Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Reading Demian with increasing distaste. When Demian and Sinclair are mooning about the Demian household, dabbling in various spiritual practices in an undisciplined way and basking in their self-glorification, we're clearly supposed to think they're highly evolved beings, rather than arrogant prigs. That college-aged young men should be dead serious about their mishmash of haphazard spiritual practice and superstition is of course to be expected, but that Hesse (and Demian's mother) should also take them at their own valuation is intolerable. If I were Frau Eva, I wouldn't be prompting young Sinclair to sit in his room and strain at producing triumph-of-the-will passion. Too much of that around the house already. I'd set him to changing diapers and entertaining three-year-olds for a couple years, and then to do some hospice-work: let him see a bit more about what the whole human experience is, to see what there is to learn from dealing with the blood, shit, piss and phlegm of this breeding world.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Difficulties again. I become shrill and disputatious, argue theological points I know little about against people who know less of them -- as if the doctrinal issues of Christianity were any of my business! So maybe I can win an argument. And maybe that means driving someone off of the only spiritual path open to them at the moment. Grand victory.

I should know enough by now to recognize that argumentative, letter-to-the-editor obsessiveness as one of my pet forms of procrastination. Which is one of my pet forms of anxiety. I guess it's progress that I'm now working with all three of the issues that have bedevilled me all my life -- compulsive eating, compulsive sexuality, and procrastination. (None of them at all dignified. How I wish I was tormented by spiritual doubt, or righteous indignation, by the sort of spiritual obstacles that put a worried look of respectful understanding on people's faces, rather than a snigger!)

But anyway, I'm engaged directly with all of them now. Used to be I could only begin to deal with one by giving way completely on the other two. So that's progress, maybe. Ngondro seems to keep stirring things up. I feel like a monkey who's climbed into the cab of a running pickup and inadvertently started driving. I don't know how this thing works and I don't know where it's taking me, but I do know it's faster and more powerful than anything I've ever encountered. Though I'm not at all sure that I'm not just headed for the ditch.

I need to take on all three at once, though -- as I recognize now -- because they're all the same thing. Fixing one at a time doesn't get rid of anything. It's just chasing the mouse from one hole to another. It's all anxiety, fear of emptiness, fear of failure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"Train wholeheartedly"

-- one of the Tong Len aphorisms. Thinking about it a couple days ago, I realized that I have never trained wholeheartedly. The Dharma has always been "plan B" -- if not "plan C" -- a backup strategy in case my other strategies for obtaining clarity and peace of mind didn't pan out. It's been very fruitful -- and, surprisingly, not threatening -- to start wrap my mind around the concept of practicing wholeheartedly. Making this my main strategy, rather than a backup.

And I'm noticing how my other strategies -- besides abjectly failing most of the time -- kick up turbulence in my mind, waves of anxiety and impatience. Even when they're seeming successful. In fact, especially when they're seeming successful.

Reading Demian, and in my mind the Nietzschean emphasis on strength has merged, with strange ease, into the "divine pride" of being Vajradhara. All day I've been feeling an unusual strength, an ability to shrug off the "slave mentality" whenever it arises, and I'm walking lightly, purposefully, energetically.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Suddenly Vajradhara is gone, a blind spot in my visualization. Vajravarahi dancing in the foreground -- Kalu Rinpoche above -- Shakyamuni to my left and Chenrezig to my right -- but in the middle, nothing comes into focus and stays there. And my butter lamp went out before I was done, today. Felt empty (not in the good sense!) and ominous. I chide myself for superstition -- it's just what it is: a candle that went out.

For a while Vajradhara was the most vivid, dependable figure in the tree. Now, for the moment, he's gone. I'm trying too hard with him, for some reason. Or maybe I just need a good picture to stare at.

Mahakala is there, though, beneath the tree, in compensation. I take the protectors -- since I'm very vague about what they're doing in the whole setup -- to express the ferocity with which I need to pursue my practice and defend the time devoted to it. So easy to let the mundane world come cranking in on that time -- I feel that I have to be in some ways unreasonable in order to preserve it.

A couple days I didn't practice. It distressed me so much -- put me so much off-balance -- that now I think no extra time or mental space I might purchase by playing hookey is worth it. There's no way to back out of this -- "out" is forward, now.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Some time ago I posted about my disgruntlement at having to pour the offering water out in the flowerbeds rather than just down the sink. It's become one of my favorite moments of the practice -- taking the pitcher out to the back porch, in the early morning, pouring a glittering stream of water onto the plants below, with the sunlight filtering through our apple tree, and rippling silver and new-green in the neighbors' poplars. I just stand there a while, bare feet on the wet porch, and watch the leaves, and breathe the dew-washed air, with the world all bright and new around me. And this -- this was the moment I resented having foisted upon me.
Coming out of an extremely difficult time. When it's really difficult I don't write about it -- which is unfortunate, because it makes the written record sunnier than it should be. Practice is hard; carrying it is hard.

A kind of epiphany this morning, foreshadowed but clearer today than before -- the understanding that my difficulty in working while at work could be viewed -- should be viewed -- as a perfect, daily opportunity for practice. And that I can call on Sarah or Vajradhara to help me in it. Refuge isn't just a slogan or a party line. It really means I can turn to them for aid and comfort in my distress.

Martha and I went to Thrangu Rinpoche's weekend "seminar" last weekend, and received the Vajrasattva empowerment from him Tuesday night. I wish my visualizations were less ghostly and transient -- they're more vivid in my casual memory than they are when I'm having them, I find. There's a sort of knack I learned in stargazing of not trying to look directly at what I'm trying to see, because my peripheral vision is actually sharper, at least for things like dim stars. I suspect there's a similar knack to be learned in visualizations.