Tag Archives: Buddhism

Just Some Thoughts

Just some thoughts, that’s what this post is all about.

Statistics are thoughts, and I liked to cite them here often. For example, my wife’s affair launched as an emotional, on-line affair 498 days ago. Other statistics I have liked to cite include the fact that the vast majority of affairs run their course in anywhere from 6 to 24 months. Six months is 182.5 days; 24 months is 730 days. The average of these two figures is 456.25 days, so that means that right now, my wife’s affair has exceeded the average by 9.15%.

Such statistical thoughts lead me to thoughts of other imagined statistics, here, from  James Joyce’s Ulysses:

What relation existed between their ages?

16 years before in 1888 when Bloom was of Stephen’s present age Stephen was 6. 16 years after in 1920 when Stephen would be of Bloom’s present age Bloom would be 54. In 1936 when Bloom would be 70 and Stephen 54 their ages initially in the ratio of 16 to 0 would be as 17 1/2 to 13 1/2, the proportion increasing and the disparity diminishing according as arbitrary future years were added, for if the proportion existing in 1883 had continued immutable, conceiving that to be possible, till then 1904 when Stephen was 22 Bloom would be 374 and in 1920 when Stephen would be 38, as Bloom then was, Bloom would be 646 while in 1952 when Stephen would have attained the maximum postdiluvian age of 70 Bloom, being 1190 years alive having been born in the year 714, would have surpassed by 221 years the maximum antediluvian age, that of Methusalah, 969 years, while, if Stephen would continue to live until he would attain that age in the year 3072 A.D., Bloom would have been obliged to have been alive 83,300 years, having been obliged to have been born in the year 81,396 B.C.

My thoughts right now is that, in the realm of human relationships, statistics aren’t very meaningful. Such statistics are just abstractions, and cannot express the qualitative aspects of human relationships and their inevitable vicissitudes; thoughts about such statistics are just abstractions of abstractions.

I also thought about going down to the center where I do my spiritual practice, and in fact, this evening, I did. In this sense, my abstract thoughts became real in the world of actions. I went there to look for a book, and in the end I chose a book called The Practice of Lojong: Cultivating Compassion through Training the MindThis is Buddhist stuff, mind you. It was written by Traleg Kyabgon, a master of the Kagyü lineage of Tibetan Buddhism who died last year. Lojong, as a practice, consists of the contemplation of pithy slogans as a means of generating greater compassion in one’s daily life; there are many commentaries like this one that are available, and they can be very helpful, as the pithiness of these slogans can, at times, get confusing. The slogan I worked with this morning was as follows:

Self-liberate even the antidote.

Hmmmm. The antidote here is the analytical meditation that one uses to cut through confused cognition, but what does it mean to “self-liberate” even that? The commentary I had this morning was by Pema Chödrön, who simply said that you need to let go of everything—even the realization that there’s nothing left to hold on to. This is a slippery concept to wrap one’s mind around: Buddhists call it “emptiness,” or shunyata; while it sounds like there is nothing there, the reality is that “emptiness” is instead full of possibility, endlessly giving birth to the myriad experiences we have each day. Clinging too tightly to our perceptions and thoughts is essentially the cause of suffering. Those of us who have and are experiencing marital crises know this all too well. In fact, working with an obstinate spouse has been one gigantic lesson in ego-clinging: I know when I’m doing it, but I sure as heck know when my wife is. She’s pretty much stuck there 24/7.

So, in working with this statement this morning, I just found myself thinking it (yes, more thoughts) again and again, and prompting myself to just be at ease with whatever came up, and then to just let go even of that. But I guess I felt I really wasn’t getting the meaning of the slogan, and so therefore I went out and bought this book. The explanation was so simple: contemplation can no sooner dissect itself than can a knife cut itself, and so whatever experience or answers that might arise from contemplation simply have to be let go. This is a bizarre, but very helpful image: a knife trying to cut itself. It’s kind of like a Zen koan that deliberately throws a curve at you that provides no mental way out.

And now, at the end of the day, I’m left with just thoughts. More thoughts. Thoughts about tomorrow. Thoughts about the fact that my wife is coming to town. Thoughts about the Japanese breakfast I’m going to cook in the morning and thoughts about how I’m going to pack it up and leave it for her. Thoughts about the things I did not buy at the grocery store for her this time. Thoughts about whether my actions are enough. Thoughts about thoughts, even, like the thoughts of incredible frustration that arose as I was heading out to buy this book this evening: the frustration of feeling like I could be doing more to reconcile my marriage, when in fact I’m already doing as much as I can, and am pretty much relegated to a virtual holding pattern while the affair winds down.

