I have been reflecting on what I should really be planning…it seemed clear earlier this year – I had an epiphany while on my umpteenth visit to Karme Choling (a residential dharma center in Vermont) that I should move there for a couple of years. But since then, I’ve been practicing a lot and newer practices as well, and been engaged in my life, and engaging with dharma practice in the real world, and feeling torn between the potential rich thoroughness of dharma center life and the existing rich thoroughness all around me here in New York.
I’m craving the opportunity to go back to school and study art – to have a studio and the chance to explore. It’s been my dream to be in a situation where I am actually expected to be creating things, but where my eating and having a bed to sleep in are not dependent on it. Because of various aspects of my karma, it has eluded me. My insight into spending 2 years or so becoming very grounded in meditation practice and with a small community was that I would also have more time to practice art-making, and creating a portfolio that could be submitted to MFA programs. Then once a degree was completed, there would be the option of teaching art for a living, or finding work as a commercial artist.
But I started questioning these premises recently, and asked a friend who knows me well and has some perspective on the dharma/career thing what he thought about my plan. It created a lot of open space in my thought process which is good. My main takeaway is the practicality and seeing a bigger picture. I’m 40. I have $60,000 in student loan debt from my BA in Art History 8 years ago. I don’t own a place to live, and have little saved for old age. I’m unmarried, live alone, and have non-existent family support. His view is that I should have a home, some land, some basics and extend out from there – go back to school, take time off for a dharma year or two. It’s such an appealing idea – all my life besides wanting to make art I’ve just wanted a home, a place that I can extend out from. But that has eluded me as well. Everything is so much more complex and interdependent – certainly in the New York area, where no one can afford to buy anything. Where my student loan debt is itself a mortgage.
My attachment to my dream seems like an obstacle I need to dispell. My friend said he could see me with a Public Health degree, applying my creativity in a related field. On another occasion when we were talking about the election campaigns, he saw my analytical brain working in politics. Neither has much appeal but maybe it’s my own stubbornness that keeps me from letting go of art and trying to be curious about these alternatives. Certainly, being a secretary in an Investment Bank is limited in making use of my abilities.
I have no idea where these contemplations are headed, but I’m going to ask a few more people the basic question: what do you think about my plan?