How many dramatic-sky-over-the-Institute photos can I post before you guys give up on me?
I’ve fallen back into the darknes of Dhagpo, which isn’t so much a darkness as an absence of internet presence caused by long days and sleepy evenings with late sunsets. Since I got back from Nepal, I’ve been trying to balance my life a bit better. Getting more sleep has meant sacrificing other plans and, depending on the week, I meditate less or draw less or organize less things for the Lama House. And I certainly show up here less. Sometimes I get bummed that my projects are advancing or that I’m missing the chance to capture and share so many great ideas and moments. At the same time, on a daily basis, I’m less drained and emotionally raw, if not necessarily less emotional. I still have to work on getting back to a healthy sleep quota, and I frequently wonder how people manage to live productive lives and maintain reasonable sleeping hours, but I consider it a quandary worth continued research.
These are Parker House rolls that haven’t been parker-housed (folded in half and baked overlapped), but they’re still soft and buttery and delicious. I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen this last month as we’re hosting a lot of great guest teachers. I haven’t made it to all of the teachings, but I did manage to sit in on most of course that Lama Jampa Thaye (who happened to be the recipient of these rolls) gave on spiritual commitments, otherwise known as vows. Buddhist vows cover everything from not killing to not putting your rice on top of your vegetables (a leftover from famine times in the older monastic tradition, if I’m not mistaken). They can be taken for life as a lay practitioner or for different approaches to monastic life.
One point that Lama Jampa Thaye made that really stuck with me is that we so often focus on concrete aspects of the path without applying the same vigilance to our state of mind. You can take a vow to benefit beings and give a lot of your time and money for positive activity, but if in your head, you spend all day grouching at those around you, you’re pretty far from keeping your commitment. So often we want to regulate all the logistical aspects of our lives toward a certain goal, but this hope for control, even with the best of intentions, can also be an escape from being attentive to our experience as it unfolds.
Gulp. Fortunately busy days make for good opportunities to practice being attentive. I’ve noticed that I’m really quite attached to all of my goals. And though they are mostly commendable, useful goals, clinging to them yields more rigidity and stress than even a lot of good food, thoughtful artwork, and sparkling clean toilets can counterbalance. So sometimes the food is a bit simpler, the artwork unfinished, and the toilets antibacterialized but still a tad dusty around the edges. I’m trying to let go of the desire for big accomplishments and work on appreciating the slow progress of more stable development.
Joy becomes more like a lightning bug than a bolt of lightning. And though it’s less dramatic, it’s easier to follow from point A to point B. It’s easier to find the encouragement and understanding that keep me headed in the right direction. Instead of being energized by all I might be able to accomplish, I can focus on what works just now. Making dinner is not a particular feat of wisdom or compassion, but it’s a handy training ground for wanting the things you do to do people good. And even whilst making dinner, the opportunity to be of benefit at times arises in unexpected ways, like making teeny snail friends and being able to exercise those non-killing, life-saving vows by returning them safely to the garden rather than washing them down the drain. Plus extra merit for rejoicing in their cuteness and its continued presence in the world.
(By the waaaay, I have NOT forgotten the juicy conversation that got started last week around the idea of art and identity, which stimulated some fairly awesome responses and dialogue. Is the question really about being an artist, or is it about other things? Both, I wager, and I fully intend to get into it with grit and fervor in the near future when we’re not feeding fifteen people at the Lama House.)