WELL, that began an excruciating five-day wait. I wrote to a friend:
I'm biting my nails and anxiously clicking the [check mail] button about twenty times an hour, because I sent mail off monday asking someone to be my root lama -- out of the blue, she barely knows me -- and I'm silly as a lovestricken teenager about it, projecting like mad, imagining the responses I dread and hope for in elaborate detail. Yikes. I hope my devotion impresses her, because my equanimity certainly won't :-)
IN forlorn hope that I might be able to present some evidence to put into the "not a flake" column, The day after I mailed the request I mailed S----- an addendum:
I should add maybe some items about myself to go in the "not a monumental flake" column: I've been very happily married for twenty years; I've raised two kids; I've practiced shamatha seriously for about fifteen years, & I have steady professional work. I've never had or sought a guru or mentor before. I think M----- would vouch for me being a sensible, steady, sane practitioner. He's known me for many years now.
Also I should make clear that what I asking for at present is really just permission to use you as my root lama in the visualizations -- not for any time-consuming coaching or instruction. (But I understand that the links created by that, though they may be imperceptible ordinarily, are not to be created casually.)
TO my great joy and astonishment, S----- wrote back with a lovely warm letter that Friday, giving me (somewhat reluctant) permission. I didn't even have to start building and tearing down houses. She just asked me to bear in mind that any blessing coming through her really came from her own root lama (a celebrated person, the founder of my sangha) and from the whole lineage. (I don't feel like I should post S----'s letters -- I don't even know if I should post my own. I can ask about that. My main motive here is to make a space that S---- can come to if she likes and see what I'm doing with my practice without me dropping maybe unwelcome email into her inbox all the time.
I wrote back:
S-----, thank you, thank you, thank you.
I have never felt so fortunate in all my absurdly fortunate life.
I will hold Kalu Rinpoche in special reverence, and be mindful that any blessing comes to me from the whole lineage.
My good fortune extended to my officemate being out of town today, so I didn't have to explain bursting into tears when I read your mail :-)
SO then, of course, the worries set in, the doubts, doubts about my worthiness, doubts about my motives. From another letter to the abovementioned friend:
Lots of issues about purity of motive and "fooling myself" come up for me about having a root lama -- I'm supposed to see her always as the Buddha, and that's remarkably easy for me to do, but I don't really *think* she's enlightened. (As if I'd know!!!) So am I telling myself lies to motivate myself? In a way. In another way, of course, she *is* the Buddha -- everybody is -- she just happens to be the person in whom, for whatever reasons, I can see it.
I guess basically I think there's a good time and a bad time for me to question practice-motivation. The good time is when I'm actually settling down on the cushion. That's the time to take a minute or two and try to identify my expectations, and gently lay them aside, because the more I carry them on into the practice the more they'll interfere.
But when it's just idle stream of consciousness monkey-mind, driving home from work or doing the dishes, it's a bad time. It's neither real thinking nor real practice. Better, at those times, to sink into some silly revery about how everyone will think I'm really cool when I'm enlightened, than to start fretting about
whether "really" I just have a crush on my teacher.