Moving Insanity


We’re having one of those times. You know, when we look at 20+ places to find a temporary living situation, and the paperwork to Canada keeps getting lost in the mail, and our jobs are the most stressful they’ve been, well, ever, and the people that say they want our furniture continually renege, and we’re throwing away so much stuff it’s like having our life histories stripped away.

Until there we are, looking at each other.

Each morning, we get up, she takes a shower while I either groan, sleep or play with social media. And then we meet in the living room, where we do 10 minutes of yoga stretching, followed by 10 minutes of meditation, followed by a brief share on where we are, and then we just stare into each other’s eyes for 3 solid minutes. I’m not kidding. We call it present time. We make each other the object of our waking meditation. If we zone out, we close our eyes until we can zone back in.

I am hanging onto these times in the morning, when I see my partner, when I feel her beside me, moving her body, groaning about the strains from shoveling, when I listen to her, when I focus only on me. when I say metta.

We keep catching our own insanity. This is what meditation does. And every time one of us catches ourselves taking shit out on the other person, or leaving the sense of teamwork, and comes back in, trust builds back from all the terrible moves culminating in this, the worst move of all, except for the us of us.

I told my partner the other day that I married her so I could watch that bowlegged walk she does for the rest of my life.

We are dropping out of the known into some other thing. We know not what.

I have thrown away so much stuff! So that I feel unburdened and untethered. I have thrown away copies of manuscripts, I have donated books I love, I have given away clothes…sometimes it physically hurt.

Then I look at this person. See her. 30 years, we’ll have on June 8. We watched our wedding video yesterday. We are truly not those people any more. She has a different gender identity. I have a different name. Those 30 year olds were gorgeous. And we are wise, and love with a knowledge of everything it take to love and break, and rebuild, over and over.

I am beginning to admit that I might not change anything, even though I’ve screwed up so badly at times that I myself find it hard to believe.

I let go. Of everything else. But me. And her.

With no idea what’s coming.

How much is too much?


Today I wanted to write about my partner, but what calls to me as a subject is grief.  I have always hated the expression, “You don’t get more than you can handle.”  I’m all for being positive, or at least balanced and at peace, but seriously?  I have 3 cousins who committed suicide.  I imagine their ghosts laughing their asses off at that one.  I think they would say, “Dude, look, it’s patently untrue.”

Growing up, I had a super American attitude.  Up for any challenge, ready to fight the good fight, thinking I could make it happen, go for it, be a go-getter.  Developmental, to a certain extent, that attitude.  Teenagers don’t know what they can’t do, and I remained a teenager into my forties.  I say this now, knowing full well that I’ve had a life that contained more than I could handle.  More deaths, more losses, more difficulties, more people with problems, including myself and everyone in my immediate and extended family.

I don’t have an answer for the losses that come one after another, without reason, as if we’re all standing at a huge craps table, and some people have dice weighted toward tragedy.  I’ve experienced this, and I’ve watched it–my partner’s cousin lost her husband, her daughter and her mother all in the same year.  I saw her rarely, but I was always studying her to see how she was making it through the days.  I noticed how openly she spoke about the losses, how honestly she answered if you asked how she was doing.  That seemed to be how she was getting through, and I admired and admire her greatly.

I know people going through this right now, and I suppose I’m writing this for them, or maybe just to say what I know, which is what it’s like to stand, bewildered by loss, unable to understand what it means, needing to find meaning, needing to lift the heaviness, if only for a moment.

The first 10 day silent meditation retreat I attended had, as they all do, dharma talks.  They talked about how Buddhism was the bummer religion, starting with the first of the 4 Noble Truths:  Dukkha is.  Suffering is.  I can’t tell you how psyched I was when they spoke about it.  Because here is the down side of our American way–when you can’t make it happen, when it’s too much, when you don’t meet the challenge as you’d hoped, when the most recent loss brings all the others back tenfold, you feel like a loser, like everyone else is happy, pursuing happiness and getting it, while you flounder around looking for a tether.

