Skip to main content

The Gift of Desperation

After a long day of running around New Orleans in a spider man costume, dancing in the streets, standing under showers of purple, gold, and green confetti, we went home, sat Zazen, and met our friends for a late dinner at their place.

These friends are close; one is my dharma brother, though he has completely left the temple. He left for the same reason we all left, but that's another story, one I've told in this blog, one I'm just sick of thinking about, as I float around, semi-teacher-less.

We all talked about how great this Mardi Gras was, and how great Mardi Gras is, and we talked about the horrible parts of Mardi Gras, too. The horrible parts weren't so horrible for us, but maybe they were bad. No one was stabbed or shot, which does happen randomly, but sometimes a drunk participant would say something rude, maybe shove you, or as happened to us, gropes you. Grabs you where you shouldn't be grabbed.

This happened, and I had a very violent reaction. For a couple minutes, I didn't care, and I wanted to put everything aside. I wanted to hurt someone because they grabbed my fiance and I was confused in the dark of the warehouse party, lost in a very decadent Golden Buddha costume, and clumsy in my metallic gold platform shoes.

The universe had to be laughing!

But there I was, wanting to fight, like I used to, and not caring that we'd get thrown out, our night would end, and who knows, I might go to jail. And if you go to jail in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, they don't let you out until it's all over, so I could have sat in jail for three days because I wanted to punch some one out.

Luckily, you can't move so fast in a big fat Buddha suit, nor can you really find anyone at a Mardi Gras ball with maybe 2,000 people dancing. Not to mention, my fiance was holding me back.

She really didn't want to see this happen. At the time, I couldn't understand, and I spoke to her harshly, and I forgot myself, sober mind you. Sober, but completely intoxicated with ancient twisted karma, tangling me up into ideas of who I think I am and where I come from, and very silly shit like that.

We can get really technical with our definition of karma, but I'll just say it's action. I'll take a superstitious leap and say it's a little magic, too. I think I carry my fair share of both; my mother comes from a Sicilian mafia family and my dad escaped his upbringing by joining the Marines. Then my parents split and I "served myself" as my mother put it, meaning, she put frozen food in the fridge and I'd eat it. I moved out when I was 17, drank way too much, found Zen when I was 20, and things got much worse before they got better, I found a sangha, I found fellowship in the rooms, and I have a therapist.

Damn. And with all that, sometimes I feel like that beat truck on the block, the one that burns oil and leaks radiator fluid in a messy but sustainable way.

Then I found this job teaching kids who have eyes that cut right through any facade you had. I'll admit, Zen might have been one I put up that I thought looked nice, nicer than the others, and they tore that right down, too. They don't want tough guys, peaceful guys, or funny guys- they really want you to have your shit together, like their parent's don't. This has been a good practice for me.

My life has to be practice, and I have to surrender to that idea and accept my gift of desperation.

This gift brings me to the Zafu, brings me to the fellowship, and forces me to open my mouth and change my actions. It is not easy. I can sense the hard wiring in my mind, the hard wiring that is fear based and too quick in memory of my body brain. Sitting upright slows that body brain down, slows those hands down. It's kept me from running way.

Zen practice 7 years, New Orleans 3 years, A.A one year- There was a time when I couldn't stay anywhere for more than 5 months.

So I'm thankful for my gift of desperation. And I'll figure it out. Keep trying to find that middle path.

And I'll stay out of the newspapers and off of wikepedia; Dad was quoted in the New York Times for wanting to go and 'Kill em all' when he was a young man; Mom's uncle was the last man seen with Jimmy Hoffa.

So I'm not so bad, even if if the middle path at that party looked like this:

The fiance came back with 3 friends and turns out that the groper had thrown a drink on one, groped another, and insulted a boyfriend. Said boyfriend and I decided that his masquerade needed to end, and a RECON mission ensued.

I found "the groper" annoying yet another group of girls. I snuck up on tip toes (he was taller, even with my golden platforms) and reached around his face with both hands, and like the Golden Buddha who could, I snatched the mustache from his lip, and left with suchness.


  1. I really love to see you put up a new post each time you do.

  2. Hey! Good to see you're still checking in...


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Boredom and Buddhism

To say I feel bored feels disrespectful. How could that be? I have a three month old daughter, I'm training for a demanding job in the temple, I'm a wilderness medic responding to incidents every 4 days or so, and I'm sewing my priest robes for ordination. And I have this sense of disinterest.

I have a few theories as to why I feel bored. One could be the natural come down from having the baby and becoming stable in our schedule. Another come down plays out in the adrenaline crash after responding to a medical emergency or the general up keep work I do at the temple when compared to fixing something crucial to operations. When I hear there's a fire in the area I'm pretty excited to be mobilized for stay and defend duty. I feel pretty guilty about that, too.

So I read Beyond Boredom and Depression by Ajahn Jagaro and I was reminded to be careful about looking outward by this passage:

So what is boredom? It is a subjective experience that occurs when the mind is not i…

Goodbye Green Gulch Sama! Hello Tassajara!

About two years ago I left Mid City Zen in New Orleans. I feared I was leaving something, and now I'm about to leave Green Gulch and that same fear has arisen. I imagined there was wealth, a sort of freedom, and a lot to "renounce."  I had a car (a fast one!), a playstation 3, many books, many articles of clothing, and as I look around our little cabin, that same perception has arisen- I have too much stuff! And I like it!

My book collection that I sold or gave away in New Orleans has somehow manifested out here. And I have quite the collection of farm hats and farm boots. Rubber ones, Redwings, Ropers, Bogs to the ankle, Bogs to the knee, a navy seal Solomon for the wet spring weather. Most of them are fit to throw away, glued back together and stitched with fishing line, and just so smelly, so smelly my wife won't let me keep them in the cabin, so I hide them all around Green Gulch.

So I started packing, and while that fear of renunciation has arisen, it's not …

Vows and Compass

Being in new Orleans reminds me that my way seeking mind ripened here. Maybe it was the level of maturity my father's recovery actualized. Maybe it was the Ben Wren book I found at Beaucoup Books on my lunch break. Maybe it was my step mom's copy of things fall apart by Pema Chodron sitting in the bathroom.

Later I would witness the host of suffering post-katrina offered to a young public school teacher. How could I help? I took my first set of vows not really knowing where they would lead, like the old black metal compass my dad put in my Christmas stocking when I was about ten. Beautiful to hold, difficult to understand.

Now, years later, I feel a bit subdued as form,sensation, perception, impulse, and thought tag everything, beckoning some purchase for the price of belief. I'm home, but a home leaver. People wonder when I'll move back and being a home leaver means being ready to leave home again and again, which could mean coming back.

How will I actually engage all…