Heartbreak | The End

A friend told me not to think this way earlier today, but I simply can’t see the world otherwise, and I feel this worth writing as a cathartic final expression and processing on this topic. This will be the last heartbreak post, hopefully permanently. After this, I will return to the topics of Buddhism, philosophy, and life that generally have been the focus of this blog’s efforts. Hopefully, I can finish out the series on The Dhammapada for instance, which has been mostly dormant over the last couple years.


I’m setting the intention for myself never to have a romantic relationship again.

A friend told me that the person who broke my heart wouldn’t be the one to break me, but the ups and downs, highs and lows, and general games of being drawn in and thrown away over and over were traumatic for me (will return to this below), and furthermore, they act as the opposite kind of bad experience to what I had previously come to know from relationships – the profound unsatisfactory dynamic of a relationship that is settling. The last experience showed me what I want regarding high compatibility, which I know will be incredibly rare to find. I still find it odd, as friends seem to affirm that I should find that and deserve it but then act as though there are solid chances of finding that most anywhere – which shows they don’t really understand what it is I’m looking for or how uncommon those would be as a combination in someone. Some have suggested that I should just be happy with someone who’s nice and supportive, but I’ve been there and know how empty that will be a year or two into a relationship.

I’ve put these suspicions about rarity to the test. I’ve looked over hundreds, if not thousands of dating profiles. There have been so few that even raised an eyebrow about some sort of long-term compatibility that I could probably count them all on one hand.

I’ve been going rounds beating myself up over this again and again – feeling like it’s a quandary: am I too unrealistic and should settle? Does this represent some form of samsaric attachment to feel that these things are a good focus for a future relationship, or are they actually skillful, insightful, and wise? I think the reevaluation is good, but the feelings of self-judgment and guilt aren’t.

Ultimately, I think the only way forward is to accept that the old Z has died. I cannot live my life with some hope of partnership, connection, compatibility, family, and fatherhood in my future. That needs to be buried so something else can live and grow in its place.

I’m still struggling with whether I move towards full abstinence or not as well. Part of me feels it’s necessary, as casual connections, no matter the transparency regarding intentions and deeper emotional unavailability for partnership seems to fall on deaf ears more often than one would expect, and I have no desire to hurt anyone with a broken heart or dashed expectations, even if it isn’t my fault in some sense of clear communication.

I’ve had arguments with friends about intention and manifestation, but ultimately, I don’t believe in manifestation. I’ve had long discussions about that this year, and here are some basic points to summarize. The idea of manifestation, especially in the idea of the law of attraction, is the most mainstream form of magical thinking: magic is inherently the idea that you can use your will to impact some sort of metaphysical flow of the happenings of the world around you without any direct interaction with it other than thought/ritual/word. So, if you believe in the law of attraction, you believe in magic, just rebranded in a new mainstream way. If you respond that no, no, it’s about the psychology of positive intention – then why the near unanimous descriptions of the universe responding to your intention? I could find psychology studies that belief in the results of your efforts will lead to better outcomes (I remember talking about this in a class back in college). The reason isn’t some sort of universal resonance. It’s because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so to speak. So, if you get out there and try, taking a bunch of shots, you’re more likely to have a few go into the goal. I exercise those kinds of positive goal-chasing efforts all the time. That doesn’t require the universe lining up to my intention. I ultimately have tried to manifest my desires repeatedly, with all the energy I can muster, and steadfastly for so much time in the last year. It only succeeded enough to bring in some bright moments followed by being pushed away or erratic rejection, which is clearly not success. In the end, I find it incredibly arrogant, in that way that seemingly only mankind is capable of, to think that my will can influence the greater world in some sort of manifestation of my desire. Some counter that you can’t manifest intentions around others, but why? If I can influence objects with my body and can influence others with my words, mind, or heart, why would I only be able to throw my will out there to influence one but not the other with manifestation? I think that the idea of manifestation is an over-extension of armchair psychology (see above) and apophenia.

I bring that all up to say: I don’t believe that an intention to find the person who’s right for me, opening my heart for them to appear, or whatever other way you want to phrase it will make that person suddenly exist or cross my path from wherever they’re currently going. However, I can intend to set my mind and heart on a path to protect themselves from wasted effort and painful hopes. That’s what I intend.