My dead cousins are like, “Dude, not true.  The ones who think they’re tethered are clueless.”

I think we fight the randomness of tragedy, because it strikes at our powerlessness.  Of course the American way is to get up, fight through, not let it get you down.  But it DOES get you down, sometimes.  And it is worth it to admit, to surrender, to say, yes, too much for me.  It’s nice to have something to believe in, at those times.  Or at least to be at a silent retreat where the talking people are saying that we’re all in the same damn boat, and suffering is completely ubiquitous.  Pick your poison.  Or more accurately, it will pick you.

I have been trying to lean into my losses for years.  I lean in, and then I go watch some more Internet tv.  Because the pain hurts, and you know, I’m not so enlightened that I can sit with it for all that long.  But I do go back–there’s that American thing–and I lean in again.  And I find it’s true what they say–when you lean in, when you surrender, it starts to let go.  It’s there, maybe, but a little smaller, and not a pall that lies over every moment, but a place you can visit and leave.

I want to be free.  I want to honor my dead.  I want to be a good and decent human.  I want to create beauty and bring out what is inside me.  I want to live from a place of peace.  Those are my life goals, and I’m happy with them.  Only, you know, easier said than done.

I now say lovingkindness every day, and today I say it for our losses, for all of us who are carrying more than we can bear, and struggling to bear it anyhow.

May we be well.

May we be free from suffering.

May we be safe and protected.

May we live with ease.

Or, as they used to say in the church of my childhood, Peace be with us all.

 

PS–Oh, and about my partner.  She makes me believe in love.  Need I say more?

The Whole of It


A couple months ago I was eating an early dinner with a theatre friend of mine, and he started talking about life lessons, and why he was here.  He said that he was on this earth to learn how to deal with his anger.  He’s not a particularly psychotherapeutic guy, so I was surprised.  But then we had this really honest conversation about our lives and the center of our own personal struggles.  His is anger.  Mine, I told him, was to learn to hold all of it, evil and rage, violence and darkness, joy and simple beauty.

What happens when two young men set off bombs at the Marathon is simple.  They upset our world view.  They force us to wonder what life is, what is the nature of the world, what does it mean to be human when people commit acts of mass murder and atrocity.

What does it mean?

The courage and heroism and coming together that immediately followed  helps restore us to balance, to the idea that a normal life is possible. Or at least that goodness reigns, that terror cannot break us.

I am struck today, with the city in lock-down, of how connected I feel.  Connected to the city of New York, and to whoever decided to play Sweet Caroline at a Yankees game.  Connected to the people who have died so suddenly, and so young.  Connected to their families, who must grieve the way I would grieve if I lost my partner, who I love, love, love and have no other words for the depth of my love.  And connected to the bombers, because my fear connects me to them, and because I have lived through violence before, and so cannot see it as random or unusual.

I am a person who practices Buddhism, and generally a person who finds it difficult to latch onto religious stories (though I deeply appreciate their beauty and meaning).  I believe that there is a mystery at the heart of the world, and that human beings are capable of experiencing that mystery, but perhaps not capable of understanding it, or at least not understanding it with our minds.  I take comfort in not knowing, at times, not having to have answers.  I take comfort even in knowing that the story I am telling now may not be fully accurate, even though it is the truth as I have lived it.

My friend struggles to heal his anger.  I struggle simply to hold my own experience, and the amplification of my understanding of the world that is derived from that experience.  And my experience comes from being raised in the kind of alcoholic family in which violence was the norm, not the exception.  Yelling, raging, swearing, physical violence–I grew up with these things.  My parents, locked in a death grip that was as much composed of hatred as anything else, hurt everyone around them.  And I know, I know, supposedly this is a personal revelation, but why?  I understand that many people don’t have this level of experience, but we’re all screwed up, and alcoholism is pandemic in this culture, so while I honor my own experience, I also want to say this as not a huge deal–I want to make a point about violence.  And the point I want to make is that it is a part of us.  It’s a part of being human; it always has been.  It doesn’t go away.  I very much wish it would, but if my job is to learn to hold all of it–the ugliness and the beauty–then it’s reality at all costs for me, and the reality I know is that violence is a part of being human.  It’s a part of all human stories, a part of all times in history.

