Yesterday’s blog post seems sour to me. I feel like I want to apologize for it. I want to be able to be frank, to tell my own truths even when they’re dark. But I don’t want to practice that ugliness itself in my posts. Even as I write I realize there is no real way to avoid this (not being a saint). I’m not always going to know when ugliness decides to sneak in without my consent. I don’t blame myself for bristling at what the teachers say or for feeling left out. That’s just human, and I want to be able to be human even when it makes me look petty or ungracious. But I should have said I know the teachers don’t mean any harm. They’re not trying to put themselves above the rest of us, even though that’s how it strikes me when it happens. I know this is true because of how they feel to me as people. Because they wouldn’t do that. This was just their lead-in to talk about their truths, to tell us what they have come to know over time through their regular meditation practice. One of our teachers reminds us often not to take her word for things. The Buddha tells us to experiment for ourselves, to not take anything he claims on faith. But for me, neglecting to acknowledge the teachers’ intentions are not to set themselves above us, are not to exclude anyone—this is not to me the worst part of my last blog post. The worst part is the way I put myself above them at the end. How hopefully I would do better. I would be more inclusive. What crazy hubris was this, and right in the wake of accusing them of the very same thing? I knew I wasn’t comfortable with the post at the time, but I was tired, and I was determined to make my Friday deadline. I didn’t look close, didn’t recognize why it made me squirm. Now I am embarrassed, but I think, too, I’ll just be glad for the humbling in all this. I don’t want to put ugly things out in the world if I can help it, to have them sour the overall flavor of my posts. Even if I end up having to return the next day, belated recognition of what I did without knowing. Please accept my apologies.
Saturday morning it comes to me that all unknowing I have begun an endeavor that involves a considerable amount of intellectual or conceptual effort. What the Buddha laid out all those centuries ago is intricate and many layered. And I have not committed myself to studying it. In fact, I think part of me resists it. This morning I have a bad moment. What if I keep going and find myself caught up in a structure that constricts me? I flash on being stuck inside the Buddha’s system, unable to free myself from the sticky strands of that web. What if I am unable to have a thought without naming it, categorizing it? Ah, this self-conscious feeling, this is clinging in the category of self. Or, oh, the sun has gone behind the mountain, and I am cold. Is that aversion in the category of sensual pleasures? Sunday night there is socializing after the meditation and teaching. I nibble on the millet raisin cookies I made and try to talk to people. I am awkward and not very present. I am so uncomfortable, I leave early without saying goodbye to anyone. My mind races as I walk home in the rain. I am judging myself, my discomfort, my rambling speech. I realize this is the biggest learning curve I have been in since I began to teach for the first time. But I have forgotten to be kind to myself. Notice, yes. Pay attention. But gently. Lovingly. I remind myself of that surprising bit of rainbow I woke up to, curled on my side, the bands of color tucked into the curve of the mountain before me. And the next morning before dawn, the waning moon and Mars in the clerestory window when I roll over in bed. Gifts from the universe, reassurance. And the small quiet gang of wintering white-crowned sparrows that gather in the courtyard just before dark, tiny beloved aliens who call in a language I don’t know. Something eases within me. Yes. And again, yes. I choose this.