Closer to the truth, towards center, the middle way, true north, the point smack dab in the middle of my real life, the heart of the matter. Away from duality, fitting in, being nice, keeping quiet, smashing myself to bits.
Hiking, walking on the beach, sitting in the backyard with the dogs, reading, writing, cooking, all the laundry folded and put away, meditating in my own space, practicing yoga, stretching, long walks with the dogs, laughing with Eric, the yellow breasted birds in our garden, the hummingbird nest we found that one time, things lost being found, the offer of help, suffering eased, summer vacation, payday, a new bathroom, clean pajamas, how warm and soft and sleepy I feel after a hot bath, spontaneous napping.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön. I first read this book when a friend recommended it to me about nine years ago. It was at the beginning of my meditation practice and Buddhist studies, and somehow I hadn’t yet read anything by Pema. I’ve since read almost everything she’s ever written, taken online courses and done virtual retreats with her, and once was lucky enough to see her speak in person. She is one of my heart teachers. The story of her own life, how she found her path is an inspiration to me. Her wisdom and her kindness are such a comfort. But more than anything it’s her sense of humor that cheers me, encourages me.
I come back to this particular book again and again. As a whole, it does such a good job of explaining the path. I also love that each chapter is short enough, complete enough that you can sit down and start anywhere, pretty quickly read a chapter and get so much out of it. I often read one just before I meditate, let the wisdom sink in while I sit on my cushion. The personal message for me of this book is “get over yourself, you are wonderful,” which might seem like a contradiction to some, but to me it is the most fundamental truth. I flipped through it this morning to try and find a quote to share, but I’ve underlined something(s) on every single page and there are just too many to pick only one.
How lucky I am. To be here in the backyard with the dogs, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Feeling joyful as I watch them play together. Not that long ago this seemed impossible, that Sam would ever be well enough, Ringo mature enough that they would play, be let to play, that it would be enjoyable to relax and watch them. When you have two dogs it feels like a blessing when they like each other, want to hang out and play. It feels like the best kind of luck.
Also there are tiny white moths dancing around the broccoli plants, which have gone to flower. Watching our garden also gives me such joy, the fruit it bears for us but also the way it creates a tiny universe, a whole little ecosystem of flying and crawling and secret things. There are tiny yellow breasted birds who love the sunflowers and yesterday morning I counted a flock of ten hopping around chattering at each other. It made me stupid happy.
These prompts seem to have only one possible answer, and it’s the same: me. And yet, not me exactly. Always have been the brightest star in my sky and lit up from within? — Me, but not who I am rather who I could be, or more exactly not who I think I am but rather who I really am under all the road dust and confusion. The genuine, authentic, actual me.
There’s a suggestion made in Buddhism that enlightenment isn’t something we get, earn, or attain but instead something we remember, relax into, something we already are underneath all the nonsense and noise. We are already enlightened, wise and compassionate beings, we’ve just forgotten, are confused about our true nature. The more I study and practice, the more I see how this might be possible. Maybe all it takes to become that fully realized, bright, lit up version of myself is to accept that is already who I am.
Soundcloud, which is not on the stereo but rather on the internet. I made myself a playlist of my current favorites, just like I used to make myself mixtapes, recording my favorite music from the radio onto a cassette. My most favorite is Alina Baraz, who right now is singing the soundtrack to my life.
It was somewhere midway through Shambhala Warrior Assembly, an intense ten day retreat I attended in the summer of 2009. We had just been taught a type of calligraphy practice particular to this lineage. We were in the meditation hall, which was a huge canvas tent (at least as big as my entire house) set on some of the most beautiful land at Shambhala Mountain Center. We were spending time practicing on our own, going through the process over and over, our tongues and fingers smudged black with ink. It was mostly silent except for the sound of the brushes and the crackle of the paper. Like the best moments of practice, I felt both intensely focused and completely relaxed. I paused for a moment and looked up, looked around at the others practicing with me, noticed how the light of the afternoon had turned the inside of the tent golden. I felt more present than I could remember having ever felt — “To remain present, we notice and let go almost simultaneously.” In that moment, I felt luminous.