get ’em ready.

 

Let fly.

 

***

 

teacher_shamarpa

My beloved teacher, Shamar Rinpoche. Dead now more than a year. I have wrote here before how he got much closer to me after his death than he was before it. I got no explanation for it but I know it to be true.

Here is a little story you can believe it if you want to or you can say it isn’t so:

When the boys got here they were both in some degree sick and they got worse over the first few days and we was just waiting our turn for it. About five or six days in to the visit I got nailed in the middle of the night. Woke up with the alarm in my body- you know that one? You go to bed fine, but in the dark of the night you feel the fever and the nausea like a greasy sea beneath you- you don’t know quite what’s wrong but your body wakes you up? It says, “Hey, boyo. Get up out of bed right the fuck now cuz some bad shit is about to go down.”

I was unhinged by it. Weepy and resisting and overmatched. How could I be this sick and in a tiny trailer with two other sick boys and feed them and clean them and entertain them and not redrum them? How could I take to a sick bed and leave my lovely long suffering wife to handle them alone?

I was just overfuckingwhelmed. And sick. And freaked out.

 

So there’s this practice we do where when we feel shitty we say, “Well, since I’m feeling this shitty, let me take on all the shitty feelings everywhere, for all beings, and let my suffering ease their suffering. Let me have all of it, and let my experience of this sufffering take all the other suffering away.” This is called tonglen, or exchanging self for others. And it works. It’s a powerful practice. You breathe in all the suffering in the form of black smoke and you breathe out brilliant white light that goes everywhere and when it touches the other suffering beings it relieves their suffering. Not that this is actually happening, but it is happening in your mind, and that’s what matters.

anyway what I usually do is try to imagine everyone suffering, but it becomes kind of diffuse and non-concrete as it expands and expands- eventually I feel like, “Well, this is my aspiration, and I can’t really and truly get everyone and every kind of suffering, so let’s just imagine it’s working and move on.”

But this night I was in such a state that I was just determined- I’m going to suck out every single tiny black smoke particle wherever it might exist- in any realm, in any dimension, in any time- let me get absolutely every single bit of it and burn it up, transform it. All suffering. Everywhere. All of yours, down to the last bit. All of everyone’s, ever. Give it to me and let me burn it up. Let me have it all so no one must feel what I’m feeling.

it was a kind of more powerful way of relating to the practice than I’d tried before.

 

So all this was happening as I was thrashing in my sick bed, feverish and nauseated and kind of crying. And here’s where it gets weird. Shamar Rinpoche came to me. Just popped right into my head and my heart and my sickness. His face, his presence, his wisdom and light and love and humor, and just like that the big fear and panic in my heart- he took it into his.

he took it into his. effortlessly and with a sweet smile.

 

And I felt completely cured. Blissful and happy and whole and fine. And I saw him and I felt him and I was so grateful. But then I saw that he was relieving me of a burden that was rightfully mine. So I told him. I said- “Thank you for relieving my pain and my panic and fear. But I am capable. I can handle it. I do want to burn up the suffering of others. I don’t want to be so sick that I can’t help my grandkids and my wife, but I can deal with this little cold and fever. Thank you and thank you and thank you, but let me be a grownup, let me do what is mine to do.”

 

And just like that I was sick again. But not as bad. I was totally cool with it. The panic and fear and resistance were gone.

 

***

 

Probably this was just the workings of a feverish mind. Probably my teacher did not come visit me and relieve me of my burden out of his own limitless compassion.

 

But this is not what I believe.

 
***

 

None of this matters. I am insignificant and my small troubles are equally insignificant. True sorrow exists and true suffering covers the face of the globe nor will it cease to do so.

 

But I want to say thank you to him all the same.

***

 

 

I am so flawed. So enslaved by my desires and fears. Yet I am capable of great, of limitless love and compassion. I possess, just as you do, the perfect and stainless nature of the true mind. I am all things. As are you.

 

***

 

The other night I dreamed that my daughter gave a teaching to a group of high lamas and other realized beings.

 

“Be kind.” she said. “I forgot what else there was, I didn’t do my homework. But I remember that part.”

 

Seems good enough to me.

 

***

 

Namaste.

 

No Hard Feelings

 

***

When my body won’t hold me anymore
And it finally lets me free
Will I be ready?
When my feet won’t walk another mile
And my lips give their last kiss goodbye
Will my hands be steady?

