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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2010 76 works with him. Last time he was sick I bought him a subscrip- tion to an auto mechanics magazine. I consider him, with his gentle, steady ways and soft smile, a guru of sorts. the big man sees the horror on my face. “naa, I’m only kid- ding. Sure, we’ll bring it in the morning to doc’s.” then he leans under the hood again and reaches for some wires. “But wait, don’t you need to know who I am?” “We know who you are.” He must be kidding. “Who am I?” I ask. “You’re natalie goldberg. We’ve read your books.” “You’ve... read... my... books?” my mouth hangs open. “Yeah, whatya think? We were illiterate? new mexico is one big family.” I place the keys on the table and back up, bumping right into the Zen teacher who is standing in the doorway. He has seen the whole thing. “now I’m impressed,” he says, his forehead creased with two lines, and he laughs. the next time I see the teacher is two days later. He and his wife come over for chicken soup. a large bottle of sake a friend gave as a gift is on the table. I don’t drink, so it is untouched. He drinks the whole thing. I think, it must be hard to be a Zen teacher. Six months later I hear that he has slept with several of his female students, including his wife’s best friend, and his whole spiritual community has fallen apart. For a moment I flash on our interaction in the meeting room. do you get it? he asked, lying supine on top of me. I wonder if he meant something other than the flower koan? But then I decide no. I’m naïve but I trust myself in this case. Sometimes you have to hedge your bets. this particular time I think he was taking a big risk to help me. I’m a teacher myself and I know the true effort one can make. We also can fail miserably. now I hang suspended between the koan, my broken jeep, and my cry to the mechanics, “Who am I?” that small troop of practitioners marching about in the high July sun, trying to imitate blossoms, the light off the ponderosa needles, and the two spring-fed ponds where beavers swim still haunt me. I want to burst forth and meet that afternoon in a new way. as a writer this story should be enough, but it’s now years later and I still carry the whole situation with no resolution. But maybe the tip of the pen on this spiral notebook, as I sit on a chipped red painted algonquin chair on this portale in Santa Fe, on an early thursday midsummer morning, ten feet across the way a clay birdbath thrown by a potter my age, who is now dead of cancer and lived up the river from here, where a fat robin bathes every morning in the high desert water, his feathers drenched and close to his body, is enough. maybe, just maybe, it’s enough to give this story over to you, to not hold onto it any longer. to know that spring is robust and fall is the beginning of the colored descent and there is nothing you can do about either but receive it all and surrender to no perfect answer and allow no conclusion, is good enough. What do you think? ♦ Karma Triyana Dharmachakra is the North American seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Founded in 1978, the center features traditional teachings as transmitted by Kagyu Line- age meditation masters since the tenth century. 335 MEADS MT. RD, WOODSTOCK, NY 12498 845.679.5906 •