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. 


6 thoughts on “Homesick

  1. Hi Michelle, I can see so clearly (and I have many memories of being in a similar clture of people aiming for mindful communication) how challenging your situation can be there. I’ve seen this happen where practitioners think that mindful behaviour or communication is a literal technical application. “If I talk about dharma I’m being mindful”. If it was that easy we’d all be doing that lol. Mindful has nothing to do with the actual words we choose. It’s inside…but assuming it as a literal thing is an easy out. It’s another trick the ego uses to control situations. It’s kind of funny when you think about it. What is that old story about two monks traveling? they hve been camping and meditationg for weeks and they are about to arrive into a town. One monk says ow he can’t wait to get to town he’s going to go to temple for three days. The other monk says he’s going to a brothel for three days. The other monk is shocked. They arrive in town and each go their separate ways. they meet up in three days to resume their travels. They begin walking and the one monk who went to temple says…”All I did in temple was think about you and the brothel and have carnal thoughts”. And the other monk replies “Oh really all I did was think about you at the temple and I meditated”

    hang in there!

    Hugs and love,

  2. Based on when I got really homesick my year in France, I was calculating last weekend with Daniel and decided that you’re homesickness would start very soon! We’re going to have to figure out how to remedy this! To be continued….

  3. I know I miss you a lot. You are always good company to hang out with. The easy conversations over Mexican food and beer. I remember how homesick I was for a witner on the North Slope of Alsaka. I didn’t cry until the last night when I checked the mail and and had letter from my nephew waiting. Didn’t realize how much I really missed people until then.

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