To close, I’d like to return to the idea of trauma I mentioned above. Years ago, as a masters student in clinical psychology, I wrote a chapter in my final paper about trauma as understood from the philosophy of hermeneutics. I argued that trauma is a realization of the meaninglessness of existence beneath all the understandings we have projected on top of it. That realization shatters everyday life, making it clear that the trust we put into the world is built on nothing. The therapist’s job is to help bear witness and accompany the process of building/finding/creating new meaning and trust in life after such an experience. I feel precisely that way now. I don’t feel any meaning in my existence now beyond showing up to help and care for others in my life. The pursuits of love and partnership in particular feel beyond empty – I don’t trust that others will see me, will connect with me, or that even if they do, that they will show up in turn and love back in a supportive way. These are empty of both meaning and trust.

All in all, I can act as a therapist to myself in finding a new way in life, a new story where I find new strength of heart and mind, but I believe neither that I can find meaning and trust in love and partnership again nor that I can find the person who would reinspire such meaning and trust. I don’t have the energy or will in me to expend the effort to resolve these deep existential wounds.

For them to be “healed” in the way most generally use it would require nothing short of a miracle at this point. I’m open to being surprised, to someone obliterating all of this, but I will not put any further effort into finding a unicorn.


May this close this topic forever on this blog, and may it help others feel companionship if they feel this way themselves.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Poetry | Crimson Drops

A rough attempt at poetry – initially thought of during a recent run. The beginning is merely a symbolic expression of the pain of loss – not any message of intention at self-harm.


Languid flow oozes – ebbing life and death
Crimson crystals coagulate
Drops fall to the ground
Mixing with the salt of tears

The stain of such a staunched flow
Crimson – the deep color of compassion
Mahayana monk’s tender tone
A reminder: death (XIII) is transition

Romance may have withered and fallen
The faded crimson of a dead rose
Yet heart’s vulnerability
Can hear the cries of the entire world

Twisted knot on my arm
Crimson dyes of tattooed ink
A lucky symbol and inspiration
Wisdom and compassion: entwined as reality

No matter my despair
My raw flesh of heart
Can pull in all the despair of the world
And push out peace to all – tonglen


May this pull in the despair of heartbreak from all those who feel it, take it upon myself, and replace it in everyone out there with warmth, acceptance, and peace.

Gassho!

Cross-Post: The Post-Rock Way – Majesty | A Hymn to Impermanence and Emptiness

This post was originally on my other blog about exploring spirituality and philosophy through post-rock music. I recently wrote a post on the best albums of 2021 in post-rock, so I recommend to check that out if you find the music in this post interesting. A recent night drive with a sudden return to a favorite song from years back inspired me to write this post.


Summer 2014
I live in Seattle, making my way through the drudgery of a job in customer service after years in academia. In time to myself, I work on reading and running – taking care of body and mind. Many a run is empowered by 65daysofstatic’s album “Wild Light”. The first song in particular feels like some electric thrum into the core of my being: “Heat Death Infinity Splitter”. It feels like a defiant stand against the difficulties of life with strength and aplomb. As the opening sampling says: “No one knows what is happening. No one knows what is happening. There is a lot of danger out there. OK?” The overwhelming electronic reverb after these lines tears apart fear, hesitation, and any sense of separation from this very moment, and pushes me forward into it with an open heart.

February 2022
I’m driving home from a friend’s and my cigarette lighter charger adapter for my phone is broken. I can’t use my phone to play music. I recall having seen a few old cds under the driver seat. I reach behind me as I start the drive, and the 3rd CD I grab is 65daysofstatic’s soundtrack to No Man’s Sky. When I open it, though, I find “Wild Light” instead. I excitedly pop it in, having not listened to it in some time. I am immediately entranced and destroyed by the static.

My heart has been awash in heartbreak for months. My spiritual journey has been one of trying to refind my way on a solitary path, while questioning and reevaluating, possibly even annihilating my concepts of love, partnership, and romance. In my worst days, meaninglessness, depression, and suicidal thoughts abound.

