I haven’t been feeling the journal-style entries lately, yet my mind becomes obscure when I don’t keep up with them. At the beginning of this semester, I tried to do weekly recaps, and it was very beneficial – kind of a written unwinding of each week as it passed. I got lazy due to an overwhelming amount of work (if that makes sense), and after a while this didn’t happen. As I try to keep up with my own assignments and grading duties (both of which I’m currently behind in), I put this on the back burner. In actuality, it should stay on the front end of the stove, as it tends to keep me rational and in a knowledge-synthesizing reflective state.
Today I spent the bulk of my afternoon in a room with about ten others listening to the teachings of a Tibetan Lama of the Kagyu lineage. There’s something to be said for my recent karmic good fortune. Last week in Los Angeles, I was able to spend a large chunk of time with a Tibetan scholar who had previously been a translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL). I walked away from that experience feeling invigorated and full of keen direction for my studies. Then today, I was able to spend the day with a Lama who was HHDL’s previous physician. I walked away from this experience feeling still and reflective. There’s a reason for this.
Today I was introduced to Tonglin practice. Essentially you fulfill this practice by using visualization (beginning with yourself) and breathing in your own suffering as if it were a smoky haze. The exhale is a radiant [healthy] white light that is cleansed of this suffering, thereby transmuting the bad into the good via the breath. This was an intense experience for me. After visualizing yourself and being specific about the types of suffering you were inhaling, you begin to visualize others: your partner, your family, your friends, your pets, your community, your enemies, your state, your country, your continent, all of mankind – you get the picture. It can be any combination of these things, or a chronology of them, or you can choose to focus all of your energy on one person per session. The goal, naturally, is to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings. I allowed myself to breathe in the suffering of whomever my thoughts dragged in front of me. This included several family members and friends, including those I have not seen in years, however it also included exes. Truly cultivating compassion for those who have hurt you (regardless of whether it was intentional) is a difficult task. Oftentimes we block out these experiences. What I found today through Tonglin practice is that these experiences will be the first to arise, as they are the ones that have caused you suffering in the past – the ones that clog your mind. Therefore it becomes a personal attempt to reconcile this suffering and be compassionate toward them. I have one particular ex that haunts my daily thoughts and likely always will. The relationship ended badly as a result of a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications. There is much to be compassionate about. Today was good.
A word about Los Angeles: it was an entirely amazing experience and I am so grateful to have gone. I feel silly for allowing the previously negative feelings of others taint my anticipation of the conference or the society at large. I met several incredible people and I feel as though every one of them helped to shift my path toward ‘the right’ direction, even if it was just an inch or two, and especially if they didn’t mean to. I discovered new mentors, had far more fun than I should have, and experienced a new landscape. Stepping outside your normal routine with others allows you to become closer to them, and in this way I feel much closer to several brilliant people from my program as well. I have an entire notebook full of notes to fill these pages with, and it will be slow-coming and backdated to reflect the dates of the conference.
A few last notes for now before this turns into a rant:
1. I am so grateful for the new friends I’ve made here since I’ve moved to Florida. I can’t imagine myself having gone anywhere else. I do hope that other colleagues here realize how unique it is to have such a warm, receptive, and consistently supportive environment. I’m saying this after having spent a fantastic evening with most of them around a fire and being necessarily silly.
2. My partner returns from Boston tomorrow. This requires several profoundly thankful deep breaths of expectancy. November has been demanding as we’ve barely seen each other.
3. There are only a couple weeks left to this semester, which has flown by. I am looking forward to a new one where I feel a bit more comfortable in my shoes: I don’t have to feel around for expectations, friends/support, or a routine. I’m looking forward to a new set of courses: Field & Lab, Music of India, and a Seminar in Ethnomusicology that will be full of anthropological theory. I’ll be performing more as well – which is something I miss dearly.