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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 77 “I always had a background of distress, ever since I was young,” he admits. “What part that played in becoming a writer or a singer or whatever it was that one became, I don’t know. I didn’t have a sense of an operational ease,” he continues. About life? “Just about one’s work or one’s capacity to earn a living; a capacity to find a mate or find a moment of relief in someone’s arms,” he says, trailing off. He looks up. “I don’t know what hap- pened,” he says sweetly. “Something very agreeable happened to me. I don’t know what the reason is. That background of dis- tress dissolved.” He leaves a small silence, then offers a mischievous smile. “I’m wor- ried now that my songs are too cheerful because I’m feeling well. I think I may be irrelevant pretty soon.” Has Thomas, who is forty-eight, played a part in that happiness? “That might very well be,” he allows. He met her in 1984, when she was singing backup for him. They didn’t become lovers until 1999. “When the background of distress dissolves, you’re able to see people more clearly.” “People who love you, you mean?” “Yeah, or don’t,” he says. “You’re able to appreciate the authentic situation. You can just see things more clearly. It’s a veil that drops. You’re not looking at everything from the point of view of your own suffering.” Relationships are often difficult, he says. “I find that people want to name it. The woman is saying, ‘What is our relation- ship? Are we engaged? Are we boyfriend and girlfriend? Are we lovers?’ And my disposition is, ‘Do we really have to have this discussion, because it’s not as good as our relationship?’ “But as you get older, you want to accom- modate, and say, ‘Yeah, we’re living together. This is for real. I’m not looking for anyone else. You’re the woman in my life.’ Whatever terms that takes: a ring, an arrangement, a commitment, or from one’s behavior, by the way you act. You make it clear by min- ute adjustments. A woman goes by. You can look, but you can adjust so that it’s not an insult, an affront, or a danger. You’re with somebody, and you want to make it work. I’m not interested in taking off my clothes with a woman right now.” He and Thomas live together, but they have separate bedrooms on differ- ent floors of the house. “I like to wake up alone,” Cohen explains. “And she likes to be alone. We are both impossibly solitu- dinous people.” If advancing age and his love of Thom- as have promoted happiness, so too has Buddhism. What Cohen has developed is a practice of detachment. “You have to take responsibility because the world holds you accountable for what you do,” he explains at one point. “But if you understand that there are other forces determining what you do, then there’s no pride when the world affirms you, and no shame when the world scorns you. Also, when some- one does something to you that you really don’t like or that hurts you, well, a feel- ing of injury may arise, but what doesn’t is hatred or enmity, because those people aren’t doing it, either. They’re just doing what had to be done.” Just like this interview. It has been arranged, and so he will do it, graciously, without hesitation, annoyance, or impa- tience. Finally, when you insist you must leave, he worries if you are dressed warmly enough for the cold weather. He gives you one of his scarves, and goes upstairs to retrieve an old Gap sweater he wants you to wear. He calls you darling. He finds a pin for the Order of the Unified Heart and gives you one, and a ring, too, with the same design. Earlier, he had explained that even if despair has lessened, challenges remain. “This isn’t very different from the monas- tery,” he says, referring to his current situ- ation. “It’s the same kind of life, which is sometimes difficult, like everybody else’s. It’s a struggle for significance and self- respect, and you know, for righteous em- ployment, to be doing the right thing.” Part of that, clearly, is inviting peo- ple, strangers even, into his house of unadorned walls, simple white curtains, and old wood floors, nourishing them with food and ideas and hours of de- lightful conversation, and then sending them back out into the world, the one with the smokers and the drizzle and the pain. ♦ 800.794.9862 www.dharmacrafts.com Free gift! Order online using keycode MTSS DharmaCraf ts The Catalog of Meditation Supplies Introducing the Digital Meditation Timer Compact, elegant design. State-of-the-art technology. Create your own sequences of timed intervals for sitting & walking meditation or yoga. A Zen circle brush stroke is slowly drawn on the face of the clock, providing a relaxing visual cue of time elapsed. • Choose from several soothing Tibetan bell or Japanese gong tones • Use as a countdown timer, clock, and/or alarm • Create & store up to 3 timed sequences with up to 50 timed intervals within each sequence • Digital mechanism requires no adjustments or tuning. Easy to program and use! Perfect for travel. 3 3⁄4" dia. Carrying case and 2 AAA batteries included. Item #3047 $99.00 NOV 70-77.indd 77 NOV 70-77.indd 77 8/31/07 10:44:04 AM 8/31/07 10:44:04 AM