Failure

Practicing in this Nature with an inconceivable numbers of teachers from the other-than-human world without almost no contact with the human world. 

While sitting one morning on the banks of the Nehalem River in Central West Oregon, after a restless night and waking to doubt, the teaching of Dakpo Tasha Namgyal from “Clarifying the Natural State” cracked open a non-conceptual experience of mind unified with thoughts, perceptions and feelings. I experienced wholeness, an at-oneness, and ease and freedom, similar to states elucidated by psilocybin or ahyauasca, but this had happened in the natural meditative state. 

I went into the post meditative daily doings and thinking and it remained constant and stable. “I have made it!” I thought to myself. “This state (something like non-duality) can be achieved without the medicine plants and sustained with my own attention and mindfulness.” I could hear the blaring horns of the Tibetan monks blowing and the chorus of all enlightening ones and Buddha’s, or as Gangaji likes to say “All the angels, gods and demons had gathered ‘round to witness and get a piece of the action.” I was in awe, surprise, deepest gratitude, and wanting to share the joy and luck with anyone who was still, unlike me, suffering from ignorance. 

While sitting by the river studying and experiencing my “enlightenment”, a large and persistent, beautiful, turquoise-eyed, golden-bodied fly had decided that I looked like lunch. I was marinating in the experience of my oneness and reveling the reading of the “Flower Ornament Scriptures” and kindly asked the fly to find another counter to feast at. They would have nothing of it. Clearly I was the only thing on the menu  and they proceeded to land on a hidden part of my leg and partake, resulting in a mere instant of sharp pain. After a yelp and an angry “Hey!”, I began discouraging the beast with my hat, flailing at it when it got near, like an artistic gymnastic ribbon performance. Their persistence stirred an anger in me that was from somewhere deep in the shadows of my “non-dual” state. I leapt up grabbed my chair and gear and book and scrambled away from the water and up the trail to the safety of my tent where, after settling down a bit, checked to see if the state of being was still present. 

Something was there but it was more similar to a strong echo than the actual presencing experience from the morning.

It was time for the midday practice and so I sat. The torment of awakened anger wreaking havoc in my being was like being ripped to shreds from the inside out. Shantideva references this demon-devastation-from-the-hell-realms when teaching about the karma of the defilements, like pride, arrogance, fear and especially anger. Not only was I experiencing this fire, I could find no way out.

After the sit I was  emotionally and physically drained. It was late afternoon so I began my ritual of setting up the shade awning and preparing the space for dinner. Well, guess who was there to greet me? While bending over to adjust a tent stake, I experienced a solid two seconds of needle-sharp, hot pain in my butt (Go ahead laugh. Please!!, I did.). I thought Well, they got what they wanted and now I can be left in peace.” I thanked them for the teaching about anger and asked them to please move on. Apparently it wasn’t enough and our dance began again. I started to feel like I was on the losing side of one of those Matrix fight scenes. Finally, they landed on my calf just as I swatted it and I knocked them to the ground, dead. “Dead as dead”, as the crow in Ka likes to say. 

I checked in with my experience and I wasn’t really angry, in fact it had felt like a game of teasing and jousting that just got out of hand. I sincerely apologized to the golden turquoise-eyed, compassionate warrior and set his body aside to be interned with honor after I finished my work. That was when I checked in with my “enlightening” experience and it was nowhere in sight, sound, sense, feeling or thought. There was just this dull, thick density like a non-porous obsidian sponge stone. 

I buried my teacher near a stand of Japanese’s knotweed (which is where they seemed to come from), overlooking the Nelahem river in sight of the Buddha’s head and guarded by the  stalwart Douglas Fir

and went on about the evening ritual of dinner, tea, practice, study and sleep.

By the time I was nestling into bed, I was in a state of immutable despair. I had the Indestructible Gem of Truth in my grasp and I let it go. I had allowed unconscious pride, arrogance, and anger to rise up justifying it by thinking, “After all, I got it and I shouldn’t have to be bothered with the mundane, much less a fucking fly“. At the heart of it I felt that I failed the teachers and the practice. I had been here before: As a son of disappointed parents, an all-nighter evening on a Texas beach when everything seemed connected, a retreat in Taize’ France, on my knees in pre-seminary, with the aforementioned medicine teachers, with Gangaji, on a monthlong silent Dhatun in the mountains of Colorado. It was like an inoperable karmic knot of awakening to truth then just as I grasped it, falling back into this reality of uncontrolled emotions, and self important thinking.

Waking the next day in dullness, I continued my daily rhythm, hoping, looking over my shoulder, lifting the lid on the pot of my mental bubbling to see if “It” was there. It was gone, for good, dead, “dead as dead”. I kept the rhythm of the day, the cleaning, the practicing, the studying, the resting, the relishing of Nature. All the while thinking, It’ll come back. It wasn’t that big of a faux pas.” Then after hours of diminishing hope: “If I continue to do it right (the practice), maybe I can end this perpetual karmic cycle of pride and anger in this lifetime. Or at least engrain the experience into my bones so that I’ll have a better chance of seeing it before it takes me over the next time.” 

There were several moments of ease and joy throughout the day. The sits were uneventful but honest and I began entertaining ideas that I just was not meant for this practice. By sleep time I felt like I had experienced a death. A deep death and I went into the little death at ease resigned to it.

The next morning, I woke with a little tickle of joy in my solar plexus. Like the feeling I had, as a child, waking up on Christmas morning, or the feeling I have had in new love; anticipating their phone call or arrival for a date. I began the rhythm of the day.

I always begin practice, reading from “Clarifying the Natural State” and this day I read from Straying:

“… the basic straying is to regard the emotion (that you wish) to be discarded and the training as separate and so to use the training as a remedy against the emotion. Whenever a thought moves or when encountering a difficult situation, the temporary straying is (to believe that) one can only be composed in meditation after the difficulty has been overcome.”

And my heart wept in joy and Buddha head laughed, and stalwart Fir rustled slightly and a bald eagle soared down the Nelahelam at eye level as an exclamation point.

A teaching from the Flower Ornament Scriptures is that every moment of the three Times, every pore of every being of existence, every atom of the billions of mind oceans are permeated with the teaching of Universal Goodness. Every aspect of the precious human lifetime is a revelation of the true nature of reality and not one being will be left untouched by the enlightening Ones’ gifts. 

I have always thought and still get trapped in thinking that It has to look, feel and sound a particular way. My expectations for freedom are insurmountable and ultimately merely concepts. And in moments like these and more frequently, as the practice becomes life and life becomes the practice, the reality of the nature of reality is just as it is, whatever that is, without the promise or hope of some future better place. Everything contributes.

It’s inconceivable.

Thank you for this teaching, Oh Great and Compassionate Warrior Fly, adorned with the gold from the Lion’s Throne and eyes bedecked with the lapis lazuli from the mines of the infinite Oceans of Wisdom and stinger anointed with the Nectar of Reminder. 

I dedicate this practice to all the teachers, seen and unseen, heard and unheard, known and unknown. May all my words, deeds, actions, thoughts and emotions be a fulfillment of their teachings.

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