What’s happening right now?
Okay, I will tell you.
We are at Rockhound State Park, just outside of Deming, New Mexico. The park sits at the feet of the little Florida mountains, which wrap around the back of the park. Across a valley are the Florida mountains, not so little. Since we’ve been here, strong winds rip across the desert floor and sweep up the face of the Little Floridas, shaking the creosote and prickly pear and stirring up vast clouds of dust that roll with the wind.
Since dropping off the grandchild with his mother, the two of us are now alone. Together, alone, which is like a dream. A very good dream. All that time when we were building this dream, working on selling the house, getting rid of everything, this was what we’d imagined for ourselves- mornings of meditation and yoga, long walks in the wild, afternoons spent reading, napping, doing art, writing, eating good clean food that we cooked ourselves. Silence. Lots of silence.
The last five months since we started this life on the road somewhat lacked silence. Somewhat lacked peace and quiet. Somewhat lacked space for practice and contemplation. We went from place to place, we traveled and camped, set up and broke down, learned the ins and outs of how to get things done, but we didn’t have this.
Instead, we had death and loss. We watched our son in law relapse into his heroin addiction and abandon his wife and children and end up in jail. We watched him return from jail, get clean, try to salvage his marriage and his family, and then watched as our daughter, full of rage and grief and bitterness at being abandoned, also relapsed in her addiction. We watched them tear at each other and use their children as pawns and bargaining chips in a war of cruel attrition. Watched them lose their jobs and then their homes along with their love, their kindness, their sanity. We took Kaleb from his mother and watched helplessly as our son in law took the baby with him out of state, holding him hostage for drug money while he drifted on the streets getting high. Yolie lost her brother and we had to drop everything to go to Florida so she could bury him and take care of her mother. My grandfather died. Our beautiful bulldog Lucy died. And we were trying to give Kaleb a safe, happy home on the road- all the while grieving our own losses, feeling totally overwhelmed by our unexpected full-time parenting gig, and trying not to be too resentful about the difficult circumstances we found ourselves in. And of course, no matter how much we loved Kaleb, how present we were for him, how much we showered him with love and attention and gifts and small kindnesses, we were not his mother. We were not who he wanted to be with and we were not doing what he wanted to do. He was an utterly lost and sad and angry little boy who didn’t know what had happened to his mommy, or his daddy, or where his little brother went.
It wasn’t easy times for anyone.
But this month all of those threads wove themselves into a new narrative. As we drove westward with Kaleb, intent on returning him to his mother come hell or high water, our daughter slowly began to heal, to wake up. She got clean, or mostly clean. She went back to work. She got a new boyfriend, and the two of them saved up and bought a trailer so they have a place to live. She started calling us and texting us again, asking after Kaleb, talking to him on the phone, and saying she wanted him back. She worked with her husband and his family with grace and compassion and did everything she could to get visits with the baby. She tried to work out shared custody, shared visitation, she sent him money and let him rage against her, let him say anything, and tried to remain calm and sane and keep working on getting her boy back.
By the time we hit New Mexico it looked like we were ready, so I rented a car and drove out to California with the boy and took him home. I went into a five day retreat after visiting the rest of my family, and then returned to New Mexico without the boy. Back to my wife and our little tin can and life on the road. And just a few days ago, our daughter got the baby back from her mother in law after her husband left him with her. He’s still calling up, saying he has the baby, demanding money for rent and food- but the baby is back with her. Her little family is reunited. The boys are together and with their mother. All is right with the world.
Our joy is boundless.
My retreat was powerful and life-changing for me. All the work I’ve been doing on the path has been cumulative. India changed me forever and set me on the path to freedom, helped me decide to retire right away rather than wait another eight years, helped me leap into the unknown with my wife and embrace life on the road, life with fewer possessions and less security, more space, more mystery. And what we’ve been through lately, all that turmoil and chaos, only served to deepen my practice and loosen my identification with my ego. I found that clinging to ego was impossible with Kaleb around. If I kept trying to have things my way, kept trying to make things be the way I wanted, I ended up enraged and resentful. I found myself dumping my rage on the little guy, who had no understanding of why I was so mad and no capacity for accepting even more punishment from a world that was capricious and cruel enough already. So I learned to let go of everything my ego told me was necessary. I let go of want or don’t want. I let go of like or don’t like. I let go of plans, let go of wishes, let go of anger and sadness and resentment and tried to simply be with what was actually happening.
Tried to be of help in the present moment, to do what was being asked of me. Again and again and again, letting go. Again and again and again, seeing what was and acting out of that awareness. Moment by moment. Starting out with compassion, then losing it five minutes, five seconds later. Letting go. Taking another breath. Starting again. A day of this could last what seemed like months. But eventually, I got better and better at it. I began to see Kaleb as my little guru- a four year old monk with robes and a shaved head and a big stick he’d hit me with when I drifted out of awareness. He was so reliable! So relentless! And he taught me well. Eventually, I lost the distinction between what was “good” and what was “bad.” Things just were. Everything just was. I could kick against them or I could roll with them. Didn’t make any difference to how things were.
So by the time I rolled into this retreat, I was supple. The bonds of ego were loose and frayed and there was room around them.
So retreat was good. Things that had been hidden from me revealed themselves. Something vast and profound shifted in my awareness.
And now I find myself in a new world.
So. I am happy. I am filled with unquenchable love for things just as they are. I have no sadness. I don’t feel put upon, don’t feel anything bad at all anywhere. Somehow all my wounds are healed. Or I see that I was never even hurt in the first place. Before, I sort of saw myself and my story as real, and the Dharma and awakening as a kind of fairy tale that I was pursuing- something I wanted very badly, but that I didn’t really understand or know. Now it’s different. Now my self, my story, all of that, is the fairy tale. And awakening is the real thing. I still know myself, still can recite all the plot points of my story- but that no longer has any kind of sense of importance to me. Not that I reject it, either. It’s simply totally neutral. All of these things happened. I did all of these actions as a result of what I thought was happening. I caused all of this pain and suffering. I suffered all the time. Due to ignorance. Due to believing what ego was telling me.
And now I don’t listen to that shit any more. I don’t have time for it. I don’t need it. Instead, I hunger to understand this new reality. What is it like here? What’s going to happen next? How can I be of help in this reality? Is there anything to do?
I don’t know. I don’t have anything figured out. What it feels like is that I’ve just continued with the process of letting go that started when we decided to live a life nomadic. Let go of work. Let go of house. Let go of things. Let go of want. Let go of don’t want. Let go of other. Let go of self. Let go of object. Let go of subject. Let go, let go, let go, let go. Let go of Dharma. Let go of attainment. Let go of non-attainment. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
Om gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha.
I will keep you posted.
May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you and everyone you love be free from suffering.