1. Gave up the idea that I was ever going to write again.
2. Gave up the idea that I was never going to write again.
3. Gave up the idea that I couldn’t run a marathon.
4. Gave up the idea that I wanted to run a marathon.
5. Gave up the idea that I would lose 10 pounds.
6. Gave up the idea that I should lose 10 pounds.
7. Gave up the idea that I should make more money, save more money, or figure out the stock market.
8. Gave up the idea that I could produce, manage or reinvent a different kind of life.
9. Stood drenched in the glowing sun before the ancient sea.
10. In the end, gave that up too.
What did you do?
August 28th, 2008 - 10 Comments
August 24th, 2008 - 15 Comments
Compassion = No judgment
Authenticity = No deception
Freedom = No thought
Fearlessness = No ego
Love = No self
Making more of it is making it up. No need to research or study, analyze or compare. No slideware, no book, no CDs, no subscriptions. No seminars, no webcasts. No invention or interpretation.
There is only one thing for you to do. Sit down and practice. Everything else happens by itself.
Presented in public service and courtesy of a wide-eyed teacher 2,500 years ago.
August 21st, 2008 - 4 Comments
August 20th, 2008 - 12 Comments
– Can you sit with Georgia? She’s been awake for hours and I have to get some sleep.
I scrambled up. For some reason I felt happy to do it. I must have been dreaming.
In the early days, months and years, getting the tots reliably to sleep is an elusive goal, but one of those goals we keep hammering away on. We think there is some way, some place, some trick to doing it so that it sticks. Many times we hoist that congratulatory banner and do a happy dance: Mission Accomplished! But sleep is like all things, like all mysterious forces and fields. It moves in waves with the moon and moods and invisibilities. Sometimes we hit a patch, like now, when the night’s first nod is a short one, and our daughter startles awake to hours of restlessness.
It’s been a while since I was called up for this tour. Georgia prefers her daddy’s consolation at night, probably because I’m not very consoling when I have to work a double shift. Last night I went into her room and, still half-asleep, stunned her by getting under the covers of her slender twin bed. She scooched over and in minutes we were both sleeping. It was the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. But was I sleeping? Twisted onto a sliver of the mattress about a foot wide, ears enfolded on one side by a fuzzy dolphin, the other by a plush poodle, lulled by the gurgle of two fish tanks, I dove into a heavy doze in which I kept repeating in a marvel: I’m asleep, I’m asleep, I’m asleep. Surely, then, I was awake?
In the darkness, much later, the dog put her wet nose to mine and I rose to resettle her into the room where I had enclosed her hours before, the door still firmly latched. Perhaps that part was a dream?
Around daybreak, my daughter began to sigh and toss herself awake. We smiled and giggled at each other. It was barely 6 a.m. I told her that I’d had a good night’s sleep.
– I did too! That’s why I always wake up so early! Because I sleep so well!
This she said without any recollection of her hours of sleepless agitation. Perhaps her wakefulness was the dream? I don’t much care. I just give up, so I don’t disturb the dream. It’s the sweetest dream, and if I can keep from pinching myself, it never ends. Never, ever ends.
Photo copyright: Glenn Millington
August 18th, 2008 - 22 Comments
“Mom, are you ever going to grow your hair out again?” she asks for the trillionth time, while I am sitting at the kitchen table trimming her nails for the billionth time. This after one of those long, full exhausting Sundays of overdue chores that quite nearly empties me out. (Quite nearly.)
“No,” I snip in reply. (I am a Buddhist priest and what length of hair I still have tells you everything about the ego I’ve yet to let go.)
She looks away and says nothing, and I feel the temperature climb up my spine to a rolling boil.
“Why would I?” I erupt. “I’m just a slave around here!” (Did I say that? Or was it my mother, or her mother, or the ancient mother of all mothers?)
It’s quiet as I finish up her hands and feet, then she skips up the hallway to her room.
“Here, I want you to have this,” she says when she returns, holding out a folded bill. It’s $10 from her savings.
I shake my head in remorse.
“It’s for helping us,” and here she pauses to find the words, “to live.”
(Leaving me to repay the favor.)
August 17th, 2008 - 7 Comments
“Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma see no Dharma in everyday actions. They have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.”
– Dogen Zenji, 13th century
August 13th, 2008 - 19 Comments
“The unicorn is the only fabulous beast that does not seem to have been conceived out of human fears. In even the earliest references he is fierce yet good, selfless yet solitary, but always mysteriously beautiful. He could be captured only by unfair means, and his single horn was said to neutralize poison.” –The Unicorn and the Lake
That my daughter, for all her outsized dreams, could be satisfied with only a bedspread for this birthday is something I regard as fabulous. One look and you might not share my opinion of it, but I am a selfless saint, or so it helps we sinners to encourage ourselves daily.
