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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 76 He talks easily about his earlier years, unburdened by nostalgia. “My constitu- tion is what saved me,” he says of the time he used a lot of drugs, especially during the writing of Beautiful Losers in 1966. “I’m not a really good drinker or a really good junkie. My stomach just doesn’t permit it. I was very lucky in that respect, because a lot of people I know, especially in those turbu- lent times, just didn’t survive it.” Similarly, he displays no longing or fondness for his time on Mount Baldy. He left the monastery in 1999. Not because he couldn’t find what he was looking for. Rather, he says, “I had completed that phase of my training.” He had gone there to cure himself of his excesses. He worked in the kitchen and as a secretary to Roshi. But it was not all about serenity. “They’re not saints, and you aren’t either,” he says of his fel- low monks. “A monastery is rehab for people who have been traumatized, hurt, destroyed, maimed by daily life that they simply couldn’t master. I had been study- ing with Roshi for thirty or forty years, but when I actually decided to live with him and really commit myself to the daily life—I always did that for several months of every year—but when I decided to do it full-time, I had just come off a tour in 1993, and yes, I felt dislocated. I had been drinking tremendous amounts on the road and my health was shot.” He discovered what he was looking for. “What happens in meditations that last ten, fifteen hours is that you run through your top ten erotic fantasies, ambition fan- tasies, revenge fantasies, global ratification fantasies. You run through them all until you bore yourself to death, basically, and the faculty that produces opinions and snap judgments and unrealistic scenarios for your own prominence, after you run through them for a number of years, they cease to have charge. They bore them- selves into non-existence. You see them as diversions from another kind of intimacy that you become more interested in—and that is what Socrates said: Know Thyself.” Cohen, who has two grown children from his long-term relationship with Suzanne Elrod—not the Suzanne of his fa- mous song—is a grandfather now. Cassius Lyon Cohen was born a few months ago. Still, there’s something more at play beneath his palpable equanimity. And it might be as simple as this: The man is happy. MY LIFE IN ROBES After a while You can’t tell If it’s missing A woman Or needing A cigarette And later on If it’s night Or day Then suddenly You know The time You get dressed You go home You light up You get married From Book of Longing, copyright © 2006 by Leonard Cohen. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. SHAMBHALA SUN FOUNDATION FIRST ANNUAL ONLINE AUCTION OFFERING A SELECTION OF · original artworks · photographic prints · programs · retreats · books and audio · gifts FEATURING OUTSTANDING WORKS SUCH AS THIS ORIGINAL CALLIGRAPHY BY THICH NHAT HANH COMING IN NOVEMBER www.shambhalasun.com Proceeds from this auction will support our move to environmentally responsible paper with recycled content, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The Shambhala Sun Foundation gratefully thanks our auction partners for their generous donations. SHAMBHALA SUN FOUNDATION An independent, nonprofit corporation. Publishers of the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly NOV 70-77.indd 76 NOV 70-77.indd 76 8/30/07 2:51:35 PM 8/30/07 2:51:35 PM