NINETEEN

There was a brief moment of contact before the ango began. It was Tae’s first break from the Kangwon, on a visa run. She’d sent one email. She hadn’t read SOB yet because she’d been off-line. She’d send a letter.

 

Though she knew of my struggle with Sangmi — she didn’t know how I would write her, the things boiling in me. I felt completely vulnerable allowing her to see so much, caring so deeply about her.

 

I had to trust in the Dharma light, that she could see it in me: the flow, the way I moved. She was drawn to it. She needed the example of a deep practice mind encountering the world, but I wasn’t impervious. It was impossible for me not to fall in love with her, not as much as we were together.

 

I didn’t receive another email before I was forced off-line. I had to live with the uncertainty. I wrote everything, allowed everything. I wrote Sangmi as a cosmos. It’s one of the best pieces I’ve ever done. It changed the way that I felt about her. The material on Tae destroyed everything. It came from a continuum, where minutes lasted for years, Gods rose and fell, Aeon’s; all obliterated in an energy field: the decay of the atom, the blankness of nothing, unrecoverable, from there. How far I had to go! I was glad to be rid of all the human things. I became more human. I was an alien. The only thing left me was the One, so bright, so compelling. And when I’d received no letter, a cold, unforgiving fear. My wonderful friend, had she turned away?

 

The forest kept me alive. I was raised in her, always alone. She was the God of my youth, a communication unbroken still, such a beautiful language. I’ve told her so many things, heartbreaking things. Ahhhhh!

 

When I could stand no more, I hove in, collapsed completely, everything down like it was the end. I wanted no more from the world but to cease. The pain became more vivid as it ignited other things in me. I should not have survived the weekend, but after it passed I was surprised to find some relief, that by Monday I was thinking well of her again. Through the morning rounds I looked it over. I found that it didn’t matter anymore what the future would be. I loved Tae completely. It didn’t require anything. Once I’d put it down, the whole of it now revolved in infinite space, not the distance between us.

 

In the realm of the One Mind, time and space were removed. From there. It was the way, as I understood it, to live as a human being, how to love unconditionally. It came from Tae, our lives crashing into one another’s. The precepts, the practice life, her not-responding to my need — all of it together pushed me into a new realization. If you’ve established a deep connection with the One, all of it can flow from the source. Zen Master Seung Sahn would say, “I have no mind, so no problem.” He left out a few details…

 

But we were not made to stare into the Void. There were always fires to put out. The stalker wouldn’t stop peering at me from behind poles, clothes racks, doors. He was insidious. He would bum rush me when I tried to go to my locker, or exit any door, any blind spot, several times a day. I couldn’t get him off of me. Nobody cared. And that I couldn’t communicate, I was the foreigner. It was funny to them. I don’t know. I couldn’t lie down in the common room because he would hover nearby. I stayed out in the forest. It was an outward manifestation of my inner process. I couldn’t find a place to sit and write — always a disturbance. You understand, I had to disappear. There were 60 of us. Many had already made their spot, every available bench and clump of trees and stream real estate were taken. I found a cliff difficult to access, but the crows had it first, and they were nesting. I was attacked by two of them. They circled and squawked and dove at me until I made it out of there. I tried a number of times before calling it off. They knew who I was. When I tried to establish a new place on the other side of the stream, they found me again and continued the attack. I went further down the road, to the second bridge. It was far enough that the crows gave up on me, but I was escorted back by the upperclassman, who were mad that I was at their hangout. I went behind the Zen Hall, found a spot down a rugged trail, but every day someone would poke out of the brush, walking through. I followed the network of trails to the very end, but there a line of monks came through, even more than before. At that point I was told to stay off the mountain entirely, as they were investigating a recent fire. I had three different notebooks in Ziploc bags hidden in three different places, and couldn’t access any of them. I went the other way, with the fourth notebook, upstream. Before I’d made it to the first bend in the road, I found a dried-up stream bed covered in leaves and underbrush. I followed it around a few bends and finally found a place no one would likely go.

 

The practice had a similar baseless quality, that I allowed the focus to move on its own, without trying to hold it. I went in and out of many different states. It didn’t concern me. It was natural, both the cascading thoughts that built and receded, and the undulating states of deep meditation. They often co-existed, always did, just that the awareness could not encompass everything at once.

 

One of the great teachings I received was to do nothing, to allow the natural process to do the work, not to exert myself ahead of it, needlessly. In the case of the stalker, I had to call him out, publicly, then the group could exert its influence, scattered as it was, to press him toward normalcy. I had to do this a number of times. He quieted considerably, but I could not still his heart. What a miserable task. What little contact he forced, how could it be enough? What kind of life was it? It cheapened my situation with Tae. Was I bothering her in some way? It really made me feel bad about myself. Why do we make the world so difficult to live in?

 

I understood in the afternoon, the first ray of hope after surviving the weekend, that I couldn’t keep anything personal anymore. It all had to pass to the One Mind. The One accepted all unequivocally and gave back perfect things, symmetries out of time, a larger pattern I was unable to see. The path is this act alone.

 

I felt that my life could go in different directions: with Tae there would be more color and joy, excitement, stimulation, a partnership; or the Void, a return to a familiar darkness, to the end. It wasn’t likely that I’d connect with a woman to the degree that I did with her. We were together so much. We knew each other so well, so many connections, bonds. But the future, I couldn’t see her in it anymore. I moved quickly through the meditation rounds, an ecstatic state lit with darkness – the immense suffering of the world. She fell farther away. It became hard to remember her features, but as she pulled away the madness receded.

 

The One Mind expected, understood everything. It was the only place left for me to turn. I entered with the weight of the world. Her world. The static rose, the heat. Tae.