Failure to Achieve Enlightenment

Chop Wood, Carry Water?

Today I knit from 9 – 10 am.  C. said a cheery good morning on her way to her Spin Class, a stationary cycling group at the Y.  The Hiker walked by headed downtown, and later, we passed each other on the trail as he trekked home.  I am moved by the purity of his daily 10 mile walk…He does it just because.  Not to impress anyone, not to write a blog or a book, not as “art,” not to train, not to raise awareness.  He is existentially awesome without knowing it.  I could never do that…Whenever I do anything (not counting clipping my toenails or taking out the garbage), I always have to sit back and interpret it, extrapolate meaning from it somehow like juice squeezed from a grape.  I have to turn my experiences into art.  Imagine a life in which you just live without this additional step of turning it into art.  I know a lot of people do this, and I envy them their simplicity.  It sounded liberating to me at first, but, as I found it, it’s completely mind-numbing for my personality.

I was trying to achieve this frame of mind at the monastery where I lived for 6 months last year–ironing sheets and handkerchiefs, scrubbing mildew off bathroom tiles, making beds in the guest house, digging in the garden, picking up fallen branches, screwing lids on honey jars, and more.  Apart from a few moments of perfect, luminous tranquility in the laundry room, I was miserable.  I dragged myself out of bed each day, and soon realized I couldn’t sustain it.  The gift in all that misery was the clarity that I received.  I’m an artist, not a monkette.  This was confirmed when one of my friends received a vision during daily meditation.  She saw me wearing a flamboyant red hat and the words “Use yourself as your canvas” flashed across her mental screen.  It gave me the courage to stop trying to fit myself into someone else’s mold, and to start using my personality as map–with all its quirks, strengths, and limitations.  So, I wonder, have you ever tried doing the opposite of what you do?  Have you ever let go of a part of yourself that you thought you couldn’t live without for a job or a relationship, or simply as an experiment?  Have you ever squeezed yourself into someone else’s shoes, and then thought better of it?  I’d love to hear your stories…

P.S. For all you non-techies out there–I’ve been blogging a year, and I’ve just figured out how to change the time zone from London Time to Pacific Standard Time!  There is hope for everyone…

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