I had an interesting conversation today with a friend and follower of this blog. She asked, “What is bothering you?” This was in regard to my doing so much work on myself over the past 12 – 14 years.
I responded, “What if nothing is bothering me?” As in, I’m doing pretty darned well – I don’t feel there is anything really bothering me.
Edited a day later: Okay, let’s be honest… I do feel an existential malaise from time to time. Nothing overt. Nothing noticeable by a non-spiritual-master. But there is this ache in my heart, a yearning to open fully, completely to love. Which I have not done yet. I have difficulty crying – in the past 3-5 years, I mainly cry when I read inspiring tales of Buddhist masters. That will bring me to tears – like if I tell the story about how I think I knew Patrul Rinpoche (I was a very poor beggar boy at the time). My girlfriend just wrote me a beautiful love song and serenaded me on my 40th birthday – wanted to cry, couldn’t.
So to attempt to formulate words regarding “What is bothering you?” that is a little glimpse into my playground as it were. Also, I would love to be able to practice Dream Yoga on a regular basis – definitely haven’t gotten there yet! Therefore I have lots of “spiritual goals”, some loftier than others. Slowly slowly. End edit.
With that said however, when we start splitting hairs on our spiritual journey, and start walking the razor’s edge as it were regarding our mindfulness and awareness – if the mind is too tight (maybe with extra aversion), we fall off one side. If the mind is too loose (maybe with too much desire), we fall off the other side.
Not to ring my own bell, but that is simply where I am at. Once we take certain initiations in Tibetan Buddhism – the Vajrayana or Diamond path (which is accelerated for a reason) – we commit to doing a certain number of mantras each day. We commit to maintaining mindfulness and Bodhicitta – the wish that all sentient beings attain unsurpassed perfect complete precious enlightenment soon – including ourselves!
I know I have some experience in a past life (lives) where I was a monastic and I made progress on the Bodhisattva path. I would like to at least get back to that level of realization again in this lifetime. I’m not there yet.
I have been so extremely fortunate with my heart teachers, emotional-process-oriented-bodywork teachers, mentors and coaches. And most of all, I am committed to doing my personal growth work. In the past, for a few months during 2007, I was doing so much Dharma practice on a daily basis, that I attained a state of non-conceptuality. I literally was present with my body, as my body, in a state of meta-awareness where I simply did what was required of me. I made breakfast without thinking about what I was doing; I was even downloading (from the ethers) abilities that I had never had before – like I was somehow renovating houses on my own without ever having had that training. I was in school and that is why my practice initially started dwindling – UVa is a difficult and challenging school.
Then in 2009, I really set myself back by being in a lustful, highly erotic relationship for a few months. I’ll leave it at that. Needless to say, I am only now returning to a place where I mostly have daily dedication to maintain a disciplined and efficacious spiritual practice. I don’t know if I can ever get back to that state I describe above – maybe not. I’m not attached to that. But I know that having crystal clear awareness is possible. When I do a daily 10-day retreat each winter, I come close to that. Then about seven days later, it fades back into a busy rat-race, discursive life.
It is interesting. About 10 years ago, I asked one of my teachers the same question – she is a householder, a practitioner who has done numerous 90-day retreats and she teaches meditation and bodywork and trauma resolution. I asked, “Do you ever take a day off?” She pushes herself very hard. But she enjoys life, she eats well, she lets off steam by hiking and (quite rarely) going on vacation, and she plays mental-stimulating games like scrabble.
I remember she responded with one of the 37 Bodhisattva Practices from a small booklet by Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo. I forget which one she rattled off, but they are all pretty strict and poignant. I will quote the opening paragraph here:
“At all times I prostrate with respectful three doors of body, speech and mind to the supreme guru and the protector Chenrezig, who though realizing that all phenomena neither come nor go, make single-minded effort for the sake of all sentient beings.”
It is fitting that I am starting to move into this frame of mind. And honestly, once we realize that life is relatively short (or literally for some), then we will begin to organize our life around spiritual practice and personal growth work. The rewards are so great. Finding effortless, spontaneous, liberated, no-strings-attached bliss is very very rare in this degenerate world we find ourselves in.
It is possible to experience all pervasive loving-kindness, compassion, rejoicing and equanimity simultaneously. Why not work tirelessly to get there? (Within reason, knowing your capacity, finding an authentic spiritual teacher, and taking baby steps from there.)
Thanks for reading!