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.
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.