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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 81 everything. When I wanted to write, I wrote. When I wanted to meditate, I meditated. When I wanted to pretend to write and meditate, no one was around to bust me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give all this up. Plus, right now we could easily ignore what drove each of us crazy about the other and, perhaps as a consequence, after five years we were still completely hot for each other. Privacy. Being able to get away from each other on our bad days. These were good things, no? Maybe maintaining some separation was the key to keeping the whole thing going. By month’s end I figured I’d either have come to some sort of brilliant conclusion about how it could all work out OR realized I simply wasn’t built for marriage and we should break up. If the latter, I’d already have accumulated separation days, and maybe they could be back-dated to shorten the grieving period. Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding onto our individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in. – CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA During all this, I noticed that I was crying a lot. Everything was touching me and it was getting on my nerves: the hopeful look on a colleague’s face when he was about to make a presentation; how sorry I felt for the people on the news; how beautiful Mar- vin Gaye’s voice was when he sang “What’s Going On.” The insu- lation between me and the world around me was getting thinner and thinner. So I stepped up my meditation practice. I thought this would be the best way to maintain equilibrium during this emotional time. But the more I meditated, the more likely I was to be provoked to tears by the slightest display of fragility. This couldn’t be the intended result. Instead of making me peaceful, meditating was freaking me out. What was I doing wrong? I made an appointment with my meditation instructor to ex- plore this question, but instead of giving me a strategy for tough- ening up, he suggested I take the bodhisattva vow. He explained that bodhi meant “awake” and sattva meant “being,” so an awak- ened being is what you vow to become. He told me that the vow was something a Buddhist might consider to deepen her practice after having been a meditator for some years. (Again with the deepening.) Sure, I thought, who wouldn’t want to try to become enlightened? But there was a catch. “The vow is to attain enlightenment for all beings, not just for yourself. You vow to keep taking birth through endless lifetimes and helping out until all beings are enlightened,” he said. No exceptions. You volunteer to take on the pain of all oth- ers. Wow, that’s some vow, I thought. But how, I asked him, would this help me stop cry- ing all the time? It sounded like it would make everything worse. The tears are a good sign, he said. It’s good preparation for the path of the bodhisattva. Okay, if you say so, I thought to myself. I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – PABLO PICASSO I spent a month weighing the pros and cons of getting mar- ried, figuring that at some point one would outweigh the other. One problem with my strategy: the more I thought it all over, the more I realized that I totally, completely loved Duncan and there was nothing I could do about it. No matter how heavy the con side of the list got with perfectly acceptable reasons not to marry (familiarity kills desire...all my private time will disappear... I can’t poop when anyone else is in the house), they couldn’t trump the one solitary thing on the pro side: I loved him. (OK, and there would be tax advantages.) I didn’t even know why I loved him so much. I mean, he’s great and cute and funny and all that, but nothing could account for the pleasure I got from his breath on my shoulder as we fell asleep or how upsetting I found it when anyone was mean to him. When we got back together after our month apart, I told him how much I loved him and gave him a carefully thought-out list of caveats: I’d never be a conventional wife. I’d require time and space to meditate every day. Please don’t talk to me when I’m in the bathroom. And so on. In the midst of my big presentation, he reached into his backpack and retrieved a small package. Oh no, I thought, does he think that giving me a ring will wash away all doubts and common sense? But there was no ring. Instead, he handed me a little heart- shaped box. Inside was a backyard bird feather and a smooth white stone. “This is us,” he said. “I’m the rock and you’re the feather. Fly all you want. That’s just who you are. I’ll make our situation stable. That’s who I am.” I was flabbergasted. What? He saw me this clearly and still wanted to marry me? The gravity of my rules and conditions shifted as suddenly as a flock of birds in the sky. I burst into tears. I had no idea there could be a person as wonderful as him. At this point there was no choice. Yes, I said. Yes, yes, yes. Please marry me and I will marry you. SUSAN PIVER is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Hard Questions. Her latest book, How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, was awarded Best Spirituality Book of 2007 by Books for a Better Life. JULY 78-99.indd 81 JULY 78-99.indd 81 4/25/08 12:05:17 PM 4/25/08 12:05:17 PM