What to Do with One’s Life


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Beginning to understand what post-enlightenment means, not in the historical/philosophical sense, but in its contemplative meaning, when masters and poets described not seeking … sting removed, shenpa forgotten to grasping sense as though it had never been, yet seeing all (no seer).

When I was a teenager, it seemed hugely important to be famous someday, and although the desire took many shapes over time, the quest for importance still kept hold. This must be the case for many powerless people bereft of safe place early in life… a drive not just to keep up, but also to make up for losses born into… to be seen by the world they feel abandoned by. It is about dignity, in one way or another, and working out that measurement.

A and I talked about this yesterday, in the context of his developing a general vision and plan for his life. The happiest people I know, I told him, seem those who made a strong hobby of what they enjoy most, shielding that from becoming a main source of income, at which point the income itself becomes more important. There is nothing wrong with anything wanted, but “follow your dreams” is too vague – a bit of a scam and distraction. “Travel light” comes closer.

I couldn’t see this, for a long time… how longing for self-importance weighed around my ankles, that resistance was not motivation. I think he does, although he wrestles with the messages all around him, that he should know what he wants by now, that that wanting is all important. Society seems to be embedded with a script whereupon seeing a teenager, questions about what to do with one’s life pour forth within a wave of anxiety, usually made up of the pourer’s burden of regret. Almost always, there is no tangible help of the sort that might come with true concern. Well how could there be?  How could someone come to the aid, who also can’t see out? Well-meaning advice is just a cover.

Found myself listening to a speaker on non-duality, Tony Parsons. It is hard to describe him because what happens in his meetings is more like performance art. Audience members try to pin him down, try to trick him into teaching about the relative world, and he dodges them. Or rather, reminds them that there is no he to dodge them, that there is nothing happening, no person or speaker who knows something and would therefore have something to give to them, even if they or he existed. There is just a situation happening, that from relative view appears to be beings making exchanges with one another.

The message at core is akin to one modern seekers might hear as Eckhart Tolle’s life living itself, but here the aim is not to kowtow to the dream of apparent reality at all.

It is funny to see this play out, but also fascinating because what he is expressing is not dismissable to anyone who has read buddhist texts like the Heart, Diamond, or Vimalakirti sutras. A teacher in this context isn’t imparting data or information in that sense, but sustaining a note that can be experienced. It is more concert than lecture, more transmission and in some sense, undoing, than accomplishment. He isn’t even “interesting.”

Yet, for an “I”, being in such a situation can be surprisingly scary. What one has believed, without knowing as belief, is thrown totally into question, which can be experienced as if seen and felt physically. Meditators face this, but also people in churches forced to look at their hearts, or people in movie theaters taken into their own experiences in a “too real” way.

Sometimes we look to a teacher/guru, wanting them to understand our experience better than we do, which is an exercise in frustration, considering that they are freed from trying to understand even their own experience. Knowing might arise by example.

A worthwhile article re Heart Sutra:
“The basic point is to get to a place where we actually stop searching for and grasping at the next toy. Then we need to see how that state of mind feels. How does our mind feel when we are not grasping at anything, when we are not trying to entertain ourselves, and when our mind is not going outside (or not going anywhere at all), when there is no place left to go?”

All Yellow


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“I came along, I wrote a song for you…”

Central Park

Central Park

Just before heading home, the weather has turned brisk and wonderful. After a few days of matter-of-factly moving through the days, I am hit with a wave of longing and reflection. It is natural, I tell myself. It means, for me, that I’m appreciative… that what I’m leaving has been treasured and held with delight.

So now to decide whether to try to see an exhibit tomorrow, or to continue open-endedly, what I began a few days ago and continued this morning – rambling through Central Park. I have a little more time tomorrow… so maybe to choose one exhibit is enough. But first, sleep.

Not Choosing

Interesting but tiring day. Rather than obsess over where I am and what the logical conclusions and priorities should be, reading those circumstances, living beyond that limited view seems crucial right now… to be able to dream and feel and aspire. It is natural for people to worry, and more so if they think I am not worried enough, to urge me to worry too… not seeing the early morning panic attacks, or occasional despair. But to put myself in that mindset is depleting. I have no choice but to press on.

Write Anything


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It is the Morning Pages idea: wake up and write anything. Just write. Just get flowing. This is why I write about k-dramas lately. They are nothing too serious yet tap deeply hidden motivations and emotions in very sneaky ways, helping let down my guard with the world. Everyone should have something like this.

This morning I was thinking of my experience with Falling for Innocence, which I first viewed with half attention, not particularly impressed. Only months later, after watching Heartless City, and after coming to appreciate the lead and the story there, did I realize that it had been the same actor in both dramas. I then viewed the previous with greater attention, and included missed angles.

The same idea is at the heart of good time travel stories after all, as in a simple but also sneaky film About Time – that one might revisit as many times as needed to fully appreciate a moment, a person, a life. And I’m always looking to see where in my immediate life I might apply this knowledge.

