April 28, 2012

the baptismal cycle

Doing three loads of darks instead of paying my bills. Paying my bills instead of steaming those vegetables going limp in the fridge. Eating another energy bar instead of doing my back exercises because I don’t have the energy to exercise. Telling myself that doing laundry is exercise. Doing the dishes from yesterday after spending the rest of the day cooking instead of doing the writing I’ve been meaning to do for five weeks. Sitting down to write but remembering that I forgot to meditate again. Sitting down to meditate instead of sitting down to write and feeling more stress and sniff and snot coming on than anything approaching enlightenment. Then getting off my meditation bench and getting a load of whites started. Just another day at the office of life.

Guilt is the soul’s vacuum cleaner as it frantically runs over itself and begins sucking our own insides out for all eternity. And never finishes cleaning anything in the process. I had been feeling very guilty about not writing each week. I also hadn’t finished writing anything for weeks on end. Hmmm.

At the very moment that Hmmm hit my head, a little bell went off in my head as well. Well, on the washing machine. But, as I started shoving the hot wet whites into the dryer, a big insight flooded my little brain with big white a-ha light.

For months I have been trying and trying, again and again, to start working again but each start kept turning into fits and starts, again and again. I was Not Doing What I Am Supposed To Be Doing  (i.e. something that is hopefully a “contribution” and somehow “big” and “important” and “meaningful”). As that Hmmm ooched my clenched mental fingers ever so slightly off of their tight grip on guilt, I suddenly and profoundly and white light-ly realized that there is No Way We Can Do Whatever We Are Supposed To Do on this earth without also going through and even deeply into the many times — down times, quiet times, hard times, lots of times — that we must do All Of The Other Things That Need Doing, Too.

I also realized, in this truly immense little moment in front of my washing machine, that it’s not just the laundry that needs doing. Confusion needs doing. Fear and doubt and distraction and even procrastination need actual doing, too. That’s the way they teach us whatever it is they need to teach us… which is another way of saying whatever it is we are needing to learn.

We just really need to do these things we’d honestly rather not do with as much consideration and awakeness as we hope to bring to the big and important and meaningful things. If we don’t, those precious few big and important and meaningful moments won’t be — actually can’t be — as big or important or meaningful as they otherwise would or can be.

Joy and fire and light sure are fun in the moment. But, the fact is that the majority of the moments of our lives are at best merely non-inspiring. Some are absolutely painful, even devastating.  Nevertheless, all of these non-firejoylight moments are not what we must get over, around or past to finally behold and be bathed in some distant cosmic light. They are the quiet fire and forge for that very light. For all light. Whether we like it or not.

Fight these many times, and we stand in front of the washing machine for the rest of our lives. Live really into them, and we become more enlightened each time we stand in front of our washing machines. And finish all four loads. And, in good time, get to and accomplish every other accomplishment that still seems worth accomplishing after seeing such light. Baptism after baptism, by the umpteenth rinse cycle.

Just then, arms overflowing with warm whites like mounds of abounding blessings, I recalled a book whose title has always influenced me even as I have never actually gotten around to reading it. And have always felt a little guilty for that. The writer is a biggie in American Buddhism.

After The Ecstasy, The Laundry, by Jack Kornfield. I folded the whites and left for the bookstore. Standing in front of the stacks, I scanned the introduction and on the last page I read:

Pir Vilayat Khan, the 75-year-old head of the Sufi Order in the West, confid[ed,] “Of so many great teachers I’ve met in India and Asia, if you were to bring them to America, get them a house, two cars, a spouse, three kids, a job, insurance, and taxes … they would all have a hard time.”

That’s one cool Sufi. I kept flipping through the book. It’s basically stuffed with anecdotes of people from many faith traditions who have been to their various mountaintops and then had to deal with the sticky prosaic work of bringing their fistfuls of light back into regular life.

I caught a few more great thoughts, but I didn’t keep the book. I didn’t feel guilty about it, either. I had to get back home and start dinner. I have so many other books to get back to, and so many more to discover. I have eternal aspirations and eternal laundry. In a never-ending cycle.

I am blessed to have both.

Categories: After the Ecstasy, Jack Kornfield, Philosophy, the Laundry

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