On 2010

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The Monumental Effort of Letting Go

It is a time of great dissolution for me - perhaps it is for all of us.

It's interesting that this dissolution comes during the end of 2010 and the dawning of 2011 - during some significant astrological events - all mirroring what's going on in my life (the outer / the "out there" / the macrocosm) and in my internal landscape (the inner / the mind-body-spirit / the "in here" / the microcosm).

I remember doing some very deep work a little over a year ago now - 'La Medicina' - and facing what appeared to be absolute destruction. I vividly remember begging for mercy - and I am NOT one to beg. I think that anyone who knows me well, knows this to be the case. I now think I was being brought to the precipice for a purpose; to experience the utter helplessness and to fight-back with all I had. Not to simply win purchase, temporary or otherwise, or to win a perceived victory to further establish my worthiness or superiority (ego) in that sacred space and context, but to understand the effort it takes to both consciously stay here and to consciously leave here. It was the ultimate lesson in letting go. At once the most difficult and at once the easiest thing to do in my life. Ultimate duality is brought into a single moment - into a single, final, monumental lesson. A Herculean effort. I suppose that it's probably the same effort that it takes to come here in the first place...

The great masters have all gone to that same precipice. Terence and a few other intrepid, valiant, brave explorers have gone there too. And I believe that they all went beyond it - that they all had the courage to just "let go" into the void or Logos - into whatever was just on the other side - and then come back. It's "The Hero's Journey" by Joseph Campbell as expressed in its purest form.

I wasn't ready for that kind of journey - for that particular lesson and experience. At that time, I couldn't muster the courage necessary. And of course, I'm no great master and I'm no Terence McKenna, or Myron Stolaroff, or Ram Dass, or Alan Watts, or Dr. Leo Zeff, etc. These are / were great men of character, integrity, compassion, courage, and conviction. Heavy hitters one-and-all. While I aspire to follow in their prodigious footsteps and to begin to simply grasp what they were able to comprehend and bring back, I am not able to as eloquently or articulately share it with the rest of us as they have. These are great teachers. I am not.

One thing I do know is that we spend our lives building castles in the sand. Investing everything of ourselves in just so many houses made of cards - of dominoes. And of course we do - this is what we're taught, how we're conditioned, what has been designed for us. How else can we possibly be in this world if not for contributing our part to the Great Maya? It is the way of things. And for 364 days I honor that contribution and I honor that Great Illusion. But today, this one day, this New Years' Eve, I honor the dissolution - the ending - the transition - the goodbye.

I have segmented and silo'd my life into various slices and areas in an 'infographic' or 'pie chart' in my mind. It's representative of my 'day job' life as a data analyst. Each slice or area is represented by a classification. One is intimate relationships / lovers, one is family, one is friends, one is work / career / calling - and in the center - the very hub - is a circle or core that is this person, this mind-body-ego-personality, this barry fleming, and in the center of THAT is my spiritual practice / my Sadhana / my teachers / my gurus / my 'carencia' (Jack Kornfield speaks eloquently about the 'carencia' in one of his talks on DharmaSeed) - and the 'I AM'.

I have watched each one of those quadrants - each one of those 'slices of my life' - darken over time. It's just representative of my Karma - the way things worked-out. And when I say 'darken', I mean that the relative safety and stability afforded by each of those quadrants has waxed-and-waned at different times over the years. Today, I have noted that the whole chart, the entirety of the circle, has dimmed. All areas save one - the 'carencia' - or my personal place of safety. That is the very center of the circle - the inner core - my Sadhana - and the Witness - the I AM.

This is the lesson. The 'carencia' can sometimes be found - and many times we ascribe it to different places and at different times as we grow and evolve. This is often referred to as co-dependence! But when the 'carencia' cannot be found - when we have exhausted ourselves in the searching - all we can do - just like the proverbial dying bull in the ring, burdened by so many barbs and swords plunged into its shoulders - is to succumb - to simply let go. The fight is over.

If we always know that our individual place of safety (our 'carencia') is always with us - always available - then I suppose that even the letting go - the terrifying letting go - can become a simple transition - a right of passage for which we're probably unconsciously waiting and unconsciously looking forward to.

"The old skin has to shed before the new one can come. If we fix on the old, we get stuck. When we hang onto any form, we are in danger of putrefaction. Hell is life drying up. The Hoarder, the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on, must be killed. If we are hanging onto the form now, we're not going to have the form next."

Joseph Campbell understood that we must practice dying and to accept that death is as much a part of life as living. This is both in the literal and figurative sense of the words. Never overlook the metaphors...

So take this time of great transition to lay down your burdens - to honor your struggles - your suffering - to relinquish the control you thought you had - and to let go into the great unknown. It is just there - very close-by to us all - a hairbreadth away - and we must honor it just as we honor all the known or manifest teachers and lessons in our lives.

gate gate pāragate pārasamgate bodhi svāhā

gone, gone, gone beyond
gone altogether beyond
so be it

All my love to my brothers and sisters who like me, are stumbling as best they can along the path.

