Sometimes things line up in the way you thought they might. It’s not common, in my experience, but it does sometimes happen. The past couple of days here have been like that- like the dream that I had about this life when I was sitting at my desk staring at my screensaver of a sportsmobile on some tropical beach and listening to a suspect explain why what he did was the right thing to do given the circumstances. I thought it might be like it was today- listening to rain pattering on the aluminum skin of the Airstream at night, getting up to watch the sunrise and going for a long, long walk. Coming back and doing my sitting practice and having time to do lots of prayers, too, “Calling the Guru from Afar” which I love so much, and long-life prayers for Sharmapa, and Shantideva’s aspirational prayer, and the Heart sutra, and 35 Buddhas, and Chenrezig. Time to let my prayers unfold into a vast space, time to sit, time to chant, time to contemplate. Then lunch. Then doing the washing up. Then taking a nap. Then going for a hike, then a bike ride. Then reading and sitting and watching the ducks in the lake. Then making dinner. Another long walk as the sun goes down. A quiet evening with a bottle of wine and the two of us on our laptops. And later, reading Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley to each other. And into bed very early, in silence and stillness and at peace with each other and the world.
Sometimes this does happen.
I can’t quite get over the fact that we’ve done this thing. That my retirement checks actually arrive, and I can spend them. Money for doing nothing- it shocks me deeply, but makes me quite happy. I know I earned this retirement- just ask my wife, I think actually she’s the one who earned it. But with selling the house and going full-time, we have no debt and we have income and it seems like we’ll be able to do this as long as we want to. I could have stayed another ten years at that job, chasing the dollars, getting closer and closer to what I thought I wanted most of all- safety and security.
I’m so grateful that my beautiful wife knew better all along and was always encouraging me to forego that siren song. And that I found the dharma and opened myself enough to it that I was able to go to India and lose forever the idea that there was such a thing as safety, that there was something that money could buy that was as important as simply being alive, as being present in the moment, as being free to live in the way that you must instead of bending yourself to an ill-fitting rack in order to put food on the table and to stave away the darkness.
And now we are free and we’re living on much less but we’re living.
That is good.
I was on this long walk today thinking about how I stepped out of my old life and a job where I was always, always, always being asked to provide something. Fix a problem, undo a mistake, catch a bad man, find some children, write a report, testify in a trial, investigate a crime, take a statement, give a polygraph, find a witness, what what what. I did that for more than twenty years. Day or night, on duty or off, it made no difference. There was always something I was summoned to.
And then today I’m out waking in the wilderness and there’s nothing. No one is ever going to call me again. I will be asked to fix no more problems- at least, no more problems that aren’t on some level my problem. Strangers must tend to themselves. I am free to put one foot in front of the other for as long as I care to do so.
And it was a nice feeling.
I’m lucky beyond all reckoning. It isn’t everyone who is blessed with these circumstances, I know it.
I want to put it to good use. I don’t only want to wander on my own, I want to be of service. But I think my path to service is going to require a lot of wandering on my own, if that makes any sense.
I’d love to go up in a cave somewhere and sit and practice. I’d love to wander and practice like an old-timey yogi, like my friend Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, like Milareapa. I’d like to go to a monestary and do a strict three year retreat. I’d love to be handed all the teachings and practices and have a teacher tell me what to do. And maybe those things or some of them are in my future. But perhaps not. I am fifty one years old. I am not a young man, not a good prospect for pouring the Dharma into in the hopes of getting something out that others can use.
But I am happy to pour myself into the Dharma, whatever the outcome, no matter how small the benefit. I am happy to wander on my own with my beloved Guru in my mind if nowhere else on earth, and to do what I think I must in order to attain what I already possess. To become what I am.
If I long to be of use, I know I’ll be put to use. I am happy to be where I am, doing what I’m doing. Death is coming for me any minute now, I want to be laughing when he sweeps me up.
It’s good being outside. It’s good eating clean food made with love. It’s good to look across the table and see the one I love being happy. It’s good to fall asleep tired and content.
I wish these things for you, for everyone.