Milton and James, who went to camp this past summer

Aussie’s off to find Nessie. She asked me to come along, accused me of not having any sense of adventure. I told her that, much as I love the Scottish Highlands, they’re not right for me now. There’s a different trip I want to make.

Sometimes you can go looking for the Loch Ness monster. Or you can start doing a different kind of journey. Most important, ask yourself: What now?

A friend of mine recently said on the phone that he’s done what he’s wanted to do, written what he’s wanted to write, and what’s up for him now is to find a loving companion.

I was taken aback that someone could see this so clearly. For me, it’s easy to continue the old habits of doing, writing, teaching.

What writing and teaching have in common is that both help me see things I didn’t see before. Questions I didn’t know I had, something in the core I wasn’t conscious of that finds its way to my fingers, then the computer keys, then the screen.

I wasn’t prepared to give a talk Tuesday night, but I did, and things became clear even as I spoke them; I was the first to be surprised. The space frees up and some inner voice begins to speak. You don’t even know this will happen till it comes out of your mouth, or suddenly appears on the screen.

For so much of my life I avoided the path of the heart. The karma of it is clear. My eyes go up to the sky, which I know, from watching so many other people, that it’s a damn good sign that I’ve gone  right into my head.

Bernie’s eyes rarely climbed up when he spoke, even as he was thinking; he kept them straight ahead. At times his famous thick brows would knit together, furrows would appear on top.  He might look over your shoulder for a moment. But his eyes didn‘t roll up much.

Mine do. Go back to the mind where it’s safe, where you’ve made your mark in the past starting when you got good grades in school with relatively little effort and were told you were smart and capable. Continue that theme with variations over the decades.

And what about opening up that dusty path that leads elsewhere? The one like the desert roads in western Morocco, so covered with overturned, sharp-edged boulders and wide, jagged cracks that aid vehicles can’t get through to help those affected by the earthquake? I feel at times that that’s been the path to my heart, to my deepest feelings.

Mine is a self that has not felt very comfortable around children but loves to look into the eyes of Milton, first grade, and hear his stories at our local Catholic Charities office about the camp he went to (with your help) this past summer. Would love to hug him tight, too, but refrains.

Mine is the body that wishes to stretch out an arm to his doting mother who went through hell to get here and wants nothing for herself, just that Milton grow in safety and have a good life.

Open your arms, I tell myself.

I can’t speak much Spanish, another voice says.

You don’t have to, the dialogue continues, just open your arms.

I love students and meditators who cope with challenging children, sick parents, and full-time jobs. I’m sure old-time monks left home because staying home was too tough a practice. I have long ago given up the distance we as teachers were encouraged to cultivate; I hug them because I love and admire them.

A path to a more balanced and honest relationship with brother and sister, get away from the older-sister-who-knows-best role and admit to my yearnings, my wishes for closeness, admit to doubts and not knowing my own next steps.

I’ve had loves of all kinds, watched myself flounder, sometimes not show up for husbands, lovers, and friends. Love is much bigger thann a loving companion, it’s the entire life force. So why die before my time? Why roll up my eyes to think more rather than keep them straight ahead in this moment, opening towards this person, this tree, this dog.

If I was talking Zen talk, I would convey to them that they are Buddhas. That I am Buddha, all one thing, no secrets, no barriers anywhere other than the artificial ones we create. Give no fear—including to myself.

Why just keep on doing the old things because for years they worked? Who needs another book, another blog, more teachers? Stories, yes, lots of them. Not AI stories, but ones that tell of what it is to follow breadcrumbs, veer right and left, get lost, almost be devoured by witch or wolf, and finally reach home—without going to Scotland.

I’ve met my Nessies, I told Aussie before she left, I’ve met my monsters. And the one I’m most afraid of isn’t long-necked and underwater, it’s the rolling of the eyes upwards towards ideas and abstractions, plotting new reasons to work, rather than looking straight ahead into connection. I fear nothing else right now.

How do I change direction? Make that sharp turn of the wheel and go down an untraveled side street?

My sister taught me a new word:  Coddiwomple. It means traveling in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination. Drive purposefully down that elusive side street, pay attention to people, listen to stories, forget about mistakes (Bernie said there’s no such thing). Don’t condition this on other people’s responses (they don’t meet me there!), go full out. Vague destination, but the life force is real.

We have big storms outside (our 5th consecutive day of rain). Aussie lies on the office rug; before that she spent time on the back seat of the garaged car, her safe space. The illegal Chihuahua sits right on my foot and I can feel his little butt shaking; both dogs are very afraid of the occasional thunder. I can’t keep Henry on my lap all the time, but I can occasionally put words aside, bend and pick up the little dog, stroke him, tell him things will be okay even as he continues to tremble. Can’t control the weather, but I can do that.

I have a request. I ask for support for this blog on a quarterly basis. The blog is free—it is at least as much value to me as it may be to others—I should probably pay folks to read it rather than the other way around. I don’t follow the blog’s numbers of hits or readers because that’s not why I write. Nevertheless, I pay to maintain and service it. I usually respond to those who email me. I admit I coddiwomple my way around the blog and my life, sharing their weird twists and turns (including illegal U-turns). Often, I feel like urging you, as we do in a certain Zen ceremony, to wash your ears out after hearing my words.

But there’s one thing better than success, and that’s failure. My motto is: Fail, fail, and fail again. Fail better! Always share. Always connect.

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