Today’s slogan is, In postmeditation, be a child of illusion.
This is slogan number six, because I completely skipped the first one. I read all about it and then promptly absorbed it as something other than a slogan: First, train in the preliminaries.
That is really what I am doing now. Learning preliminaries. How to sit, how to breathe, how to stop the crazy-mind from racing and fretting and churning with unhelpfulness.
So, in post-meditation, understand that all dharmas are dream, and that the world is illusion. But not in a heavy-handed way or in a calculated shedding of responsibility. Not in a way that makes you flippant about a speeding ticket or sanctimonious about the dishes.
Today, while sitting, I kept coming back to thoughts about people I resent. There are a few, and one of them has rudely intruded (knowing full well that she is not welcome) into my social media space. I could block her, but I’m trying to let go of my anger. Not so we can be friends again, because I need positive influences, not toxic vampires… But see? Already I am mad again, like I was nearly 30 years ago, and again, 15 years ago when I tried to make nice. So I stewed. I stewed on why I was angry at her and her friends who used to be mine. Man, did they mock me relentlessly for all my earnestness. Every strange thing I liked was appalling, and I was regularly castigated for “doing it wrong.” I liked bad music. I read terrible books. I was nice to all the wrong people. I was already too gullible, too tender–aren’t you allowed to be with someone who says she’s your sister? But, she comes from anger and rage and has steeped in it like a soggy tea bag her whole life so that all she knows is the murky water of passive/aggression. This is how I try to let it go: she doesn’t know any better. But the reason I can’t, is because why didn’t I? Why did I think those women were my friends? Why did I waste all those days and months and years of high school with selfish, small-minded jerks, instead of all the lovely people I was actually surrounded by? I wanted the Pink Lady jacket so bad, is why. I wanted the private jokes and the intimacy that only a particularly toxic kind of girl-friendship breeds. I believed, at the time, that reading books made a person smart. And that smartness made a person better. What did I know?
So, you know, that’s what I tried really hard not to keep thinking about.
There was something Pema Chödrön said in the chapter I read, about living your life in the moment, instead of always doing something else–the example she gave is going to the airport and instead of reading a book, sitting and looking around, taking it all in, don’t always be writing things down, she said. I thought, oh shit! I guess I can’t be a Buddhist after all! First, because I love to read and there isn’t a ton of time to do it when you are always always working because your untreated executive dysfunction coupled with money-famine anxiety, and just regular old anxiety-anxiety tells you that you need to save more for tomorrow. Which is technically true, having lost all of my savings and the last shred of my trust in the systems of this capitalist democracy on that one dark day a lifetime ago–and that only serves to make me even more impossible to talk down. BUT I DIGRESS.
What she meant, I believe, was more like Work while you’re working and don’t when you’re not. In Laramie, the kind monk who came to town once a week to lead us in chants and then meditation, once said that he felt terrible for the people walking around with headphones in their ears. And I thought, It me. I need this music when I walk or run, because running is a goddamn drag but at least I have some fast music to remind me of the pace when I space out daydreaming about all the people who have wronged me. I quietly raged against that guy for YEARS. Like, who the hell just runs around without headphones? What am I supposed to think about while I am struggling against the wind and the ground and the molasses in my legs? Anyway. I don’t wear headphones anymore. It’s not that I love my music any less. I like playing it in my car, when I find myself there. But something at some point clicked, and I would rather hear the stuff around me, now. So, it just might end up being the case that eventually I go to airports without a book or knitting, but probably not. But I do take that as a sign to stay out of my phone more. If there is one thing that the phone puts a hard stop to, it is living in the present.
In other news, my essay and Vixen have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. I know all life is suffering and the world is illusion, but it was heartening to read kind words about that essay, when I was pretty sure that words of any import had long ago fled the building of my brain box. Here’s to being better at lightening up and looking up and out more.