The Gap

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Tonight we had a teaching about the meditation practice related to Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. Shamarpa is considered an expression of this fundamental wisdom and compassion, and this is the practice we’re doing daily for the forty-nine days between his death and his cremation.

The practice is vibrant: the alter full of offerings, the text full of music, the meditation full of imagery. Sitting in the Institute, listening to all the merits of this practice, the qualities that can be developed, the good that can be accomplished, I felt a sudden rush of loneliness. I checked myself to find its source. A little tired, a little achy, but not really stressed, and surrounded by people I love. What’s the deal, self?

I glanced up at the photo of Shamarpa, nestled in his place on the throne that he fills/filled when he is/was here. I got hit by a wave of missing-feeling mixed with the memory of his confidence and gentleness. The loneliness subsided some, and I had this thought:

Maybe all this loss I feel, for some one who isn’t really gone, but just present in a way I can’t see with my eyes or touch with my hands…maybe when I feel his absence, what I am actually feeling is the gap between me–here and now–and everything I wish I were capable of.

I don’t have an infinite light. I’m just a little, sometimes light. Often I’m hazy and muggy with confusion. Honestly, sometimes it’s kinda dark in here. And all of this loneliness for some one wiser and stronger and surer than me; it’s a little misplaced. Technically, the wise and the strong and the sure are never apart from us. Wisdom and strength and certainty are with us whenever we open our minds to them. I’m not lonely for the masters or the Buddhas or even the relative reminders of other people’s love. Those things are here for me. No.

I’m lonely for the part of me that remembers how to be infinite.

**This post is part of a larger project culminating in a week of creative journalism in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal chronicling the cremation of the Tibetan spiritual master Shamar Rinpoche. To find out more or make a donation to this project, go here.

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In Offering (With Seared Cauliflower Slices)

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Hm, it seems it’s that time of year again where I only post slightly blurry, weirdly lit photos taken in a rush while hoping that it’s not really that dark out/overexposed, when in truth I know better.

The busy season at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling has officially arrived. The Lama House is full, there remain no empty classrooms or practice spaces in which to do prostrations, and if I’m not changing sheets or cooking lunch, I’m planning menus or cleaning toilets. I’m still scraping up time here and there to meditate, and it’s a goal for this year to find more calm moments in between the rush rather than just speeding through each day. Though it’s often easier to keep running on adrenaline than to pause and realize how tired/stressed/distracted I am, I’d like to change the habit.

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On the other hand, pausing to traipse all over the kitchen, terrace, and garden in search of reasonable lighting for my seared cauliflower doesn’t currently make it into the list of priorities. Which is a shame, really, because seared cauliflower-roasted with whole garlic cloves!- is really a wonderful thing, and a decent picture would probably be much more convincing than the preceding sea of beige. Use your imagination–it’s creamy, earthy, woodsy, even, with a tad bit of caramelization from the garlic.

I cooked this dish for lunch for a visiting teacher, a rare Tibetan vegetarian, and we talked about back pain, sunshowers, and loneliness. I confess I still have a lot of that, even surrounded by people I love. Actually, I think my loneliness increases in direct proportion with the amount of love I feel. I just get so attached to all good things and people. At times, I wish I could keep every moment forever. Which is an evident contradiction, for how could we have new great moments if we didn’t let the old ones go, and what on earth would we do when the moments weren’t great, weren’t even any good? But I’m an exigent creature; I want all things now. I guess it’s for me to live with that.

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Wiser beings than me feel love without any loss, even when what they care for passes out of their field of vision or contact. They give without any need to receive. This possibility blows my mind, and furthermore, the fact that I have the good luck to welcome such folks at the center. To make them tea, turn down their sheets, and benefit from their wisdom. I am utterly grateful, to the point where I don’t even mind vacuuming, which I heartily detest in other circumstances. But after all, the masters come to teach us how to be at peace. The least I can do is to remove the cobwebs from the corners of the bedposts and put a few niceties about to make them feel welcome.

IMG_1273Recipe follows…

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