So much is cracking open for me it’s difficult to settle down and try to write about it. I turned fifty in the midst of a great upheaval, and all around me the seas keep rising like mighty mountains, threatening the continued destruction of everything I’ve endeavored to construct to define myself. I’m hunkered down in my little raft, grabbing onto the gunwales and grinning like a mad fool, urging the storm on, shouting into the wind-driven spray, gibbering and dancing erratically, my eyes streaming with tears.
Nor have I learned moderation.
I’m beginning to think it is not to be found in me.
This spiritual path is my welcome undoing.
It is good that I didn’t understand what I was up to when I started out on it or I would have left the whole thing alone. I think that I really did believe that I was pretty much supergood, and smart and capable, and that really committing to a spiritual path would be like adding some really sweet and creamy frosting to a pretty wonderful cake- you know what I mean? That it would make me better tasting, more desirable, more attractive, all that. A better me, but, you know, still me.
What I’ve been in the process of discovering is that things are a little bit more dire than that. But also, confoundingly, much better than that, too. I am much, much worse than I’d ever been willing to see or admit, and yet, and yet, there’s this really limitless, profound, stainless, wise, compassionate aspect to my own fundamental nature that is vaster and more perfect than anything I could have imagined.
And what I’m experiencing right now is this kind of actual working of the teachings on me. I am engaged with full, unstinting commitment to this practice, and the results are manifesting. It is not anything you could describe as pleasant. It was horrifying to see, to really see, the lies I have been telling myself about myself just to get through the days. I have been engaged in this lifelong practice of subterfuge and posturing, lying to myself, lying to my loved ones, to my wife and daughter and everyone, about who and what I really was.
Maybe that’s overstating it a little bit- it’s not that there was a real other me inside- the real me was the false one, has been the false one. Now I’m left kind of in this empty landscape where what I was has been torn down, dismantled, the pieces carted off- a process for which I am profoundly grateful- but it’s unclear to me how to relate to this new place. It’s not that I am enlightened, or that all of my obscurations and defilements have been uprooted and purified, not that at all. But I think that I may be at a genuine starting point for discovering something profoundly true, a true way of being. One that is maybe not free from ego completely, but certainly is no longer enslaved by it, no longer blind to it- it is almost as if I’ve been cleaved in two and I can now really regard the creature that has been running the show for me for the last fifty years. I imagine a vast, empty, windswept plain, two figures standing there- a dark, twisted, golem-like thing, wincing and shielding itself from imagined blows, but still somehow boastful and proud, and this new man, naked, blinking a little bit in the new light, unknown to himself and to this new world.
I wish that I could take credit for being this new man, for finding and casting out the golem hiding within me, but I can’t. It wasn’t my doing- I am as astounded as can be by the whole mess. I believed that I was the golem, but I saw myself as the golem sees himself, not as he really is. I thought I was beautiful, handsome, precious.
If you didn’t see that, it was your fault. You didn’t understand me.
Ah, but there was another kind of ignorance in play. I didn’t understand me. I was maybe the only one who couldn’t see my real self. Or couldn’t see that there was a real self in there, hidden and concealed by the golem.
To protect me. To shield me from the real world.
So, yeah, not really my doing, finding myself in this new land. I mean, yes, yes it is my doing on one level- I certainly asked to be revealed, I asked to be known to myself, I embarked upon the path wholeheartedly- but it is the path that has done the revealing.
I am relieved, I think is the best descriptor. Horrified, ashamed, regretful, yes, and frightened, uncertain, too. But full of curiosity, and light, and love. Love for myself, love for you, love for this world and everything in it. Love for Buddha and his teachings, love for the teachers, love for those who have gone before me and are helping show me the way.
I know this path isn’t for everyone, and I’m sorry if my bald enthusiasm for this path is off-putting for you in any way, but it is mine and it is the work I am here to do. I can’t imagine anything more useful to do with this life I’ve been given.
Thanks for listening!
May you be happy, may you be comforted in your time of need, may you be of comfort to others in their times of need, may we all know love as the very basis of our being.