The only time I feel truly alive, abuzz with energy, tranquil, at peace and happy all at the same time, is either when I'm meditating, hearing a dharma talk, being with the sangha, reading dharma or somewhere on retreat.
Everything else feels sort of fake. My practice feels vibrant, and brings me into a technicolor world.
I don't know what to do with that.
I need metta in my life. I've besieged with my own thoughts of judgment and criticism that go like this: i'm stupid, my body is not good enough, i'm not good enough, and nothing i do is enough. i could never work hard enough to make everything right. The judgement and abuse I'm meting out to myself, feel worse that the actual situation i'm upset about. Acceptance and kindness would make my life so much easier - it's the bullshit tapes in my head that are causing the most suffering.
I put in my registration yesterday at spirit rock for a ten day retreat. it's a lottery so we'll see if i can get in. if not that one, i'll be signing up for a non-lottery seven day retreat coming up with one of my fav teachers. looking good in that area!
My practice feels a bit on auto-pilot. I am distracted by a host of issues including the state of my health (been going in for a lot of tests, nothing serious, just some stuff that needs to be worked on) and the precarious state of my job. The practice feels in the background but also kind of holding me up a little - i'm not as intensely focused on it as much as I use to be, but it does feel like the practice is there as a constant touchstone amidst this amazing sea of uncertainty.
I keep coming back to the Center for volunteering, buying books when I can for the "store," adding books to the little library we have, and opening the Center at least two sundays a month. I am incredibly grateful for these opportunities for service, it totally makes my heart full. It's a wonderful thing to be a part of a community, and still have the flexible fluid freedom to come and go as I please- I don't feel so bad anymore if I skip a wednesday night or don't meditate everyday.
The impending doom of layoffs is making work quite stressful. Naturally, I'm thinking the worst and it's hard to be in the present moment. I continually remind myself day after day, to not use practice/meditation as one more thing to beat myself up with, it's needless guilt. My constant mental reminders to be gentle and forgiving with myself is it's own practice.
Today I found out one of my favorite Zen teachers is moving away. The fact that he even moved to L.A. in the first place was a happy fluke for me personally. I read his first book almost six years ago. When it was published he was living in Tokyo. He’s originally from the Midwest. Right before he moved to Los Angeles, I found his website and happily read it on a regular basis. Until one day he started talking about fat. And that’s when the good times ended. He insisted in one entry that people pretty much need to sit in a seated position on the floor for meditation and if they couldn’t due to fatness, then such a person should lose weight. In a seperate entry he shared his views on how people need to be thin and that fatness was “disgusting.” I was promptly horrified, because here I thought he was this really cool Zen Buddhist priest, but instead he was putting these fat judgments out onto the world. Turns out he got a lot of e-mail telling him how wrong he was and his reply post to those e-mails was not an apology at all, in fact far from it, it was him defending his anti-fat views. (note: I wish I could find those old blog posts but they are now gone, but believe me they are burned into my memory and yes, the word disgusting in regards to fatness was used).
I was upset because his book helped me so much with my emergent Buddhist practice at the time and I thought this guy was suppose to be all intelligent and kind. And he was, except when it came to fat people and then he let his sizist, dumb flag fly. Funny thing is he unexpectedly moved to L.A. not too long after those anti-fat blog posts. Soon after he announced his L.A. arrival he posted a meditation class schedule – the classes were not too far from where I lived. Part of me was ecstatic, because his first book was amazing and part of me was apprehensive and angry. I decided that I just had to show up to his first class to see if I could “tell” whether or not he hated fat people. I wanted to see if I could catch him looking at me with disgust in class and to…I don’t know? Look at him back in defiance? Refuse to move my fat ass off the cushion? I’m not sure what I was trying to do, I just knew I had to be there! Of course, nothing like that happened at all. He just looked incredibly nervous and beyond shy and didn’t pay any attention to me at all. I promptly went back and talked shit about him to all my friends and told them all how much I hated those blog posts and how much of a bigot I thought he was.
However, the book that inspired me so much was not erased from my memory, the same person who wrote eloquently and forcefully about the nature of reality, mindfulness and suffering also wrote stupid anti-fat shit too: both truths were there, paradoxically but simultaneously contained in one being. What could I say? He was complex and contradictory and fucked up just like, well, me! I could not NOT relate to him in all his strangeness, his attributes and his flaws. So I mentally forgave him. I bought his subsequent books and obtained a lot of amazing support in my meditation practice from them as well. I never heard him speak about body size again in person or in his writings. I decided to stop talking shit about him and to stop being angry. I went to his classes many times since that first time, because i simply found them spiritually and intellectually stimulating, but I never forgot what I knew about him, which was this tragic flaw: fat hater/shamer. I spoke to him at length for the first time ever this past weekend and told him how much I appreciated his teachings, his books and his support. He was visibly moved and he told me thank you repeatedly. These words were all true; however, I omitted the fact that I thought his now 5 year old anti-fatty posts were still bullshit and that I felt pity for him regarding his sizist beliefs. I didn’t think it was apropriate *grin* Or maybe it was?
