Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pema Chodron and Bill Moyers

If any of you get the chance, be sure to watch "Faith and Reason" with Bill Moyers on PBS. It is one of my favorite PBS shows, right up there with "The Power of Myth" and Joseph Campbell.

Today, he interviewed Pema Chodron. I remember when she was a very, very important part of my education. In some ways, I have outgrown her a bit but she still always says something that makes me think.

She talked about attachment and the nature of attachment, especially attachment to security. This was always been a major issue for me and, honestly, I never felt any sense of security until I ended up with this small monthly pension that guarantees that I will always be housed and fed. That makes me fortunate compared to many.

It's something I used to obsess about, particularly when my entire world shattered in 1994 and I found myself in Tucson, Arizona. No money, no job, no friends. Just me and my ratty old Toyota Corolla. It was one of those wacky things we all experience at least once in a lifetime. I left Maryland on May 20th of that year and had no destination. I just drove. And drove. And drove. I landed in Tucson so I stayed for a few years. There is, of course, more to this story.

I left Maryland because my life had been threatened by a stalker. (If you can imagine, those who know me, that I would even draw the attention of someone like that!) At 4.00AM on May 20th, the situation reached critical mass and if I hadn't left, I would likely have been a homicide victim. How all of it evolved is a story for another day.

The important thing is that it was a pivotal event in my life and one that turned out to be among the most life-altering.

As commonly happens when we try to flow with the river instead of against it, I found alittle cottage to rent. It was small, 500 square feet or so, and had a cute little old-fashioned kitchen, a fair sized bedroom and a small livingroom. I really loved the place. Shortly thereafter, I sold some land and had adequate funding for a year or so. These things all just ... worked. I can't explain it.

I recall sitting on the couch in the small livingroom, staring at the brick wall. No metaphor there. It was brick! At that moment, I realized that there was nothing left inside. I was a shell. A completely empty vessel, ready for nearly growth I could possibly find. It wasn't so much that my life had been threatened. Death has never been particularly frightening. Poof. We're gone. No big deal. It was the realization that I had been drifting without moorings for years which is what led me to get involved in that screwy relationship. A healthy, strong, secure person would not have drawn that sort of person into her life. I did. It was the result of one of my not-so-good choices and, again, that's another story.

Once there, I had a strong feeling that I had been drawn to Tucson for a reason. Tucson is one of those places where spirituality just oozes from the pores of the place. It's very powerful energetically.

I began to explore Native American spirituality and it fit very well. Many of the principles remain with me today. The spirit world is a very organized place and many of the traditions are aware of that, even though the various metaphysical philosophies may express it differently.

I learned all about soul retrieval, shamanism, ecology, place entities - many of those things that really do make sense if you have any sense of the spirit world at all. The stuff that sounded like utter bunk was usually from someone who was trying to westernize and Americanize the concepts for the New Age market. The teacher I had in this process, a very wise shaman named Jana, would guide me in exploring all of these matters and constantly challenged me to challenge myself. The issue of security was a primary hindrance to my ability to run freely with it.

When I listened to Pema today, she made a point that many people have a tendency to fundamentalism. She didn't mean "fundamentalism" in the Christian sense exclusively. She was referring to the "all or nothing" approach to any religion, spiritual practice or political philosophy.

She nailed me. I have that tendency. Historically, when I give myself to something, I give totally, everything, all the way, completely and without reservation. Whether it is mystical Buddhism, Native American shamanism or a marriage, my heart and my soul are committed to it. I'm a rule follower. I like predictability. I like the idea that if I do "A", "B" will occur. I like logic... the tried and the true.

My commitment to the Thai way of life has been the first thing I've adopted that hasn't gone that way. That isn't to say that I cherry-pick the stuff I like and blow off the parts that may be a little difficult or challenging. There are plenty of social rules in the culture to keep me happy without turning me into a drone. I don't feel the need to become so absorbed that there's no room for anything or anyone else. All of my previous interests and friends are still a part of my life. This feels "right". It is free-flowing and soft. It is integrated into my daily life insuch a way that it doesn't appear pretentious or affected. This is the real me. It's not going to cave in or crumble because I screw something up. I learn from my misunderstanding of some cultural subtlety and move on.

So.. perhaps Pema is right. It is the attachment to security that creates much of our suffering. One of the things I learned most in Tucson is that there's really no such thing. We can create an illusion of security - but true security only exists inside of us ~ with our choices.

We are looking forward to the first rain of the season here. I love the rain! It has the feel of bathing the streets and buildings, making them shiny and clean. The sound of rain on the wooden roof of my deck is one of the most heavenly sounds in the world!

May everyone have a very peaceful Sunday evening~

Thailand Gal


meno said...

I look forward to hearing "the other stories". Thanks for your comment on my blog. This looks like an interesting read.

Thailand Gal said...

Thank you for visiting! :) Meno, you write a very interesting blog and it always makes me think about something you've said. Hope you will come back to see mine again. The stories will come with time.

Wishing you peace ~

Thailand Gal