Cracking codes of view, of being.

“The only way you can talk about this great tide in which you’re a participant is as Schopenhauer did: the universe is a dream dreamed by a single dreamer where all the dream characters dream too.”

Joseph Campbell

In Progress – J-Drama List


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Generally, Japanese dramas don’t have the emotional impact nor addictive quality of Korean shows, which is almost the opposite case for film. However, here are a few I did enjoy a lot:

Ando Lloyd Quite different from a K-drama. AI and fascinating effects. Light tension all the way through. Satisfying as a first J-drama. Great physical actor.

The Hours of My Life – Devastatingly sweet. Obviously sad (ALS as main subject matter) but quietly paced and not trite. Such an incredible main actor (as with Ando Lloyd, gifted physicality). Achingly lovely female lead. All the important things come to the surface over the course of the episodes.

Date – FUN. So glad I watched this. Think about it all the time.

Last Cinderella – Very cute but one squirrely plot line. Same lead as Hours of My Life (Haruma Miura), another seemingly popular Japanese actor (Naohito Fujiki). Interesting actress (Ryoko Shinohara). Unpredictable but in a weird way.

 Jinsei ga Tokimeku Katazuke no Mahou – Based on the work of Marie Kondo, whose book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has had an amazing reception.



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The insight of yesterday has continued to unfold.

I’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years, although it may appear to be the opposite. It hasn’t been easy, but some nights, like tonight, looking around the small apartment with puppy at my feet, and reflecting on what things were like even five years ago, it feels right. Or, honest and true, in the way that the me I saw so clearly for that little while, feels true. It is work to match one’s aspirations and capacities with what can be realistically taken care of in one’s world.

There is nothing wrong with worldly accomplishment. Indeed, I begin to taste accomplishment without the chip-on-shoulder… accomplishment that can be fully appreciated and enjoyed and resonate with finest intentions. Amazing feeling. Alignment.

With this opening of acceptance came the most beautiful weather of the last several months – still very warm, but breezy, and that breeze playing in the tree branches. Maybe it is like this for everyone, I’m not sure, but the sound of wind in branches has a way of clearing everything out. There are still anxieties and unfinished business, and it is only sometimes that I stand in the knowing experienced today. But that shaking, whether in dreams or waking life, suspends every care as though I’d spent hours by the ocean, or at the lake in VT all those years ago, taking in the rough, lapping waves. I remember the brilliance of the “sea stars”, how the reflections played around the small room near the kitchen. That time was stunning, yet tempered by piecemeal tight budgets – enough for me to feel at home. I didn’t feel then, like the visitor that in retrospect, I was.

A poetic friend mused on states of grace one doesn’t realize they are in at the time… how it is possible to look back on favor that while ongoing, was taken for granted. Perhaps that is right now for me, because it is feeling good to look back from what feels a safe distance, appreciate memories and in light of them, forgive myself.

Shared exchanges with a man in the complex earlier… someone that in another time of life I might not have noticed but who today exuded an incredibly appealing easiness. He seemed amused by me, talking to the dog, and I was charmed by his lingering around rather than made anxious by it, as can happen.

Perhaps it was just the beautiful weather bathing the world in gentleness.

Orienting Roles


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While listening to S’s class audios again, there came clearly an image of orienting roles. It is not so novel an idea, but this time, I heard the question as quite personal: “What roles am I playing out; which can I identify right now?”

The first that came to mind was that of mother to grown children, as contrasted with mother to young children. These are overlapped, or rather there are remnants of the latter in the former. For instance, as I write, my grown daughter emerges from her bedroom, does not inquire nor look to see if I am engaged in something else, and begins to talk about what is going on in her social media life and plans for the day. I give her part of my attention, apologizing for keeping the rest. I make the apology by reflex, although there would be nothing wrong with putting her off a little to protect the writing space and flow, honoring myself in the same way. It becomes a stuck place.

This general orientation was appropriate when I first had children; chances to redefine the lines in favor of personal creative endeavors almost always gave way to momentary chances to “be there” in the way I would have wished for myself… as though among my children was also some attention starved version of myself. Thus, the role of mother to young children I’m consciously shedding in favor of more equal balances more appropriate for this time, and healthy for them too.

The second lead role or identity is a surprise, because, of all my doings and needing to do’s, I thought she was more buried than indeed she seems to be. Seeing her clearly is in part due to our current time raising a puppy whose instant affection makes place for an innocence and immediacy somewhat forgotten… a time before I knew what was lacking, without chips on shoulders or something to prove.

In retrospect, this identity had dominance for at least the early years of raising children and playing house, while on retreats when the outside world is suspended or tamed, and also when encountering a direct and bright mind whose intelligence isn’t about appearing intelligent but about finer delight and discovery. I see her as a loving and whimsical identity, without apology. She’s close by to what in some circles is called one’s “original face.” Yet is a personality rather than everything, everything, everything.