Enough thoughts for today. Tonight, I’ll let my subconscious produce those thoughts for me in the form of dreams. Maybe something interesting will come up. You just never know; but, when you dream, you have to let go.

Obstinate Spouse

Do you have an obstinate spouse? Is your spouse uncooperative? Does your spouse try to stop your attempts to reconcile your marriage? Is your spouse just being a jerk, on purpose? Is your spouse cold to you? Has your spouse threatened to cut off all contact? Does your spouse ignore your phone calls, letting them all go to voice mail?  Has your spouse moved out and refused to tell you where they have moved to?

These, and many other questions, would be some of the hallmark traits of an obstinate spouse.

Did you know that, as of this writing, this site ranks fourth in Google for the search term “obstinate spouse”? I was surprised to find that out. I think it’s because I have “obstinate spouse” as one of my post tags, and I must have used that a whole lot. Judging from my tag cloud, I’ve used “wayward spouse” a lot more, but I guess there must just be more competition for that term. That, and the fact that a lot of people have difficulty spelling “obstinate”; I don’t blame them, since it’s not an everyday word.

I get a lot of hits from interesting search queries. Take, for instance, the phrase “chicken house of poo.” Pump that into Google, and you’ll find that I rank on the first page (ninth, as of today) for that phrase, because of this post. I’ve also gotten hits for things like “my wayward spouse’s fog talk” (this is a very interesting topic!) and “Red Tara empowerment 2012”. I wonder what visitors searching for the latter would have thought when they reached this site. Hmmm…

If you’re newly arriving at this website, I should tell you that I am dealing with an obstinate spouse. Actually I’m dealing with a wayward spouse who is being obstinate. But, obstinacy is obstinacy. Here’s an example.

She never answers my phone calls, unless it is either Wednesday or Thursday and she is in town wanting to do a doggie custody swap. Everything else goes straight to voice mail, every single time. I tried calling this morning, and it went to voice mail, and the voice mail cut me off after ten seconds. This happened twice. I was beginning to wonder if she had changed her voice mail settings, but it seems that there are no settings for a ten-second cut-off so it was some sort of anomaly. Nevertheless I learned an interesting new trick: I can ping directly into her voice mail by calling mine, and then sending a message to her from there. That way, she won’t have to deal with the annoying embarrassment of sitting at the table with her adulterous partner, hearing her actual cell phone buzz (she always leaves the ringer off).

I say “actual” because she also has one that he gave her, with a totally different phone number. This is a Top Secret Cell Phone, mind you, even though I’ve seen it a half dozen times, and even have seen its phone number. The obstinate spouse likes to have things like Top Secret Cell Phones, and they are all the more necessary when there is a Top Secret Other Person whom they are hiding from you. This Top Secret Other Person is not hidden from other people, though, just from you, because you are the Actual Spouse. (That would be me.) In addition, there are Top Secret Bank Accounts, along with a Top Secret ATM Card. I have seen this Top Secret ATM Card: it is purple, and has giraffes on it. She paid with it last time we went out. Guess she forgot it’s supposed to be Top Secret.

I guess I’m rambling. There’s really not a whole lot to report sometimes, when you’re dealing with an obstinate spouse. I probably won’t have much to report until I see her again in a few days. That is, of course, unless something unexpected happens, like her affair crashes to the ground. I don’t think this is unlikely. Well, it’s 100% likely that it will come crashing to the ground, but I’m just saying that the likelihood of it crashing to the ground very soon is not all that unlikely.

So, while I’m rambling, I’ll just link to another YouTube file. Since I’ve written so much about Top Secret things, here’s a tune from 1983 by the jazz fusion group The Yellowjackets entitled — what else? — “Top Secret”. The guitar player at the beginning is none other than the inimitable Robben Ford. I learned recently, somewhat to my astonishment, that Robben is a long-time practicing Buddhist, at one time a student of the great Tibetan master Chögyam Trungpa.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling now. Here’s the video.