This brings me an odd sort of peace.  Wishing something wasn’t true doesn’t make it go away–it just makes me less capable of coming to peace with the world as it is.

And the world as it is–with symphonies and theatre, with ocean and poetry, with the look of love on my partner’s face, with the way she’s always touching me in her sleep, with the people who run forward to help, to heal, with the ones who touch us with their grief, with their music, with their faith, with their moments of grace.

Boston is in lock-down and I am holding this, now, one present moment, one truth.  The desire to protect all of us that has caused this lock-down.  The madness somewhere, desperate and angry and young.  I don’t have to forgive, but I do have to know it all, because I have taken that as my own healing task–to simply know and hold.  Reality, truth and mystery.

I truly experience, at times, and right now, that every single person on this planet is connected to me, and me to them, as if we were all sparks from one great light, one great mystery, living out all aspects of human potentiality together.

I would love to create peace for all of us.  I would love to be only peace myself, but I am anger, hurt, beauty, fun, brokenness, wisdom…I am not only peace.  I supposed I try to hold onto knowing all sides of life because that is as close as I can get.  My  peace has grief as well as love at its center.  But then grief is love, isn’t it?  It is the way we honor the loss of what we love, the way we say someone or something mattered in this very temporary life.

Metta for all of us.  And I do mean all.  With my most fervent wish that the violence will end today, and for always, I still say metta for every human soul.  I am holding, and I find that I am angry and horrified, but I am, in this moment, free of hate.  I might not be tomorrow.  But if we are all one, then in this moment, I hold horror and heroism and love, the knowledge that I am not alone, and I wish lovingkindness, because that is all I know to do.

May we all be well.  May we all be happy.  May we all be safe and protected.  May we all be at peace with what is.

Endings


I often wish I weren’t so aware of the temporal nature of things.  Since I am also aware that my announcing to random people that we’re all going to die soon (some of us sooner than others) doesn’t exactly nominate me for life of the party, it seems I have to…what?

We are all going to die soon, some of us sooner than others.

Maybe it’s just that every ending is a kind of death, and in me lives a desire to hold on, to make everything last, to say, as Galway Kinnell says in The Book of Nightmares, “…to let nothing of you go, ever.”

This week my Tuesday night Beginning Meisner class ended (a particularly great class), then my Co-Directing at Stoneham Theatre ended on Thursday (though I just returned from seeing a performance I didn’t direct), and tonight yoga teacher training ended.

I want to hold onto gold, and nothing gold can stay.

Galway Kinnell holds the preciousness of his children up against mortality, and sighs his love with images from the bible, from nightmares…and the ultimate nightmare is death, looming up out of the future, or often, in my case, out of the past.

I fought with myself on the mat in yoga teacher training, and I loved the philosophy sessions, and I learned, and I got better, and without my noticing it, this peace I have been cultivating deepened.  Yes, I still love to sound off, tongue in cheek, but I am serious about peace, and about learning what it might mean to die consciously, to let go, to get a grip in the face of what we all fear, to find courage.

Every ending is a reminder of all the endings that I am still trying to finish, to be done with, to grieve.  So that I may shed the chaff, and lean into peace, even when it looks like pain, or grief, or loss itself.  That I may lean in, and not away, my heart open, willing to be hurt, willing to feel it, the bittersweet, the loving so much, the knowing of the temporal, which is life.

I wish the cast of Prom metta, wherever they go, every day, every hour, whenever they can find it, and wherever they can’t.

I wish the new yoga teachers the yoga they know now, and the yoga they don’t, the finding of purusa, of samadhi.

And I hope my Meisner students return, soon, because I am not done with them, and I hope they are not done with me.

