There is a curious custom, that began back east - or maybe, further east - in the remote hills of New England or, perhaps, of northern Europe, of gathering up dead leafs that lay scattered on the ground - golden brown vestiges of great expansive oaks and maples and birch and various other sorts - like costumes after the ball, like pages in one's journal that tell the story of one's wrinkled character - the one being a tree in this example, but not unlike one's own. Then for lack of any better occupation, out of lack of lust for living, or as substitute for failing to set ablaze the world, for lack of youth or maturity, or discipline or parental supervision, they set ablaze this stack of leafs, sending smoke into the sky as well as into their eyes and sometimes into their neighbors' eyes. And it was a grand presentation. They have accomplished something cultural. Something which all men admire - this billowing smoke stack of the residual of spring. And this is something akin to what I shall do here. A grand presentation of my own residue. And I blame no one, not even my heretofore conceived of self. I only regret that I have no more to show for such precious encounters with other living things on this, my solo journey. I have only the lonely ramblings i sketch out below to show for the great kindness and benevolence of my parents, my teachers and spiritual friends.
I was born in Tulsey Town in the winter of the Water Dragon (Dec. 20, 1952), but I didn't take the package deal. Fer sure, mom and dad were hard-working God-fearing people: business-minded - an accountant and bookkeeper - and republicans. I must have been a major disappointment to them. Especially dad - I was his only son in 3 marriages and 4 daughters. Both of them were generous and kind to me, and we got along well enough. We just didn't share the same interests.
My dad died on Father's Day 1990 following bypass surgery, having separated from my mom in 1970. She lives on, now of 79 years and persistent - she recently bought a tiny gift shop which she's wanted for twenty years. She is the reason I've returned.
I think I would have better liked Tulsa but my parents chose Ok City before I could articulate anything. As a kid, I was estranged from school early - like in first grade, when we were using Dick and Jane readers and the teacher asked us kids what kind of sound a dog makes. I knew this one, so I raised my hand and started barking. The teacher laughed. The kids laughed. It was a lot of fun. Then she called on another student who answered, "Bow wow." "That's right!" the teacher said. This is how the dog talked in our book. I didn't trust books for a long time, and still have trouble with teachers. School and I would have an uneasy time - until college.
I actually got two degrees from the University of Okiedokie- a bachelors in psychology and, later, a masters in economics. And in Norman, I finally found my home. I got the psychobabble degree in '76. I suspect this was before you were born. Things were a lot different in the 70s: not as wild as the 60s, but still a lot more options, and I inhaled on more than one occasion. The Human Potential movement was in full swing. I became intrigued with oriental philosophies, with t'ai chi, yogas and natural food. But particularly, I began an intense study of Gestalt Therapy.
GT was developed by Fritz Perls and taught to me by Max Painten - truly one of the kindest persons I've known. Pretty hip for its day, GT merged freudian psychoanalysis with existential philosophy and zen buddhism. And it worked pretty well: Max was particularly good at pushing me out of myself - that is to say, personality - for a fresh look at things. This is good in a therapeutic sense because its usually all the petty little thoughts and nagging and blaming and blah blah blah that occupies our mind all the time which pretty much makes so much suffering for ourself and everybody around us. So the idea is to wake up and take a loook around. Awake-alert-alive. Great. Then it just kinda leaves you there. Yikes! That's the problem of western psychology altogether - it either adjusts the individual neurosis to the social neurosis or it laspses into hedonism. Or else it is just more petty little thoughts and nagging and blaming and blah blah blah. That's how it seemed to me. So I took some time off.
I hitched the coastal highway in scalifornia for the summer to a zen monastery at mt shasta, then found my way to a taoist community at the foot of pike's peak. It was owned by Gia Fu Feng - the little chinese man who translated those picture books you can still find in Barnes & Nobles, of the Tao Te Ching and the inner chapters of Chuang Tzu. I still have a great afinity to taoism - it speaks well to hermits, toward which i lean a lot. The trailhead to pike's peak also began at the community's property, and I spent a lot of time walking. But in particular i liked the people there - around 30 at the time - interesting folks from all over the world. Gia Fu took a special interest in me as a t'ai chi student. Rainbows appeared daily up the mountain side as the afternoon clouds had cleared. It was a golden time in my life. But it didn't last. The group fractured; the property sold out; Gia Fu died. And i returned to Norman.
