Rolling Rocks And Sympathy

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I am sitting on a bench trying to find words. I’ve made a lot of mistakes lately. Said the wrong thing; not said a thing; not known the right thing to say or just not wanted to say it. And then seen the ill created around me for all the times I do not know or cannot do what is right.

I feel like an ill wind, and a bit untrustworthy. But if I cannot trust myself, then where is stable ground? I have heard people say that Dharma pulls the rug out from under your feet, and from what I’ve seen that’s true. But this isn’t a cute philosophical crisis; this is the business of everyday life. I can deal with losing the cushioning but I’m not ready to be groundless; I need at least a hard wood floor.

In case it is not clear what I’m talking about–and I imagine that it’s not–I’m talking about limits. I’m talking about the places where kindness and patience run out, but where they run out so fast that you don’t even notice that they’re gone, and you just reactreactreact.

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In a concrete sense, I am talking about things like grocery lists gone wrong and unplanned menu changes and finding some one to do the dishes when you thought you had clarified the issue the day before and before and before, but still, no. I am talking about money spent and time wasted, or perhaps not, and all of the hard edges that come from feeling like you are pushing a rock up a hill that will just roll down when you are finished, but oh also, you will never be finished. And that sentiment without even the peace of a stable task on which to rest your mind. Like rolling ten rocks up a landslide at the same while it hales and marmots bite your ankles and some one wants to know where the scissors are and something smells like it’s burning and meanwhile you are supposed to be graceful because you are doing this for all sentient beings and also your esteemed teacher is having tea in the next room.

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Will you do me a favor, friends? Don’t give me sympathy. Lately sympathy just turns to self-pity, to the idea that it is that hard, and it will get better, and this situation is the struggle. But you know what? From what I understand, the situation is a bitch. People are independent and think differently and put ourselves first even when we try not to because half the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. This is the bitch we call Samsara.

Maybe things could be easier for me than they are at the Maison des Lamas, but I am so tired of thinking I’ll someday not be tired and becoming hard and wishing for things to be different that I don’t want to keep wanting easier circumstances. I want the capacity to no longer see hardship as difficulty. I know I’m not there yet, and I know I’m going to need a hell of a lot more sympathy before I get there, but for today, I need that kindness to come from inside. Because right now I just turn everything else to righteousness, and I want no more of that.

The Big Reveal

IMG_1460Well hello. This. This is that thing I’ve been talking about, dropping hints, promising explanations. This. Is an art installation. Numero tres. The biggest thing I have ever done, and I did not do it alone. This. Is. Abstractions of the Path of Understanding. Kind of looks like a circus tent crossed with your elementary school lunch sack from outside. But it’s kind of pretty anyway. And inside.

IMG_1461Inside are nearly a thousand paper boxes, with wings. In black: confused thoughts. They crash like waves over and through our minds.

IMG_1449But amidst the folly, there is clarity to be found. The seeds of wisdom: the Dharma and the Three Jewels. This shiny thing that is some version of a Bodhi tree seed and three spirals rising in the same way our spirit is elevated by observation and reflection.

graineFrom each seed grows understanding. A moment of realization, when those vague and sage things we have heard and read suddenly click into place with this moment right now. Ten seeds of wisdom and ten moments of understanding, as follows:

toomuchIt Is Always Too Much and Never Enough

Acrylic and Ink on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

allmydreamsIf All My Dreams Were Real, This Would Not Be Real Life

Ink, Watercolor, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

sohardI Am Trying So Hard to Understand This

Ink and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

togetheralone

I Guess We Are Together, Even When We Are Alone

Ink and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

soalivetodie

Sometimes I Feel So Alive, I Forget I Am Going to Die

Ink, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

loseeverything

I Am Going to Lose Everything; I Am Going to Let Everything Go

Ink, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

getfree

I Will Get Free

Ink, Watercolor, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

madnessispretending

Madness Is Pretending Everything Is Okay

Ink, Watercolor, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

everymomentthestart

Every Moment is the Start

Chalk Pastel and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

peaceafterall 

Maybe There Is Peace After All

Watercolor and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

IMG_1455And then, in the center of all this, understanding takes root. The column of wishes, the natural generosity that arises as we widen our understanding, surrounded by enlightened thoughts–white boxes now–taking flight in our minds. The column was formed and the wishes written by several hundred visitors over the course of the event, from pictures drawn by small children to jokes to aspirations for all sentient beings.

insideinstallationThe artist, installed in the installation.

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A mommy and a baby enlightened thought. We used the form from the installation for donation boxes to create a link between knowledge and research (the Institute) the development of understanding (the Dharma, and the path as represented by the art piece) and offering (the generosity that arises with understanding). One aspect that was really important for me was the link between black and white thoughts. Not negative and positive, but confused and clarified. A box is defined not by its form but by its contents. LIkewise, each of us has the ability to transform ourselves, our lives, and our understanding.

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Me, grinning like an idiot because This. Is. Real. I–we–made a thing. We shared that thing. And people felt something. And that’s what it’s all about.

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