And Don.  The powerlessness.  And the knowing…that he’s here. I can feel the kindness of him as I write this.  I know it isn’t too deep for him, even though he’d probably say, “Wow.”  Then he’d pause, and tell me about his brother, some of the same story he’d told me before, but with something new, and deeper.  May I never forget, may I feel him, in me, in memory, in everything he’s left behind.

Opening my heart to 3 endings in one week, and this death, this year.

Metta for me.  May I be at peace with what is.  May I stay alive, cultivating peace and opening, opening, opening.  To the truth of the world, not as I want it to be, ending after ending, but to what it is, itself, sometimes slightly knowable, after all.

The Truth about So Many Things


First of all, I am interested in healing.  Why else would I rant on and on about psychotherapy and its ineffectiveness as a model?  I mean, outside of the fact that I’m a writer, and I object to famous psychotherapists co-opting the human search for meaning.

The truth: we are all, perhaps, interested in the search for meaning.  Or if we’re not, we certainly get interested at 40 or 50, as death becomes more and more a fact, as in: this will happen to me.  The interest in healing, though…well, that increases exponentially in direct proportion to how badly you’ve been hurt in your life.

I’ve been hurt.  Enough to want to change, enough to try, to search, to think, to reach out.  Enough to go to f*&^ing psychotherapy.  Enough to travel, to read, to try out Buddhism, mindfulness, enough to want to fly, to expand, to fill my body and spirit with light.

Truth: I am of this culture.  The culture of here, just take this pill.  The culture of feel better, look good, this anti-aging cream, this outfit, this car, this lifestyle, this income, this anything outside yourself that will make you feel better.  The culture of all better.  America offers this dream–anything is possible.  You can do anything you want.  You can better yourself, change your life, be as rich as, be as successful as, and if and when you are those things, you will be happy and your life will have meaning.

I am of this culture.  I have wanted to be rich and famous.  I have searched for all better.  I have dyed my hair and I still use anti-aging face cream.  But since 2006, and, well, even before, in glimpses, I started to think about, to wonder…what is good enough?  Not all better.  Just a daily life.

I have had two very close friends with major mental illness diagnoses–one with clinical depression, the other manic depressive.  I listened to their struggles to find the right medications and the right doses, their fears of another major episode, their commitment to life, their worries about having children, about passing on a legacy of depression.  They were my teachers about living with an incontrovertible, rather than seeking an all better.  Their illness required lifelong attention, a commitment to stay out of denial and on their meds.

Here’s the thing: I believe in healing and second order change because I have experienced them.  But I don’t believe in all better.  I don’t believe that anyone can do anything.  I think limits exist, and the refusal to recognize this will make you miserable.  It made me miserable, for a very long time.  Sometimes, it still does.

This morning my partner is at her ongoing training in Internal Family Systems.  She has already had an experience of starting to meet outside the training with some of the therapists.  At this informal meeting, one of the therapists kicked her out because she wanted a therapist-only group (and the other therapists let her, at least at first)–they did this right in front of my partner, the only gay person, the only non-therapist, and, incidentally, the only person fully trained as a peer counselor in IFS (the rest of them have no training in the model).  Before this, my partner was starting to talk about getting an MSW and I was talking about shooting myself (the idea of being married to a therapist does this to me).  But now my partner is talking about making therapy obsolete, about training people to do peer counseling.  Which makes me cheer.

In my long search for both meaning and healing, I have learned that there truly is something wrong with the Western medical and psychological establishments.  Both are affected by insurance corporations if not fully corrupted by them.  Western medicine is great for catastrophic illness and injury, but doesn’t work for wellness and the support of the immune system the way alternative medicine does.  And psychotherapy–psychotherapy is about diagnoses and fixes, including and especially psychotropic meds, because meds are cheaper for the insurance companies and get people functioning so they can, guess what?  Get back to doing their jobs and feeding our consumer society.  And talk therapy–well, beyond the fact that statistics show that talk therapy makes people feel better, but doesn’t necessarily change them–my experience has been that the therapist wants to keep you at it, focused on what’s wrong, rooting it out.  That is, at the very least, the danger.  The constant need to fix yourself, to work hard at it…which implies you’re never okay as you are.  And certainly, for everyone, there are always ways to improve.