Listening to it now, versus my younger experience, this feels like a hymn to impermanence and by extension, emptiness. Perhaps this pops in my mind because earlier in the day, I had been reading a book by the Dalai Lama on Buddhism and the path to nirvana. In the first chapter, he goes over the four seals of Buddhism, the first of which is impermanence; the second is suffering; the third is anatta – no-self; the fourth is the potential peace beyond suffering. The thing is: if I were to summarize all of these, I’d say that the entirety of the four seals are the conundrum of living within emptiness but not seeing it. Impermanence is due to things being empty of inherent substance. Suffering is due to clinging to things as not-empty. Anatta follows as a corollary of impermanence as emptiness – there is no permanent soul/essence/substance behind phenomena. Peace is achieved through rectifying clinging by seeing things as empty. A longer description: there is no permanent essence behind any phenomenon – all is empty, i.e. a fluctuating process of appearing and disappearing without some ongoing entity/soul/form behind it, and yet, we suffer by clinging to things as more solid than this empty fluctuation, and therefore, peace can be achieved by the cessation of such clinging through the wisdom and accordant action in relation to seeing things as they really “are” (even such verbs as “is”/”are” can get us into philosophical trouble of unnoticed reification).

This song points to the whole flowing decay of the entire universe. It’s all a heat death infinity splitter – i.e. even atoms will eventually come apart into a splitting of the unfolding infinity we’re currently a part of.

With that in mind, the thrum of noise feels like a musical display of the wondrous unfolding and the seeming danger of everything falling apart, but much like the younger me felt emboldened by this song’s “lot of danger”, the realization of this impermanence invites us to let go of fear – there’s no self/soul/”I”/being that continues in this flux; it’s all merely flux.

For myself, I listen to it now and feel something I’ve been pondering for some time: even concepts, feelings, and attachments are impermanent. My desires for love, for the person who broke me, and for some sort of meaning attached to all the struggle start to decay in the static flux of the emergent abiding sway’s decay into the emergence of the next (riff on Heidegger). To return to Tibetan Buddhism: “Regard all dharmas as dreams.”

All is impermanent – even my “self” and any experiences it may have. Those are just as empty as anything else. All conditioned things are impermanent – even the very atoms that make up “me” and every single thought and feeling that arises as experience upon these component parts.

Heartbreak | Timing

Continuing from the feelings in the previous post…

Some days are so difficult. I started crying and feeling overwhelmed last night. It was sudden, but it wasn’t surprising. Today’s Valentine’s Day, and the mix of recent events, today’s whole celebration of romantic love for anyone paying attention, and memories of a year ago left me feeling torn apart in the worst way in days. I woke up with a splitting headache and a wondering if I could actually will my heart to stop today, despite all the previous failed attempts, alongside some various anxiety about Valentine’s Day and the various difficulties of work.

Then, I made it through the day, sniffling and verging on crying many times. I dodged various bullets at work and had my capabilities questioned by people who aren’t willing to work on anything that isn’t familiar or who don’t have the technical background in the thing they are critiquing. By the end, I lay in bed for a while, forgetting a class and showing up late after a friend texted me.

I got enthralled with finishing a mitten I’ve been designing and knitting, finishing it just in time to wear it to the grocery store in the last few minutes before they closed. I felt a bit pathetic as I arrived, planning on a combo of alcohol and caffeine to enjoy the evening a bit more after this rough day – a combo I’ve been trying to cut back on recently. When I got to the register to pay, the cashier absolutely flipped about the mitten I had knit, totally shocked that I had made it myself and had designed it. From her tone, one would have thought I was some sort of hero, and that glimmer made me realize for just a moment that I’m so much more than I feel in my feelings of humility that are exponentially intensified by depression/heartbreak.

I walked out of the store, thinking of this day, the last few months, and my trajectory through it all in resonance with the events I’ve been part of. The timing of our lives creates reverberations and an environment that we have to flow with and through. It’s incredibly daunting, seemingly impossible at times, but all we can do is rise to the occasion and continue onward even when we don’t see a point, a goal, or feel self-worth. Sometimes, when we’re incredibly fortunate, others can remind us of just how much merit and capability is behind those efforts. Those moments are also timing, and they should be savored, taken as lessons, and imbibed without grasping onto them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I aim to go for a midnight run in a few minutes to close out this day – a timing of my own that I have not done in a very long time. May it empower better days forward.