Everything you could ever want is present right in this very moment

I just got home from the grocery store. I had to buy some chicken wings, you know? Our dog is a raw-food dog, and that’s been a staple of her diet since she was a puppy. We were out of them, and she was hungry, and so a trip to the store was called for. Add to that some granola for the morning, a new candle, some incense, and it’s a complete shopping trip.

Something odd happened as I exited the grocery store. They were playing the Bee Gee’s old hit tune from 1979, “Tragedy,” and I decided to stop by and look at the magazines on my way out. They had the usual yoga magazines, cooking magazines, etc., and I stopped to look at the new Cucina Italiana. We had a subscription for a while. It was a gift for my wife. She loves Italy and Italian cooking. So do I. I had my groceries, though, so I headed out the door.

As I walked out into the parking lot, the sky was grey, it was dusk, and there was a cool breeze blowing. There was not much activity in the parking lot, and the energy was very calm. This was the cool, clear sense of vajra energy, I think, and I just kept walking, feeling the energy of the air, the sky, the earth, and the encroaching of the night. In a way, it was really a profound experience. I almost started to cry right there in the parking lot, because it was so beautiful in its own way.

Now that doesn’t make sense. Here I am, in the midst of a six-month crisis, trying to nurse my marriage back to health, and somehow things seem perfect. Then I remembered a statement that Reggie Ray made not too long ago. If you don’t know Reggie, you can click the preceding link; he’s a Buddhist teacher and a profoundly insightful individual. I can’t give you the quote verbatim, but the thrust of it basically was that, if you are truly mindful, you’ll find that everything you ever could possibly want to be present right here, right now, in this very moment. I don’t think I ever began to understand that, but tonight I had a tiny glimpse into what that means. You have to drop your defenses. You have to drop your ego-clinging and its attendant narrative. You have to just let go. When you do that, you can then see things as they are, and that is perfect in and of itself.

This might not mean much to those of you who are not dharma practitioners, but I’ll share it anyway. I am just reminded of a song that was composed by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, one of the great living masters of Tibetan Buddhism. Khenpo Rinpoche spent the early part of his life as a wandering yogi who traveled the land in Tibet, taking whatever teachings he could, practicing in caves, and so on. Teachings in the yogic tradition were often given in the form of song, and this one is no exception. We sing it often in my lineage, including every Sunday during our weekly Green Tara practice. It’s called “All These Forms,” (you can hear it here) and the text is as follows:

All these forms–appearance-emptiness
Like a rainbow with its shining glow
In the reaches of appearance-emptiness
Just let go and go where no mind goes

Every sound is sound and emptiness
Like the sound of an echo’s roll
In the reaches of sound and emptiness
Just let go and go where no mind goes

Every feeling is bliss and emptiness
Way beyond what words can show
In the reaches of bliss and emptiness
Just let go and go where no mind goes

All awareness–awareness-emptiness
Way beyond what thoughts can know
In the reaches of awareness-emptiness
Let awareness go–oh, where no mind goes

Not that I feel particularly enlightened tonight, but I think I got a tiny sliver of what this song means.

A brief disquisition on the five wisdom energies, and how they can affect your marriage and the process of reconciliation

Okay, so that’s probably my longest post title to date. Let me explain why I’m writing this post; hopefully in the end the title will seem appropriate.

I have been asked a number of times how I can be so certain that I will reconcile with my wife. I often say (and have written here) that her behavior right now is just a more extreme form of behavior I have seen from her many times over the course of our seven-year marriage. I did not really understand why this type of behavior kept cropping up until I took a course last summer on the so-called “five wisdom energies.” The course was largely experiential, and centered around meditative practices designed in the 1970s by the great Tibetan master Chögyam Trungpa. One explores these energies by holding a specific meditative posture for a period of time, normally about 40 minutes or so; to heighten the effect of the posture, the practices are normally done in rooms that are painted in the color of the energy being explored. Alternatively, the practitioner can wear a set of glasses with lenses tinted that color. You don’t do anything other than hold the posture, direct your gaze in a specific way, and then notice what happens. It can be revelatory, or it can be pure hell. Incidentally, it was right at the end of this course that the crisis in my marriage exploded on me, and I do not think that is a coincidence.

Confused? I’ll try to explain the wisdom energies first, then I’ll get to how this impacted my marriage and how it impacts my reconciliation efforts.