But what alternatives are there?  If you want to heal, if you want to have meaning, purpose, if you want to change yourself, or the world.  You go to the mat, to the meeting, to the demonstration, to the church, to the couch, to the ashram, to nature.  You go in search of.

Truth.  I know this, very simply: it is impossible to heal alone.  You must love and be loved.  You must be a part of something bigger than yourself…a community, ideally.  Hurt, wounding, violence, trauma…all these things must be brought back to the human connection, must be spoken, seen, witnessed, heard, must be accepted in the starkness of truth…and then there must be comfort, love, welcome.  I know this because I have been comforted, loved and welcomed…and more, I have had people fight for me, advocate for me as an artist and a human being, and this has anchored me to goodness and hope in a way nothing else ever could.

I also know that both healing and the inner life require that I sit with myself, in silence.  That I learn what is inside me, all the storms and neuroses, all the courage and faith, all the humor and suffering, and that in this silence I grow bigger than these things, and I hold them.  And from that holding, I offer to the world that peace, that silence, and whatever wisdom I can gain, and certainly the compassion that comes from suffering.

Finally, there is grief.  It is the challenge of life to grow bigger than your own grief, especially when the loss is close, when it cuts deep.  This is the second time in my life when the waves of grief have kept knocking me off my feet every time I seemed to be able to stand, and now, now that it’s easing, I can see that the standing up, over and over again, has created something new.  A tearing away of the wall around my heart, perhaps.  This couldn’t happen while I was working on the play production–it could only happen when I let it, when I stopped moving, and allowed the struggle and the storm to have their way, when I surrendered to what was already true–this storm, this sadness, this never again.

So if I know these things, what then?

I am beginning to fantasize about working with my partner to teach communities to do their own healing.  In Buddhist psychology, the institution of practices to cope with life and our own reactions replaces endless digging into painful experiences looking for an all better.  It’s not that you don’t look, and it’s not that you don’t heal so some of those experiences no longer hold power.  It’s that you approach life knowing that hurtful experiences will come, sometimes.  And you have a way of being in the world that allows them to come, and a practice for holding onto your own spiritual center when they do.

I want to help people tell their own stories, because I am still an acting and writing teacher.  My partner wants to help them investigate their hidden selves with each other.  We both want to offer a way to ground down into peace, the peace that Buddhism teaches, and that no one can take away.

I am an artist, so I am allowed to fantasize all I want.  And in my pseudo-Buddhism, I then go meditate to slow down my all-too-American compulsion to start working on it yesterday.

But I’m intrigued.  By the truth.  By silence.  By my partner, whose kindness and craziness have recently moved me so much (and again, as so many times before, in the endless ebb and flow she teaches me).  (Which is good, since we are now 1 week from our 25th anniversary, and being moved, and remembering we used to be a lot crazier than we are can only be a good thing.)

Metta for everyone who seeks meaning, and truth, and beauty.  Which would be all of us, I think.  May I be a part of helping it to grow, in whatever way opens, slowly.

Starting Over


Sometime in the last couple months I started thinking about the whole concept of fresh start, starting over, re-imagining myself, re-creating my life.  I was obsessively watching Netflix tv and got caught up in the show Break-Out Kings, which is about convicts, who, of course, want to start over more than anything.

Then at Spirit Rock they had this book on display: Emotional Chaos to Clarity:  How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life.  I wrote about Right Intention (part of what Moffitt talks about in the book).  Now I’m into his next section on starting over.

I sometimes say, to the people I am closest to, that I have reincarnated 4 or 5 times in this very lifetime.  So I’m hardly new to starting over.  The longing for a different life, or a new one, or some dream of a another country, or a promise I made to myself when I was a child of how things would be different when I grew up and had more choices, has often driven my decisions.  I have, in my life, wanted desperately to get away from things–relationships, bad jobs, voicelessness, violence, poverty, to name a few.

