who went to sea in their beautiful pea green boats..."
-from "Beautiful Pea Green Boat" by Laurie Anderson
Taught my 5th retreat out at Linda's farm this last weekend. Exhausting and beautiful, all at once, each of the students in the boat of their lives, "danced by the light of the moon". I wrote a lot about death, really struggling with it again and again, going around the bend, looking for, I only realized on the way home, a way to understand it so the pain would end or to acquire the pain as my own so I could wall it off. But it isn't mine. The fact that we die is as universal a fact as it gets, and trying to hoard that pain as my own is as unhelpful as any isolation is - unhelpful not just because of the suffering but because it simply does not match reality - the reality of total interdependence. On the way home, CTR's voice in my head "no private space." I recall first hearing this concept at Dathun (month-long meditation retreat which is a part of the Shambhala "path"), from my meditation instructor. I was talking about taking the Boddhisattva vow, and doing Tonglen with her. My fear of helping others and foresaking myself ("idiot compassion" as CTR calls it). Her explanation that anything that TRULY, honestly, and with brutal honesty does benefit us, will benefit others. We aren't talking about a donut for breakfast, we are talking about not being an asshole to one's self. Foresaking the self doesn't benefit others. Neither does trying to own a pain which belongs to the whole human race.
Every time I come around to something this big, that phrase comes in again and I feel the need for more and more brutal honesty with myself. I finally found the voice that was anchoring me to this suffering all weekend long, and probably for years now, and likely still is, just hiding deeper away now, trying to preserve some corner, some dark space to itself. This part of me, trying hard to be separate but still the same me, wants the pain and identity of death and loss for herself. "I am a person who has lost people, someone who has experienced death. I deserve to cry, to be alone, to mourn this." The issue is that yes, I do deserve to mourn, but so does everyone else. We will all lose, all feel pain. Others' pain doesn't detract from my own, it benefits it.
At the retreat, a story of a monk doing a sand mandala with a family watching. He'd been working on it for months. Someone was asking him what he would do with it when he was done and he said he would wash it into the river. A little girl, maybe 6 or 8 years old, began to cry and cry, hysterical, saying "It's so beautiful! How could you do that!" and he shed a single tear. He could feel her pain. Not judge her. Just know how hard, how really hard, impermanence is. The hardest, even, for us to "get".
"A piece of glass, and your heart just grows around it."
-another song on Bright Red by Laurie Anderson