I have submitted to a new control:
A power is gone, which nothing can restore;
A deep distress hath humanized my soul.
It has been too long since you last heard of my whereabouts, but rest assured that you have all been on my mind. Other than the reliable dose of uncertainty that travelling provides, most of these days I have found myself navigating the depths of my inner being in an unprecedented, but truly exhilarating inward journey of self-discovery. Come along. Let’s take a ride.
The journey starts in Dharamsala, where you last heard of me. Remember, Northern India, but not really India, more like Tibet. Well, the one thing that keeps Tibetans together, other than momos, is religion. Tibetans practice the Mahayana path of Buddhism. This school of Buddhism, practiced in amongst other places Nepal, Vietnam, China, Japan, and Korea, focuses on achieving enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Meaning that you don’t just sit on your bum and meditate for ages for your own sake. You go along this path, and all the sacrifices that it entails, so you may be happy and free of suffering to be able to make others happy and liberate them from their suffering. Sounds really nice, right? “Peace and love”, “I love you, man”. Sign me up! What do I need to do to achieve enlightenment and then spread the love?
Well, I was in luck, or maybe, as Buddhists would say, it was my karma. A week after we had arrived in Dharamsala, The Dalai Lama was giving a public teaching to discuss some old school, but apparently, fundamental Buddhist texts, and in my hand I had a pass to attend. For four days, we sat on cushions, sharing tea, bread and cookies with maroon-robbed monks and nuns while listening to His Holiness drop some real heavy lines and make them sound like nursery rhymes. I’m speakin’ concepts that to this day have been circumambulating in my brain making me reconsider my narrow-minded worldview cemented by years of ignorance. Here are a few paraphrased nuggets for your delight: “Things exist in dependence to other factors. On their own, they are empty”, “Because of subtle changes, big changes happen. We just never notice the small stuff”, “When anger arises, we exaggerate the bad qualities of an object. When we have attachment, we exaggerate the good qualities”. Damn! This was some real Education, son. 14 took me to school! And this, my friends, was just the beginning.
The stream of coincidence/causality had not run out. A few days after Grand Master Tenzin Gyatso was droppin’ dharma like it’s hot, an “Introduction to Buddhism” course was starting just up the hill from our luxury guest house suite, well two hills, but up nonetheless, at the Tushita Meditation Center. Ten full days of teachings on Buddhist philosophy, a few hours of meditation and we could only speak for one hour a day, which was a real challenge. Our guide on this spiritual voyage was the certainly unique Australian nun, Venerable Robina Courtin. She is concise, direct, always on point and has zero tolerance for stupidity, the perfect antidote to a fool like me who swears to know everything. She made the whole experience unforgettable, as in that I learned more about myself in 10 days than I ever thought I would. Y’all know me. I think things are the way I see them and only the way I see them. But a few verbal smacks upside the head, coupled with a recently harnessed mindfulness, potentiated my awareness to unveil the fact that it’s all a creation of my puny little brain. As the Dude would say “…and that’s cool”, but the problem lied in the fact that this arrogance became the primary source of my suffering. I thought things were one way, my way, and when it seemed they were not, I would get irritated. Slowly slowly, I was attached to my delusions, enslaved by my own lies and without noticing, it had snowballed into being angry at everything that crossed my path because nothing was the way I wanted it to be—my friends, my family, my relationships, my career, my country. I had become a raging lunatic constantly pissed off at everything that moved, always mumbling to myself about how wrong everything was, and how right I was. How I should buy a gun and pop a few caps in the air every time the idiots would not get the f*#% out of my lane, or make a proper line, or follow the goddamn rules. I thought this was normal. And the cult of I and the gospel of CREAM (Cash Rules Everything Around Me, for those not versed in the Way of The Wu) never seemed to suggest that there was anything wrong with me. But DAMN, what an exhausting way to live.
Fortunately, life had set in motion the causes and conditions to activate the alarms and sirens that woke me up from this nightmare. I awoke to a reality where just as I had created the delusions to obscure my perception, I could also make the clouds go away and make it all a dream…Salt-N-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine. After years of assuming that I was at the mercy of the winds, the realization that I was the one at the helm was liberating. Scary as well, since I am also the only one to blame. Not large multi-national corporations, not the government, not my parents, not my boss, not my wife, not even God, which by the way, Buddhists don’t believe in. It is me, and only me, the one in charge of the games that my mind plays. As Venerable Robina would say “you are the boss!!!”.