I came back a little bummed out, but eventually took an interest in carpentry. A couple of friends were living by lake thunderchicken - at a place called "The Farm" with allusions to the famous Gaskin Farm in Tennessee. Stephen Gaskin led a bunch of hippies in a caravan of psychodelic school busses from SF bay to the Atlantic and back again to land in Tenessee in the 60's. When I checked it out in '79 there were close to 2k people living communally on the land: a pretty amazing feat. Out at lake dirtybird there were about a dozen people pretty much doing separate things - except for Mitch, an architect and forerunner of solar designs. I became his crew, set up and moved into a tipi on the hill overlooking the group house. Another of his friends from california - a great worker and generally nice guy to have around - joined us and eventually several others - all hippies and solar-revolutionaries. We were developing solar housing in the hills of oklahoma. It was the oil-crisis - you may have read about it somewhere - and a housing market bonanza. We thought we were doing something good for the planet, as well as having good times with pot lucks and folk singing and passing babies around. This went on for a couple of years - then everything changed again.
"Sweet dreams and flying machines And pieces on the ground." -- James Taylor "The times, they are a-changin' " -- Bob Dylan
In 1979, Max Painten died of cigarette cancer; an x-lover - a beautiful woman with great potential and the most beautiful green eyes - shot herself in the head; a fellow carpenter, who ran his own crew but took me on as partner, drove his pickup into the lake and then went down with the ship. In early summer, a storm wind - clocked at over 100 mph at Tinkerbell afb - climbed the hilltop and blew my tipi down. I reckoned it must be time for change.
A storm was gathering on a larger front, too. Society was rivetted in the '60s, and an uncertainty prevailed in the global economy, right thru the '70s. There were also geo-political blah blah blah and collusion energy prices; and a speculative bonaza in real estate, which sent renters in search of higher wages and was underwritten by the tax-payers of america (see Penn Square Bank). There were many pundits and theories about that time - sooth-slayers, doom-sayers, professors and prophets, many of which rallied to a conservative coup: a taxpayer revolt, a Reagan Revolution! - but I have my own point of view.
By the late 1970's, communities - families, neighborhoods, villages, religious groups and communes throughout the world - were organizing toward a common agenda of living in harmony with life, with the planet, with humanity and themselves- or so, we dreamt together. We found support and resonance with the Carter Administration, but as of 1980 - the dream was over. In hard times, people rally together; but in good, they each seek their own. This is a truism I discovered. Ambition is not a substitute for life. Ambition is not a substitute for life. But at this time - in 1980-, I became amitious.
I returned to college - the UFO of Okiedokie - for a master's degree of economizing. I had to memorize a lot of formulae because I had cheated in high school - such is karma - but I managed to do alright. I wuz even VP of the honor society (seriuzly). I incorporated a community development corporation for Norman OK. But it died. It was already the '80s: too late; too bad. So I moved to Austin.
By 1983, I was more interested in latin america as a place ripe for adventure, as was the Reagan administrigation in its contra nicaragua.The whole north- noriega drugs-for-guns scandal centered around there as well. I was a low bidder, and so folded my hand, getting involved with the cooperative community around UT instead.
I was financial advisor to the student housing cooperatives, but they didn't heed my advice. They were accustomed to a situation where they could raise rents 10% every year - which was the other side of the speculative bonanza - and I advised them to stop it. They had to do it, they said, to buy more property at inflationary prices. But mainly I was interested in information. i wanted to design, as a matter of personal interest, an accounting system that was in itself cooperative. They chose to spend several thousand bucks on a fund accounting system for city governments. No hope; no fun. I found cheaper rent elsewhere, as well as better pay.
I went to work for a high tech firm, so common to Austin, producing computer interface boards for scientific instruments. I was its cost accountant. Pretty nice company. pretty good job. I got a lot of respect, freedom and a window. And the money was also good. At the same time, I was living with the most wonderful woman who spoke up for me, loved me and would of had my child. This is as close as I would come to a conventional lifestyle. It was where most romantic comedies end - the happily-ever-after part. But i wasn't all that happy.
Always regretted leaving her - but she came out ok. I found her recently on the internet: now married and with two kids and working as a writer in manhattan. As for myself, I took to the road in '87 - like a desperado - and wound up in Santa Fe. I wanted to find a teacher, and Santa Fe is a place where people come to teach.
... and spend money. Making money is more problematic, but i lucked out and got hired on at an art museum at the pueblo indian school. I was the computer dude at the museum for a couple of fun years, but later took on the task of managing the new and evolving novell network tying the art college together. That wasn't much fun: less interaction with students; more with big management, and suits. And novell definitely aint cooperative.Yuk.
But it was through this connection and at that time that I found what i was looking for. In April 1991, I met the Dalai Lama.
Along the riverbank under the trees, I discover footprints Even under the fragrant grass, I see his prints. Deep in the remote mountains they are found. These traces can no more be hidden than one's nose, looking heavenward.
