My first night in that house, I’d gone to yoga. My stretchy pants were still damp from sweat, and I got Thai food to go from my favorite weird little spot. I drove my old, busted Subaru up to my new mountains without any music on. I made my bed — which had been tucked away and un-slept-in for a year — and sat eating quietly, boxes stacked around me, with a deep contentment brewing in my belly. Full and yet so spacious inside is the best way I can describe it.
In that house in the woods, surrounded by massive cedar trees and barking squirrels, was the last time I lived alone and, if I’m honest, truly contentedly.
This morning I put down a deposit on a different much, much smaller (think tiny house, only more like itty-bitty) house in those same woods. Next weekend, I’ll get my keys and spend the night alone in my own home for the first time in four years.
I haven’t really known how to write about what the last couple of months have been like, in part because I think I’m still understanding it all myself. Also in part because even language — with all its poetry and many limbs that can paint a vision and create entire worlds of vivid reality — is a limitation. It reminds me of how sometimes the name of God isn’t spoken or written, out of reverence. I’ve always thought this was an exceptionally beautiful kind of silence.
I was talking with a friend who’s recently become interested in meditation. I was describing what I’ve come to call “the bubble of the personality” like this: many of us possess the ability to stand back from our experiences (at least in memory) and recall what once came to pass with a wise sense of distance. Sometimes we can even do that in the moment, recognizing that though events seem to be unfolding moment by moment, there is a temporary quality to it all: thoughts, feelings, emotions, circumstances… all just passing phenomenon of the life we’re living, and when we can watch it with tenderness and compassion, it’s a little like watching a snow globe that got shaken up.
In those moments, the story of This Happened To Me is just not as interesting or real as the truth of the awareness that somehow, throughout time and circumstance, has remained — untarnished, unbiased, and sweetly content to simply witness.
So, yeah. Shit’s happened. A lot of shit, you guys. And I’ve been tossed around inside that snow-globe-self many a time since the year clicked over to 2016, but as I commit to showing up for myself and yielding, with presence and compassion, to whatever is coming up — no hiding, no suppressing, no trying to change or manipulate my experience or circumstances — the more I recognize that the truth of what I am (and what we all are) is this state of acceptance and awareness: that whatever “happens to us” happens to the outer-world us — to our persona / ego — but inside, there is a perfect Being and a natural, neutral mind that is fundamentally loving and creative.
I heard John Welwood say something recently that has become a bit of a mantra:
“We are not just humans learning to become buddhas, but also buddhas waking up in human form, learning to become fully human.”
Which means that anything but embracing each moment as it unfolds in us, no matter how messy it may seem, is a mild form of self-abuse that has just gotta stop. There are no “good” and no “bad” feelings or circumstances; there is just the dance of life and an invitation to inquire deeply into our nature, in which we discover Presence as our natural state. You’ll find, once you feel it, that this is the natural state of everything in the manifest universe.
In Buddhism, there is something called The Householder Path. In the Shambhala tradition, this is the path which is thought to be most arduous, in which normal folks like you ‘n me, embark on a path of truth-seeking, but while doing quasi-normal things like paying rent and having relationships and stubbing our toes on those fucking sniper pieces of furniture that pop up out of nowhere sometimes. The Householder Path is considered most arduous because, unlike our friends who sit in caves to contemplate the nature of reality, we’re inundated with distractions and very sexy — and unsexy — dramas and conditioning. It’s like living in a house of mirrors, with only a commitment to practicing, noticing and compassion to save us.
The beauty is that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is an intimate grasp on the reality of suffering, and (hopefully) evolving into little Boddhisattvas — humans here to relieve the suffering of the world. If you’ve suffered (and you have), or continue to stuffer (and you do, because even the dismissal of suffering is a special kind of delusional hell), then you are armed with a toolkit to help relieve suffering through compassionately connecting with yourself, and thus, the world.
I have to assume this shit storm of a year so far has been to unequivocally provide me with the lesson that we are not our circumstances, and in literally every single moment, there is a loving and patient Witness to it all that is, in a weird and kind of playful way, sort of delighted with even the most shit-stained moments and happenstance.
Life, I truly believe, is a spiritual practice. Everything — everyone — is a door. Loss is a door, and so is abundance. Joy is a door, as is grief. Jealousy and confusion are doors, as are ecstasy and bliss.
And, as it turns out, they’re all doors that can lead you home, again and again.