Those are the big starting overs.

Sometimes, I just wanted to feel better, more peaceful, more accepting of my lot in life, sometimes I wanted to be able to love more deeply, to be kinder, less judgmental, less reactive.

Sometimes I just wanted some particular pain or level of pain to go away.

It seems intimate to say these things, but really, is there anyone alive who hasn’t wanted some, if not all of them?  I mean, I do sometimes believe I am cursed (or blessed, it’s not clear) with the fate of having to experience everything in life, from the worst darkness to the most ecstatic joy, but that could be just terminal uniqueness (as they say in 12 step programs), though to tell you the truth, I don’t really think so.  I think I am on this experience-everything track and some people, luckily, perhaps, are not.

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking of the words “new start” with a kind of longing.  So, presto-changeo, this book shows up.  And, since it is based in Buddhism and Vipassana meditation, it talks in depth about starting over in meditation as a practice that can be extended into the rest of life.  Because in meditation we just wander and come back, wander and come back, over and over again, ad infinitum (which I can testify to, since I am back to meditating every day, something I couldn’t do for months after my friend died).

Moffitt says that starting over can be a practice, that once you set your intentions (I set mine as kindness, honesty, ahimsa, radical self-acceptance, etc a few blogs back), you can use a gentle, non-judgmental mindfulness to be aware of when you stray, and then just stop and start over like you do in meditation.  Starting over can be a practice moment-to-moment.

I kind of like that.

And in the meantime, though I read only the very beginning of Living with Your Heart Wide Open while standing in the Spirit Rock bookstore, its statements about critical self-talk and how we treat ourselves has echoed in my head while I’ve been reading the Moffitt book (and the yoga homework Eastern philosophy how we treat ourselves on the mat stuff).

Incidentally, my partner and I have started over.  We haven’t really called it that, but we made an agreement to do a couples spiritual practice and to make that the foundation of our relationship since couples therapists are all crazier than we are.  I notice a difference.  It’s very uncomfortable, because she’s asked me to be more open, and even the meditating together and the communication and restorative yoga, and, the, dare I say it?, prayer to an unnamed whoever/whatever, are so very not something I’m used to sharing with another human being especially the one who’s been driving me crazy for 24 years, 11 months and 7 days.

Anyhow, for myself, I’m thinking of starting over as something other than a move to another coast or another country.  As I read, as I study yoga, as I see my partner change, I think there are more radical things to do than a shift in geography.  I may move, it depends on what my intuition tells me, but for right now, the starting over has to be in this moment, right now.

And it occurs to me, as the eldest daughter from an Irish/German Catholic family, with an overburdened sense of responsibility and guilt, that the do-over I am looking for is forgiveness.  Forgiveness, first of all, for Don’s death.  Yes, I realize I did not cause his appendicitis and the following complications, but his medical treatment was less than stellar and I kept thinking there was something I could do, should be able to do, because I always think that, even when I am showing up, and being kind, which I did, around his death.  I know I did.  But that doesn’t seem to matter in the world of reactive emotions and psychological patterning that too often make up my inner life.  I see myself as responsible, always.  It’s knee-jerk, and painful, and not at all useful in living my life.  And it dogs me.  No amount of making fun of it causes it to disappear.  No amount of anything has made it disappear, ever.

So.  I start over.  And my practice, mostly of ahimsa, because that feeling of responsibility is a self-violence, is to spend a few minutes a day saying, “I forgive you,” as my mantra, while I meditate.

I have decided that the I forgive you is my get-out-of-jail -free card.  I can forgive myself for all the things that were never my fault, that I never should have felt responsible for, as well as my deepest flaws, my terrible mistakes, the ways I’ve let myself and other people down.  I can forgive myself.  Period.

And then suddenly all the humor blows away, and what is left is compassion.  I have done a very good job with an impossible beginning, and the failures are okay.  I didn’t know there would be failures.  I didn’t know that not reaching goals was a possibility.  And I can just sit and forgive and feel my connection to everyone alive, because really, we know so little.  Our ideas about life grow from family, movies, television, books, dreams, insanity, hurt, impossible hopes.  We do terrible things to each other.  We are incredibly kind.  I am of us, I am us, we are one.