May this empower others to find their strength in their moments of difficult timing.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Self-criticism/Self-compassion

It’s ironic to me that in some of the roughest moments of the relationship I grieve that I was called prideful or possessing a big ego. There are few moments where I’ve felt less seen.

The truth is – yes, I’m confident in my insights, intellect, and my ability to adapt to circumstances, including failure. However, I sell myself short all the time. I was reminded of that this evening when I went to the grocery store and was met with absolutely exuberant amazement and praise at the fact that I was wearing a mitten I had knit and designed myself – just completed this evening. It kind of shocked me (I don’t really feel that any of these efforts are that spectacular), but that’s the point – I assume that many around me are greater than myself. I’m continuously surprised by others and keep my mind open to their possibilities – my philosophical and spiritual approaches would be mere bluster if I didn’t truly feel that way. I give others the benefit of the doubt, and even though I have studied years to know about a variety of topics, I often find myself speaking to others as though they know the same information. With knitting, I feel like an imposter still trying to find some small modicum of excellence, even though I’m designing my own projects on the fly now. I just feel that others around me must be more experienced and know more – because I know how little I know.

The same goes in recent times with feelings regarding my physique. I have felt unattractive for months despite months of push-ups, pull-ups, and physical effort, but I have gotten overwhelming positive reactions from people recently, and for the first time in quite some time, I see myself in the mirror and feel powerful. It’s been a key point of healing.

A friend recently told me that whichever woman I end up with in the future (although, honestly, I expect that to be no one) will be incredibly lucky because of my intelligence, kindness, and general awesomeness. I don’t feel that way. I feel that I’m worthless, day in and day out, but I show up. I do my best for others. I try to learn. I try to grow. I try to be kind. I try to be present.

All I can do is try, but in part, this time is learning to be kinder to myself in the process and learning to see that any excellence I do have is honed by this very phronesis of aiming for the good and being humble enough to doubt myself along the way. There needs to be a balance between self-criticism and self-compassion.


May this inspire others to both push themselves and be kind to themselves.

Gassho!

Philosophy Riffing | Heartbreak | Lack of anger, Chöd, the Hermit, Truth, and Kindness

This recording was about as much a pensive self-care/processing exploration as any kind of philosophical analysis, but there are some good ponderings in here without many real answers. I hope that it will be of value to others who are also stumbling along the Way of the Hermit/Sage.

Heartbreak | Poetry for a Pulverized Heart

I’ve wanted to explore the topic of heartbreak and healing through a spiritual lens by riffing on a few of my favorite spiritual texts and trying to make them into some heartfelt poetry. This will be an attempt at that.


Form is emptiness.
Emptiness is form.
Form is nothing other than emptiness.
Emptiness is nothing other than form.
Love is nothing other than heartbreak.
Heartbreak is nothing other than love.
The arising of love is the flux that also flows out into its absence.
With gain is loss. With attachment is separation.
All such dharmas, every dharma, the entirety of the ten thousand things,
Each, no more substantial than dreams.
Each as empty – impermanent and without a Self, an identity that lasts.
As such: “Slogan 2. Regard all dharmas as dreams”.
Each can pop and be gone in the blink of an eye.
Even a life can.

The pulverized heart – pulverized: something crushed into powder: pulver.
It is perhaps the greatest emptiness.
A flux of confusion, hurt, memory, despair, hopelessness,
And perhaps, the last reverberations of a beat:
A small echo of the past and a yearning for it to grow back into life.
None of it solid. None of it stable.
Complete emotional rawness.
Potential opening for vulnerable wisdom – a being-here to sit with.

Form is emptiness.
Emptiness is form.
There is no love. No heartbreak. No connection. No rupture. No gain. No loss. No joy. No grief. No healing. No hurt. No learning. No forgetting. No path. No resolution.
All of it, gone, gone, beyond gone, completely beyond the concept of gone.

