Saturday, August 21, 2010

Simple, But Not Always Easy

Yesterday morning I worked on my blog. I updated pictures, changed things around, and rewrote the “about me” blurb. It went from an embarrassingly wordy and pretentious I am this, I am that to the simple truth of the moment: I have no idea who I am, why I’m here, where I’m going.

When I wrote the words, I remembered being asked by a spiritual teacher years ago who I would be without my history and stories, and without all the labels I’ve always attached to myself. Who are you, he said, without everything that you’ve identified as “you” throughout your life? Incredible question, I knew. Completely mind boggling. Who am I apart from woman, mother, wife (now ex), teacher, writer, double Gemini, some number I've yet to nail down on the enneagram, wanna be photographer? Aside from dad’s favorite, mom’s scapegoat, middle child, and on and on?

I told him I had no idea. To which he quietly nodded his head in affirmation.

Back then it was merely a mental exercise. But now, recalling his question, the incredible, radical thought hits me that maybe the actual experience of not knowing is not such a bad thing. Ditto for the lostness/nothingness that I wrote about a couple of days ago. In fact, what if what I’m experiencing could actually be seen to be, in some way, good or beneficial or even a step in the right direction? What if being lost is actually a boon, what if no longer knowing who I am or where I’m going is one of the greatest gifts one could ever receive? Wow. It blows my mind how quickly perspective can change; how space can appear around an idea or concept once conditioning is examined; and how once this happens, pain, grief, and fear evaporate.

Thinking about this brings a picture to mind: My current teacher, Isaac, comes to town. We sit in a beautiful old craftsman-style hall in the center of Berkeley. It is chilly; the glare of the winter sun slips through the old windows and hits haphazardly around the room; the scent of newly opened lilies punctuates the air; chairs creak, throats are cleared. He and I sit facing each other, the appreciation that has grown over the years flowing like a calm sea between us. I begin speaking. I pour out my heart. I weep. I am lost, there is nothing but nothingness on the horizon. I no longer have a clue who I am or why I’m here. It is so painful, it is hard to bear, and on and on until words are finally spent. I reach for a tissue, catch the tears sliding silently over my cheeks, wait. He sits ever so patiently. Never breaking eye contact he shifts in his chair. He reaches for his tea and slurps noisily. He looks at me with such acceptance it melts something inside me. And he says, as sincerely as he knows how, the sparkle in his eye as warm as the sun, congratulations.

I know the scene by heart because we've been there.

Only this time, as we all collapse in laughter, by some fate or luck or amazing hit of grace, the resistance has vanished and in its place grows an ever expanding spaciousness.

Can suffering really be, as sages over time have insisted, simply a matter of thought?

And if so, how can something so simple, be so confoundedly, so life-wreckingly difficult?

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