Holy God, Nothing is hot.
Or rather, after a good line of Nothing, experience in the world is hot.
This morning I drove away from Roslyn in mist. The retreat center’s called that, like in the Templar myths, like the church in Scotland. Hilarious. It’s for the myth of the “rose line” that leads to the holy grail. (For the esotericists, the grail is not a thing, but a “cup that runneth over,” for ever, and with everything, because you’ve emptied out the stories. Meantime the stories manifest as distraction, because if we were to look at them directly for more than a second we’d see how much selfing hurts and we’d knock it the hell off.)
Rose Line is a good name, and reentry is a good trip. Today I drove the hills of rural Virginia, mist and geese and damp low-hanging trees grazing the car. I was inside a high gloss pistachio—a new green Fiat—with a zafu in the passenger seat. High for This, by The Weeknd, came up first on the iPod car stereo. It was the Chopped and Screwed version, half digitized, half backwards, particulate song matter. Meaning mixed down with impermanence and empty space. It’s a seduction track all right, but not like the kids intended. Seeing through the self is so, screamingly, hot.
You don’t know what’s in store, but you know what you’re here for… We don’t need protection. We don’t need attention. Open your head, take a glance, don’t be scared… You want to be… high for this.
Excuse me while I take the lyrics the wrong way. High = dialed in to impermanence. Hip to the noself in a granualar, non-theoretical way. Clued in to the tricks of the mammalian mind, and well enough practiced to know what it feels like when those wires get crossed.
Driving a pistachio over hills in the rain with the stereo on. Gut in throat, heart in hands, too high on existence even to scream. Contemplation’s a cheap date.
Last night Shinzen said,
The book of your life is coming to be written three TIMES bigger than it was before. But be careful what you seek for. Because the giant script of your life will be written in invisible ink.
The less you fixate, the larger you live.
A long silent ride on the zafu is not just cleansing. It’s not just that meditation retreat defrags the hard drive and speeds up the processors. Clarity, intentionality, honesty: par for the course.
But also, now, ENORMITY. Jesus GOD yes. Shiva, thunderheads, mushroom clouds, black holes, burning bushes, typhoons. That kind of thing. But silent, empty, spaceless, timeless, formless.
I need to shut up though. Language and Nothing don’t mix. It seems the best humans (not counting Dogen and TS Eliot) can do is phallic buildings and obsessive trembling worship of natural disasters.
Next to Nothing, the mind is not a mystery. We’re just idiots. We have evolved to believe that selves are things. Nature did that to make us eat and mate. We have evolved to remember faces and songs, and little else, with clarity. To think in lame language. To run on a narrow band of visual-auditory perception – data streams a fraction as rich as those our animal kin can sense. What’s crazy is that blips of Nothing permeate the mindstream, making everything bounce forward and back in spacetime. Getting clear and deep enough to see that at all took me seven silent retreats in six years. Slow learner. I should have studied Patanjali more closely from the start.
Then, the last two retreats, I just sat with the mind like an intermittent TV. The mind is not beautiful. But the rhythms it creates, those are so beautiful that in the moments I come to from Nothing I just want to SCREAM there in the zendo afterglow. The energy of that roils up and down my torso and shakes my ribcage. Why did I waste time?
You! DO. NOT. WASTE. TIME. Study the wild mind down to its empty little units. Deconstruct that shit. Outsmart ego already. THAT is freaking YOGA.
The obstacle is the path, yo. It’s a twisted gift from the other side. Take any suffering that sharpens up the selfiness and mine down into that to understand the very nature of the ego disease. Don’t tighten up and turn away from the pain. The old way is boring and it hurts worse than anything. Instead open up and turn in. Take a glance. Seeing the selfing mechanism, and the moments it mixes with Nothing, starts a natural course of events that lead to the cure.
Back to phallic buildings. Wonderfully, the Washington Monument is restrained in Gulliverian scaffolding for the summer. “Seismic upgrade.” A good thing to fly over on the way here. Now I’m back inside the Beltway of the beast, sitting in the terminal at Reagan National while CNN chatters on about some Verizon privacy dustup. (As if the Patriot Act is “news.” Come on, Internet.) Shock and awe and the broken obelisk aside, there was no shortage this week on inappropriate architecture. I practiced every day in a church the shape of an arrow. It’s so exciting this place exists.
The first day, I practiced during lunch, so the other meditators wouldn’t be bothered by some lady standing on one leg with the other one wrapped behind her neck while heavy breathing and looking out over the James River from the chapel’s stone porch. But after that, more of the others started coming to the chapel instead of taking lunch. It’s like they wanted to be part of the yoga. Like cats.
The whole lunchtime ritual got increasingly transcendence-laced, unfixated, off the hook.
There came to be maybe a dozen of us each day. Some practicing asana or Tai chi, some walking in tiny circles, one on a hill nearby and another in the hammock overlooking the river.
The second day, a man went into the chapel and played Chopin for an hour. I opened the door so we could hear clearly on the porch, feeling the whole group of us contract together in delight about the secret we were sharing. This perfect moment. We must be breaking the rules – would the Church be scandalized by if they knew we were high? The next day, a woman came and (loudly) ate shelled peanuts. Possibly an enlightened act. Twice, it rained, driving heat and humidity into our bodies. Which might have been “a problem” in another mindstate, but the tamas didn’t stick.
Every day around noon, a cargo train passed just down the hill, on the other side of the James River. The last day, the train’s rumble unsettled a group of black-headed geese below the trees. They freaked out and flapped around not far off the ground. (Which didn’t remind me of duck dukkha until just now.)
Then they found a formation, an arrow, and I remembered to look at my nose.