When I lay down my fears
My hopes and my doubts
The rings on my fingers
And the keys to my house
With no hard feelings

When the sun hangs low in the west
And the light in my chest
Won’t be kept held at bay any longer
When the jealousy fades away
And it’s ash and dust for cash and lust
And it’s just hallelujah
And love in thoughts and love in the words
Love in the songs they sing in the church
And no hard feelings

Lord knows they haven’t done
Much good for anyone
Kept me afraid and cold
With so much to have and hold

Mmh
When my body won’t hold me anymore
And it finally lets me free
Where will I go?
Will the trade winds take me south
Through Georgia grain or tropical rain
Or snow from the heavens?

Will I join with the ocean blue
Or run into the savior true
And shake hands laughing
And walk through the night
Straight to the light
Holding the love I’ve known in my life
And no hard feelings

Lord knows they haven’t done
Much good for anyone
Kept me afraid and cold
With so much to have and hold
Under the curving sky
I’m finally learning why
It matters for me and you
To say it and mean it too
For life and its loveliness
And all of its ugliness
Good as it’s been to me
I have no enemies
I have no enemies
I have no enemies
I have no enemies

 

***

 

This just blew my doors off.

 

***

If we could just remember that this is all already gone. We don’t get to hold any of it, not for even a whole day. It flows through us without ceasing. In our imagined poverty we clutch at what can’t even be slowed down, even less stopped. But it is limitless. Never ending.

Our suffering rises up like this, our splashing and reaching and grabbing and fleeing. Since we are limitless our suffering is limitless, too. No one can stop us doing this but ourselves. But stopping it is all that is needed.

Let go of the whole thing. You can’t be harmed. In this world of ceaseless manifestation you can never be poor. Never alone. Never something imperfect. Your story is longing for you.

Nothing to be added, nothing taken away. Only love for what is. In all of its loveliness. In all of its ugliness.

I have no enemies.

 

***

Lay down your burden,  Tyler Durden.

***

 

Namaste.

 

 

***

 

Extending Throughout Space for the Benefit of Beings

Red

 

***

Abre tus ojos.

 

 

 

***

 

Yolie is headed west to pick up the boys and bring them back out here in the desert for a Thanksgiving visit. She’ll be two days out and back so I’m going into retreat in the silver spaceship until her return.

 

My practice focus will be on Chenrezig, or Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion.

I’ve turned the Airstream into a mobile retreat center, with a spacious and beautiful altar for candles and offerings, and my practice space on the floor in front of it with my cushion and a low table for my practice texts. Incense fills the air, my chants and prayers fill the air, my mind fills the space, my body both is and dissolves, and the very air is full of limitless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, teachers, lineage holders, friends, enemies, strangers, beings from the six realms, and anyone who wants to attend.

 

I sit and pray. I give thanks and offerings. I offer all that I am. I am utterly present, and utterly transported- to this exact place.

Perhaps it is an indication that practice has taken hold in me. I understand little, and am easily misled, but I am devoted. I both believe in and long for immersion in practice as something key to my development. Not that there is something to achieve, or something to become other than what I intrinsically already am and have. But like a dog loves to chase sticks I love to practice. Throw a stick for me and I will chase it until I collapse. Not to get the stick. I know there isn’t any stick to get. But for the joy of chasing it. For what I am when I am in practice. Which is exactly what I am when I’m not in practice. Except that I can’t say I’m ever not in practice, if you know what I mean.

So much of the Dharma makes perfect sense to me. Train the mind, settle the mind, open the mind. Be ethical in my conduct and I’ll cause less harm to myself and others. Cultivate kindness and compassion. Think of others before myself. Try to help. Try not to judge. Don’t feel sorry for myself, but have deep feeling for the suffering of others, which is in every way vaster and more plentiful than my own small sorrows. Let go of wanting things to be some other way than they are. Be open and curious about what’s revealing itself in this moment. Attend to what is and give less to what was and what might be.

 

These are all things that you’d be hard pressed to argue against.

But Dharma also includes things that make no sense to me. I can’t really talk rationally about them and I’m not certain that I should, that there’s any benefit to it. But practice includes aspects that fundamentally unhinge my rational view of what is. Experiential phenomenon that defy explanation and yet continue to manifest. The teachings advise me to pay little attention to these phenomenon, so I don’t make too big a deal about them. I don’t chase them and I don’t cling to them. I don’t assign any importance to them and I keep my nose to the grindstone as it were and continue my work. I have seen others who leap up at these occurrences and run off after them. And I have seen these people get utterly lost. So I am cautious. I am prudent. I retain my focus.

But I don’t deny them, either. I welcome their coming and I feel a bit wistful when they go. And although I do not court them or cling to them( to the best of my small ability) they nevertheless exact a powerful change in how I perceive this reality- the only reality there is. Like an acid that dissolves duality and solidity wherever it is found, these experiences undo the glue that holds together a rationalist, mechanistic view of the nature of mind and of reality. What the teachings say is that these things manifest and that’s fine, that’s an indication, if you will, of progress, but they are not to be trusted in their own right- they are artifacts and not the thing in itself. Don’t be fooled, the texts explain.

