I went running this morning, even though I didn’t want to get out of bed. I forced my way down the street, jogging without my usual music as my iPod mysteriously died overnight. The sun was out. When I got to the park by the ocean, I saw a man and his son flying a kite. I ran around them, down to the sea. Stopped on the rock to breathe. So sluggish, I thought. Why am I so sloppy today? But it felt good, to force the sluggish feeling through my veins. And as the sluggishness coursed through, replaced by the high of pushing the body to joy, I stopped and leaned against a Connecticut gum tree, burning bright with autumn leaves, and cried. The man with the kite, the ocean, the branches above me, felt as though they were all at once outside of me and inside of me. I felt a pleasure rush through my body, up my spine and out of the top of my head. What is this? I thought. Oh, yes. Pleasure. Ecstasy. Connection.
I recently got a job at a Zen shop. As you can imagine, it’s quite relaxing, and aside from the slow trickle of customers, there’s not much to do but clean, organize and listen to calming music playing over the loud speakers. Sometimes, I like to stand near the incense table and breathe in deeply. My co-workers laugh, watching me press my face against the packages of sage, lavender and pine scented sticks. I breathe in and smile. I’ve become so intimate with the strangest things, I think.
Simplicity. Maybe too much of late. I get home, watch the sea change colors, and count my breath. In fact, I’ve taken to counting everything–trees that pass by while I’m driving, the number of Buddha statues in the store, lucky elephants, laughing into eternity on the shelves, my heartbeat.
This has led to stating the obvious around me. Perhaps as a form of practicing observance. “Woman with blonde hair walking into store, picking up sand rake from the sand garden, wearing leather brown boots, skirt, smelling of roses as she walks by. Shakes her head slightly when I ask if I can help her. Turning around, smiling, saying, ‘Actually…”
Perhaps I’ve taken to observation because, when I try to sit down and write, nothing happens.
I began to read various books, mostly new titles I’ve picked up at the shop. “When Things Fall Apart.” “Mediation and Mantra.” And others.
Manifest! One of the books says. Manifest. Be Positive. Think things into being. Your thoughts are reflections of your life. What not.
So I drive to work, back home, repeating:
Twenty pine trees, various oaks.
Man on yellow bicycle.
Woman walking a jack russell terrier.
Leaves scattered across wet road.
I’ve played with my hair at three traffic lights so far.
For a couple weeks, this was all I did. I felt my brain was only occupied on the practical. No creation was happening in my mind. Even my dreams seemed to dull after a while.
But there’s something to everything. The sluggish body, the lack of inspiration. There’s a reason. And when we feel lost, in whatever compartment or prison–which is never really a prison but a blessing–there’s always a purpose being served.
A road leads somewhere, even when rambling in a lost-forest.
It is true, that our thoughts manifest how we perceive our world. I was constantly in danger of trapping myself in the mundane by thinking “Oh, great. I work at a mall Buddhist shop. I’m bored. My brain is losing sharpness. I can’t write. What’s the purpose of being here. Why have I been dropped into some desolate no-man’s land? How do I escape?”
But I chose to wait it out. I chose to believe that being-lost is the best thing to be. That there’s a reason. That’s not to say I didn’t sometimes want to cry when I got home, tired, unmotivated, drained of creativity and vigor.
Perhaps I’m meant to be where I am. What a novel thought! Right? Let’s look around and open our eyes, I said to my pessimistic brain. Let’s see what’s really going on here.
First of all, I was tired. I needed rest. For two years I pushed and pushed to produce a book. I obtained that goal. But my body and mind wanted rest.
What better place to rest than a Zen shop?
Secondly, I didn’t need to start a new career or job or move to escape the uncertainty of not-having-a-job. I needed to be still.
What better place to be still than a Zen shop?
Third, I had been stuck in my head for so long, writing my books. I just finished and published a chapbook. I go daily to the post office to send out my work to publishers. There are strings of rejections, few acceptances, and I was stuck. In. My. Own. Head. Body, I thought. I need a body.