In his extensive tour of western countries in 1991 - aka, the Year of Tibet - H.H. Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, came to Santa Fe to meet the pueblo elders. By chance of working at the sf indian s'cool where they met, I got to meet him too. No big deal. He looked in my eyes and smiled. I smiled too. I smiled for quite a few months thereafter, and people I encountered also smiled. It was a wondiculous time in my life. And i guess he made an impression in me.
I spent the following year in asia - Nepal and India - staying in buddhist monastaries and mountain lodges. India is an amazing place - another world from our perspective: lepers, beggars and burning ghats - and the tibetans also are an amazing people. I met some who had just crossed the mountains from Tibet, carrying all their possessions on their back, in exile from the tyranny of china, destitute and weary, their cheeks full of color, their faces full with smiles, their hearts filled with joy and devotion. . This also made a great impression on me.
After several months wandering along the "dharma trail," i finally arrived in dharamsala - the Dalai Lama's residence in exile, where i received several teachings and generally had a good time - i returned to the land of Cibola. I then turned westward toward ashland OR where i had an intimation i would meet my lama.
No, not llama - Lama. There's a difference. I had several indications that was where we would meet. So, i took the scenic route west and north to oregon and arrived in Ashland kinda late and in the november drizzle. While i waited outside for a movie to start, a tibetan lama turned the corner and walked down the opposite side of the street. This was Chagdud Tulku, a dzogchen master, with whom i would spend the next 3 years in the gold-rush tailings of n. california.
I was the best of times; it was the worst of times. it was an intense situation. By the end, i had all what i wanted - or, all that i could take. Chagdud Tulku and his senior students then moved to Brasil in 1995, and in 1996 - after a 9 month retreat - i returned to oklahoma.
This was about the same time as the subway masacre by the Aum sect of Shoko Asahara and, as there are few examples of yogi retreat in the bible belt, my mom was a little flipped. Moreover, she - like the rest of us - was getting older. i came back to ease her concerns, and to deal with such praticalities as living and dying in the sooner sate.
These daze, i continue to alternate seasonally between work and retreat. I spent the last two summers in colorado, high in the mountains and by myself. The rest of the year i do whatever temp jobs come along, as you know - this is how we met. It has worked well for me, but even this situation must change. I, too, am getting older.
Don't worry. I'm leaving.
Going is just the same as coming - only from a different perspecive. A lot of people get really attached to the coming: their house, their car, their loved ones, their job, etc; and they get really upset when it leaves. "Say good-bye," says mr. tornado or mr fertilizer bomb or ms old age or whatever. But, coming and going occurs everyday for no other reason than time itself. We call it change: and change is another way of saying that all phenomena come and go - only mind remains. That is why I place my attention on mind-itself, not on phenomena.
You, on the other hand, are young and attractive and newly married, acquiring this thing, that thing - sports car, entertainment center, etc. You think you have a secure and permanent position with the state of okiecoma. Of course, i wish it were so. I want you to be happy. But i worry a little about how much emphasis you place on these things. These things will not last very long; and soon you will want more things to take their place. Working harder, longer, to pay for more and more things. And you will grow old and fat like most people at otc. And you will not be very happy. This is what i think. And eventually, of course, you and everyone you know will die. And all these things become totally irrelevant - like the things you visited in a dream last night - and you will see them no longer. This is my fear; this is my expectation; this, in fact, will happen.
You can do whatever you want. I can only follow a path which I began a long time ago, longer than i can remember. And on this path, I get into one entanglement after another only to be released in total despair to find i was always completely free - just dreaming. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. Doesn't matter. Always coming and going within a continuous mind. The question becomes, for me then, how do i improve this mind?
And this makes me weird and estranged within this okiecoma culture. Some would say we differ by basic belief, but belief is insignificant compared with practice. If you believe in life everlasting, why be so attached to these things that can be tossed by a strong wind? Why bicker about momentary rifts at the office or in traffic, or who you should speak with or what to say. You speak openly and honestly and act with as much love and concern as possible - because we are all going to be together a long time. This is my belief; This is my practice. Don't you think this is good to do?
I stayed at otc for four months - longer than most temps. You asked why i am leaving, i asked why i stayed so long . Really the answer is the same for both: it is you. i stayed as long as i could in order to know you; i left because i felt i could not know you any more. I understand the reason for this. Besides the age thing and my general weirdness - you are a married woman. That is something i have a hard time accepting or understanding; but it is important to you. If marriage is a union, it is a very partial and inward-turning one - to me it has seemed to isolate a couple from the rest of the world. I can't say that i respect marriage much except as a way to raise children, and even then it is not always successful. But I have to support your wish and commitment, and i hope it provides a long lasting happiness for you both and for your children, which you both must want.
And, in any case, i can appease myself with the notion that we will meet again - but maybe not in this lifetime. Until then, and forever, i wish only for your happiness, health and well-being. And likewise for everyone you know and love.
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