Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I'm having one of those days. There's nothing in particular going on, in fact I'm just sitting in a coffee shop, reading and writing. But for whatever reason, I feel extremely sensitive to the unease within and around me. Earlier, there was a short, but really sarcastic and bitter discussion about the recent elections here in Minnesota. The one guy was talking almost right across the space I am sitting in to two others. I felt the energy run right through me. Then there was a father and daughter sitting next to me, discussing some poor choices she had made, and the disappointment they both felt. And then a woman sat down next to me, and wanted to plug in her laptop. I thought the person on the other side was still plugged in, and as I bent over, said "there's no outlet available." She responded there was, and I turned, saw it, felt a little twinge, and said "I'll just shut up now."
It's easy enough for me to point to a few reasons for this sensitivity. One being that there have been some challenging discussions about the direction of our zen center going on, and I have been in the middle of many of them - doing a lot of listening, some risk taking talk, and some wondering about where it might be all going, and what impact that might have on my practice life. I also have had a few more people in my life flake out on things they said they would do, presenting me the opportunity to either stand up for myself, or let it slide again. And finally, I just think this breath practice work we've been focusing on this fall has opened me up some, but I'm also finding the increased attuned to what's present quality isn't always easy to experience. My own dis-ease is more palpable when it's there, and so is everyone elses'.
I find myself relying more on chanting practice, short mantras like the one for Jizo Bodhisattva, during this time. Even though I'm also doing more zazen than I had over the summer, the slashing through the story lines quality of chanting - even silent chanting - allows for a sense of ease with whatever is return quicker.
Slowing down and taking time to listen to your life's deeper wishes unfolding is not only difficult at times, but it's so completely unappreciated by the culture at large that the alone-ness (sometimes coupled with loneliness) of doing so is striking. Some societies and cultures, in the past and today, have dealt with such pivotal periods more reverentially, which perhaps made the alone-ness each person must go through a little less challenging. I'm starting to see how any loneliness I feel is somehow ultimately tied not to the fact that I don't have a romantic partner right now, or that several friends have dropped out of my life over the past year - no, it's really tied to the fact that there is almost no cultural support for living out the bardo periods of one's life fully, so that transformation may occur.
I think maybe awhile ago, I accepted that for the most part, going fallow for a period of time, being mostly "not productive" in a conventional sense, is not appreciated or embraced. Unlike some people who get lost in their grief and anger over this, I have sought out enough kindred spirits, and learned enough teachings sympathetic to these periods of life, so that I have support to carry me through.
But there's still grief there. I feel it for the time I've spent muddling to get to this point. I feel it for all those who, when faced with an opportunity to listen and be transformed, end up lost in their own fears and confusions and feelings of having no support. I feel it for those who never even reach that point for whatever reason.
I think a lot of people mistake feeling the kind of grief I'm speaking about for depression or some other form of mental disorder. This is one of the unfortunate byproducts of the saturation of western psychology that has occurred. Historically, many people viewed grieving well as a sure sign of an ability to both move on in one's life, as well as an opportunity to transform whatever was lost into the gold of the next stage in one's life. Perhaps, more of us need to return to such a view, to be able to recognize that there is no such thing as awakening without going through deeply felt loss.
p.s. For those interested in poetry, I've posted some new poems over the past week on my creative writing blog. Enjoy!