Buddhism and yoga teacher training.  A random book on a shelf.

The truth is, I’m on this journey because it’s just so interesting.  The grief must be lifting because once again, I just want to see what happens next.

(Okay, I know what happens next: lunch.  But I’m not sure what I’m going to put in the maki rolls, so there’s always something unexpected.  Carrots or red pepper?  Is the avocado ripe?  Think I’ll go check.)

And, gotcha.

Just for the hell of it.

Right Intention OR Back to Buddhism We Go


While my partner and I were in San Francisco, we did a day of let’s just see what happens.  It was my day to pick what we did, and I decided I didn’t want to plan.

Mind you, I spent 10 years (17-27) traveling the world, and long before I had heard about the concept of being present I knew that the essence of traveling was to forego plans and let experience yield what it would.  I always say I’m a snob world traveler, because I do look down on itineraries, and, until the last five years, vacation spots.  (I now know what it’s like to be exhausted enough to just want to lie in the sun and have people bring me things…plus, as I said in my last blog, I am a pseudo-Buddhist-eclectically spiritual etc. princess.)  Anyhow, for the above-mentioned 10 years, I was in love with traveling for the experience of being present and open.  I didn’t know that–I thought the remarkable experiences and connection were what I wanted.  I didn’t know they came from letting go and opening.

So anyhow, my partner and I got on the road–I was driving, and I thought we were heading to Sausalito when suddenly we realize we’re in Marin County and the next thing we see is a sign that says, “Spirit Rock 500 Yards.”  Spirit Rock is the sister insight meditation retreat site to IMS here in Massachusetts.  I’ve felt drawn there, powerfully drawn, and then suddenly there it was.

And here’s the thing–I have truly learned that in life wherever you go, there you are.  In other words, I stopped traveling as a life plan when traveling stopped working for me, when I ended up face to face with myself and in trouble in Tokyo, Japan, not really understanding what the trouble was except that I was lonely and frightened of my own darkness.  So I didn’t expect San Francisco to alleviate my current state of grief and loss, and I was worried about my partner’s expectations of our anniversary celebration.  Until Spirit Rock, I’d been up and down–sometimes really having fun, but some mornings waking up crying.  (Which, since she didn’t go to work, she got to see.)

Of course, we pulled into the long driveway of Spirit Rock, met a couple in the parking lot who talked to us about the place, then walked inside the community center.  We found the bookstore and the day retreat meditation hall.  I said to my partner, “I just really need to go meditate.”  And I did.  For a long time.  Ending, as meditation often does, with an experience of varying mind states, including, but not exclusive to, grief.  Only, unlike long meditations I’ve done before where emotions and mind states pass like weather in New England, the grief took hold for a pretty long time.  I did some restorative yoga, cried for a while, then did some other poses, and ended up utterly grounded and present.

My partner and I went on a wonder hike–meaning, with the inner experience of being grounded and present we hiked up into the hills behind Spirit Rock.  It was by far the best time of the trip.  I was in love with everything–myself, my partner, the light, the woods, the rise and fall of the land, the wind.  An easy kind of being in love, an opening, an acceptance, the world as miracle.

Before we left, I picked up some brochures and memorized some titles in the bookstore, because, face it, I write this blog as part of a quest, a need for a do-over.  I write, as I have all my life, to understand what I’m not yet seeing.  That I make fun of everything along the way is just a bonus.

So, last night I downloaded two of the books onto my Kindle and of course they are about Buddhist precepts because Spirit Rock IS a Buddhist place, so what else?  And with Buddhism, you always get the life-is-suffering-everything-changes-there’s-nothing-you-can-do-about-it-and-your-mind-states-are-wreaking-havoc-in-your-life optimism that I entirely love.  No.  Really.  I mean, I live in America, where we’re all frantically consuming and pretending it makes us happy, so listening to these people say we all suffer, shit happens, it will keep happening and we’re all crazy is just a great relief to me.

