Shenpa is there underneath the thinking process; that small spark exists at a pre-verbal level. It is there in a way that we could say is pregnant with the possibility of a forest fire. But, if we can just pause at the point when we notice the shenpa, and experience its non-verbal energy instead of feeding it with our thoughts, we find ourselves standing at the doorway to true freedom. Instead of throwing kerosene on the fire, we start to discover the inexpressible wisdom and goodness of our own hearts and minds. But we cannot access this depth of experience when we keep going with the chain reaction of habitual response. Pema Chodron
It has been a summer of thought; sometimes tangled and impenetrable, sometimes clear and decisive. This blog was begun with the intention of opening a dialogue about the mystery of what makes good architecture, but thought has taken it to another place.
Over the past three years I have become a believer in the power of faith. This is not a matter of blind and unquestioning devotion to a higher power, it is a belief that there is a connection to all that is, and to all that will be. It is a belief that we as a collective planet in a vast universe that remains beyond our comprehension are an integral part of larger energies. That we make the choice every moment to live in a heaven or hell, or in the larger space between them.
My journey began rather innocently. Consumed by self doubt I questioned everything, and was practiced at making all things bad probable and the good in life unreachable. Having been taught to see the scientific method as absolute I reached out to anti-depressants, to endless therapy, to the diagnosis that I suffered from a specific malfunction in my biological makeup. Yet inside I knew myself to be optimistic, calm, and caring. If only I could bring these to the front I could correct my course and live a good life.
And then I realized that I could.
My ultimate moment of realization came just over a year ago. The first inkling that there might be mysterious connections to events happened after I accepted that not only my actions but also my thoughts controlled events in my life. While this is not a ground breaking concept to many it cannot be lived without true acceptance, and this is where I always tripped up. I had always continued to let the intellectual reason learned in school and experience control my existence. I had never considered that letting go might be a sane reaction.
It was a week of bad karma. My girlfriend had gone on vacation with her adult children, asking me along but with the understanding that it would be uncomfortable if I came. I declined and stayed, allowing myself to wallow in a jealousy that told me that everyone I knew was off having a wonderful time, confirmed by their happy postings on Facebook. It was the summer of the “ice-bucket” challenge and countless friends and acquaintances were calling each other out and reveling in the silliness of watching each other participate in worthwhile fun. With each moment of not being asked to dump ice water on my head for the enjoyment of unseen onlookers my misery grew deeper. The girlfriend stopped responding to emails, I knew the relationship was over. Then, after a particularly dark and withdrawn session of therapy, the car I had bought weeks earlier dropped its transmission onto the rear axle and ended its own life. Two days of exile in my own home followed.
Realizing this was not a good way to deal with the reality of my depression I decided to force myself out. I rented a car and convinced myself to see people, to participate in life in any manner possible. I promised myself that I would see people over the weekend. I vowed to go to church and sing in the choir. To insure that I would go I asked a friend in the choir to have coffee after the service. I asked another friend to meet for a chat a bit later in the day, and offered to help a third with some computer problems she was having late in the afternoon. I went to sleep that night lonely, but assured that a busy day would cure all of this tomorrow.
Morning came and I arose with the conviction that I was on the right path. I went to church and found that the friend I was to see was not there and that the sermon would be delivered by a guest pastor who I thought spoke too strongly about the fire and brimstone coming to us all. Never mind, I still had two get togethers coming. Then came the text that the second friend would not be able to make it, something had come up with his wife. Returning home after church I received the email that the third friends’ son had returned from college and fixed all of the computer problems. Another lonely day beckoned.
Still determined to be with people I resolved that I would go play golf. As a single on a golf course one is put into a group and though it might not be the close companionship I craved I would at least be in the company of people. Arriving at the course it was clear that it was a slow day, but there was one other single and we were paired and set off on a round. He seemed a nice enough guy, but was distracted. On our third hole his phone buzzed, he got into a heated discussion, and gave his apologies but said that he had to get home immediately.
And so I was alone again.
I resolved this time to simply get into the “Zen” of golf. To play honestly while alone, to address the ball, imagine the flight, and marvel in the ability to use mind and body to control the trajectory of the shot in space. I started to feel comfortable in this state, and reached the 17th hole, a middle distance par 3, feeling relaxed. I imagined the ball leaving the club face, soaring high into the air with just a slight curve as it rode the breeze, landing above the hole on a slight rise and after a bounce slowly drawing back down the slope and into the hole. It was a shot not usually in my repertoire, but it flew as scripted, and in slow motion settled into the bottom of the cup.
As any golfer will tell you an unwitnessed hole-in-one is not a hole-in-one. My loneliness flooded back in a tidal wave. I looked around and realized there was no one even within earshot. I convinced myself that I had no control, that I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life, that life was against me.
Returning home I made dinner and sat outside eating on my deck. The shot kept going through my head, how it curved so slightly, landed exactly as I had imagined, rolled so naturally on the green. I began to get excited. I knew now of an experience I had not known before. I could feel my own excitement. I would have this feeling forever, even if I could never share it. I knew what I had done. Life began to get better.
The following morning I awoke feeling engaged. I took a long walk by the lake and made a point to stop and ground myself, to push the evil thoughts out of my head, to ensure that I was open to whatever positive energy might come my way. My dog noticed the change and encouraged me to play. Back home after the walk I made a cup of coffee and went out to the deck to plan my day. The dog lay down at my feet and both cats came and settled on the railing to survey the property from on high. Just then I heard a shriek from the sky. A pair of red tailed hawks flew circles in the air, and to my absolute amazement came closer and closer. The pair landed seconds apart in the tree just across the yard. Then with a whosh of wings one jumped up, flew to the house, and landed on the gutter above my head. One of the cats went calmly inside and then the other hawk came and landed on the deck rail four feet from my chair. I couldn’t move. The pair yacked in high pitched squeals at each other. The hawks, the dog, and the cat remained calmly motionless for what seemed like an hour but was probably no more than ten seconds. And then the pair leaped up simultaneously, flew a couple of tight rising circles, and were gone.
This doesn’t happen. Even as I now write the scientifically trained mind tells me it couldn’t be so. But it was. I experienced it and believe it without needing the proof required for others. It is a part of my history, and I allow myself to revel in the memory of that moment.
Since that time my life has not gotten easier in a practical sense, but the ability to experience the moment, the ability not to prescript events, and the ability to accept life has allowed me to recognize the minds role in creating the framework through which our experiences are channeled. I did not bring the hawks to my deck, but I created the atmosphere that made them feel comfortable enough to explore their own curiosity. In doing so I enriched my own experience. The universe is connected in so many ways.
I will end with a note about the following week. Many things began to “fall into place”. Later in the week I decided to try my hand again on the golf course. Paired with three other players I arrived at the 3rd hole, a middle distance par 3. I envisioned the shot, stepped up to the ball, and with a smooth swing launched it high and on the right trajectory. The ball was immediately lost in the sun by all onlookers. Walking up to the green we could see the landing spot of the ball, in line with the pin and two feet past the hole, but the ball was not to be seen. It had nestled into the bottom of the cup unseen by human eyes, but obviously a hole-in-one.