Natalie Goldberg introduced me to Zen in her now classic Writing Down the Bones.
She taught me how to stay put, no matter what, and to put down on paper every last buzz in my hornet’s nest brain. She taught me to trust the process. Not to get attached to the results. To simply let my hand help my mind watch the thoughts racing around my brain.
I didn’t believe then that could possibly be enough. I was so driven. To get out there. To get beyond. To claim my destiny and reach my promised land. It was certainly out there. A magic land just a little further than I could reach.
For a while, alcohol helped me believe I was getting there. Then it consoled me because I didn’t make it. And finally, it numbed me into believing I’d never wanted to get there in the first place.
Zen was waiting for me when I staggered into the rooms of recovery. Mel Ash’s Zen of Recovery and Shaving the Inside of Your Skull helped me to start living ‘life on life’s terms.’
Unfortunately, my drive to get ‘out there’ got redirected into an obsessive quest to ‘be here now’ correctly. I devoured the intricate psychology of the Therevedan mind-doctors. I soothed myself with the cold comfort of Charlotte Joko Beck’s prairie Zen. I bounced between lurid Tibetan opulence and no-nonsense Vipassana. At every turn, I’d find something not quite right. I’d catch compassion creeping into sentimentality. I’d get exasperated with inscrutable cosmic concepts. Like a bee, I’d buzz from lotus to lotus– still trying to get ‘out there’ while stuck inside a walled garden.
On and off, I’ve attempted to chronicle my explorations (and detours) in a blog– a project with numerous stops, starts, and reinvented identities over the last decade. I have a degree in theater and a lifelong expectation of being a ‘good boy’, which gives me perpetual performance anxiety. I want to manage the impression I make. I fear to appear awkward, dumb, incompetent, ridiculous. This anxiety keeps me from creating. I erase my work, over and over, fearful that I’ve somehow gotten it wrong.
So with this fifth or sixth relaunch of my blog, I relinquish all hope of accomplishing something or improving myself with this practice. I relieve myself from all mandates of literary merit. If I do achieve any sort of awakening or liberation, I dedicate it to all of you. Until we are all free, none of us is free.