Tomorrow I depart for Thailand. Again. It’s been a long and busy summer, full of creative pursuits, travel, family connection, romance, learning and lots of contemplation. At the beginning of the summer, having just returned from 5 months of travel, I wondered whether there was more in my future. I also wondered how I could fulfill my desire for being engaged for social and/or political benefit. On top of all that, I was considering how important it was to be connected in relationship, whether I would be comfortable setting out alone and not knowing how long that might be, or for that matter, whether I would ever be partnered again.
These were issues I alluded to in posts immediately following my return to the US last June. There were times when I missed serious conversation, the interplay of the masculine and the feminine, mutual caring, physical affection, wanting to know someone else deeply. I held all of these issues in open uncertainty for most of the summer, making my way through Utah, retreats in Colorado, visiting family in Durham and Boston, then making my way back through Santa Fe.
By the time I landed in Crestone for 2 weeks of Buddhist retreat, I already knew I would be traveling. By then I had also registered for a 6-month writing course called We Will Dance With Mountains. I was balancing the rigor and schedule of retreat with the creative excitement and flow of meeting classmates and starting a very challenging process. It became obvious very quickly that these two threads were weaving the same garment; both are evoking deep personal inquiry and potential, one through the discipline of attention and the other through learning to disappear into a non-dual landscape. Which is which, you ask? Good question. Both are each.
In the writing course, I am invited to disappear into the writing. Instead of writing being a reflective process in which “I” think about “things” that “happen,” bouncing back my interpretation derived from a linear view of causality, I am invited to allow the ego-self to become more an empty space, a house with all the doors and windows open, no longer in control of what enters or exits or what occurs in between. Nothing is left out, disregarded, or rendered irrelevant. The food I just ate for dinner or the conversation I had this afternoon are as much a part of this writer, and hence this writing, as the blueberry bush growing outside the window, the fluorescent lights in the grocery store I was in just an hour ago. If we are to tell the truth, we can’t leave anything out. Which is not to say that everything must be mentioned, just that what we know in this moment, our experience, is coming from energies and through language we don’t normally consider or to which we are only just beginning to listen.
We are never alone. As much as culture might be telling us otherwise, science, religion and ecology are telling us this is so. Believing that we are alone at any time is a serious flaw in our education. And as is now being said so broadly and with increasing effect, believing the ideology of separation and aloneness is how we’ve gotten ourselves into such a pervasive, advancing and increasingly tragic mess.
I could say at this point that I am digressing, veering off from the main point, which was distinguishing between what was happening in the retreats and what is happening in the writing course, but that would not be the case. I am not losing the thread. I am finding it. The deeper one goes into dharma practice, the closer one gets to knowing the truth beyond conception: that we each act in a vast net of dependent co-arising, that our thoughts are as important as our actions and that our purpose in this life is to relieve suffering; both our own and that of others.
The writing course is a meditation on allowing the writer, as one student put it, to become the “pregnant zero,” leaving pre-conception behind, allowing all phenomena to enter into consciousness, dissolving restrictive beliefs. That is becoming a vehicle of increasing authenticity–being able to see, feel and tell the truth. Is that not the essence of compassion–the objective of all dharma?
I didn’t have to say any of this right here or right now. I could have let you wonder what’s coming next without building up your expectations about what will appear here. But this is the challenge, not only to myself but to you as well: telling the truth is how we break the cycle of deception. Breaking through deception is the first step toward creating the world we want. I can’t tell you what that world looks like just yet. We will discover that together.
Just to backtrack a little, I couldn’t feel better about leaving tomorrow. It takes some doing to get there, but I am going someplace that is slower, less congested, where I am not constantly assaulted. If there is one thing that has gotten under my skin about being back in the Bay Area, it is the traffic. It is getting worse and worse everywhere and at all times of the day. Time to get serious about being somewhere else. Not to mention the water problem.
Now, on to the main event. The factors working on us all at all times are vast and complex beyond comprehension. I met a woman during one of the retreats, a fellow dharma practitioner and Sufi with the accumulated wisdom of decades of practice, a being whose devotion has been profoundly tested, yet who never wavered. She has not merely survived; she shines with an inner light like no other. We are in love….and there is so much more to say than that. But more will have to wait.
She has a story to tell and we are going to tell it. That’s a big declaration, I know. But that’s how real it is to me. There is no doubt. We have been thrown together for a reason that is bigger than just two people. The journey has become one of disappearing into the telling of a story and staying focused on the objectives of dharma as I described them.
It is when man has lost the idea of separateness and feels himself at one with all creation that his eyes are opened and he sees the cause of all things.
—-Hazrat Inayat Khan
We are all telling our own stories, feeling our way in the dark. A greater story of something much larger than who we are as individuals is being told through us. As I have said many times, grasping the identity we believe ourselves to be closes us to a view of that Story: illuminating the truth of who we are. In letting go of the carefully crafted self, we can glimpse the greater Self, connected with all beings and seeing all the suffering in the world as one story, all parts as one whole. When that inner view opens, we are ignited into service, bringing our “personal” thought and action in the world as medicine for the whole, given by the Whole to Itself.
I have felt all the tumblers of my life falling into place as a key slips into a lock. I can’t predict what will appear here next. But that’s the fun of it, right? Something old. Something new. Something out of this world.