Last Wednesday. The dogs. Mostly lost. Zippy, Jack Russell, in the alley ran zig- zagging and in circles. Got him into our yard, until his person came. Wire-haired terrier raced across Mountain View. When I returned Sally to her yard, later that day, after a moment of longing, she gave up and trotted in her own house. She probably forgot about me before I even heard the plastic flapping of the dog door. Even at night, during the thunder, while we were sitting, Lobi poked his nose right up to the screen before running off, looking for a place that didn’t thunder.
Wednesday I also went out, became lost, and came back.
The brilliant duet of Joan Anderson and Robert Spellman led a Dharma Art retreat called something like “Going Out and Coming Back.” That’s what we do. When I am sitting the teachers always say, Gently come back. They know that that going out and coming back hurts! My mind goes somewhere else, then I return to where I actually sit. That’s how it goes.
Wednesday . Sitting. Ugly, jazzed, wired. lonely, anxious. nervous and critical of what I must do for my class. I want to have fun, to be loose. Then I realize this thing has a name, STRESS. Ha!
So– I breathe, and feel those sitting around me, and make a new plan. I ask, What is required? What can I do to relieve stress? Once it’s identified it’s easy. I don’t have to do the following things:
(add your list here_______________________________________________
go out come back out back out back out back out out out out out out ding back.
Home. Maybe I’m 14 years old. I carry a box of books, a box of stones and shells. My salty clothes, car slept in. Unsticking my body from the back seat of the plymouth valiant. Whose house is this? Who am I here? Porch light on. I open the screen door. All the earwigs fall and beetles of all different kinds cling to the screen door… Kitchen formica counter super green. My body feels huge indoors compared to buoyancy of boats, big cold salt ocean, rocky Maine coast, sky. Lights flip on and off with a finger. I could trace every part and know this place by its inches. In the dark I could say, this is the pine bookcase and this is the giant bird book, here, on the third shelf, four books in, and this is the worn rug fabric piece wrapped and fastened to the edge of the brick fireplace. Here’s the knob on the smooth wood railing, where the stairs turn. In those few moments of returning, things were brilliant, new, and familiar but I was a stranger to them. Hello stairs up. Hello living room windows. Hello rocking chair. The parts of what I knew as home, my ideas of this place no longer hardened and fortified into a solid self. I could no more say this place is me, then I could say I am the white throated sparrow out this kitchen window, at the feeder. I watched myself dismiss the strangeness. The crack in the fabric faded before I even made it to my bedroom.
Some teachers seem to talk as if these experiences are not private, somehow. Or maybe that’s how I heard it. The small break in the sense of self is deeply personal and looks all sorts of ways.
So, I am willing to sit here.
Sit and sit and sit and sit and sit and sit and sit…
In the process of returning my thoughts to my seat, the flash bucket of now, I feel pain. Is the pain from going out, from being lost? Or is the pain from dragging my mind back to this moment? I don’t know. I call it boredom. I want to leave. Instead I breathe in and then I exhale. I feel my belly rise and fall. I go in. This time staying is so intense a tear falls.
I say hello.
That’s when the few tears come. That’s when I say I am home to the homeless home. There is no me to return to. I come back to sensations, this body. I come back to my vows to be with all things. I return to the Buddha. I return to Dharma. I return to Sangha.
One’s true nature. The teachings. Community.
Trungpa called it the tender heart of sadness……I say to myself, tender heart of sadness.
~ o ~