Change in the Weather

Checking the weather a couple weeks ago, I was treated to video coverage of homes burning during new fires springing up overnight in California’s late October conflagration.Then I drove my sophomore son to the Max (Light Rail) to head off to schoolAnd I asked him if he was looking at any you-tube sites where people are talking about how to best survive on the planet in 20 years. I’ll be 83 then but he’ll be 35 – old enough to run for president – and in charge of running this planet. He didn’t mention anything then but later he told me about, which is a group of You-Tubers trying to raise $20 million by the end of 2019 in order to plant 20 million trees for carbon sequestration.

After dropping him off, I turned back South and caught a glimpse of the sun just coming up and the beauty of it pierced my apocolytic dream. It’s been cold and windy in Portland this week, but the air’s been clear and we’re all breathing OK.

The previous weekend, I’d had the opportunity to listen to my spiritual teacher giving teachings in San Antonio, Texas via webcast. All of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s teachings are about how to work with the mind in finer and finer ways as we head towards Awakening. Listening to the teachings is inspiring and also activates my age-old conflict between Being and Doing. “How is working with my mind going to help my kids survive in this world which is going through such MASSIVE changes – shouldn’t I be out there DOING something?!”

That question has been agitating my system for 50 years, ever since my 8th grade social studies teacher, Mr Connell, inspired a couple hundred students to take off from our Middle School and walk up to the UC Berkeley campus to take part in anti-war rallies that were going on at the time. The following Summer, my dad sent me and my sister to a work camp he’d attended as a kid in Putney Vermont, and one of their evening speakers was Richard Alpert, freshly transformed into Ram Dass, and spouting the Wisdom of “Be Here Now”. It totally penetrated me, – prepping me for a hippie High School career in Berkeley that was intermittently punctuated by riots and tear gas in the streets as the populace continued to march against the war, against incursions into Cambodia and to claim a little strip of University-owned land that we called “People’s Park.”

I followed Ram Das’s teachings through High school, and beyond and in my mid-20’s entered into meditation and Buddhist studies in earnest.

I didn’t know it at the time, but for me, much of what drew me to the contemplative practices was a search for identity, or, more precisely, the alleviation of profound confusion about what my identity was – or what it should be. Sex, drugs and rock and roll were alive in my experience and I was sensitive enough to recognize that the swirl that created was not conducive to feeling grounded, clear and confident about Who I was and What I was supposed to be doing here. So I took to the meditation cushion and I’m still spending lots of time there, almost 40 years later.

Much of Rinpoche’s teachings address the point of what is Samsara and how do you get free of it. Samsara is often equated as the opposite of Nirvana: Whereas Nirvana is a state of Being Awake – clear, spacious freedom, Samsara is stuck in the dream, in reactive patterns, fear-driven and ego-centered. On a more fundamental level, Samsara is the experience of tripping forward through life, as you follow one thought, then another, then another, and on and on forever. Do you ever feel like you’ve been “doing this forever”? Generally we repeat the same set of patterns, with slight variations, from one end of our life to the other, (and Buddhists would say, then on to the next and the next and the next life). If you want to “wake up” from this automatic, reactive, sleep-walking through life, then you need to tune into what those patterns are, so you can start to make different choices. Part of that is learning how to unhook from the unending torrent of thoughts, which is one of the main reasons that serious spiritual practitioners spend so much time on the cushion.

Slowing down and witnessing yourself in the process of acting out old, repetitive patterns can be painful. Some of the top players for me over the last 20 years or so are judgmentalism, perfectionism, entitlement – stemming from male and white privilege, and other patterns making it difficult to rest, to receive love, or to really celebrate my accomplishments. Being willing to slow down and look at this stuff, and feel it, does give one access to it and thus the capacity to start to change it. It also gradually grants one the ability to start to Be more Here Now. Which means more experiences of “OMG, that sunrise is so beautiful!” or “Have the Fall colors always been this bright?!” or “Oo Baby, I love the way you’re doing what you do!” Ya. Getting into the shit has it’s benefits.


“Who am I and What should I be doing here?” are still ongoing questions but they seem to be getting asked (and answered) on deeper and deeper levels. Also, I think it’s natural that the sense of Who one is morphs as one moves through the phases of life, as well as the sense of What one should be doing. I’m a psychotherapist by profession, and after starting out working for agencies and County Mental Health for 20 years, I’ve been in private practice for the last 15 or so and recently have been experiencing a strong pull to get back into collaborative work with other clinicians and healers. I’ve connected with a number of folks who have a similar sense of “we need to come together and work together in order to survive these times and hopefully create some new, better culture together”. The pattern of “individualism” has been seen and is being deconstructed!

This movement towards collaboration and the acknowledgment of interdependence helps to heal the judgmentalism and sense of isolation on deeper and deeper levels. Working with mixed-gender groups helps me to see through and heal my fear of women and my tendency to be dominating or controlling. It frees up the heart and allows love to lubricate our discussions and activities. It strengthens our capacity to be effective in helping others heal from the legacies and lineages of racism, sexism and other systems of inward and outward-facing oppression. I have no delusions about whether the future is going to be difficult or not, but I know it’s way better when I’m facing it with family and friends who really know me and have my back.

I believe in this slowing down and looking at the patterns. I believe in going into the dark places in order to do the healing work so that a future may dawn in which humans have re-established their place within the matrix of Mother-Nature. I trust this process, and it has a lot to do with Who I am and What I’m here to be doing, today.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 17th, 2019 at 6:49 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


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