In Buddhism, generally speaking, everything is energy. I won’t get into the various schools and doctrines that might dispute this, but as a general principle, and certainly from the standpoint of Vajrayana Buddhism, the claim of everything being energy is a pretty good starting point. (It’s interesting to note that quantum physics would tend to agree with this standpoint, and that Buddhists have known this experientially for a couple of millennia now.) The five basic energies that define our basic make-up as humans, as well as that define our world and everything in it are known as “wisdom energies”. This is sometimes depicted in a mandala that shows the five “wisdom” Buddhas associated with these energies, as shown in the image below.

5 dhyani Buddhas
Each energy has a location (direction) in the mandala, a color, a name, a set of qualities, a time of day, a season of the year, a sense faculty with which it is associated, and so on. Somewhat confusingly, in Asian countries compass directions are sometimes reversed, so north appears in the south and vice versa. That will be the case with the picture above. Moreover, the directions are a bit “stylized” here, so the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) appear in the corners of the painting.
Rather than attempting to explain these energies in detail, I’ll quote an excellent synopsis by Irini Rockwell that was published in the magazine Shambhala Sun:

Traditionally, at the center of the mandala is Vairochana, lord of the buddha family, who is white and represents the wisdom of all-encompassing space and its opposite, the fundamental ignorance that is the source of cyclic existence (samsara). The dullness of ignorance is transmuted to a vast space that accommodates anything and everything.

In the east of the mandala is Akshobya, lord of the vajra family, who is blue and represents mirror-like wisdom and its opposite, aggression. The overwhelming directness of aggression is transmuted into the quality of a mirror, clearly reflecting all phenomena. Vajra is associated with the element water, with winter, and with sharpness and textures.

In the south of the mandala is Ratnasambhava, buddha of the ratna family, who is yellow and represents the wisdom of equanimity and its opposite, pride. The fulsomeness of pride is transmuted into the quality of including all phenomena as elements in the rich display. Ratna is associated with the element earth, with autumn, with fertility and depth.

In the west of the mandala is Amitabha, buddha of the padma family, who is red and represents discriminating-awareness wisdom and its opposite, passion or grasping. The intense desire of passion is transmuted into an attention to the fine qualities of each and every detail. Padma is associated with the element fire, with spring, with façade and color.

In the north of the mandala is Amogasiddhi, buddha of the karma family, who is green and represents all-accomplishing wisdom and its opposite, jealousy or paranoia. The arrow-like pointedness of jealousy is transmuted into efficient action. Karma is associated with the element wind, with summer, with growing and completing.

The important thing to understand here is that each energy has two poles: at the one end is wisdom, and at the other, neurosis. It’s not a simple binary opposition, but rather a spectrum along which these energies can manifest. An energy could be pure wisdom, pure neurosis, or some mixture of the two, and, being energy, it is not fixed and can move toward greater clarity or neurosis at any given moment. As humans we are said to possess all five energies in their pure state, but express at most two or three of them predominantly. These energies can be either clear, or they can be stuck.

My energies are primarily buddha-vajra-ratna (BVR), and my wife’s energies are primarily padma-karma (PK). The opposition of vajra-ratna and padma-karma is very healthy: the fire of padma is tempered by the coolness of vajra, and the speed of karma is cushioned by the slowness of ratna. Buddha energy accommodates all, and when it is in balance it can absorb the neuroses and bolster the wisdom of any of the other four energies.

What does a BVR person look like? At best, his personality is open and  spacious (buddha), very understanding and clear (vajra), and generous to all (ratna). At worst, his personality is dull and spaced out (buddha), dogmatic and conservative (vajra), and stingy with either too much pride or too little self-esteem (ratna). A PK person at best recognizes the specialness of everyone and everything (padma) and is efficacious and efficient in accomplishing goals (karma). At worst, she is passionate to a fault and overly self-conscious (padma), and can be destructively goal-oriented and act without considering all of the possible consequences (karma).

That dysfunctional PK person is my wife right now. Rockwell describes this dynamic very well in her most recent book, Natural Brilliance:

The fire of padma can be a small flame, but together with the wind of karma, it will soon flare up into a bonfire of activity driven by passion. This can accomplish amazing things at work, but burnout could be just around the corner. Have you ever seen people who combine these energies when they are in love? They burn themselves out. (Rockwell, 61.)

