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.

 

***

Couple Happily Living in An Airstream

 

Our good friend Bob Wells interviewed us for his youtube channel. Take a look if you dare!

 

Bob also has a website, CheapRVliving. He and his site were a big inspiration for us, and he gave us a lot of nuts and bolts how to info for getting on the road and making it work.

Bob is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and he’s a real visionary. He’s made it his life’s mission to help people get into full-timing, and he hosts a big get-together twice a year where people can go out into the woods or the desert and camp with him and learn how to do everything you need to do to live on the road- workcamping, boondocking, mail, solar power, storage, picking a rig, etc. The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous for winter 2017 will be in Quartzsite, AZ in January. Last year there were over a hundred campers and this year he expects it to be even bigger. It is a great time, and a wonderful opportunity to meet other people who are doing this crazy thing.

Anyway, Bob interviews people who are living on the road and posts the videos on his channel so people can get an idea what it’s like to do it, and what kind of people have chosen this life. Bob interviewed us when we were all boondocking together up in Leadville, CO, a few months ago. It was an honor to be interviewed by Bob and I think the video turned out great. If you’re curious about our life on the road and would like to get a look inside the airstream, you can check it out. It’s a long interview, so don’t say you weren’t warned!

I hope it inspires you to do something you’ve always wanted to do but were a little bit afraid to jump into.

 

Namaste!

***

The Wilderness Within

jtcamp

This is a spot we had at Joshua Tree last week. Monzogranite formations. I’ve camped alongside a lot of monzogranitic rocks- in the Alabama Hills, at Joshua Tree, at Indian Bread Rocks, City of Rocks and Rockhound Parks in New Mexico. These relict forms draw us to be near them, to sleep under their protective embrace at night, to rest in their cool shade during the day, to scramble over and on top of them at all hours, but especially at sunrise and at dusk.

Yoga and meditation in these spaces is something more than magical- the body takes over from the mind and everything becomes breathing, stillness, and movement. The light that plays over the forms penetrates the heart and sends it soaring. The mind is stunned into silence and observation, but the body is in love. I think that it is almost like the earth undresses for us here, invites us into her body in a way that feels more intimate than it does in other settings.

I do feel differences when I sit in different places. Each place has its own resonance, its own language, and it is the body that responds most deeply to place. The mind notices, the mind is engaged, sure, this is lovely, that over there is gorgeous, it’s hot, what’s that bird, etc. This reminds me of that other place.

But the body unfurls itself and rolls in the grass or the dirt or the snow. The world penetrates the body, the breath brings the world into it, sounds reverberate through the tiny bones of the ear canal and the cells seem to spark to the new vibrations. Yoga makes this more obvious, more delectable, richer because we attune to it, to this presence in us and around us. It isn’t always easy to feel how we take the environment in, how we make of it the tiniest parts of our bodies, how we leave parts of ourselves wherever we go and take other parts with us- the exchange happens in each instant and without ceasing. But going outdoors, going into the wild, makes this process come into focus. And once we open to it, once we sense it and understand it and feel what it makes us feel, we can cultivate it. We can attend to it, notice it, and give thanks for all the richness and strangeness it brings into our whole selves, our bodies and our lives.

We are on this grand adventure. But the going different places, camping out, exploring, seeing new things, escaping from our old indoor lives- these are simply the requisite acts that allow for the true journey to unfold- the inner journey. Fifty years of living in buildings, sitting in cars, peeing and pooping in porcelain thrones, taking in numberless hours of television noise and stupidity, numbing myself with drink and drugs and netflix, only going outside on occasion, for an hour or two, or a weekend once a year- had made of me a dangerous, brittle, unhappy and unhealthy man. In one year I feel I have undone almost all of those bad years. My body is alive and my mind is no longer abusing it. Dethroned from its place of privilege, my mind is becoming a better friend- less brittle, less strict, less busy, less anxious and unhappy all the time. More easy going, more laid-back, and I think, happy to not be in charge any more. Freed from the tyranny of that bitter and fearful mind, my body rejoices. Freed from the isolation and slickness of the insides of buildings, my body is free and happy. Wandering under the blue sky, under the waxing and waning moon, under the blistering sun, in the weeds, in the woods, in the desert and the mountains, my body has regained its animal nature, its innate birthright. Everything feels good. Breathing feels better than drinking. I never thought I’d say anything like that, but it’s true.

Practice now is a hinge that swings a great door. All the wild beauty, the skies and the sun and the moon and the stars, the wolves and coyotes and snakes and lizzards and crows and hawks, the kangaroo rats and the tarantulas, the deer and the jackrabbits- all that wild and strange and particular beauty floods through me and into me and becomes me, and the inner world when I turn my gaze to it becomes just as wild and strange and particular. Just as in the outer world each moment, each space, each universe, is packed to the gills with writhing life, so too is the inner world completely free of nothingness. There is the luminous emptiness synonymous with form, and formless emptiness synonymous with light, but they co-exist in a ceaseless interdependent play. Sitting, there seems to be no way to discern anything acting as mediator between inside and outside.

