It’s been nearly a year of traveling since my long stay at Karmé Chöling, after closing up my life in New York in 2013 and embarking on a sea journey to a more meaningful life and livlihood. I have some reflections about how my time there, and some years of dharma practice in general, have affected my life. Nothing earth-shattering yet it feels right to offer these thoughts. One aspect is meditation practice, which has developed more dimension and relaxation that filters into my days in subtle ways. I have more patience and appreciate myself and others more, yet have much less tendency to solidify identities. Especially in relationships, I am not as inclined to feel embarrassment or inadequacy when there is a misunderstanding of any kind, especially of the heart. I still experience potent periods of overwhelm, doubt, discouragement, confusion, desire, frustration – but they no longer feel endemic to my existence, as I see so much of it is in common with everyone. Although I have deep-seated habitual modes of protecting myself, I am more brave in how I communicate, most of the time, and see more quickly when I try to manipulate situations or make things “turn out” in some pre-conceived way. Most significantly, I am allowing myself to fall in love unabashedly, again and again, after a couple of decades of keeping the world at arms length. For all who have been a part, wittingly or not, of this fragile awakening, thank you for the tremendous gift of opening my heart. It feels good to know it is still alive.
Still, I wish I could experience this open heart with all of its inspiration and energy more. I lose contact with it a lot of the time. It seems to only be accessible when in honest communication, difficult and fear-inducing though that is, with another human being. When all pretense about hope, expectation or desire is recognized and let go, and we stop trying to protect ourselves. So easily seen in hindsight, so hard to achieve in the moment. The dance with vulnerability often seems crazy, unsensible, destabilizing—and yet the alternative perpetuates so much more pain.
I am writing from Vienna, my last day of a long visit here which included staffing the half Dathun in Hungary, a profoundly deep retreat for such a short time. I head to Dechen Chöling for the rest of the summer, which will fly quickly but promises more chances to dance and fall and evolve my understanding. My boat still has a lot of sea to cross before finding a port – see you along the way.
[cross-posted on Shambhala Network]