16 February 2009

ode to jacques cousteau (poem)

it's hard to imagine
how we survived the dark days
before the internet.
but we had jacques cousteau

who brought us, just children,
with him on his adventures

who spoke english to us
though it clearly tortured his throat.

jacques cousteau was my pied piper.

i am sinking with him
down & down & down
into a dark world
where we will shine our lights.

10 February 2009

Song (poem)

I marked the moments of being lost
and being lost was a longing
a song

left on my lips traces of rind
as one hears train sounds
but no train

I marked the moments of the song
by being lost
my compass

as if, before entering a lake
I took the clothes off my clothes
marked the moments on trees

I followed until I couldn’t see
not even rabbits,

not even loss,

there was no trail,
only longing and a song

I marked the moments

being lost was my

04 February 2009

Me and other people: Love

There is a path from me to you that I am constantly looking for, so I try to keep clear & still as water does with the moon. -Rumi.

My relationship of the last 7 years ended in October, and my life has changed drastically since then. Not how it looks or operates on the outside so much, but how it feels, how it looks, how it tastes. The main area that has changed is my experience of myself in relation to other people.

Of course I felt sad at the ending of the relationship. But I think in general, I feel more loving & open. More vulnerable even. It feels really good. I feel a lot of love for people. I wish it were more; I wish it were all the time. (Being loving all the time toward everyone including myself is the essence of my interest in Buddhist practice.)

Recently when my friend Mike left for a long trip we said "I love you" to each other many times. It was very sweet. I've become very attached to Padmatara (who I live with) as my advisor and person to hash things out with and emerge with greater clarity. Also very recently I resolved to let go of resentment from the distant past with a few different people in the sangha. I would experience a disharmony with someone, ask myself where it was coming from, realize it was coming from me, and resolve to stop creating it (around things that are presently irrelevent). Letting go in this way also feels great.

But with men, it's different now...I experience them as men. Before they were people first, and they were men somewhere in the second or third degree of observation. Now through the emergence of some dark and dusky neediness, they're men and in an entirely non-willed kind of way, I somehow want their love. The only requirement is that the man is single. I do not even have to be attracted to him, though the dynamic will be very subtle if I'm not. So this is the new and most salient expression of thirst, in the Buddhist sense, in my life.

A further irony is that along with this thirst is the conviction - yes I think I can call it a conviction - that the nature of sexual relationships (in fact probably any relationship, but much more for the romantic ones), at least for me, is dukkha, suffering. This means that even if I feel very happy, this way of relating to men, to whatever degree it is happening gives a corresponding sense that I am embarking upon a path of pain. So there's this slight movement inside me toward the thing I harbor the deepest suspicion of. I can do nothing about all the ironies really but watch and be amused.

For years I've sometimes thought about taking the anagarika precept (more info about what that is in the notes below.) But then there's the question, if I did, would it be simply because I have such ultimately incompetent taste in men and figure, what is the point of carrying on? (Not that all my partners haven’t been lovely, just that I could not be happy with them for long.) Obviously I will need to resolve this question to some degree, regardless of whether or not I decide to become an anagarika.

I am determined not to keep doing the same thing, falling into a situation not knowing what it is, really, or who it is with, guided by unknown samskaric trash. A book I read recently (The Brain that Changes Itself) said research has revealed that 'falling in love' and cocaine effect the brain in very similar ways. Also in certain ways the ending of love is neurally indistinguishable from drug withdrawal. So I know all this, and I think I'm going to be sensible about it all but then the hormones or whatever they are (endorphins?) kick in, and I wake up at some point having dug another hole for myself that I'm trying to claw my way out of. The conviction not to do this again seems stronger now than it has in the past. But one never knows. In the face of some things I am quite helpless.

All of which might sound bleak. I am enjoying these realizations. I know that pain cannot be avoided, and that much of the time our attempts to avoid pain simply cause more of it. I am just noticing what's going on, which is to a large degree about my own tangled-upness in regards to sexual relationships, and noticing my subtle (I hope) neediness around some men.

I am noticing how much notions of self-view and self-worth are tied up with sexual relationships. I am noticing that these aren't things I'm deciding to do. Seems more like they are being done on me. They are just happening, and I am trying to be aware and loving as they twirl around and inside me.

More info
What is an anagarika? (another post on this blog)
Breaking Up - 3 Acts (also on this blog, from October 2008)
Image is Hockney's "A Bigger Splash" from Mark Harden's Artchive.

02 February 2009

What is an anagarika? (in the FWBO)

From Wikipedia:

Unlike some Buddhist sangha, the FWBO does not propagate a monastic lineage. Sangharakshita devised a non-monastic ordination system, whilst also allowing the undertaking of the "anagarika" precept which enjoins celibacy.

From Marriage in the Western Buddhist Order by Subhuti:

We...have a ceremony for those who wish to undertake life-long celibacy as Anagarikas, in recognition of the prime importance of celibacy for spiritual life. Anyone who is seriously pursuing the path will be working to overcome craving and attachment, and perhaps our strongest and most abiding longing is the sexual. Indeed, the Buddha says:
I know of no other single form, sound, scent, savour, and touch by which a man’s heart is so enslaved as it is by the form, voice, scent, savour, and touch of a woman. A man’s heart is obsessed by these things. And so is a woman’s heart enslaved and obsessed by those of a man. (Condensed from Anguttara Nikaya, 1, i.) [Please replace "men" and "woman" with "object of your desire."]
Sangharakshita teaches that brahmacharya or chastity is an aspect of going for Refuge, and all who are committed to the Three Jewels should be developing brahmacharya to some extent, whether or not they are sexually active, by diligently deepening their sources of fulfillment and cultivating contentment. Anagarikas have reached the point of being able to maintain physical chastity quite happily, and are working to further diminish their reliance on the senses as means of emotional satisfaction. Whilst Anagarikas have no superior status in the Order and movement, we have marked out the importance of celibacy by instituting a ceremony for those who are able to take on the precept of brahmacharya, and aspire to do so for the remainder of their lives.

From Sexual Evolution by Dhammadinna:

...He [Sangharakshita] also expressed pleasure that more people were taking the Anagarika precept, which enjoins chastity. He never urges anyone to take this precept and Order members need not be celibate. 'One is only asked to keep one’s sex life at the periphery, or towards the periphery. But if one can be celibate in a positive and healthy way, I’m sure that will enable one - other factors being equal - to develop spiritually more rapidly.'

During the late 1980s and early ′90s more men and women Order members took the Anagarika precept. Becoming an Anagarika does not constitute a higher ordination but it involves the precept of abstention from sexual activity (abrahmacarya). Some Anagarikas have maintained this precept while others have ceased to be chaste and reverted to their previous status. It seems that being celibate is not easy in the West, as the culture that surrounds us is so concerned with sex.

Sangharakshita maintains, however, that the extent to which we are caught up in sexual activity and craving is a matter of degree. In this sense we are all celibate or non-celibate to some extent..."

Image is Thiebaud's "Girl with Ice Cream Cone" from Mark Harden's Artchive.

FWBO stands for Fickle World Boxing Organization. Also, Friends of the Western Buddhist Order at fwbo.org.
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