But then a friend of mine said something very interesting to me when I told him I was working at a Zen shop, and shared some stories of certain customers. He said,
Wow, you’re like a modern-day spiritual guide.
Now, while I don’t think this is exactly the case, because, who am I to be a spiritual anything to anyone, I do see what he means. I am helping people. As silly as that sounds, it is true to some small degree. And in turn, they are helping me. And the environment itself is helping me.
I’m going to share something now that I am not sure I’ve shared before in this lost-blog. The whole reason this blog idea exists is thanks to my psychic. He’s not really a psychic, not in the “New York Streets, Tarot Reading” sort of way. More like a therapist. Or someone to give me insights. I called him a while ago, wondering about where I’m going in life. What happens after so many endings? Isn’t that what many people struggle with. We reach and reach to achieve goals and then….they are achieved. It’s like what my mother used to say to me: “You think you’ll be happen when you’re 16 and can drive a car, then you think everything will be better when you’re graduated from high school and off to college. Then you complain that only after you finish your courses and have a diploma in your hand will you feel successful. Then it’s, Oh I don’t like this job, I’ll be happy in a new one…Well, maybe I’ll be happy when I find a partner, etc. etc.”
All these endings and no where to go. We are still carrying the shadowy discontent that underlies every accomplishment. Why are we not happy, yet? Why are we not settled, yet?
So I was experiencing a bit of discontent, or bewilderment. The fact of the matter was, I had been spoiled and not really tested in my life up until that point, because everything seemed very stream-lined and planned out. I went to college. I got a job. I decided to go to graduate school to pursue my dream and follow my heart, which was not an easy decision. I went. I graduated. Surely, because I was following my bliss, as Joseph Campbell said, everything would be easier. What a silly assumption. But one that’s often made.
My psychic said, write about being lost. Write about other people who feels lost, too.
So I set out to do that. But I lost steam. Mostly because I was losing steam in all areas of writing in my life. I wasn’t working yet. I had only me and my sluggish brain to rely on. I didn’t know what to do. So I did nothing. Then the Zen shop job fell into my lap.
Interestingly enough, where is a better place to hear other people’s stories of being-lost than at a Zen shop? Believe it or not, people come in every day and tell me intimate details of their lives, hoping I might be able to help them find something to purchase or read to help them. And in turn, they help me.
So, I think the Lost Blog will begin to transform. From stories of Zen Shop life to something a bit different along the way, a thread that follows along side.
My feeling lost is very intimitely tied to my creative process. When I feel abandoned by inspiration, which naturally comes and goes, I feel useless. Alone. What’s worse is when the enthusiasm dies down. If I don’t have any connection to that Other voice, I have no way of feeling myself through the forest. But, surprisingly enough, the Zen Shop has brought to surface the old flame that I used to fan so often in my writing. The Mystical, the Otherworldly, the ways in which we connect to Spirit, to Creativity, to Life and Others.
I picked up a book on chakras, Kundalini. etc at the Shop. I’ll explain in depth later on, but I found it interesting that just a couple weeks before getting the job, lamenting my lack of inspiration, deep sluggishness and lost-feelings, dissociative and hazy states, I wondered if there was any correlation between pleasure, body awareness and sexual expression and getting in touch with the Higher Self, creativity.
So, consider this post a fork in the road, as there are many along the lost-forest. This blog will delve into exploring Kundalini, the search for Higher Self and Awakening through service to others and getting in touch with the Spirit-Body connection.
The body may be sluggish at times. Life may seem sluggish, too. Slow to show you where you’re headed. But getting in touch with yourself and others is one way to be present in the lost. Present, even, through finding pleasure within the body as it seeks to access Spirit. For me, personally, I have found when I allow myself to feel an Opening occur–whether through conversation with another, nature, or pleasure in the body– my mind, spirit, feels at once grounded and lifted.
Hold on, I’m just beginning to circle in the lost, touching the leaves, dancing through the dark. There’s so many beautiful discoveries to be made! And I plan on rejoicing along the way.