And yet…
Form is form. In each moment, just this – the entire universe is this present moment.
Emptiness is emptiness. The goings and comings are being-time; time-being.
We misunderstand them because we don’t understand the beat of time.
For love to last, effort must be put in – the consistency that is accomplished through change.
Be water, my friend.

Seeing clearly is sitting without attachment.
It’s cutting through the grasping onto form, emptiness, and any arising.
It’s severing the ties that hold us to our devils: all being creations of mind.
When heartbreak arises, cut through the narratives, justifications, and demons of ego.
When love arises, cut through the narratives, justifications, and demons of ego.
As should be remembered:
“Flowers fall even though we love them. Weeds grow even though we dislike them.”

Just this.


For reference, this free-form poetry is riffing hard on The Heart Sutra, Dogen’s Genjokoan from his Shobogenzo, some ideas from Mahayana Buddhism in general, particularly the 8 worldly concerns (gain and loss being two of them), The Tao Te Ching, the 52 slogans from the 7 points of mind training (Lojong) in Tibetan Buddhism, and Machik Lapdrön’s The Great Bundle of Precepts (the founder of Chöd and an absolutely radical female monk from the Middle Ages – highly suggested reading).

To end, I’d like to quote three poetic passages from Addiss and Lombardo’s as well as Red Pine’s translations of The Tao Te Ching, as I find them absolutely beautiful and inspirational, and I feel they speak to this problem of duality in experience and how to behave as a Sage who gets to the fundamental aspect of doing well without getting caught in the self-involved pain of trying to jump only from gain to gain to gain to gain.

Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.
Recognize good and evil is born.

Is and Isn’t produce each other.

Hard depends on easy,
Long is tested by short,
High is determined by low,
Sound is harmonized by voice
After is followed by before.

Therefore the Sage is devoted to non-action.
Moves without teaching,
Creates ten thousand things without instruction,
Lives but does not own,
Acts but does not presume,
Accomplishes without taking credit.

When no credit is taken,
Accomplishment endures.

Tao Te Ching – trans. Addiss and Lombardo; chapter 2

7

Heaven is eternal and Earth is immortal
the reason they’re eternal and immortal
is because they don’t live for themselves
hence they can live forever
sages therefore pull themselves back
and end up in front
put themselves outside
and end up safe
is it not because of their selflessness
whatever they seek they find

8

The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing
choosing what others avoid
they thus approach the Tao
dwelling with earth
thinking with depth
helping with kindness
speaking with honesty
governing with peace
working with skill
and moving with time
and because they don’t compete
they aren’t maligned

Lao-Tzu’s TaoTeChing – trans. Red Pine; chapters 7 and 8

Cross-Post: The Post-Rock Way – Love | Destiny | The Red Thread

This post was originally on my other blog about exploring spirituality and philosophy through post-rock music. I recently wrote a post on the best albums of 2021 in post-rock, so I recommend to check that out if you find the music in this post interesting. I had to write this post about one of my favorite post-rock songs with vocals. I hope you enjoy it as well.


One of the most moving post-rock discoveries for me last year was Akai Ito by we.own.the.sky..

This is one of the rare post-rock songs that has lyrics, and coming at the end of the album, the words make it even more powerful. Furthermore, the lyrics are short, simple, and moving, yet also somewhat cryptic:

The stars. They fall.
Like threads unfurl.
They guide me home.
Where I belong.

Lyrics – “Akai Ito” by we.own.the.sky

This is only repeated a few times, the final time being with a full chorus instead of a single voice.

Hearing this song immediately made me look up what “Akai Ito” means. It’s a reference to the Japanese version of the Chinese myth of the “red thread” a concept of love and destiny in which lovers are connected by a red thread of fate.

I don’t really believe in soulmates or some sort of destiny like that, but I can understand the pull of profound love and how powerful it can be. It truly is a sense of home and belonging, a seeming deep fit of shared connection that seems so meaningful and powerful that it feels like maybe greater forces are at play.

I’m not sure what to think of my own experience of this at this point in my life. I feel that I’ve lost that sense of belonging and home but feel the connection still, no matter what events have come forward. It’s hard, confusing, and sad. I’ve actually meant to write some Buddhist sutra inspired poetry on my other blog about this sense of heartbreak in such feelings of loss and coping with them. I’ll link here when/if I do.