OM Shantih,



The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house

And “When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid”
Props to the great warrior, Audre Lorde.
I haven't blogged for a long time. I just haven't had the words. They stubbornly refused to come visit, or maybe, and more accurately, they abandoned me for some far-off pavillion...
I am in another state of great transition. Like we all are I guess. It's our time. It's what is.
All my practices have become stagnant and aren't serving me in as powerful and apparent ways as they have so dependably in the past. I've gone through numerous times of difficulty and setbacks since stumbling onto the path, but the feeling of late is like my opening words - abandoned.
I am changing jobs again. I have to go visit my aging and ill parents and help them 'plan' their waning years. My relationship (couples) therapy is seemingly at an impasse. My own intuitive sense of self and of most 'things' has all but evaporated. I'm tired and I've put on 10 or so pounds. And the classic: staring down the barrel of another NYC Winter...joy of joys.
I have always considered 'change' my ultimate play. If all else fails, if things aren't going well, or if the status quo is untenable, I always had my ability (affinity?) to change - based upon my lack of fear - as my ace-in-the-hole. And play it I have. With zeal. My life story is a study in constant change.
Now I've started to notice that 'change' is speeding-up and appears to have overtaken me to the extent that I am no longer young enough, resilient enough, flexible enough, strong enough, or brave enough to re-take the lead. At least, this is the 'easy' answer to me. Audre Lorde wisely tells us that we must not judge or conduct ourselves from the limited and narrow basis of our own conditioned ideas of 'proper acting' and of how we see ourselves. It's the famous Albert Einstein reference as well, "You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created." Word.
So I finally get that it's not a question of what should change or not change, but of what it is within me that is unchangeable, and how I best bring this into my thoughts, words, and actions.
"It's all about love" ~ Terence McKenna
OM Shantih,

To Bhagawan, Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly Completed Buddha, I prostrate

I often feel that I have not appropriately thanked my teachers and my ancestors in my haphazard writings. So I am beginning this post with a prayer to the Buddha(s) in their honor. If you’re interested, here is the Prayer of Confessions and Prostrations to the 35 Buddhas and a “shorter version”, the Sutra Illuminating the Darkness of the 10 Directions.

The lessons are coming hard-and-fast now. Things are speeding up. I know this experience isn’t unique to me. Maybe, as we crest our mid-40’s and start seeing our 60’s as nearer than our 20’s, we all start having this experience? Or is it that there is some sort of evolutionary imperative at work - subtle yet powerful forces churning and dancing just below the surface of our collective consciousness? Hmmmmmmmmm.

As I get older, the things that are most important to me – the things I hold most dear – are also the things that I am becoming more-and-more acutely aware of losing. I look at examples of the incomprehensible, complete lack of compassion or reverence for the lives of fellow human beings, animals, our Mother Earth – and I feel overwhelming sadness and pain. I feel inadequate to stop such things – to make any sort of difference – to contribute any sort of pure, authentic good to situations that seem completely devoid of it. This is darkness.

Carl Gustav Jung famously said, “Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.”

That’s what it feels like. That somehow, the things that I find so disheartening in the world are in fact reflections of an inner turmoil. And by my doing the hard work in trying to resolve this agitated state of being – this darkness - things may “change for the better” (I will develop the clarity of authentic perception), because I will have dismantled a very elaborate projector system – myself. Maybe it is because we are witnessing or experiencing such horrendous and appalling tragedy – on a magnitude like never before - on almost a daily basis – that it is further sign that the darkness is being brought to the surface to be somehow integrated? I feel this to be the case.

If I can completely honor and accept these feelings of utter helplessness, I will be able to move beyond them – and not be stuck in them (bless you Abdi Assadi). Only then will I be able to be fully present in the world in such a way that I am able to meaningfully contribute to this world and honorably, respectfully, and compassionately serve my fellow beings. It is only because of my teachers and ancestors, that I am able to begin to grasp this fundamental lesson.

I am reminded of spending time in Italy with one of my beloved teachers, Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad, CA. When he was speaking of his time with the late, great Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) – particularly when he first took Darshan and Pranaam (bowed to touch his feet), it certainly wasn’t a common thing to do as a Westerner (particularly in the U.S. in 1978!). As Tim was reminiscing, tears of immeasurable love and gratitude freely flowed from this great man. In the witnessing of such devotion (Bhakti) and love for his teacher (Guruji), it puts into proper perspective the feelings I have for him (Tim Miller) and all my other teachers.

I will close this posting with a quote I’ve used before, but it conveys the greatest lessons of all – honoring the love of those that mean the most to us – and remembering with reverence those that have gone before us:

"These teachings have been brought to you from Padmasambhava's enlightened heart, across centuries, over a thousand years, by an unbroken lineage of masters, each one of whom only became masters because they had learned humbly to be disciples, and remained, in the deepest sense, disciples of their masters all their lives. Even at the age of eighty-two, when Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche spoke of his master Janyang Khyentse, tears of gratitude and devotion came into his eyes. In his last letter to me before he died, he signed himself "the worst disciple." That showed me how endless true devotion is, how with the greatest possible realization comes the greatest devotion and the most complete, because the most humble, gratitude."

"The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying"
by Sogyal Rinpoche

May all beings, including ourselves have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings, including ourselves be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings, including ourselves rejoice in the well-being of others.
May all beings, including ourselves live in peace, free from greed and hatred.

OM Shanthi,