During the holidays, over in Bloom County, enfant terrible Steve Dallas was undergoing a holiday season self-pity crisis not unlike one I underwent a few months ago. It was comforting to trace my own emotional sinkhole with the cast and crew of my favorite, reincarnated comic strip from the 80’s and to find encouragement and camaraderie from Opus, penguin ingenue and moral compass — of sorts. The crisis prompted a break from writing and posting to my blogs as I sorted out my feelings and underwent a quest to find new directions and reasons to write again.
The weeks leading up to the holidays found me taking several road-trips around the state to nowhere in particular seeking guidance, inspiration, and a new direction for the new year. Along the way, I met a several interesting folk who pointed the way to others in similar or worse situations than I.
Those meetings led to evenings full of fireside chats, inspirational anecdotes, and rituals I never thought myself partaking in. I can’t say at this moment what will come out of any of those trips, conversations, and night sky gazing enquiries, but I do admit that I find myself feeling more optimistic, empowered, and confident in my abilities than I did when I drove off to the horizon for the first time back in November.
During my road trips I read books on Buddhist dharma and practiced meditation in lonely roadside motels and out in fields people rush past without paying attention. No one has mapped the territory of the mind—or the heart—better than Buddhist meditators, so I couldn’t have better guides helping me find footing where there was no ground. Pema Chödrön, the Shambhala Buddhist teacher, often writes and teaches about feeling comfortable with uncertainty, or walking the path of groundlessness. On many days I found myself free-falling in fear and uncertainty, but her kind, gentle, but precise advice was the kind of kick in the ass I needed to get me to meditate again, in earnest, and get myself from wallowing in self-pity.
The calming and soothing balm my heart needed came from the wisdom and joy of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche who, miraculously to me, and just when I needed him most, returned home in December from a three year wandering retreat. I welcomed the news of his return with great joy, and while rereading his treatise for a life of Joyful Living his words became the antidote I needed to renew my meditation practice with focus and a renewed commitment to the dharma and the path of contemplation.
There is much study, writing, work, and learning for me to do in 2016. A quest only opens doors and suggests what one can do in order to get unstuck and continue to move forward again. If anything, the questions I left home with led to more questions that I will have to answer at a later time. This is not a bad thing, per se, but a riddle I must learn to unravel on my own. Some answers to life’s big questions only deepen the mystery of living, and I believe that is part of the process of growing, maturing, and living. Had I all the answers to life’s questions I’d be bored and discontented. I like a good challenge and Life has given me several that have kept me busy and feeling engaged from the onset. My task now is to find the joy of living as Rinpoche suggests and get on with it.
Like Steve Dallas, I’m surrounded by a retinue of family and friends ready to offer kind and solid advice on how to proceed. This is wealth without measure because even during my darkest times I never felt alone. During my quest, I found new allies and techs to help me reach and find steadier, more solid ground. But unlike Steve, I’m a little more self-aware today than I was a few weeks ago and I’m aware of the skills and talents I own in order to move forward. It’s my hope I don’t regress to a state of self-absorption that would keep me in a state of comic repetitiveness that Steve suffers from. But that’s something the posts and pages of this blog will reveal as the new year marches on.