Why do some people feel compelled to search for the meaning of life while others are perfectly content to accept life as it is?  Is it all connected with happy childhoods?

I’ve been asking myself this all morning.  I’m continually poking and prodding myself and the world around me, I can never leave things alone, just like my hives which are spreading across my body and face, now that I’m off of the prednisone.  Before last week, they got to the point where I spent the entire day agonizing over the itch, imagining worms crawling all over my body, tiny maggots squirming in every bump.  I poked and rubbed my bumps to see which ones were getting larger and which ones, if any, were getting smaller.

On Friday I decided that this has to come to an end.  I decided not to call the doctor and get more, probably different, more powerful, and just as useless, drugs for the problem.  I cranked up the meditating, stopped the ambien that I’ve been using for months for sleep, and went to Whole Foods for healthy foods and vitamins.

Now, I see that the bumps are spreading, but I’m no longer viewing them as worms crawling all over my body.  I need to move past this and get on with my life.  Now I’m viewing every poison-ivy-like-itchy bump as a harmless annoyance that I’m not going to let get the best of me.  Thus the intense meditating, tai chi, chanting of my buddhist mantra, etc.

But back to the topic of my post.  Just like the hives, why do I poke and prod at my life and why am I continually trying to find myself?

How I ended up with John for a husband I have no idea.  He’s not like me at all in this regard.  He never asks “what is life really all about?” he just lives it from day to day, happily.  He’s like my dogs.  He has an innate dharma.  I can never seem to find the one true meaning of life, it’s a daily quesion that continually accompanies me wherever I go.  I need an explanation for everything, I need context, I need understanding.  I need to write about everything, work it out, psychoanalyze it.

What’s with me?

I must be a Buddhist, although I don’t think there’s any such thing, unless you’re a Buddhist monk or the Dalai Lama.  I belong to an online “sangha”.  It’s a Yahoo mailing list.  No one ever posts except one person, who posts dharma stories.  He once posted a poll asking how many people followed the precepts.  I was the only one who said that I didn’t follow the precepts (’cause there was only one person who voted that way — must have been me :P).  I wonder if it’s possible for anyone in our western society to say they follow the precepts and be telling the truth?  I strive to follow them, for sure.  But there are still stumbling blocks I have, so I can’t truthfully say I follow them.

Still, my heart goes out to Tibet and dilemma of the Dalai Lama.  What would the world be like with the extinction of probably the last culture on Earth whose very existence revolves around the concept of peace?

For the past couple of days I’ve been doing my Morning Pages before my meditating and not after.  Morning Pages are 3+ pages of constant, nonstop, stream-of-consciousness writing.  Just continuous writing, with no idea of correctness or incorrectness, everything is game.

Morning Pages are a concept I’ve read about in several books.  The Artist’s Way is the book that gave it this name and triggered me to actually doing it.  In order for them to be most effective, you’re supposed to do them when you first get up, and before you’re completely awake.  In that way, your mind is still in a state where it’s not awake enough to actually pre-filter anything that comes out of the pen.

This morning I sat down, still sleepy, to do my Morning Pages.  I started off by writing that I had nothing to write about, and can we please get our Morning Pages over with so I can start my day….  grumble, grumble, etc. etc.

Before I knew it, I segued into writing about an especially difficult relationship that I have in my life.  I wrote about how I didn’t like this particular person, what I didn’t like about them, how I hate the way they do this and do that.  I kept writing and writing and bitching about this person.  As I wrote, I found myself writing out every tiny minute thing about my faults in the relationship and their faults in the relationship and why I react to them in the way that I do, and alternatively what must be going through their heads when they react to me.  It was almost like a one-person play, where the one person is me talking about this person in a monologue, no holds barred.  I described every little tiny detail about our relationship that I could think of, going back and forth talking about myself and then talking about them:  Looking at me through their eyes, and then looking at them through my own eyes.

I ended up going through an experience that is identical to what I’ve gone through in the past with therapists, only better because I was talking about the problem in my own way.  My head was controlling the flow and direction, not someone outside of my head.

My Morning Pages completely unravelled this relationship.  I wrote stuff I could never say out loud (cause it’s, well, seriously bitchy).  I was able to completely partition out the relationship section by section, and take each section as a separate entity.  I threw away stuff that really seemed explosive at the time but were not related to the core problems.  After doing this sectioning and culling, I was left with one or two things which described the exact trigger points for me.  I could build every single event and attitude I had about this person from these trigger points.

