Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Love You

As I begin to write this I am in a plane en route to Halifax, a brief stopover on my way to Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist monastery at the far end of Nova Scotia, where I plan to live for a year or more. Following a call from inside me that has made itself heard these past months, I am taking a leap into the unknown, into full-time spiritual practice and discipline, into a new environment and a new way of life. For the moment, for the year, for I don't know how long, I have left behind two decades of history in New York City and said goodbye to job, apartment, friends, and most of my worldly possessions. Quite literally, as the old John Denver song goes: "I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again."

Although I cannot know what kinds of teachings lie ahead of me on this leg of the journey, I do know now, beyond a doubt, that the process of getting ready to embark on it has been profound and transformational.

For the past several days, a beautiful old Marvin Gaye song, "God Is Love," has been running the loop inside my head. Those who know me personally may find it hilarious to know that I'm identifying so strongly at this pivotal moment in my life, as I'm entering a Buddhist monastery, with a Christian gospel song, but to me the song's theological perspective is beside the point. The underlying message is universal. In it, Gaye urges the skeptical listener not to disparage his friend God, who "made this world for us to live in, and gave us everything." Then Gaye makes his main point: "All He asks of us [in return] is we give each other love."

Love your mother (she bore you)
Love your father (he works for you)
Love your sister (she's good to you)
Love your brother (your brother!)

I am taking Gaye's advice to heart. In a way, that is the reason I am embarking on this journey inwards and launching myself, physically and otherwise, into the open arms of a new family of full-time spiritual practitioners: to deconstruct some of the walls around my heart and learn, I mean really learn, what it is to love. What other journey is there?

Never in my life have I felt the love and support of my friends and family as strongly as I have felt it this week, as they have said farewell to me and wished me happiness on my path (even from those who do not understand the choice I have made). My eyes have been blasted open to see, with a new clarity, how much our paths are intertwined. I feel a deep respect and affection for every human being who has touched my life, at this transitional moment when, paradoxically, I have left so many of those very people behind me as I travel north to a country I have never seen before.

A close disciple once said to the Buddha, in a reflective moment, that good companions accounted for half of the spiritual path. The Buddha replied: "Do not say it is so. Good companions are the *whole* of the spiritual path."

For the first time, I feel that I can appreciate what the Buddha meant by that.

To every person who has shown me kindness and supported me on my life's path, my gratitude overwhelms me at this moment and I have no words to express it. Tears well up and I'm trying, right now, not to cry into my keyboard for fear of short-circuiting my laptop.

It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love. We will develop love, we will practice it, we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.

- Shakyamuni Buddha


Jean said...


ShaneTheSkylark said...

I love you and I wish you the best. And I want you to know that where ever you are on your path, I am always with you in mind and spirit.

KiKi SoSo LA.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

That last comment didn't display correctly.

Suffice it to type: XO :-)