That said, one thing I’m certain of is that the way to approach these surprising great feelings in life is to let them arise and wash over you, not clinging to the joy, but just sitting with it while you’re fortunate enough to experience it, and also not trying to cling to it when despairing that its impermanence makes it fade, wither, and disappear. All things are impermanent. The only way to maintain them is by effort by both parties and circumstances supporting that continued thriving. I’m reminded of a post I wrote about change and cultivating something ongoing regarding Taoism on my other blog, but more precisely to sitting with the joy and the sorrow without clinging, I always think of Dogen:

Therefore, flowers fall even though we love them; weeds grow even though we dislike them.

Dogen Genjokoan – as translated by Shohaku Okumura in Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen’s Shobogenzo

Furthermore, I’m reminded of some thoughts about love I’ve shared on my other blog, particularly here and in a podcast-esque recording about some experiences of love I’ve had. The key quote was from Stanley Cavell’s The Claim of Reason in which he’s talking about learning words as a child and that there are some concepts that are so huge that they do not express all they could take from us. In some regards, myth and song bridge that gap a bit – pulling us to grander feelings regarding these concepts, and when I hear this song, that’s what I feel – a more grandiose sense of love and connection, without ever mentioning either word.

But although I didn’t tell her, and she didn’t learn, either what the word “kitty” means or what a kitty is, if she keeps leaping and I keep looking and smiling, she will learn both. I have wanted to say: Kittens–what we call “kittens”–do not exist in her world yet, she has not acquired the forms of life which contain them. They do not exist in something like the way cities and mayors will not exist in her world until long after pumpkins and kittens do; or like the way God or love or responsibility or beauty do not exist in our world; we have not mastered, or we have forgotten, or we have distorted, or learned through fragmented models, the forms of life which could make utterances like “God exists” or “God is dead” or “I love you” or “I cannot do otherwise” or “Beauty is but the beginning of terror” bear all the weight they could carry, express all they could take from us. We do not know the meaning of the words. We look away and leap around.

Stanley Cavell – The Claim of Reason pp. 172-173

Walking Along the Dhammapada — Chapter 18: Corruption

I’m taking another journey through the Buddha’s lessons on the path of the Dharma (one way you could translate the title Dhammapada). A few years ago, I wrote posts on a handful of chapters, but I didn’t go over every chapter. This time, I’m challenging myself to post on every chapter and share them here.


This chapter has two key focuses:

  1. There is an apparent ease to the corrupt path, but this overlooks the ongoing samsaric suffering of such an approach to life.
  2. Focus on your own efforts – it’s easy to see the faults in others and to hide your own from yourself, and moreover – your goodness is achieved through your own efforts, so focus on purifying yourself.

So what does one purify? It’s come up multiple times throughout the previous chapters, but let’s take a moment to look at three passages that line out everything regarding these two points.

Easy is life
For someone without conscience,
Bold as a crow,
Obtrusive, deceitful, reckless, and corrupt.

Difficult is life
For someone with conscience,
Always searching for what’s pure,
Discerning, sincere, cautious, and clean-living

The Dhammapada, 244-245, trans. Fronsdal

This speaks to both points – it seems like life is easy for someone who selfishly does for him or herself, but ultimately (as is emphasized in other lines and in all the other chapters), it is not. This chapter doesn’t necessarily elucidate this well, but we might think here of Plato’s discussion of the tyrant in the Republic. When taken to the ad absurdum, someone who acts with impunity in life moves into a path of obsession of self-protection and protecting his/her possessions. It’s a life of paranoia and clinging. This is perhaps a good transition into our next passage, as it emphasizes exactly what ails the mind of one who lives that life:

There’s no fire like lust,
No grasping like hate,
No snare like delusion,
No river like craving.

The Dhammapada, 251, trans. Fronsdal

More pithy poetic examples could certainly be provided, but the point is that a life of apparent selfish ease is actually a life full of samsaric pain.

However, we’re then counselled not to judge the faults of others. In a sense it’s the bad faith (as from Sartre) of Buddhist practice. It’s easy to look outward and just miss the efforts that oneself must make.