That’s why I keep telling people that my wife and I will reconcile. That burn-out has happened many times over the course of our relationship. I call it a “meltdown,” because that’s what it looks like. Typically she will have some goal in mind,  like a recital program she will perform, or some other work-related project, and then throw herself into it with reckless abandon. I have watched her practice 8, 10, even 12 hours a day in preparation for such event, and I have seen her spend all night at the computer typing up papers. This will go on for days and even weeks on end, and the result is never good. She breaks down physically, mentally, and emotionally. The breakdown often comes right before the deadline, too. I have seen one or two breakdowns so severe that she had to cancel the project altogether.

This project, the adulterous affair, is different in that there is an external input in the form of the adulterous partner who helps to feed the padma/karma dysfunction. I don’t know what this adulterer’s energies are, but I suspect they are probably somewhat similar to my wife’s, and that is a recipe for complete disaster. Put fire on fire and wind on wind, and you get an explosion. The meltdown is inevitable, but its timing is a bit unpredictable, as there is another party involved.

So how do I deal with this knowledge? I basically have to try to stabilize my own energies as much as possible, and to recognize the manifestations of neurotic energy coming from my wife as it arises. It’s all pretty clear, in a way, and somewhat interesting to watch, as well. It’s like a closed system that cannot interface with the world except through the filters of its own internal dysfunctions. Everything else is pushed away. That everything else includes me at the moment. The walls of that system are very, very fragile, like the walls of a bubble. When that bubble pops, the whole system melts down. That’s when she’ll come back to me, because she knows I truly understand her soul. I have seen it before, and I know how to nurture it back to health. She’ll come back, I guarantee it.

Magnetizing

My apologies to my regular readers, no matter how few they may be, for having not posted for a few days. I’ve been very busy with work and other commitments. I’m just squeezing this post into the few minutes I have free this morning before getting a particularly busy Sunday underway.

I was doing some cooking on Friday morning when my wife came home. I’ve been taking to cooking for the entire weekend on one specific day (Thursday or Friday) when I have the chance, and have also been using this as an opportunity to give to my wife in the form of food memories. I have a couple of Japanese cookbooks, and am cooking my way through them. I know she loves this stuff, and told me on one occasion that my cooking reminded her of things her mother prepared for her when she was a child. So, I was in the midst of making some salmon nanbanzuke when she entered the house, quite predictably, at 11:00 a.m.

Seriously, her movements on weekends are so predictable that I can pretty much set things up in expectation of how they’re going to unfold. She’ll come by on Friday morning around 11:00 a.m. typically, and ask if she can “spend time with the dog.” This means she is going to spend the weekend at Camp You-Know-What. Then, I won’t hear a peep from her for the next 3-4 days. Finally, I’ll come home on Tuesday evening and find the dog back in the house. She is taking extended weekends that run through Tuesday morning, and this has been consistent for at least 6 weeks now, I guess.

So it came as no surprise to me when she came into the kitchen on Friday to ask me if she could spend time with the dog over the weekend. My response was generous and giving. I said she of course was welcome to do so. I did not hold back at all. I asked her where she would be taking the dog, and she said that it would be to her friends’ house two blocks from here. Now, there might be some truth to this: I do know that she has been getting picked up there on occasion in the recent past. But that simply isn’t her final destination, and I know it. That’s why I asked: she would need to lie to me, and I do need her to continue to lie, and lie, and lie some more. Every single lie brings her one step closer to ending that relationship.

Somehow I feel that end is drawing quite near. The external signs I’m seeing from her sometimes make me want to doubt this; take, for example, the discussion we had last week, where she really seemed to be digging her heels in. It’s the internal, invisible signs that make me feel that this endpoint is approaching. It’s very hard to quantify, since it’s sort of like just having  a hunch about something. A lot of it has to do with the shift in my attitude, and it could just be that that is what I’m perceiving. Nevertheless, that shift will have its effect in drawing that chapter of her life to a close and bringing her back home to start a new one with me.

What exactly is this shift? I’ve written about this recently, but there is an added dimension or two to it that I’ve noticed. The main aspect of this shift is that I feel like I’ve really let go, so much so that I am simply doing what I’m doing because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t really have any expectations any more, or if there are any they become fewer with each passing day. I’m not measuring my progress day by day and anticipating result x to occur on day y. Instead, I’m sort of going with the flow.

