Saturday, February 21, 2009
I had a nightmare about my mother last night... Not one of those gripping, tear-your-hair-out kind of nightmares, no. No, this one was a "subtle psychological thriller" wherein I finally expressed something I'd been holding back, and as a result, my entire family disappeared!
I've been writing a lot lately about my relationship to place, which has been in the forefront of my thoughts since our move to this strange new land called Maryland. But I could just as easily write of my sense of losing my place within my own family of origin, for that is precisely where my wanderlust began-- that fundamental need to know who I am, and from where I belong.
In Buddhism, the answer is easy. There's no need to go searching for the shooter of the poison arrows that pierce your existence, as Buddha's parable goes; one need simply "be here now", in life and in death. Attend to what requires attention now: and what awakens in that moment contains more beauty, more significance, than the entire story of your life put together.
In Zen, I have seen that attention misconstrued as a necessity to ignore the wounds instead, and decide to be "awakened". I've been told, you are not spiritually evolved enough. You are forever trapped by your thoughts, a fellow Zen student said once. He was all of 21 and smug in his self-assurance that he'd figured it all out. And I hated him in that moment: the smug self-assurance, the certitude of his answer, the way his posture brightened as he said it.
Ah, you just wait, I thought. You just wait until someone comes and pulls the rug out from you so completely that you lose sense of all direction, of purpose. Then maybe you will see that "enlightenment" is not something you decide!
Murder, rape, incest, physical harm... there are human sufferings that transcend thought, for they live in the body so very deeply even when the acts of them have long disappeared. One cannot think rationally beyond them, to "attain" some better state. It certainly has been my struggle on the zafu to understand why.
And always that "Soto Kid" pops up in my mind, that smug self-assurance, that severe judgment and simplicity. Yet for all my judgments against him, I recognize now it's actually my own judgments against myself that I detest...wondering, why can't I just get over this? Is there something wrong with me? And worse: why can't I be more Zen about this?
Yet in the end, it is precisely because of my very deep wounds that I am given a great gift indeed. When a trauma lives in your body, you become keenly aware that the world is not black-and-white; such as, memory reveals itself as a cellular thing, not just a simple "pattern of thought" that ought to be annihilated. It is in this discovery that one realizes the beauty of being, the utter complexity of living-- and for myself, one begins to sense that such things serve a purpose. The mind is not an enemy that lives in the head, in other words. It is a protective blanket to those who have been deeply disappointed by life...It is the tenderness that lives between friends who have never met (such as in the blogsphere!)...It is the breath of existence itself, the color of the world that surrounds us, as we define it through our experience of it. The trick for me, then, is learning to define less, and learning to come to know--by attentive, direct experience--more.