It’s easy to see the faults of others
But hard to see one’s own.
One sifts out the faults of others like chaff
But conceals one’s own,
As a cheat conceals a bad throw of the dice.

If one focuses on others’ faults
And constantly takes offense,
One’s own toxins flourish
And one is far from their destruction.

The Dhammapada, 252-253, trans. Fronsdal

As elsewhere in The Dhammapada, the emphasis is on self-mastery and that the path to Nirvana depends on your own efforts. Perhaps the simplest game to avoid that difficult path (the difficult path of continually searching for what’s pure from our first quote above) is to find fault in others, while hiding your own, thereby appearing to shine and not need any effort. However, this is simply a mild version of the grasping of hate and the snare of delusion.

As such, let’s close with one of the most poetic passages in this chapter as our focus for purification:

As a smith does with silver,
The wise person
Gradually,
Bit by bit,
Moment by moment,
Removes impurities from herself.

The Dhammapada, 239, trans. Fronsdal

May this inspire the ongoing purification of mindfulness of self and world that is practice and purification.

Gassho!

Showing Up

I had an interesting experience today that felt quite meaningful.

With depression in recent months, I’ve felt absolutely worthless and meaningless much of the time. In the worst days, I feel like I don’t even deserve to live. It’s hard to find value in those moments, and the greatest self-care I’ve had is showing up to help others, especially those close to me.

I gave thorough directions for how to drive in the snow to a friend, so she could make it back from housesitting to her apartment, but today, when she started driving through the icy side streets of her neighborhood, she became overwhelmed by the uncleared ice and texted me that she couldn’t make it home.

I was sitting at home, feeling tired, drained, and more or less empty. I responded with a few questions and directions but quickly understood that she wasn’t going to be able to get past this herself, so I told her I would bundle up and come her way. I did a few Zen chants to prepare (a New Year’s resolution), put my coat and cowl on, and left. I showed up.

When I got there, I talked to her, grabbed a rock pick and my windshield scraper out of my car and jumped in her car with her. We drove up the hill, through her neighborhood, and we got to the roundabout where she got stuck. Someone had put up a “Street Closed” sign, and two little old ladies were trying to wave us down the hill in another direction. I looked at the icy street, told her I was pretty sure I could manage it, and convinced her to jump out and move the sign out of our way. The little old ladies yelled at her, but I drove through without any issue, cruising slowly up the hill.

I parked close to her apartment – just a downhill icy slope of about 30 yards between us and the driveway to her parking lot. I was pretty concerned about this last piece. There were cars on either side of the single lane street, and it was all pure ice. She was adamant that she wanted to get past this last bit, so I said I’d do it if I could break up the ice in the worst parts. I took out the rock pick and spent most of half an hour breaking up clear tire tracks in the part where the ice was surrounded by cars on both sides. She was impressed at how readily I was able to do this (I kind of was too, actually!).

At some point, I told her that honestly, I don’t have that much more snow-driving experience than her. Yes, I grew up in rural mountain snowy lands, but our roads were well plowed and treated to melt ice as well. Sure – I spent 20 years in snow and understand the physics of it on a fundamental, embodied level, but I haven’t actually driven much on icy roads that haven’t been plowed or salted.

Eventually, I felt confident enough that an accident was unlikely, and I got in her car with her and slowly, slowly, slowly drove down the hill and even more slowly into her parking lot (which was at the bottom of another hill).

She kept profusely saying that I was her hero and that I continue to show up and help her so much, including a huge amount of a recent move. She made it sound like she owed me her first-born.

However, here’s the thing – showing up like this is who I am. There’s little that’s more meaningful for me, and in many ways, I consider it the simplest version of acting out the compassion of a bodhisattva vow. I hadn’t thought about it much recently until that moment, and it made me realize I do have value. My presence and efforts are meaningful. It was a great beginning to a new year, and ultimately, it makes me feel like I need to work even harder on several other goals I have in terms of things to do and finish, including writing on this blog.

Let this be an opening to a new year.


May this post inspire others to show up for those in their lives whom they can help and who need help.

Gassho!

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