That flow has included a sort of energetic shift that I’m noticing within myself. As I was driving home from work yesterday, I just noticed that I find it more and more difficult to stay in the negative space of worry, dread, and other troubled thoughts and emotions that have plagued me on some level for at least five months now. My mind would go there, but then there would be some sort of positive energy that would push it out of that space. Actually, it was more like a magnetizing energy that would pull it out, back into the realm of positivity. It is hard to describe, but it is palpable. It has a texture and a movement to it, and that movement is forward. Maybe that’s why it feels like I’m being pushed, when in reality it’s more like I’m being drawn.

I do think that part of this has to do with my having taken a Red Tara empowerment last weekend. Red Tara, as I wrote before, is one of the emanations of Tara, who is seen in the Buddhist tradition to be the consort of the primordial buddha  Samantabadhra, and thus the mother of all buddhas. She has 21 emanations, each with different names, appearances, and aspects. Some are white, some are blue, some are golden or orange in color, and so on. One is green — Green Tara — and she is considered to be the main emanation of Tara, and the one that my lineage practices with. I have a friend who practices in a Nyingma lineage, one of the few in the area, and the emanation they practice with is Red Tara. Green Tara is active, possesses karma energy, which is all-accomplishing wisdom, and clears away obstructions. Red Tara is also active, but possesses padma energy, the energy of discriminating awareness, and this is energy that magnetizes. It draws favorable conditions to you, such that you may be a force of greater compassion and positivity in the world.

Last night, I went to a Red Tara tsok that this friend had invited me to. You’re not supposed to talk about these things — what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? — not because it’s secret, but rather because it helps you to hold the power of that experience close to you. Tsok is also known as “feast practice,” because it involves food that is eaten, and the offerings always include meat and alcohol. There will also be extensive liturgies and sometimes teachings that occur during tsok. This is public information that is common to pretty much all feast practice, by the way. The most important thing is that you need to have empowerment before you can do the tsok practice, and so doing tsok is sort of like activating the empowerment, if that makes sense. In other words, you have been bestowed with a blessing with the empowerment, kind of like a primordial credit card, and then you activate that card through tsok (and other things) so that you can use it. The empowerment charges your karmic bank account, as does the feast practice, as well as would any other virtuous activity, so it’s not like you have any debts to repay, but rather that you’re increasing your good karma balance, so to speak, so that you can make withdrawals for the benefit of others. And, when you make withdrawals, you actually are increasing that good karma balance. (I wish that normal bank accounts worked this way!) This is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but hopefully you get the idea.

So that’s where I’m at. The energy is shifting in my life in a very positive way. One can never predetermine the outcome of such shifts or the events they might trigger, but overall I’d say that things are looking up. I still might have a long row to hoe in front of me, but I do know that I can make it.

Some things cannot be measured

It’s true, there just isn’t a yardstick for certain things. The blueness of the sky, the spectacular clarity of the snow-capped mountains on a very clear day, and the brilliant clearness of the water that reflects those mountains, for example. There is just a quality about those experiences that can be somewhat inscrutable.

I had some experiences today that were similarly hard to characterize, both in their timing and in their content. First, my wife decided to turn up around noon today. This was not an unannounced arrival, as she had texted me last night to tell me she’d be coming by. I had gone out earlier that morning to run some errands (all my clients were afternoon/early evening today) and, among other things, had picked up some flowers to replace some that were kind of flagging. I was in the midst of cooking lunch when she arrived.

I invited her to join me, and she assented. We chatted a bit, but she seemed somewhat preoccupied. After lunch, she went out into the backyard to look at our garden. She hasn’t done this in ages, months, maybe. The garden is really her baby: she did a tremendous amount of work on it during the first two years we lived in this house, and took enormous pride in its design and spent hours toiling in the soil, rain or shine, to make it happen. I went out to join her, and we looked at some of the plants that had unexpectedly over-wintered, as well as some of the bulbs that were beginning to push up through the soil. This was all the more poignant to see, in a way, since we had a light dusting of snow this morning that had only just melted away. I got the feeling from watching her that she really misses this house, this garden, and this life. I’m not sure why, and I can’t exactly put my finger on it. It was more of a matter of tone: the way she looked, her deportment in walking out into the yard, and so forth. She has on numerous occasions in the past said that she really likes this house, and thinks it’s the most cozy one we’ve ever lived in, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she indeed was missing it right now.

We came back inside, and I began to make some coffee. She asked if she could “spend some time” with the dog for two days, and I said that would be fine. This phrase, “spend some time,” to me is code for her going on another adulterous jaunt; I began to realize that I had even very recently had selfish impulses when she’d make these requests, and would only assent begrudgingly. This time was different. I just let go.

