So not me and other music to drown by


The drowning man is not troubled by rain.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what sent me underwater a mere twelve hours after our seven-hour drive home from six days of vacation. The parking ticket on the car we left behind? The opaque algae bloom in the fishtank? The stinking carload to unpack and sort? That assault awake at dawn? No food in the house? No milk in the fridge? No cream for the coffee? The dog’s persistent whine to eat, to chase, to go outside? My daughter’s breathless urgency to make French Toast for breakfast? Then open her own restaurant? Write the menu? Make a flyer? Charge premium admission for patrons seated in the backyard? Have a lemonade stand? Have a bake sale? Have a Labor Day party for the neighborhood?

And all in the first 45 minutes of the day.

By the time my husband wakes I’m already over my head in dread. I’ve remembered what it’s like now to be home. A ranch manager. A playground supervisor. An animal handler. A carnival barker. So not me.

What’s the one thing I could do for you so you have a better day, he asks when I’ve sunken from view, just a telltale bubble on the surface. So not me.

I’m dumbstruck by the question. One thing? For me? A better day? There’s not one thing that can be done for me, I think to myself, because I’m not even here. There’s no room for me here. This is all so not me.

I wish you could see it all with my eyes, I say, knowing the complete impossibility of that request. Because it’s all me.

***

One thing I’ve noticed since I installed the new bloglist down the right hand column, the one that shows the title of the latest posts from everyone, is how often we write about the same thing at the same time. Themes seem to dance among us like the waves of a desert mirage. We write about power one day, belief the next, hope, wish, and the eternally cherished first day of school.

You might call this coincidence. In Buddhism we call it no coincidence. There is only one mind, you see, and it is what you see. The mind that is always in front of you is the mind we all share, although the filters we perceive it with are uniquely our own.

We share one mind, and in that way we share one life, but we do not share the view of it. The judgment, the resentment, the desperation, the dread, the fear of drowning, is only me.

***

There are a lot of things you can find on vacation when you’ve temporarily lost sight of the crumbs, the weeds, the dog hair, the fish tank, the empty fridge, and the overdue registration on the car you left parked on the street outside your house.

On vacation, it can seem like you find yourself. But what you’ve really found is that vast field beyond yourself, beyond your limited views and habitual perspectives. You find mind, the mind so easily lost when all we see is the drudgery of a daily grind. And you wish you could live in that boundless space. In truth, you already do.

On my vacation I found an oasis in a tiny shop in Carmel, a shop oozing with rich comforts and colors and drenched in herbal fragrances. I bought two flavors of these delicious shower gels, the one thing I can give myself to wash away the dread of the day. No one else can do it for me, thanks honey.

Then I realized, because we share this vast mind and all things in it, one of these gifts is most certainly yours.

The better to drown with.

***

Leave a comment on this post anytime by the end of this Friday, September 5 and you could drown yourself in 8.4 fluid ounces of bathtime bliss.

Oh! And you’re all invited to our Labor Day lemonade stand and bake sale. It’s a party for the neighborhood, you see, to celebrate the drowning of me.

***
I just love when this happens! This giveaway was won by one of my dearest drowning buddies: Lisa at Sunset Pig.

Plus we made $20 at the lemonade and bake sale.

One good reason to take the dog


Yes. That. Dog.

What I did on my summer vacation


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?

And quick, before you answer, do one more thing: enter this week’s giveaway!
And lookie where we popped up yesterday: live in person and in love!

There is only one thing for you to do

This is so staggeringly simple you’ll want to sit down and see how it works in real life.

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.

Untitled by anonymous


In silent witness to a quiet one, and courtesy of wordle.

Seeing in the dark


It was past midnight when my husband nudged me in the dark. He stood by my side of the bed, fully dressed, and I was confused from early, deep dreaming.

– 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

What an (awful, terrible, rotten) mother I am


“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.)

All in one load


“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

A time and place for unicorns

“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.

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.

Where the sun gets its shine


On the twelfth dawn of the eighth month, lifting the shadows of the darkest hours that came before, blazing through nine revolutions and counting.

Winner: Not about Zen

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!

Requiem for slumber


Eight girls
Eight sleeping bags
Two pizzas
Chocolate cupcakes
Chocolate frosting
Chocolate chips
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
Sunrise

Party on this weekend, readers! Sleeping is for babies. (We wish.)

Yet another happy indicator that all my suffering is self-imposed.

Bottoming out


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.

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