What can I possibly say to you at this point? Quite apart from the fact that, even now, it has taken me so long to get back to you, I fear you might find it patronizing, if not presumptuous, that I would bend over backwards to give you some advice.
That said, at least I am sure this is not totally unsolicited, given your repeated attempts to reach me.
First, let me say that these efforts are not necessary. This yearning and striving, this separation of yourself from yourself—one part left crouched, constricted, and trembling with the effort of supporting your better half as it stands on your back and reaches upward with the hope and fear of catching a glance from its idealized and reflected projection—don’t do that.
I am already with you. I am here, and I see you. Everything is fine.
And so, there is no need for me to to mollify things with some spiritual platitudes, reassuring you that you are perfect just as you are, that your path will weave itself with unmistaken grace into the universal design, mistakes and all, and that despite all your procrastination, pettiness, and distraction, you will mature into someone who is less fallible, flawed, and ignorant than me.
Perhaps if that message came from the right person at the right time, it could cut both ways and you could have your cake and eat it too. Perhaps then it might not only be palatable but digestible. We both know that all the things you do to take yourself from there to here—the sitting practice like watching paint dry, the walking practice like a lonely funeral procession, the accumulation, purification, and all the attention and effort—these are all just kind of quaint when viewed from the far shore. But we also know that without these things, you wouldn’t come to know that fact, let alone be able to express it.
Basically, at this point, I have some reservations about saying something as blithe as, “perfect as you are.” Not because you are lacking in any way, but because I fear you would wind up constipated at best, and jaded at worst.
On the other hand, I will most certainly not feed you my private collection of tips, garnered from years of experience—much less the greatest of the latest “mind-hacks,” psychologized and corporatized methods of “habit stacking,” “cue-habit-reward” unpacking and remasking, “default mode to task positive network” neurobiological busy-lazy-body-mind tasking. I have seen what these and other endlessly clever attempts to lubricate one’s way out of samsaric stuckness do to us, and where they lead all of us, and it isn’t worth it.
Of course, the alternative is also unbecoming. When you simply surrender yourself to the flow of your own well-worn habits, those willful indulgences and unconscious capitulations, the many minor and major moments of trying to compensate for what is missing, the abortive attempts to jury-rig a sound place to stand, to secure a cozy corner, a semi-permanent cocoon, or even a permanent vacation—these all eventually vanish like smoke.
Everything that has passed between this moment and the last moment you were present is as insubstantial as a mirage. Everything between now and now slips away like last night’s dream, leaving you nothing but a mind full of fading fragments and maybe the solace of forgetting.
So what is it to remember?
Can you remember our teacher, the smell of anise and incense, lying on our backs watching the passing clouds? I remember your eyes seeing our eyes.
I remember our friends and family, all but gone now, passing away with the seasons. I remember the mistakes—these false starts and blind leaps—and all the times we come back to square one.
Remembering my mind now, remembering your mind now, remembering our mind when we were, say, five years old, can you pause for a moment and remember? Can you remember the time when we will die?
Try to sense the unbroken thread, the intimate continuity of these moments. They touch one another directly, they are within one another, and they are all present to each other in the moment of remembering.
Here, now, we can begin again. Maybe you are stuck in resentment, fear, or hesitation. Maybe you doubt yourself, or others, or reality is just too heavy. Maybe you wake up in the morning and tell the sun he’d better go back down. Right then, see if you can remember. See if you can catch this spark of wakefulness. There is no there there, yet there is a movement with no maker, an unmade ray of knowing, right in the midst of this moment of remembering. It is a wishless intention, good before good and bad. Since no one made it, no one can take it or break it. Since it never began, it is always at hand.
From there, you can move to something more practical. If you can’t move, you can aspire to move. If you can’t aspire, you can aspire to aspire. If you can’t do that, just stay there. It’s totally fine. It’s actually OK to be useless, just not self-absorbed.
Remember, too, it’s not about you. Once you have genuinely, fully, and tenderly touched your own brokenness, place a seed in the crack. Make a wish in that fissure, and share with yourself the aimless kindness of your own presence. You don’t have to make anything up. It is complete in the moment of recollection. Then it will be easier to offer something virtuous to others. This can help a lot to get things moving.
As is said, our practice moves us from heavy habit to virtuous habit, in order to go beyond habit altogether. But we can also start here, before and beyond its beginning.
See you there,