She then went into her office and played the piano. I nearly teared up, as I began to realize how much I missed hearing her play. The sound of her playing has been a constant fixture in my life for years, and since her departure it’s been largely gone. I was going to put her coffee into an insulated travel cup, but she then told me that she had some time and would drink it here. I brought the coffee into her office, and we sat and chatted a bit. She asked me if I was doing okay financially, and I gave her a very sudden and confident “yes,” along with a big smile. She seemed a bit shocked. Business has picked up for me over the past two months, and I find myself doing pretty well without her financial contribution. She told me that she was concerned, and that I could ask her for help if I needed it. Not that I’m going to do that right now, as I’m far better off financially than she is, but it was a sign to me that she feels both guilt and some responsibility for her actions.

After a few minutes, she came out to the living room with me. I had prepared a little travel bag for the dog, with a bowl and treats and all that, and was ready to give it to her. She sat down on the couch and asked me if I had anything I wanted to talk about. In the past, this would mean that she was feeling conflicted and wanted to talk, and perhaps it still did. I just confidently and truthfully said “no” once again, and she again seemed taken aback. I just told her that I felt like I was in a pretty good place emotionally, very stable, and not really needing to talk through things. She, however, was clearly uneasy. I asked her about her dissertation, not to nag, but rather because there was an opening and I just wanted her to know that I am still willing to help. She admitted that she hadn’t done any work at all, and was finding it pretty much impossible to focus. She said that she was probably going to ask for an extension, but I cautioned her that she might not get one, and she needed to take care of any such requests right away if that was what she wanted to do. I also told her that I was always there to help. She confessed that she had been having panic attacks, and that the most recent one was about two weeks ago, being triggered by thoughts of her dissertation. The woman in whose house she is staying is an individual who has many repressed emotional traumas, and who has suffered plenty of panic attacks of her own over the years. She told my wife that the symptoms she had were exactly those of a panic attack, and my wife told her that these were precisely the same symptoms she’d had nearly 10 years ago, before we were married, while she was still involved in a very unbalanced relationship that ended badly. It’s interesting that those panic attacks should return now. Not that I haven’t seen a few over the years with her, but pretty much all of these had been due to some sort of external stimuli, e.g. impending deadlines and such. I don’t think it’s odd that the panic attacks have recurred, but I do think it’s a bit odd that she hasn’t figured out that they are returning because of the choices she has made and continues to make. We chatted a bit longer, and then she left.

After work, I headed over to the center where I do my spiritual practice. They have a new class that just started on the Four Immeasurables, and this hardly could have been more timely. The entire topic of the class is 100% relevant to my life as it is right now. One of the investigations we did involved bringing to mind someone to whom we have aversion. That was easy: the adulterer came right up. We were instructed to watch the emotions that arose in thinking about that person, and I was rather astonished to see that, right beneath the aversion was a sense of tenderness and sorrow. Then, we were invited to bring to mind someone to whom we feel attachment, and for this my wife came to mind instantly. The underlying emotions there were also those of tenderness and sorrow. The basic reason for this sorrow came from the understanding that both of these people were doing what they have been doing for nearly five months now out of the desire to be happy, even though the things they are doing are truly unskillful, unproductive, hurtful, and will have no positive outcome. It’s a pretty major realization to find that you can have compassion for someone who has been trying to destroy your marriage because, deep down inside, that person just wants the same thing as do you: happiness.

But, we cannot have happiness by trying to destroy someone else’s happiness, and that is where the power of the Four Immeasurables comes into play: the first immeasurable is loving-kindness, and is often expressed through the slogan, “may all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” This is a very powerful aspiration. Rather than trying to achieve happiness at someone else’s expense, you are wishing for them to attain happiness in their lives somehow, and making that a greater priority than your own happiness. This might sound like one would then be condoning things like adultery, but that is not at all the case. The aspiration is that the other person find true happiness, and that cannot occur in situations plagued by destructive behaviors. Or, in other words, one hopes that those who are unhappy relinquish the causes of their unhappiness and turn to virtuous actions through which they may find happiness.

Today was kind of a shifting point for me. Somehow I feel as though my outlook has changed and that I truly can persevere. I have the strength, the resolve, and the stability to make it. And I know that, some day in the very near future, my wife will look at me and see that, and decide that that is a much better place to be happy than where she has been looking these past five months.