I am so glad that I got to live this long. Even a single hour of this life is enough for me to die happy.

***

Namaste. Thanks for coming by.

I love you.

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Self at Fifty-two

selfie52

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Happy Birthday to Me!

 

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Usually or sometimes I do a self portrait around my birthday. This is me this year. I think it stands in for me pretty well as a kind of an indication of what life is like for me right now. I’m on the road, I’m home, and I am happy as f*ck.

 

Woot.

 

***

My birthday present to myself this year is to write every day. Maybe next year I can give myself a copy of my book.

You, too, if you want.

 

***

I don’t know how many more daily practices I can fit into my life. Sitting meditation, reading and contemplating the dharma, yoga, eating, sleeping, fixing stuff in the Airstream, making sure my wife feels loved and supported, and hours already dedicated to shiftlessness make my life pretty dang full already. But I’m decided on this writing thing and things will just have to make room.

***

 

What I like about my spiritual work lately is that I’m off on my own, wandering in the wilderness, without much guidance from my teachers. Everything is becoming my own now. Deeply personal and rich and also totally impersonal and rich. I’m not seeking. I’m exploring. A different thing. Not looking for anything, but looking at everything.

All of this work has turned me kind of inside out. The outside world is my inner world. I am that. I feel a bit like a hinge that swings, now inside looking out, now outside looking in, but nowhere to be found. The inner world is vast and limitless just like the outer world. Both are illusory, yet both manifest without ceasing.

Practice gets strange, then it gets normal, then it gets stranger, then it gets normaler. I do the same.

I’m not where I once was, I can say that with some authority. I am a practitioner. Practice is the vehicle through which I move in the world- both outer and inner. And, yeah, I know- there’s not really a difference. I love having this lens through which to view things- it reliably brings whatever I’m looking at into crisp focus. Not always a comfortable experience, but a good and necessary one if I aim to stop making the same old mistakes.

***

Love. Love. Love. Love.

I have always valued love over all things and yet this path shows me again and again that I have too small a heart still, that my idea of love is too constricting, too limiting, too impoverished.

So I seek to grow it bigger. I love everyone I know and I long to love everyone I don’t know. I send love out in endless waves to the most infinite reaches of the cosmos- the known and the unknown alike. I send love to the hell realms and to the god realms, to the animal realms and the human realms. I send it to those imprisoned, to those tortured, to those who imprison and torture. I send it to the living and the dead. To the dying and to those attending the dying. To the cells in my body, to the living creatures inhabiting my biome, the teeming bacteria in my gut, the things that live on my skin, my organs and my bones, my shit and my piss and my sweat. Yours, too. I send love out without ceasing, and yet I know I’m only touching the shimmering edge of love itself. I long to be only a conduit for love itself and I’m happy to do my small part in trying to make that real.

My experience is that loving like this is a beautiful work. It provides so much more than it asks and it seems to do no harm.

You know, it seems that it’s easy to overlook in our spiritual seeking what’s really being asked of us. I know that what I brought to the path was the desire for my own suffering to be ameliorated, and to be blessed with love and understanding from whatever was making things happen- God, or the senseless churning of a deterministic, accidental cosmos, or my own enlightened nature, or what. And to get these boons I was willing to work hard, to dig deep, to truly change.

 

And that’s a good first step. Vital. Necessary.

But insufficient in itself.

I think that we’re being asked to become that source ourselves. I think that’s the change that is being asked for. Become Buddha. Become Christ. Not aspire to it, not have that as our inspiration, not to be Christ-like, or Buddha-like, but to become our own fully divine nature.

 

What’s that look like?

 

***

What if you decided to become that? It would mean that you would jettison your small self completely- your small self cannot make that journey. Your small selfish concerns would be left behind. Your fear. Your small-heartedness. Your desire to be taken care of. Your desire to be attended to. Your desire to be numb. Your desire to be special. You would peel this small self off and let it fall to the floor and stand naked until your absolute nature could reveal itself.

Maybe it is impossible to become Buddha. Maybe it is impossible to become Christ. But it is entirely possible to try to do this in all earnestness. To long for, not your own happiness, but for the happiness of all the living beings in every world and universe. To feel responsible for them, to love them, all of them, each of them, every one of them, as if they were your own precious child. To be willing to die for them. To hold them in your heart and to ask nothing of them in return.

Not to be a better person, a more spiritual person, but to be the whole being you truly are- one who loves, one who shines light into the void, one who is willing to give everything to everything that is and to hold nothing for oneself.

I think probably I am not a very good example of how to go about doing things. I tend to go to the extreme. Maybe it’s better to aim at just being a good person and leave it go at that.

 

***

 

Still.

 

 

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Thank you for reading here, as always. I’m glad of your company.

 

Namaste.