Yesterday I asked her if she wanted to change out her old quilt for the new one, and we did. Off came the patchwork spread that had cushioned her across that first fearsome transition to the big bed. Fadeworn and soft. Off too the menagerie of stuffed animals, the easier for her to swoon at the sight of her new beloved.
“And what about Fay?” I asked. Fay is a three-foot-long stuffed pink unicorn, perhaps the most fabulous gift ever bestowed on a four-year-old, as big as she was when an infatuated little friend named Noah hauled it in to the birthday party five years ago. I was faintly disturbed by its sheer heft, the volume of space it dislocated on the bed. But Georgia adored it and she named it herself: Fay, which was my mother’s middle name, although my mother had died even before Georgia turned two. Did she understand?
“What about Fay?” I’d asked. And she proceeded to tell me a new and fabulous story, of how Fay should now be on the floor, behind the chair, by the turtle tank, for when Daddy needed to kneel down, and protect his knees, and such like that, her tone earnest and good.
I understood completely.
There is a time and place for unicorns named Fay, that mysteriously gentle phantasm, the transition between first and last, then and now, hello and goodbye.
I miss my baby. I miss my mommy too.
I release them both into the wild.
August 12th, 2008 - 10 Comments
On the twelfth dawn of the eighth month, lifting the shadows of the darkest hours that came before, blazing through nine revolutions and counting.
August 10th, 2008 - 51 Comments
The winner of this giveaway is Sulo. Yes, this one is going all the way to Finland! And all under one roof.
A weekend full to the brink with laughter and tears, a season’s slow peak and steady slide, my dear hearts coming and going, and I am in an offering place. This week I have another giveaway for the taking, a copy of Lin Jensen’s new book, Together Under One Roof: Making a Home of the Buddha’s Household.
I don’t read Buddhist books very often. That is to say, I don’t read books about Buddhism. Books about Buddhism may be useful to some, but not for me. The problem is the “about.” When we conceptualize and intellectualize Buddhism, it dies. Buddhism is not about anything. It is the direct and vivid experience of your life, before you kill it by thinking about it.
To that end, I consistently confound people by insisting that Buddhism is a practice and not a philosophy. Most of us would probably prefer it to be a philosophy, something to think long and hard about, but here’s my point: What would you rather eat? A recipe or a meal? Where would you rather live? A home, or a blueprint for a home? If I were really a Buddhist, I would stop insisting anything and then there would be one less confounded person in the world! And so I practice.
This is what Jensen has so wisely done – stop insisting – and thus I was completely taken with this collection of perfect essays, his real mind and heart. Jensen is a teacher of writing and Zen but I can attest he doesn’t teach anyone “about” anything. These short essays, drawn from the ripeness of his life, stitch a seamless and sheltering whole, the one truth that we all share.
When I was sent an advance copy of this book, this is what I said in thanks, “Gently, humorously, humanely, Lin reminds each of us to keep the house we live in, the wide-open room we share as one. Treasure this book as a housewarming gift.” I really meant it.
This week it is my gift. Who will step forward to claim their treasure house? Leave a comment on this post anytime this week and I’ll name the new owner on Saturday, Aug. 16. (Be greedy! I’m only giving you back what is already yours.)
Fare thee well, and welcome home!
August 8th, 2008 - 13 Comments
Eight sleeping bags
Chocolate ice cream
Ninety minute TV movie
Three brothers spawned from the belly of the beast
Writhing, giggling, shrieking, running, leaping, teasing, screaming, singing, sneaking
Party on this weekend, readers! Sleeping is for babies. (We wish.)
Yet another happy indicator that all my suffering is self-imposed.
August 5th, 2008 - 21 Comments
Him: Are you really going to quit?
Me: It’s just that in the face of this pain, the only thing that makes me keep going right now is ego.
Him: Isn’t that true of everything?
Me: No, when I do what needs to be done, that’s not ego. I would run 16 miles to go get help if the house was on fire. But when what keeps me going is pride, or shame, or obligation, or obstinance, or the idea that I’m accomplishing something or overcoming something or the fear of letting someone down, that’s ego.
Him: (dejected) I just thought it was a pretty neat thing for you to do.
Me: Like that.
August 5th, 2008 - 5 Comments
July 29th, 2008 - 7 Comments
This is a snapshot of Georgia, at two, dressed up in what had been my honeymoon nightgown. She claimed it from my closet, where I had let it become dusty and discolored from disuse.
That just about sums it up.
But not really the whole of it, not the best and most of it. Look at her coy and come-hither loveliness. She’s a decoy, my daughter, a decoy luring my husband and me to a place far gone from the honeymoon, a place of love and respect that is no romance, to be sure. But honest, and difficult, and workable. Serviceable, handy, constant, everyday.
That reminds of this post, which I present as a tribute to the man I love.
(I wonder what kind of hopeful, insistent, half-obsessed mother put the potty chair right there.)