I go back and forth on how to confront? introduce? people about fat acceptance. I really wasn’t in the mood for a pointed discussion about fatties and I never brought it up to him over e-mail even though I could have many times. And I’m not gonna do it now (unless he reads this oops! I guess the secret is out! ;p) I never said anything because I believed all along that he was a lost cause. He seemed so sure and steadfast in his ignorance about fat – so I felt like there was nothing I could say to dissuade him from spouting off stereotypical, negative opinions about fatness. So I didn’t bother. I figured we all have our blind spots, some more egregious than others. There are things that we all need to work on. This “fatness” thing was one big blind spot for him. I took his Zen lessons for what they were worth for me personally, thanked him for his service, and well, he has the rest of his life to work on himself. Hopefully, he’ll learn and if he doesn’t? Oh well. People tend to be contradictory at times and I think his sizist views showed exactly where his heart was blocked. With those anit-fat posts he showed the world that even he has boundaries where compassion is not allowed to grow (sorry to get all woo-woo on y’all but its really what I think). This is his work alone to work through those boundaries within himself. It is his responsiblity alone to work on these judgments that cause such divisiveness – it’s a form of delusion I think. And he doesn’t have to answer to me anyway.
So, if this guy is such a sizist why is he one of my favs? Eh, in Buddhist tradition, at least in the traditions I was trained it, teachers are not held up in the same regard as say a Roman Catholic priest. They are human, very fallable and it’s dangerous to put too much regard into what they have to say anyway: anything that say should be held lightly and tested as truth only in one’s own experience. He has really funny, dark, intelligent, irreverent and idiosyncratic views on Buddhism that I relate to totally. He makes me laugh and think but yes, he is also a deeply flawed human being (as I am one too). He is one of my favs because I learned a lot from him and yes, those lessons weren’t always pleasant: case in point, his anti-fatty posts. I wish him well and am very grateful for the lessons that he gave me: the pleasant and unpleasant ones.
(psst! I'm talking about Brad warner)
Not much is going on in terms of practice. I've been really sick with a cold this past week and really couldn't think or do anything and I sure as hell didn't want to sit with my sick bodily feelings so I didn't meditate. Do I care? I sort of do but not really. I use practice at times as just another guilt trip and I don't need that. I figure if I sit, I sit if I don', I don't. Guilt is useless and counter-productive. I don't feel so horribl tonight so I'll sit before going to bed, and I sat yesterday, so there it is: me starting all over again. And I think that's what saves me in this practice, that there is always the present to start over, it's never too late, as long as I'm alive and breathing I can be mindful and meditating. There is no better time then the present for more meditation and more self-forgiveness: these thoughts save me from myself at times.
Formal practice has been a challenge, with friend/family commitments, going to the gym, and attending my writers' group. However, one thing I'm involved in that has really kept my foot in the door at ATSBMS is the People of Color group I am helping facilitate with Erica Shehane. Last night when I went to the Center to open the doors and set up, I felt an immediate sense of excitment and quiet warmth. It felt so NICE to be there. We had an awesome discussion about diversity, multi-culturalsim, racism and the Dharma and i left feeling really spiritually and intellectually stimulated. I will be volunterring to open up the doors at ATSBMS on sunday mornings for Ken McCleod and Brad Warner this month: this is just awesome for me.
Been dealing with a lot of anger, irritation and uncertainity lately for sure. I've thrown myself into a new blog, where I write a lot about fatness, health, food and body image. It's been mostly quiet but one post got controversial and I had to ban two people so far. Yikes! It's been a challenge to really be mindful of why certain ideas are trigerring me, and why my ideas may trigger others: what a lesson in equanimity! Layoff talk is loud and prominent where I work, it's sent me into a tailspin of uncertainty and fear. I'm struggling a bit with keeping a positive outlook, but at one point thought: hey, this is hard and it's not going to stop being hard so the only way through it, IS through it. Sometimes I need permision to just feel bad, the relentless pursuit of happiness is something that I turn into a crusade at times, and this pursuit creates more stress on top of stress.
There are times, when it's just a relief to say: I feel bad and that's o.k. I don't have to be happy all the time. Paradoxially, this relief creates a little bit of an uplift and alleviates some of the burden that's already there in the first place...
It's been a long time since I've updated this thing. But now I feel the urge to write about buddhist practice so here I am. The newest thing that has happened with regards to the practice was going up to Redwood City to sit a daylong with Gil Fronsdal at his Insight Meditation Center. It was completely silent and quite nourishing. It felt good when he asked me if I would like an interview with him even though the sign-up sheet was totally filled up. That was nice since I didn't even ask for one verbally either! Last year I'd drive up there once a month to do a sutta study with him so it was great to talk to him again.
However, I didn't really know what to say once I was in an interview with him. I thought it was novel that he did interviews even though it was just a daylong, but you know I went with the flow. And I ended up talking to him about some deep-seated issues that will probably require an in-depth conversation or two with a dharma teacher here in L.A. Also I noticed how incredibly different, unusual and amazing to talk to someone who is completely 100 percent present. It's a unique experience to converse with a person who's attention is nowhere else but on the moment. It felt like I was truly being seen, just because Gil was paying full, mindful attention I could totally tell. It's hard to describe.
As always I feel the most myself, the most grounded and authentic when I'm meditating and learning about the dharma within a community. It's like being in love, this dharma stuff. Love. It.
I haven't been sitting very much formally. And I just don't care. I've been distracted with my incessant writing on all my blogs (this is one of three). I've cut back on the sitting to 3 times a week. And I've joined a writing group. If it wasn't for the meditation center and my weekly sangha gathering I don't know what I'd do in terms of formal practice.
I sat with Brad Warner yesterday and I was surprised on how relaxed he was, and how talkative and comfortable he was too. My experience with Brad is that he is a kick-ass awesome writer and a middling public speaker, at best. Not so yesterday, he had lots of interesting things to say about the Dharma and people asked some intriguing questions. I don't know when he made the change but wow. I thought that maybe he improved because of sheer practice, he's been doing book tours quite a bit over the last year. I don't know though, he just seemed really himself and confident and grounded. It was great.