 

 

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I Name My Joy “Luminous Sorrow”

two-houses-copy

 

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We are moochdocking at my Dad’s place again. He’s got a big spread in A-town and he lets us park the Airstream down by the barn. He put in 30 amp service for us so we can have shore power, and there’s a hose bib nearby so we can fill our freshwater tanks. It is a beautiful place to park and it has been a lifesaver for us as we’ve returned again and again to deal with our various family horrors. A place of calm and order and warmth.

Thank you, Pops.

 

***

I think we’re still leaving home. Twenty years in the same place and it turns out you can’t leave it all at once. But it’s happening. Next month will be a year since we went on the road and it is starting to feel like we busted out. Not that we want to be free of our child and her children. Never that. Those tendrils and roots go through our very souls. Just as Yolie and I are intertwined, those boys and our girl weave in and out of every neuron, axon, and dendrite we possess.

But we did have to shift our unskillful approach at “helping” them. Shift it into something that looks a lot like we have abandoned them. I think that living through that decision is showing me that I can have trust in the way things unfold. I can learn to accept that things are the way they are, and I can learn to let go of my vision of how I want things to be. It asks a lot to take this view. You have to be willing to be open to the things that frighten you the most. Your child in jail. Your grandchildren in foster care. Your own limitless grief and guilt and sorrow.

But these terrible things we are asked to accommodate are here already. They are not waiting around for our permission to manifest. They arrive and depart on their own schedule. So being open to them doesn’t change them in that way- they don’t rush in or suddenly depart because you’ve changed your view, changed your approach. They still come and go on their own.

When we struggle against what is, it comes anyway. When we strive for what isn’t meant to be, it still remains unmanifest.

The Buddha spoke of our lives as having the quality of dukkha, or suffering. The lion’s share of this suffering comes from our approach to the way things really are. We are so conditioned by our strong cravings for happiness and pleasure and our strong aversion to pain and suffering that we spend every waking moment and our dream lives trying to fashion an acceptable world out of what is nakedly presented to us. We imagine that the limitless bounty of the manifest world is a buffet from which we can choose those things that bring us happiness and joy, and that we can push away or ignore those things we loathe or fear or simply don’t understand.

It’s an approach that seems to make a lot of sense, but it leads only to suffering. At least, that’s been my experience. I want this, I don’t want that- and I can spend months, years, a lifetime agonizing over it. Limitless lifetimes, if you believe the Buddhist view. I want this, I don’t want that. I want my child to be happy. I don’t want her to be an addict. I want this job, I don’t want that one. I want this to happen and if it does then I will be happy. If this other thing happens, I will be so miserable. It will be the end of the world. I have to do all of these things to make sure that it does happen, or that it doesn’t happen, or that once it happens that it keeps on happening, or never happens again- on and on and on without ceasing.

Giving this activity up is very, very difficult. It is simple, but hard.

Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a life that shows me as many times as I need to be shown that I don’t have any alternative to giving it up. My suffering has been great enough that I’ve become willing to do whatever it takes to stop creating it. For me, this has meant learning to become familiar with my mind and how it works, and learning to stop the engine of picking and choosing what’s acceptable to me, and opening my eyes and my heart, really for the first time, to what is. Just that. What is.

And of course, what is is just that. It isn’t anything magical, it isn’t another realm. It isn’t heaven or paradise or nirvana or astral planes or any of that. It is simply everything that is, all at once, all the time. And yeah, it’s got beauty. And yeah, it’s got horror. It has perfume and it has shit. It has bliss and sorrow. It has everything, everything, everything, everything. It always has, and it always will, and that will never change. The forms change, they dance and writhe and flex and flow and pop in and out of existence, but the show remains the same mix of everything all the time.

And of which you are part and parcel. Not extricable from the warp and weft but intrinsic to it. Nor does it need to be more. Nor can it be less. Though you are of it, though you are it, it does not need your picking and choosing. It is deaf to that interior squabbling. Unmoved. What is dances its own dance ceaselessly.

***

For me what I have found is that I like dancing with what is a lot better than I liked trying to make it dance the way I thought was best. It is so much richer and more terrifying than any dance I could have thought up in a billion, billion lifetimes.

And, yes, it is beautiful. It is horrific. It is bliss and terror kind of all the time. But what are those things? The distinction begins to blur. And it doesn’t matter, really, what I call any particular thing. Everything, when seen with clarity, is everything. Is that good? Is that bad?

That question stops making any sense. Not that it ever really did. A better question becomes- “What is this thing?”

Keep asking that one. See where it takes you.

 

***

 

I am blessed. I am a cosmic engine of love. I have no fear. I am fully human with all of the flaws that being human entails. I am not exempt. I am for the boneyard. I won’t be spared nor will I ask to be.

 

I want the world. I want the whole world.

 

***

 

Namaste, bitches. I love you like you are my own. You are our most perfect being. It took four billion years and everything that ever was just to bring you into this world- thank god you’re here at last!

Now get to work.

 

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Love. Love. Love. See it all, and love anyway.

 

 

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