Instant karma, part II

Karma means “action,” but action with a dualistic edge. Action that is good or bad, right or wrong, up or down, black or white. It doesn’t mean that, when you do a good deed, a good deed of equal measure will return to you in kind. I hope that my previous post didn’t lead anyone to believe that to be the case; my tone was more facetious than anything. Karma is more like a storage house in which positive and negative seeds are stored, and so long as we buy in to the whole dualistic view of existence, we are destined to watch those karmic seeds come to fruition. Our present moment actions have a lot to do with how they come to fruition, though. If your actions are fundamentally virtuous, you can expect positive karmic seeds to be more likely to manifest, and negative karma to be relatively minimized. The opposite is also said to be true. So this is a story about karma as it manifested in my life today.

My wife came home around 11:00 a.m. unannounced, and with the dog in her carrier. She said she “misplaced the leash” at the “other house,” so she had to keep the dog in the carrier. The dog seemed very relieved to be home again, and I don’t blame her. She had that barnyard funk that she picks up on these weekends. It’s actually not so much barnyard as a mixture of chicken coop and cat litter. Somewhat bizarrely, my wife had an even stronger tinge of that barnyard funk about her. It was really weird: she smelled worse than the dog, and the aroma pervaded the entire room.

She didn’t stay long, maybe just 20 minutes or so. Then she told me she was going to leave for her rehearsal. It was not yet noon, and the rehearsal began at 3:00. I offered to give her a ride, as it’s quite a distance, and takes over an hour by bus to reach that destination. She declined. Before she left, I offered her a lunchbox I’d made for her, and she declined that too, telling me that her bag was too heavy. She asked me to leave it in the fridge, as she might come home and eat it later. She never did, but maybe she will do so tomorrow. She looked very tired, and seemed quite unhappy.

After she left, I decided to go out and run some errands. I had it in my mind to do a bit of decorating in the house; nothing major, but it just seemed to me that the bedroom needed a bit more abundance and magnetizing energy. So I thought I’d get some flowers, and find a couple of vases for them, since we didn’t seem to have any extra vases. I went on line to look for consignment stores, and discovered that there is one not too far away. I went over to check out their inventory, and found a couple of nice vases, and spent about $15 or so for them. Then I went on a hunt for a flower shop, and in the process ended up visiting a tiny curio shop that sells Tibetan goods. Many of the things they have are spiritual/ritual/devotional objects; I think I had been there once with my wife many years back. She had been there a few times in the past, and bought me Chögyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior there on the recommendation of the owner. Somehow I knew I’d be in good hands if I went there again.

I entered the tiny shop and the owner was conversing in Tibetan with his wife and high-school age daughter. He greeted me, and offered his assistance. He asked me if I was looking for prayer flags or something like that, but I told him I was looking for something for my bedroom, but aside from that had no agenda; I was just using my inspiration. I did ask him to show me what he had. He went straight to a shelf with tapestries — not prayer flags, per se, nor thangka paintings, but rather something one would more or less have to call tapestries. Not large ones either, mostly just cloths that were about 2 feet square. He took one off the shelf, a green one with Tibetan prayers written all over it, and an image of Green Tara in the middle. He said, “this is the 21 Praises to Tara, you know.”

I was astonished. I have done Green Tara practice for about a year now, and have found it completely transformative. I often lead the practice on Sundays. I’ve been also reciting the 21 Praises to Tara since about the beginning of the year, and recently have made it a daily practice. I told him about this, and he said, “isn’t that interesting that this is the first thing I found for you.” We also looked at a couple of thangka paintings, plus some calligraphy he had done, but in the end I bought the tapestry. I just trusted my intuition on this one. That’s how karma works. You walk into a shop and this connection suddenly happens. Not only that, but the tapestry is green, and that is the color of karma energy. He said it would be appropriate for the bedroom. Somehow he had the sense that my bedroom needed karma energy. I felt that it needed something, as the energy was just stale in there. I felt so immensely grateful.

I never did find that flower shop, by the way, so I ended up getting some flowers at a grocery store that evening. I came home to discover that my wife had not returned during the day at all. I imagine she’ll be by tomorrow at some point. I plan to ask her for advice as to where to hang the tapestry. She’ll likely say that she doesn’t care, since she doesn’t feel it to be her bedroom anymore. But, she will get to experience Tara’s karma energy face to face.