The spiritual path is not fun- better not begin it.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
It’s not all bonfires, sunsets and sea swimming. Looking back through my posts, I paint a pretty idealized picture about being a resident at Gampo Abbey. It’s good and beautiful and usually pretty fun. That’s all true, but it’s also really difficult. It’s the same people, everyday. When you get into an argument with someone, you are going to see them 5 or 6 more times….that day. Not working well with someone? Communication progressing along like the bitter older couple from ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff’? There may not be a resolution to that. Just because we are all ‘on the path towards enlightenment’ does not mean we act right all the time.
And there is a not so slightly annoying aspect to living here, although I guess it happens in all dharma centers. Everyone talks about the dharma all the time. Random quotes about emptiness get sandwiched on the chalkboard around the practical, daily life messages about missing gas receipts. Disagreements about teachings or practices often end with this phrase ‘Well, that’s YOUR karma’ (don’t, just don’t even get me started on this). The term ‘basic goodness’ get used so much that I’m not even sure it means what people think it means. Strict adherents to the rules cause me to wonder whether it’s a tight container they are seeking or a cocoon? I am not free from pettiness or blindness or comfort seeking either. I’m not the warm fuzzy presence that everyone appreciates and loves having around. I’m impatient, loud, angry, and irreverent.
Looking at news stories online the day of the U.S. Presidential election really hit me hard. I was really emotional, relieved, not so much that Obama won over Romney but relieved that there are a majority of Americans who don’t believe that going back to the way things were is sustainable or healthy. Oh, and the pictures of people in Chicago celebrating…I miss people. I really miss seeing different kinds of people, the random conversations that you get into at the bus stop, the annoyances of public transportation, the familiarity of seeing people you recognize but don’t know in the shops or on the street. There is an honesty and a genuineness to the day to day small talk that you have with neighbors and bus drivers and co-workers that is undervalued. Being in an environment where mindful speech sometimes equals attempting to only have deep meaningful words come out your mouth feels claustrophobic and a bit fake.
Chicago this time of year is always the best. I miss my friends and family, not just in Chicago but Kelly and Diane and their families in New Jersey, Nikki in Indianapolis, Janis and Clau and Mina in Arizona, everyone, all of you. I’m sick for that easy conversation, that catching up over a meal or a beer, the checking in just to see how each other is doing. It feels like such an important part of life that is missing here. We are all on our own path. The answer to all my questions and frustrations has been ‘Well, you’re going to have to figure that out for yourself’. It is true, no one else can tell me what I need to do but it helps to be able to sit and have an easy conversation with someone to clear it all out, to make order of the muck that gets in our heads.