Saturday, October 29, 2011


I've sometimes wondered if a pregnant ghost has come to haunt my body, it's bony shoulders poking at mine, as it's fat stomach presses hard against my own. Every autumn, as the sun's rays slowly fade away earlier and earlier by the day, that acute haunting returns. An old friend - or enemy - depending upon my mindset in the moment, sometimes I call it "loneliness," but that's just an easy label, one that serves a purpose, but really doesn't hit the mark fully.

The well known Buddhist author and teacher Pema Chodron writes: "Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It's restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company."

I was walking around the plaza where our OccupyMN group is located yesterday, feeling just that. That there were plenty of people around didn't matter. That I had had a few good conversations already didn't matter. That I had felt great most of the previous day or so didn't really matter.

A cold wind swirled, and a few errant squirrels scampered across the bricked ground, scared by the movement of too many feet. I watched an argument about food between a half a dozen fellow "occupiers" slowly descend into agreement. Finally, the two men at the center of the conflict, a younger African-American man and an older white man, hugged. It way touching. I've witnessed scenes like this again and again over the past three and half weeks, something the myriad of armchair critics have no idea about, or dismiss as mere "camaraderie."

Still, that restless ghost thumped away within me. Nothing unbearable, and something certainly spurred on by the change in seasons, but definitely not a mere "psychological issue" like seasonal affect disorder. That might be there as well, but I have felt this other "thing" in all sorts of places, under all sorts of conditions, even during and after love-making.

Today, what comes to mind is this: "We fail to trust our hauntings." Fail to trust that this, too, is our life - and yet, it does not define us, does not need to be fought off madly or given into desperately.

The story of Buddha's enlightenment is riddled with ghosts. Various hauntings that come to test him as he sits through the night. Mara is said to be the bringer of these, an almost Satan-like being that continually presses in on Buddha until he doesn't flinch anymore in any direction.

I still flinch a fair amount. I can imagine many of you do as well. That flinching goes beyond any individual "you" or "I."

Just as liberation goes beyond any individual "you" or "I."

What is haunting?

Just this breath, flowing in and back out.


Anonymous said...

I like it. Reminds me of that Rumi poem: The Guest House, where he advises us to allow all of the visitors into the house for they are all messengers of The Beyond.

Nathan said...

"The Guest House" - yes, that fits.