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.

Palpable Medicine Buddha Magick

Yesterday I went to the local Tibetan center for the first time since December 2012, when I left partly because I was incredulous about anything smacking of magick. There were plenty of additional reasons I left, just to be clear. Nowadays, having realization, I say, “Yay for the Tibetans, for they have the mother lode of magick!”

Dream Context

This event I sat yesterday was a an elaborate two-hour Medicine Buddha puja with five visiting monks and Geshe-la from the center, who, by the way, I long ago knew to be psychic. In fact, I have to consider Geshe-la one of my early teachers, for back in 2011 I had a dream in which I saw myself sleeping in the bed and saw him robed, barefoot, and floating a few feet above the bedpost to look down on me.

I also have a connection with the lapis-colored Medicine Buddha. In 2011, I had an extraordinarily clear dream in which I was walking a dirt path to a white gazebo, only I never arrived any closer for all the walking. In the white gazebo was the lapis Lord of Medicine, floating in lotus position a bit above the floor of the gazebo. We communicated without speaking. His eyes told me to keep walking the path, so I did, despite my lack of progress. Then it started raining what looked like dogflower blossoms, which are a traditional symbol of the crucifix on which Christ died. They filled the landscape with pure white.

The Healing Ritual

Yesterday, the monks chanted the whole ritual in Tibetan, so it wasn’t one of the usual ones that the laypersons participate in by speaking the evocations in English. Geshe told us to just take it in by saying mantras or visualizing the Medicine Buddha above our heads. 

Rigpa was blazing. At times I did the visualization. At a certain point, the Medicine Buddha, as light, descended into my crown and down into my subtle heart. I sat, in essence, as the Medicine Buddha. Then I started visualizing each of my friends who is disturbed by physical disease or mental affliction. I took up each, one at a time, holding him or her in that light.

I felt and saw each friend, and I could feel in my body and mind exactly what flavor and extent of anguish each suffered. I practiced tonglen for each, taking that pain into myself and breathing out peace, white light, and joy to them.

I almost forgot to care for myself, but I focused at the end on my migraine disease and, as I did during the empowerment a month ago, I thought briefly of these three small plantar warts on my left foot, which I have had and been unable to make go away for years. I felt purification flow through me, head to feet.

Altered State and Loss of Time 

As soon as I had walked into the gompa yesterday, I felt an extraordinary level of awareness and energy. When the chanting began, I was soon in some kind of altered state that warped my sense of duration: The event was two hours by clock time, but it felt like 30 minutes at most. Chunks of time had slipped away. 

At one point during the bizarre quadraphonic chanting, everything became extraordinarily altered, the way it did in March when I entered that hypnagogic state while John was pointing out, after which he had said to me, “Sometimes you have to just get out of the way.” 

In this scene yesterday I was saying to myself, “This is a dream, this is a dream, this is a dream.” Everything was extra-vivid and extra-translucent, like a dream. Awareness was everywhere, without reference point or origin, but it was also blasting out in all directions from my own heart center, which was turning up the blaze of the entire field. The field fed “my” fire, and my heart fed the forest fire ripping through the field, ripping through my heart-mind.

Strangely Attractive Generosity in the Aftermath

After the puja was over, with unsurpassable clarity of mind and heart, and with zero tiredness, I went into the library to look at the center’s dharma books. In my peripheral vision, I saw Geshe exiting the gompa and making a beeline for me. I turned, and he was standing there, looking into my eyes. He said, “Thank you very much for coming.” Out of pure reflex, my hands swiftly came together at heart center and I bowed a little toward him, and said, “Thank you!” Geshe spoke to no one else. He left.

I went to a restaurant once I was back in my community, to eat supper. Then some unusual things happened. I was standing in line, and this man who appeared to be in some kind of Jewish garb, followed me around and kept trying to talk to me. Finally, he said, “Do you want to sit with me and talk.” I’m shy, and I thought this was strange. I had decided before entering the restaurant that I was going to sit outside and enjoy the spring air, so I politely declined and walked outside with my food.

I sat at a picnic table, and suddenly this good-looking man, who was there with his wife and child, and was at the table right next to me, said, “Are you eating alone? Will you come sit with us and talk?”

This blew my mind! No strangers ever ask me to sit with them and commune, and here it occurred twice in a row, in the same setting! 

 A girl who worked for the restaurant heard the man offer me a place at his table. She dropped her broom, ran inside, and brought out a big chocolate cake, which she gave to him, saying, “This is on the house because no act of kindness should go unnoticed.” The wife looked at me and said, “What does it say about society that kindness is so rare that it needs to be rewarded?” I replied to her, “Maybe the kindest way to take things in this case it to think of that cake not as a reward for your kindness, but as the girl’s own kindness.”

Later, when I was leaving a liquor store with some liqueur, a woman saw me hesitate while backing my car out. She ran over to me and asked if she could direct me out so that this other car wouldn’t hit me. It was unnecessary, for the car was stopped, but she insisted repeatedly until I accepted the kindness. 

Before bed, I looked at the bottom of my foot. The plantar warts appeared to be nearly gone. That’s good, because I have more dirt path to walk before I arrive at the place where the Medicine Buddha sits perfectly suspended beyond space, beyond time, beyond all illusion of distance and separateness.