Bright Sands and Dark Nights
Aversion to Practice and Practitioners
For the past week I feel as though I’ve been adrift in some moderate lapse of faith. And I’m not sure what triggered it. Perhaps, as I discussed with DreamWalker, I am in fact actually sometimes still experiencing insight stages, in this case mild Reobservation (the “rolling up the mat” stage). I felt unmotivated to practice or tidy my room all week. I wouldn’t even keep my altar nice. In fact my sloppy bedroom seemed a mirror in which I stubbornly met the eye of my own anger.
I think I feel a little cut adrift and alone in my practice, meaning I am averse to being around Buddhists and even distrust the tradition, texts, and most teachers. So that is Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – now cut off. So is it any wonder that this feels like a crisis of faith? All the trappings and external supports are falling away. And I’m somehow now too pissed about that to support myself through practice.
Back to the Past to Gather Little Jenny in My Arms
When we last talked, my teacher suggested that I address my insomniac hyper-vigilance by practicing tonglen for Little Jenny at those moments of horror at her having had to parent her parents. I’ve done this only once. I found I couldn’t bring up the moments of my father’s failings or my mother’s seizure, both of which traumatized me and the latter of which caused me to hallucinate for about 10 days, without sleep, when I was 18 years old – a psychiatric crisis. Those hallucinations were of everything organic decaying rapidly before my eyes, dying. It was terrifying, and even though I knew they were just hallucinations, I couldn’t make them stop and I couldn’t sleep lest one of my loved ones actually die because I neglected to keep watch. A psychologist at the university finally hypnotized me with a suggestion to be able to sleep. I did nap at my best friend’s a couple of hours later, and when I awoke the hallucinations had stopped. But ever since that event, I’ve had a problematic relationship with sleep, delaying bedtime and struggling with insomnia.
Although I couldn’t retake those moments with any coherence during practice, I was able to go even further back in time and stare down at Very Little Jenny of about 3 years old. She had a patch on her eye and was wearing a plaid dress, red cardigan, and tights. It wasn’t formal tonglen, but with my current Big Jenny strength, I gathered her up in my arms and poured on the love and compassion. She was fragile and smelled sweet, like honeysuckle.
An Invisible Vehicle Built for One and Sunk in Sands
Perhaps the anger that began sometime afterward and persisted isn’t a crisis at all, though. Perhaps it is part of the abandonment of all devices and conditions. Months ago I had a dream of a teacher who didn’t speak to me but just cried desert sand out of his two cow’s skull eye sockets.
My real-life teacher explained that in alchemical process there is an arid “drying up” phase. Excess emotionality is drying up. The excited connection with other practitioners I enjoyed in the Dharma Underground is no more. I’m no longer manufacturing emotion and drama. More recently, I’ve dreamed that I’m riding a bicycle from place to place during the day. Whenever I arrive where I must interact, I lay the bike down on its side and stare at it until it sinks into sand and becomes invisible. I think this is a symbol for my vehicle of practice. It is solo and I hide it from everyone in the arid sinkholes of dreamtime.
The Field of Fear and Rage
It was a hard week. Everyone on social media has been raging and fear-mongering over the election of Donald Trump as president. I tried three times to urge calm and clarity, but everyone wanted to foment and cast that kind of field. I’m super-sensitive to that sort of thing now, and I perhaps should have withdrawn sooner. This field is chaos and confusion. No one knows what news is real, whether Julian Assange has been murdered, or whether the difference between Trump and Clinton is mere distraction from the more sinister forces behind all apparent thrones.
And my son had a hard week, was violently ill and having to adjust to great injustice done him.