La Revolution

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Question: What is the difference between a teacher and a guru?

Answer: A teacher points the way. The guru is the Way. In the course of your awakening you will have thousands of teachers. Throughout all of this teaching, the guru waits, beckoning from beyond.

Be Here Now, Cook Book For A Sacred Life; Ram Dass, Pg. 6

I think we’re all waiting for the payoff.

The big reveal. — The moment of release. The summation of all this pain and toil. An unveiling of some blessed reason for the world’s continued suffering, and, what is certain to be, its ultimate demise.

We seek the guru because we tell ourselves it can’t be this. This place. This time. This cast of characters. This. It just can’t be. In our denial and disbelief, we gloss over the thing we know to be absolutely true. We beg answers of the teachers before us — but to truly know — we must go within. It’s clear to me now more than ever — relief is not around us. It is inside us. — Good lives within. — We must find it there and draw it out. A spiritual revolution.

I read the work of Baba Ram Dass daily. I love him. I’d love for him to be my guru. But the truth is, in my seeking him, I become more lost. What’s even more hilarious? — He taught me that lesson. Teachers are funny like that. They shine light where you’d rather not see, so, you go to another teacher, then another, then another. Soon you’ve seen too much, but really, you haven’t seen anything at all. I like to think you know what I mean, because I like to believe that we all are seekers.

I’m still in this funk, so, I’m stuck. I sit patiently and wait for instruction. From anyone, really. A customer. A coworker. A song. Sun glinting off the choppy waves of the water in the bay. — All messages from the Guru.

Recently, a few important people have drifted, unexpectedly, from my life. Teachers. — The best teachers. — And, watching them go has reminded me that there are new lessons I’m meant to learn. It’s not by my design. But, I must remind myself that if I allow myself to be stuck here, then I will continue to be just that. — Stuck here. Any design requires movement. Patience. Love. — Revolution.

Before my eyes, big cities have become incredibly small.

I turn off the television to avoid making myself sick. I embrace and abandon my own sense of place. I wait for healing. I look for apartments in Southern Vermont. I stare at a picture of a covered bridge surrounded by falling leaves, and, in another photo, the same bridge covered in snow. Different seasons. Each lonely and quiet. Isolated and still. It looks like a place my guru might wait for me. I feel myself moving closer to something. — We are all moving closer to something.

But life isn’t about moving. It’s about being. The most sacred lesson, more than any other lesson I’ve learned from my Baba, is the lesson of being. Not thinking, or seeking, or seeing, or knowing. It’s not a tangible trip. It’s not something you can destroy or embrace or free or trap. It’s not something you can kill. No amount of violence, inside or outside of us, can unsettle it.

It’s something we know because we are. All of us. Each one of us.

And, that’s the grist for the mill, Baba would say. — Becoming ourselves is the trip.

 

This moment, is a moment for the guru. — This moment, is the guru.

Vive La France. Vive La Revolution.

 

 

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The Hunker Bunker

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There is nothing worse than being stuck.

I’ve heard it said, the definition of hell is standing in one place while wishing you were standing in another.

Unfortunately for us, it would appear that the human experience itself is an ongoing parade from one plane of our stuck-ness to the next. We stop. We assess. We look for new places to stand. And, me, I know — I’ve been in this spot before. I’ve felt it. — Change is imminent. I’m on the brink, but, I still find myself looking too far down the path ahead. I get caught up in distances that are too mysterious to gauge.

And, when I become overwhelmed by my own sense of place — or lack thereof — I do it. — I hunker.

My best friend can predict my hunkering — episodes of withdrawal and isolation — with laser-like precision. It’s no secret when I am tired of fighting the good fight. I become exhausted searching for the next, best place. So, I resign myself to my bed where I binge-watch television shows on Hulu and Netflix and tell myself that nothing will ever change. Ever. Ever. Ever.

It sounds terrible. But, in truth, it’s pretty fantastic. Not only is hunkering incredibly relaxing, non-invasive, and cheap — it’s the pre-cursor to breakthrough.

I wrote recently about the advantages of identifying patterns. — How labeling my predictable routines has helped me to see where I was wrong, or where I needed to change, or where I kept putting myself in harm’s way. And, yet another advantage of this self-awareness is — you know when things are about to shift.

