Arrogance

I remember a conversation I had with my stepfather many years ago. He was one of the deacons of our church, and he was quite well educated in Protestant dharma. He had books in Greek and Hebrew in his personal library and was conversant in the various important concepts in his faith: grace, sin, faith, salvation, etcetera. He was getting on in years when I knew him. He’d been divorced and remarried and he’d had several children who were themselves grown. He had the manner of a wise and experienced man who had learned to laugh at himself and to be gentle with others.

I was in my early teens, just starting to go through puberty; a lonely kid who didn’t get along well with my peers. I was a big Jesus nerd, interested in all the nuances of doctrine and fascinated with anyone who would actually talk with me one on one about that. So, when we fell into talking about doctrine in a car ride home from an errand, he had my full and undivided attention. Somehow we wound up talking about grace and sin. His idea, which made sense to my young mind, was that since faith in the sacrifice of Jesus was all that was needed to free us from sin, then as long as we maintained faith then any action we could take in that moment would itself be right correct and free from sin. It’s a nuanced position, and one with flaws. I won’t attempt to analyze it here; that could be a lengthy treatise and anyway I trust that my readers will have little problem intuiting the inherent difficulties with that position.

Three months later, my stepfather, this wise man and deacon of our church, initiated a sexual relationship with me. I will not describe in this post the damage that was incurred by this action. I will let it suffice to say that I spent decades repairing the rift in my soul. I am fortunate to have stumbled onto a spiritual path that has allowed me the confidence, self-love, and awareness needed to work with my past.

There is an arrogance that is the achilles heel of the advanced practitioner. And though it’s usually nowhere near as obvious and agregious as my step-father’s indescretion with me, I still see it in myself: I am so profoundly comforted and at ease compared to the time before I found this path that I forget that I’m not done growing. I get caught up in how far I’ve come, and how wonderful my life is now. I also tend to think that because I’ve taken on so many practices and come so far in the curriculum of my school that I am somehow better than I was. It becomes easy to identify with the unconditional buddha nature within me and to forget that I am still here, still human with all my flaws, bogey-men, fallacies, habits, and assumptions.

Discovering unconditional confidence, buddha-nature, christ consciousness, whatever you call it, is wonderfully freeing. My teacher often refers to that confidence we all have as a razor. Razors are very sharp and very responsive instruments. And, they respond to habitual patterns as well as skillful decision-making. As people who are maturing on the road to consciousness, it is our responsibility to avoid mistaking confidence for license. It’s important for us to slow down, apply discipline and pay attention to our actions. We are the vanguard for the awakenment of the human race, which is exciting. But we must always remember that we are not in this to leave others behind. In fact, it’s important to lead from the rear, like generals. So let’s be kind to ourselves and the rest of our comrades.

In the immortal words of Sergeant Esterhaus: Let’s be careful out there.

*****

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote a book about this sort of thing: Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. I cannot recommend it enough.

Rain

How can you just leave me standing alone in a world that’s so cold? This is what it sounds like…

Imagine a man who reads Greek and Hebrew, knows his Bible, his New Testament, conversant quickly and deeply in Protestant dharma. Imagine the good-natured laugh of a man who’s had kids, divorced, remarried, lost most of his teeth, runs a fast-food joint in Greenville. Imagine the warmth, the male pulse, the blood that runs into the root of the body. Imagine an intelligent guardian who is too clever and lets the boundaries slip.

Imagine the quick imagination of a lonely child and the scarcity of intelligent conversation. Imagine the child with too much space. Imagine genius with no direction; no guidance. Imagine pubescence for a child with nobody around to shame her for masturbation. Imagine the frustration in discovering the limits of found objects and fingers, wanting more, and the mind that always wants more, the merging of sexual energy and creative energy – one doesn’t need a catalyst to combine energies that were never truly separate. But the confusion that emerges in the mind as the muse, the ad-hoc guardian and potential teacher becomes a sexual partner and the desire, deeply embedded in the body/mind for partner to become lover, and the knowledge that this is theft, this is wrong, I am wrong. But I still need. I still love. But, love is always wrong.

And I am standing here, in the rain. I only wanted to be in the rain with you, with him, with the Beloved. I only wanted to know you, to see you laughing, to see you laughing in my rain.

After all of this, I still love you. I still believe in you.

I still believe in me.

*****

With all my respect and love to Prince. Thank you for the inspiration.

Fire and Water: Bringing the Turbulent Relationship Down to a Simmer

Good morning, folks!

It’s been a long time since I posted. I’ve been sick with a cold that, as my colds always do, became a sinusitis. For some reason, this time the sinusitis simply would not clear up, so even though I beat the bug, I still didn’t get better. But now, with much help from various people, especially with major props to my Ear Nose and Throat guy, I am starting to feel a lot better. I was stuck with this for two months, so it’s really good to be re-entering the stream of my life.

*****

Since the beginning of the year of the fire monkey, I have been thinking about fire energy. I was born in the year of the water rat, so that got me thinking about the relationship between water and fire. If you look on the surface of the situation, water beats fire, right? Pour some water on a campfire, and you know what I mean. It seems a simple situation: they just don’t mix. But if you put water into a pot and place that over a fire, the water will steam and boil. If you leave the water there without a cover for too long or leave the fire too hot, the water will boil away to nothing.

So, why the physics lesson? Relationships. These qualities of the natural world have a lot to do with relationships. I am one of those people who fall in love madly and deeply and then find that things just never work out. I am too much for my muse. What sane person wants another person hanging on their arm all the time? This is the dampening quality of water. Throw it on the fire, and nothing’s there, right? What was a wonderful, lively fire is rendered into damp ashes, and a muddy pit. Being in love sparks a lot of creativity and fosters a sense of well-being, and for me it seems to make all the irritations in my life easier to work with. That’s the utility of fire. It renders inert water active. But getting too close to the fire makes the water boil over, and that’s not helpful.

But hold the water too far away and nothing happens. Cold, inert water stays the way it always was. So, what’s the solution? Well, it’s the pot. The container is what makes the situation work. Hold the pot over the fire at the right distance and you can cook a good soup. In some relationships, closeness is fine. Water and earth get along great. Fire and air spark and grow all over the place. Which can be auspicious and/or burn somebody’s house down, which is another story, but suffice to say they get on well with each other. Water and fire need a careful distance, and a lot of patience.

Creative, dramatic energy flows like water; it splashes all over the place. Throw it in the air and rainbows appear. Sprinkle it on the ground and flowers grow. But some of us need a catalyst, at least I seem to. Maybe I’ve been stuck in my pot for too long. But throwing myself out of the pot doesn’t seem to be the answer. And neither is avoiding the fire.

But a little bit of distance, and a sense of acceptance towards that container, the pot, seems to be a step in the right direction. If I can stay put and maintain a steady distance from my source of inspiration, maybe steam will form. I’ve been working on this, and it seems to help a lot.

And you know what they say: a watched pot never boils. So, if you find yourself in one of these relationships where you are so connected but it’s just too turbulent, consider this connection to the natural world. See for yourself whether the water and fire analogy works.