I wrote 5 pages as I picked through my brain on all of the issues.  When I got to the root cause(s), I looked at the history of behavior of this person and anything else I knew about them.  I found myself replacing my knee-jerk emotional reactions with a seed of compassion.  I think my Morning Pages and meditating are making me a better person.

This morning I found myself in my Morning Pages describing the place that I go when I meditate.   Later in the morning I tried to describe it to John, and discovered that it’s such a personal thing that you cannot hope for anyone to understand it unless they’ve been there themselves.  We humans communicate to each other in inaccuracies.  We can only express coarse approximations of ideas, thoughts and feelings.  So I would never expect anyone who reads this to understand unless they themselves have experienced it.  And yet it’s profound enough that it deserves mention as a fundamental part of my journey to strip the roadblocks away and find the creative part of myself.

I’ve been meditating off and on for 7 years now.  Mostly off.  When I was going through cancer treatments in 2001, I attended meditation classes through a group called Rigpa, taught by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher named Sogyal Rinpoche.  I was introduced to the group through his book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying which I found amazingly comforting during a period where I was forced to confront the very real possibility of dying for the first time in my life.

I attended the classes for about 6 months even though I only meditated on days when I felt a desperate need for comfort and release from all of the various stresses that cancer and its treatments bring.

It seems that, regardless of how casual you have been about meditating, every time you sit, it generates some sort of tiny piece of memory that stays in your brain.  I’ve been sitting daily for the past 4 months or so now.  I started off with once a day, and then increased to twice a day when I began doing my Morning Pages about 3 or 4 weeks ago, usually 10-15 minutes in the morning, and about 20 minutes in the evening, nothing seriously hardcore.  Now, after 7 years of off-and-on meditating where it has been mostly off, I’ve finally reached a point where I’m beginning to understand some things.

Nobody can actually teach you how to meditate since each of us is a unique individual.  The classes give you tools and guidance, but then it’s up to you to sit every single day and study your mind and figure out how to use the tools to clear your mind of the thoughts and emotional manipulations that seem to consume our very beings day in and day out.  The tools include things such as sacred spaces, candles, verbal guided meditations, mantras, a group of people to meditate with, etc. etc.  The real learning is that which you do on your own.  You take the tools in the toolkit and take yourself into the real learning space where you are both teacher and student.

Rinpoche used to say a phrase over and over and over:  “Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form”.  It’s something that in his classes you hear so much you have it etched into your brain, even though you may be otherwise clueless as to what it means.

This place of meditation is a place of nothingness.  It’s a place that has no beginning and no end, no up nor down, no past nor present.  I have no body and no mind there.  There are no other things or beings or thoughts in this place, because there’s a sort of a filter that keeps all that out.  It’s almost like it’s a separate dimension that is completely devoid of anything perceptible of this world.  It’s not a high, it’s not a scrunch-the-eyes and imagine sort of place.  It’s a place of infinite space and yet nothingness.

If you strip away all, and you’re left with this infinity of nothingness, what you have left is complete and utter peace.

Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form.

Wealth and Poverty

January 17, 2008

It’s quite an anachronism to think about a buddhist monk in the United States teaching people.  We in the United States tend to value people based upon how much money they have, educational level, corporate position.  We put no value on inner peace.
The buddhist monks value the mind, and your attitude towards the world and put no value on physical possessions, wealth, or social status.
We look at them, dressed simply and probably owning very little to no actual possessions, and asking for donations, as being impoverished.  They look at us, dressed in Gap jeans and wearing expensive sunglasses, as being impoverished.
We are impoverished in our spiritual state.  We run around from day to day, stressed out.  We come home and take a drink or three to unstress, sleeping pills to get through the nights, video games to escape.  We don’t know what it’s like to be at total peace with the world and ourselves.
I think back upon a very good childhood friend.  I would visit her and see flavored vitamins in her kitchen.  Her mother made her homemade yogurt for snacks.  The things she created in school decorated the house.  Her house eminated a feeling that she was a precious and cherished being whose every effort was valued.  Now that I think back on that friend, I understand that what I saw was how incredibly rich and empowered this friend was to be exactly who she was, to go in whatever directions her soul took her.  There is no doubt in my mind that she’s grown up to be a very successful person in whatever her field turned out to be.
Wealth and poverty have so many different meanings in this world, depending upon your perspective.  Each of us has it within us to be incredibly wealthy, even more than Bill Gates.  I just depends upon who we are and where we decide our real, true joy lies.