Still, remembering this innocence, and feeling suddenly grateful for how much joy and love is retained and still plays out in daily life and appreciations, did also make more clear and heartbreaking, how much of life has been diverted, in a sense, by the resentful identity that needed to be envied and to prove so much. She couldn’t articulate boundaries well – couldn’t give herself permission to say what she needed to say or to insist on being heard, or that, if she were heard, it would matter. There was a lot of anger there, and like an imaginary friend, I think someone made her in charge of acting out; she was the Firestarter.

I’m not sure I could have handled facing all the strings attached, a la The Matrix... how completely I’d been manipulated and had manipulated others, starting long before I have memory or certainly intention of such. It took a study into the interrelatedness woven through generations of relatively powerless people – especially women avoiding violence, protecting children, and eeking out freedoms they were not in position to demand, that eventually released at least some of that anger and shame into a more liberating context. Amazing to forgive without coercing myself, which would be a sort of forgiveness rooted in the same power structures that created the need for it.

Zizek makes an supportive point about coercion and Right/Left in some of his talks, asking us to question who is the better parent in a scenario of visiting Grandma: is it the parent who says, “We are visiting grandma, period.” Or is it the more liberal parent who says, “You don’t have to visit grandma if you don’t wish to, but she really loves you and would be hurt if you don’t visit…” The second parent appears to be giving a choice, but isn’t really. The result is the same, but at what cost to the child? The child visits grandma but also have to wear the visit as a choice they made, when it isn’t.

As for other roles, the work of seeing them is (to be continued)…

OK, Continuing – 10.11.2015

It is strange to set out roles on the table, but I’m going to continue, since for the last few days I have been working-self minded. As a worker bee, it is hard, even physically hard, to engage with work I’m not truly interested in and can connect into a wide purpose. I must be more than interested really, or the results are flat, lackluster. Although fortunate for the last several years, to have some work that falls under that category even when full blown inspiration goes behind a cloud for a while, I must turn my worker bee self into a more assertive creature to seek out opportunities, and must stop rehearsing the why-nots.


The Meaningful Mundane


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Doing many things, and reading a peculiar book, The Book of Strange New Things, yet what do I come here to write about? I guess the types of things I’d share with the sort of easy friend that seems lacking in my life right now. I have so many contextual friends, yet my life is between contexts. I’m not plugged into the kids’ schools – because the kids aren’t kids anymore mainly. I’m not attending temple, or a church, or working at a company. I think I’d like to… that I may be ready to. Still, who to chatterbox with about the new drama I picked up reluctantly, that I was sure would be condescending because the lead character was marketed as a “housewife who goes back to school.” I don’t consider people who dedicate themselves to children and family primarily, to be housewives, but people still seem attached to the degrading term.

Thankfully, this writer humbled me, making the story well worth the time it asked, and loosening some misplaced defensiveness; just because one’s life work is not valued, does not mean it is not valuable. That’s not so easy to remember day to day – most people feel a similar anxiety, a niggling understanding that who that they are is half-smothered by some primary role at the forefront of an others’ view.

In this drama, the central figure does lose herself in her family, as is the cliche’ but also the truth of what happens. So, I like the way the writers took their time with the dawning of realizations by most of the characters, so that the changes were full and mature rather than mere phases to go through.

I hope that will be the case for me too.



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When we’re ashamed, we can’t tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity. Forge meaning, build identity, forge meaning and build identity. That became my mantra. Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: how much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious.

– Andrew Solomon, one of my heroes and author of Far From the Tree



Spontaneous weaning from a few distractions that have been feeding into a breakout of habitual tendencies, noticing how they are tangled with other things … the way clicking to check Facebook (can/should be neglected) is linked with checking email (important), wikis (somewhat important), and drama sites (frivolous but harmless).

Perhaps this was sparked by an email from a Friend, who reminded me of what it means to be in the presence of someone for whom spiritual practice is the heart of life and time… the disorienting feeling afterward, and having few words to show for that connection. It isn’t an experience but something like an impartation. Yet beyond that too, in being, at least akin to, timeless. Just as when fathoming the stars and planets in space, self is displaced for a while.


Consciously, I am choosing a new pattern, to see what comes from the gap or, the clearing of being, as a friend likes to say, and working with growing friendlier toward the panics and compulsions that arise and fall, beginning to see previously hidden aspects of the whole picture come forward that suggest new ways of seeing, of being… different courses that might play out if I allow them to. Just as becoming lucid in a dream needs openings, daytime lucidity does too  –  ways to sustain itself.

“Sun faced buddha. Moon faced buddha. Same same.” I wrote to a Friend.

In a dark night of the soul, one cannot see nor function in the usual ways, yet new ways have not yet come forward. There is bewilderment, even hopelessness. When born again, the new way obliterates what came before, yet there is gratitude and enormous hope. Still grasping.

What seems obvious this time, is how these are linked… two sides of the same coin. “The departure is in the arrival” has been a bit of a theme this year. Quite empowering, yet a language few others might understand, even if it could be explained.


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