I am happy.
I feel enlivened and energized by our move out to the tiny house and by the various building projects that move entails. Over the weekend I laid the foundation piers for the bathhouse and dug the trench for the gray water drainage and the little leech field- our shower and sink won’t be plumbed into the sewer but will run into a kind of rock-filled trench to drain back into our own water-starved dirt. As long as we don’t run too many showers, and keep all environmentally friendly on our soap we should be fine with this set up. And we’re going to run a composting toilet out there. I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that.
Yesterday I sent the Woman on the Verge on a supply run to the Home Depot for pressure treated lumber and various hardware, so when I got home from work I could knock out a couple of hours of work on the foundation. That Woman did a bang-up job, hauling wood, stacking it in the truck, wrassling it out to the job site, and picking out all the strange hardware to hang joists and whatnot. I’d be lost without her.
Anyhoo. After some head scratching on my part I got her framed out and ready for the deck boards. I am the worst sort of carpenter, I have to admit. I just get an idea of what I want and then I rough it out and go get whatever it occurs to me that I’ll need or think I need and then I pile it up at the site and then start banging shit together. No drawings, no plans. Intuitive construction. I make up for lack of fine-tuned accuracy and pre-planning by over-building everything so at least it won’t ever fall down. I try to make sure everything exceeds whatever code calls for and mostly I do. I’m sure that if anyone who builds stuff for a living ever clapped eyes on what I’ve done they’d be horrified. I’m always a little bit horrified myself. But also pleased. Always that, always happy with the final result. It feels wonderful to have something in the world that was only in your head before. I like that a great deal. And I like all the manly shit, you know, power tools and hammers swinging, blood and sweat and dirt. Sawdust.
After I knocked off I took a shower and then laid on the sofa with old girl and we surfed the intertubes and read for a while and then I went out to the lair and had a good sit. Lit a candle and some incense and watched in silence as the world fell dark around me and the night world came alive. Moonlight and crickets and the merest hint of a sea breeze. A frog hopped across the deck in front of the buddha and disappeared into the brush, barely visible in the shadows, silent.
And sitting there the whole of my being opened up. Opened up to the night all around me, opened up to the vastness of the universe and of time, and the breeze seemed to move through the world and through me without differentiation, as if my body had no solidity, no borders. I sat in a kind of pure awareness and openness and for a while I was simply present. It was a nice feeling.
The instruction is not to attach any importance to what goes on during mediation, not to cling, and this has been a very helpful instruction for me. I think that otherwise I would cling quite quickly to experiences such as that one, to the bliss and openness, and think that there was something important about it, something to try to get to again in my next session. And that can lead to a lot of tension and expectation and can cause you to make a pretty big error in your practice. It’s easy to lose your way chasing after something mystical.
Instead, you treat it just like the thoughts that ceaselessly arise. Notice it, and let it go. Go back to the breath, go back to awareness, go back to the direct experience, not the interpretation of it. The lived experience, not the narrative of it.
Still, those moments are a blessing and I’m grateful for them. They’re not the point, that’s all.
And this morning I was up early to do my prayers and sit and watch the show in reverse, the world shifting from darkness to light, the world coming awake. The birds fluttering in the underbrush, eating bugs, lighting on a branch and giving off a little burst of song before shooting off again. The sky growing lighter. The world awake by the time I’ve finished.
And what I’m grateful for this morning is not any of the experiences that this practice has given me, but instead simply for the practice itself. The structure and routine of it, the practice of practice. I’m grateful for it in itself and look forward to living within that practice for the rest of my life. Bringing myself again and again to a place of silence and bare awareness, stripped of all else. Beginning each day with a solemn ceremony of prayer and contemplation, of marshaling and shepherding my compassion and gratitude and small awareness, dedicating myself daily to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Seeking enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
It seems a profoundly good thing.
So. Work and practice. Love and commitment. Building up and tearing down. Stillness and action. All things. All things. Opening up to the world exactly as it is. Trying to see it. Trying to see it. Trying to listen. Curious. Attentive.
I read this yesterday, I hadn’t heard it before but it is spot on. From the Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello:
“Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.”
Namaste, my friends. May you be happy. May you be at peace.