Buddhism doesn’t stop there, of course.  After you accept that life is suffering and suffering is caused by craving and aversion and that suffering can end if you follow the 8-fold path, you kind of have to look at the 8-fold path.  And you know what?  Right Intention is one of the 8 folds.  On the path.

I’ve never read about Right Intention in depth before reading book #1 by Phillip Moffit.  I always thought of it as addressing motivation, making sure your motivations weren’t malevolent, evil or unreasonably selfish.  I’m a moralist, so I thought about Right Intention as moral in a Catholic religion sort of way.  But this morning, reading the book, I started to understand that setting intentions is about how we care for ourselves (and others).  Right Intention is truly a building block for peace of mind.

So, I’ve been thinking about Right Intention, and setting mine.  This may come as a surprise to those who expect only self-deprecating humor from me and this blog, but I actually think I’m not terribly far away from Right Intention.  I’m probably not terribly far away from anything on the 8-fold path.  You know.  It’s just a jump to the left.  And then a pelvic thrust.  Let’s do the time warp again.

GOTCHA!

Seriously, I have great values.  I like my values.  But I don’t always know what to do with my intentions.  So let me say here that ahimsa, or non-violence, is number one for me.  I want to practice kindness, honesty, beauty, integrity, compassion and peaceful understanding, I want to be in center and presence and utter self-acceptance.  To start.

I think about the play production we just did, and how I didn’t know how to be kind or compassionate when I was so frustrated with some of the people with whom I worked, and I was playing a character who gave a sermon about the nature of humanity and how we are all broken and redeemed, and that kept me thinking about when to be honest, when to stay silent, the absolute need for center and presence when you’re stepping on stage in 5 minutes or half an hour.

I told my partner, before we went to San Francisco, that the likelihood of my grief remaining in Boston was about nil.  Then, I told her what I’d felt and/or thought when I cried or got quiet for a while.  It is so easy to feel love when you do that.  It’s so easy to like yourself, even in a hard moment.

I don’t think I’m far from Right Intention.  I think it’s simply terrifying to be honest and kind.  To say, “I’m frustrated, because sometimes you do a great job and sometimes you don’t, and I’m worried about talking because I might lose all the work I did to prepare for going on stage, and I don’t know what to do to make things change or even if I can.”

I mean, let people really and truly know what’s going on?  I mean, that’s intimate.  That’s really HARD.  Especially if you’re feeling angry or frustrated and you have a role, like being an actor, that requires utter vulnerability and openness and all your emotional energy.  But I wish I’d said what was going on.  Or maybe I did, at least some of the time, and what I needed to do was accept that it didn’t make a difference.

Like, last night my partner was incessantly playing with her new companion, Siri.  I have made cracks like, “I’d like to get polyamorous with Siri,” or, “Is this Siri’s anniversary trip?”  My partner is a GEEK, and she loves techno toys.  I am an anti-materialist and would love to end my Facebook account.  You know.  We’re married.

But the point is, last night I actually said, “I don’t want to want you more than you want me, and I don’t want to pursue you or ask for more time because I feel needy when I do and that feels humiliating and awful to me.”

I don’t remember what she said, only that she understood.  She’d put down Siri temporarily, anyhow.  But then, 10 minutes later, when I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, she came up behind me and hugged me, saying, “I need you, too.”

Of course, the beauty of Right Intention is that once I’d said that terribly intimate and run-on sentence, I was completely freed of the feelings I’d described.  So I was like, “Okay, but I’m brushing my teeth here.”

I’m not sure that fulfilled my kindness Right Intention, but it certainly hit the honesty one.

And I’m since self-acceptance is on my list of Right Intention things to live by I can say that I accept that I am inappropriately funny on purpose because it’s really fun.

It’s Buddhism.  They say, in Buddhism, to give the practices a test drive.

Right here, right now, testing, 1, 2, 3….