So.

 

In what ways can you use this in your own life? You are doing something good, something right, something important. You work hard at it and things around you begin to shift. The world opens up for you in a way it never quite did before. Important things happen.

Don’t stop.

I think that’s what we can take from this. Don’t stop doing what you were doing that caused all of this wonderful new shit to come to light! Don’t take the consolation prize and run off and quit the game. Put the little blue-haired gnome in your pocket if you want, but then roll up your sleeves and redouble your efforts. You’re on to something.

Keep going.

 

***

 

My Chenrezig Sadhana booklet is growing ratty and care-worn. But it was blessed by my teacher Shamar Rinpoche the last time I saw him just weeks before his death. His name is scrawled in it. I know that physical talismans are not “things in themselves” and that no thing is “a thing in itself.” Everything is truly everything and there’s only this moment and what what what. But also I know that he touched this book and gave it his blessing for me, for my practice, for my path, for my Buddhahood. His compassion ignites the pages of that small booklet and catches the very fabric of my mind on fire because of it. This little blue book ties me to him in a timeless, limitless way. He is with me still and I am with him, no more so than when I am practicing.

In the desert a couple of weeks ago I met this remarkable human being I call “Big John” and he quoted to me the whole of the Velveteen rabbit quote as follows:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

That comes pretty close to how I feel about my little blue Chenrezig book. And how I feel about my teacher. And how I feel about you. And about myself.

 

Big John is one of those things that happen that can’t be explained. You are out in the middle of nowhere and a big bearded man comes up to you in the dark and whispers this to you.

What can you say about that?

 

***

Again and again I love and fail. Again and again I give myself to the big, wheezing contraption and say “do what you will.”

I will spend myself on all of you nor will I stop doing so.

 

***

 

Namaste.

 

Do open your eyes. Do so. We need you now more than ever.

 

 

***

 

Postcard from nowhere

starlight-airstream

 

***

We got our solitude on out here in the Arizona desert. It’s surprising to me how much more social we are on the road than we were in “real” life. We’ve made so many new friends and we encounter new ones all the time. I imagined that we’d be alone, together, almost all the time but it seems that we have to kind of actually make an effort to “get away”. Of course, doing that is a lot easier now that all we have to do is hook up and drive off into the wilderness somewhere. Like we just did.

I have a deep hunger for solitude and the wild open space of the desert. Especially the close, warm, and loving solitude of having the woman on the verge with me every second of the day and night. We’ve been so long together that being with each other is our default setting, and being “alone” means being alone together.

Days of silence and sun, yoga and meditation, eating our amazing meals together, and then reading or surfing the net and just hanging out, long walks, watching the sun come up and then go back down, holding hands with no words exchanged- it sparks the deepest bliss in me. I know it can’t always be like this, so I soak it up when it is.

It seems to me that one of the big changes in this life we’re now living is that we have more of those peak experiences and less of the flatline middle- more highs, a lot fewer big lows, and almost no “ghost days” that our old life seemed full of- day after day of routine that grind up year after year of our lives. This is sort of like life where you fast-forward through all the boring parts. Or most of them, anyway. And the good ones slow way down, they linger in a way that they didn’t before. Instead of a quiet romantic dinner getaway that lasts a few hours, our dates can last weeks. It is pretty nice.

Right now, though, we are hanging out with a whole crew of weirdos. And it’s great! We’ve joined up with Jamie from Enigmatic Nomadics for a “Van Build-out Party.” There are about thirty rigs parked in the boonies near Lake Havasu and we’re all going to get our build on. Hang out, help folks set up their full-timing rigs, swap tools and supplies and stories, and generally have a friendly time. Our spot in the desert is ugly and sandy and we’re all kind of jammed in together, but the company is great and the vibe is super warm and friendly.

Last night we hung out with Jo and Kathy and John, all friends of ours that we’ve crossed paths with on the road, and caught up with each other, drank beers and wine and talked story until the wee hours (well, nine pm, which is like past midnight for us!). It was a beautiful night filled with amazing talk and a sense of ever-deepening friendship. It seems like the people who have the guts to walk away from society and embrace this strange life are really interesting folks to talk to- every single one of them wears their uniqueness out in the open. And there’s very little posturing or pretending here- no one has anything to protect or defend, so they let it all hang out. It is a brave and enriching way to engage with the world and I enjoy hanging out with them.

I feel so blessed to be alive today.

***

 

I hope you are happy, and well, and safe, and loved. I’m pulling for you all the time.

 

***

 

Namaste.

 

***