Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Went to the graduation at Pacific Crest. Rigel, one of the graduating seniors, thanked me in her speech for my poetry class and my War and Peace class (which, she said, left her "more morally confused than ever.") I wrestled with myself before the graduation. I wanted to give her a graduation present, an edition of Yeats, maybe: and yet it was plain to me that so much of my motivation was the intent to remind her of me, that I didn't know if I should do it. In the event I didn't have time to buy a book, anyway. Hugged her afterward. Thanked her. Then took Alan, who had been dreadfully bored by the ceremony but bore it heroically, home -- what a wonderful, catch-all excuse kids are!

An excuse, because I wanted to flee. Almost overwhelmed by the desire to somehow freeze the moment and make it real -- to make it more real -- to make it permanent -- to be always the great poetry teacher and life-changer -- the pain was almost enough to make me writhe. A year or two ago I might have mistaken the agitation for pleasure. It's not: it's about the purest suffering I ever experience. The bottomless dissatisfaction, yearning, clutching. Just about everything seriously evil I've ever done I've done in the grip of that agitation. No food could ever still that hunger: it's innately, structurally, unappeasable.
A nice Ngondro instruction session from Bill: a good reminder not to let a zeal for correctness crowd out everything that inspires me.

Rocky days. Karen asked about backlash after the sit Sunday. I said "I console myself by thinking that it's not that the resistance to practice has really gotten stronger -- it's just that my awareness of it has gotten stronger. But really -- I think that's true" And Michael said, with an impish grin, "the anaesthetic is wearing off."

Which is all fine and clever, but I'm not sure I really do think it's true. The backlash is its own thing, a surge I've recognized against virtually every commitment I've ever made. The surly teenager breaking rules because they're there. An anonymous post on mindspace ran:

-- "What are you rebelling against?"

-- "What you got?"

The inspiration I initally got from Sarah has faded somewhat -- how quickly I've become accustomed to her accepting me, and come to think of it as normal! "Having accepted me through your great kindness," as the Ngondro text says -- and it is great kindness. Michael says that "They Say" that if your accepted student doesn't attain enlightenment, you don't either. The sullen urge to pull my house down: but God knows I don't want to pull it down if Sarah's inside it.

I'm sort of saving up the prospect of journeying to Colorado to take my Bodhisattva vows from Sarah, a potential inspiration squirreled away for the future. Somewhat dangerous, to play with it like that.

It was years ago that Sarah came to Portland. Sitting in class watching her teach, I thought: "she hates teaching as much as I do: she's as nervous about speaking in public. But it doesn't get in her way. It doesn't cloud her intelligence or block her compassion." There was a sort of stillness about her. Anxiety could arise, but it couldn't take hold. And withal, that extraordinary openness, an absence of posturing. Compared with her directness, her engagement with reality and with others, everyone else in the world was a teenager posing in a mirror. & I thought -- as Michael said of first seeing Kalu Rinpoche -- not knowing what he had, but whatever it was -- "I want *that*."

How much of that did I make up? Oh, plenty, no doubt. Maybe she's not nervous about teaching at all. Who knows.