All of the above are ecstatic images from the last few days. Yahoo! Fall in New England is beautiful. I know. Everyone around here waffles on about this ad-super-nauseam, but please be patient with us while it lasts. Our April is a frozen, muddy shit-story, so of course we have to go on about October leaves and apples, especially as we avoid making eye contact with the four tons of pellets sitting on our front lawn, waiting to be schlepped to the basement. Seriously. Four. Tons. Eight. Thousand. Pounds.
What I'm about to write is also a bit heavy. Ready? Last night, sitting on the floor in a vain attempt to get Chloe (aka BooBoo the Explorer, see above ecstatic image) to come cuddle with me, I was doing some after-dinner Margha Program reading. Meditation famine. I registered those words together & a chill of recognition & grief shuddered through my body. Yes, I know what that is. I suspect I've known for rather a long time what that is. Here's the passage:
When you look into a thought's identity, without having to dissolve the thought and without having to force it out by meditation, the vividness of the thought is itself the indescribable and naked state of aware emptiness. We call this seeing the natural face of innate thought or thought dawns as dharmakaya.
Buddha-nerd language not doing it for you? Here is a very loose translation:
As tree makes leaves, skunk makes stink, sky makes clouds, and mind makes thought. All are expressions of What Is. Stop worrying so much about the purity or non-purity of your mind, and rest in being an expression of What Is. You were born, and so you're free, so happy birthday.
Here's the thing: meditation CAN actually be good for you. Picked up as a way of cultivating a deeply felt relationship with Being Itself - wonderful! Deployed as a way of opening the heart of compassion - hoorah! Danced with as a path of intuitive, ecstatic union with All That Is - shazam! Rested in as a way of learning to do less & be more - yesssss! Savored as embodied spaciousness - yum! I could go on and on. In fact, I have: for almost half my life, meditation has been a lifeline, laboratory, and catalyst.
Meditation can also be brilliantly helpful in fucking yourself up. Emotionally distant and insecure? Uncomfortable with women, men, intimacy, the feminine, and embodiment in general? Pretty sure being born into this world is some kind of weird penance? Grossed-out by the details of household life and your own body? No problem! Just cultivate this little hobby, and in no time, you'll find your way into a rigid ideology perfectly suited to confirming all your pre-existing tendencies. Plus, as bonuses, minimal talking & sure-fire cosmically-endorsed answers to life, the universe, and everything. Welcome to meditation famine! We know you'll love it here. All the spiritual kids are doing it.
Believe me - I've given the Famine Path a run for its poverty. I've fasted & sat vigils, kept silence & shaved my hair & eyebrows with the phases of the moon. I've endured grey afternoons of watching the mind, and interminable mumbly Dharma talks. Luckily, even during the times of my greatest zeal for starvation, famine's not all that was happening. I would come home from wandering the fields, and find myself molding a little dragon from the thick globs of clay stuck under my nun-soles. I'd set up a table in the back field of the monastery, and write poems. Winter dreams would come rattle my cage, and friendships would loosen the hold I thought I needed to keep on myself. I was pretty sure that dreams, poems, dragons, and friendships weren't the point of the Serious Spiritual Work I was doing, but also aware of how much more alive I felt whenever they came to visit.
Eventually - but not before I was so skinny you could see the gap in my sternum - I realized callings as an artist/writer/dancer/singer were the actual stuff of why I was alive. If I refused them, I would die. So I started the long and messy road of accepting them instead.
Some time ago, when I was in the early stages of opening Just So Space, a woman I've never met wrote me this:
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now