Hunkering is a sign. And while I’ll admit that it’s a behavior that sends up some red flags, — mainly a house-ridden, quiet, and antisocial alcoholic — it’s not all bad, I assure you. I’ve camped out in the hunker bunker many times before. I know the drill. And, I know that what follows is the sincere desire, drive, and momentum — to evacuate.

An experienced hunker-er knows that change is inevitable. There are only so many hours we can stay in the good graces of our beds. There are only so many days we can devote to celebrating our own misery. And — there are only so many episodes of The Mindy Project available on Hulu Plus.

The truth is, if we stand in one place long enough, wishing we were standing somewhere else — we will eventually move toward that other place. We move because it is unbearable if we don’t. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we’ve taken the step.

To hunker is to catalyze.

So, I tell my best friend, lovingly — I’m going. Don’t call. Don’t write. Don’t text. I’m headed into the bunker. I know the drill. I celebrate my stuck-ness. I know where I’m disappearing to, and I know what’s coming. And, soon — I’ll emerge.

Because, after standing in the same place for far too long there is nothing else to do — but move.

 

Artwork: Andrew Wyeth; Daydream, Tempera on panel.

The Suit Comes Off

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I dreamt about John Hamm last night. And, it’s not because I’m hot for Don Draper.

Well, not entirely.

I may be sober, but I’m still addicted to Netflix. Hardcore. And, no matter what program I watch, I am constantly being reminded of the things I can’t have.

But, despite being toyed with, I continue watching. I couldn’t possibly blame the media for giving me everything I want. I love it. I need it. I crave it. I watch the smoke rise off the tip of every cigarette. I wait for the camera to pan across each patterned, crystal tumbler, elegantly displaying its smooth, golden whiskey. I watch it, spellbound. And, why shouldn’t I enjoy it? — It’s all the fun that I’m not having.

It’s sexy. It’s social. It’s provocative. And, at the same time, it’s demure and totally natural. It’s masculine and feminine, simultaneously. It’s ageless. It’s casual. And, the pleasure — it’s implied. Addiction — It’s everything we want it to be and it’s everywhere. It’s part of our cultural discussion without ever having to open our mouths.

And, even when it isn’t what we want it to be, addiction is it’s own form of entertainment. There’s Mad Men‘s Don Draper, the whiskey-sipping man of mystery, and, then, there’s the real man, John Hamm — completing his first 30-day stint in a Connecticut rehab facility. TMZ harps on about it. PEOPLE Magazine picks up the story too, and not because they’re interested in addiction itself — they’re interested in marrying it to Don Draper. We want one addiction to look like all the others. It’s easier to manage that way.

The media talks about John Hamm’s substance abuse problem in the same sentence that recaps the latest Mad Men episode. I wonder: Do we really make the connection?

Media and celebrity create this culture. It’s inviting. I mean, fuck, I salivate for the duration of every Mad Men episode. I breathe the smoke. I taste the whiskey. I feel the relief and the ritual. The substance abuse is its own sexual tension.

But, as I hunker down to catch up on old episodes, I find myself asking — why am I doing this? What am I putting myself through and what is the payoff? I mull it over for a few days. And then, while curled up in blankets on the couch, watching a marathon of Intervention, it hits me: It’s not the media. It’s just me — still wanting something I can never have.

It’s what all us addicts do. We get lost in the romance. The look of it, the feel of it, the ease of it. We become so entrenched in the peripheral relief of the substance, we lose the meaning — the storyline.

I love the idea of Don Draper. But, eventually, the suit comes off. The glamor loses its appeal, and the story is just the same as it ever was — a marathon of broken people — all seeking to fill the empty spaces.

So, as my cat and I ready ourselves to binge-watch the Mad Men episodes we’ve fallen behind on, I take a moment to be grateful for the all new ways I have learned to lose myself. I remind myself that binge-watching how things aren’t — on the screen, will sometimes remind me of how things are — in my real life.

So, I turn on the TV. I make the connection.

And, for every drink Don Draper pours, I make a secret wish that John Hamm has poured his last.