TWENTY

As my mood lifted, I felt that the situation with Tae wasn’t so dire. It was a natural process of falling in love with someone and being separated from them for a prolonged period, with a profound lack of communication. As a monastic, I wasn’t trying to possess her, but to work out a way to love a person that I found a great harmony with, to develop a life of helping each other, learning, growing — the human ideal. We were autonomous.

 

Except for having children and raising them, men and women functioned independently quite well, the male and female an outward manifestation of the ceaseless work to bond, increase connections and nodes: friendships, parenting, mentoring. Maybe I shouldn’t have put any of this down, but Tae was so integrated. She enabled things to process easily, she trusted the process, and the material, so it became wider, enough to encompass her. There was an interplay. She needed to know, her mind drew it out of me, but it wasn’t me. I was like a conduit between her and the other. It included me, but more as an analogy. It was what she needed. Of course she never asked me directly. I’m referring to her as one of the elemental forces of writing, as a muse.

 

But I also understood that people don’t want to be bothered. Anything that obstructed the flow, any movement, gesture, eye contact, all had to be abandoned. What was the act of meditation? Of writing? The One Mind worked through us to reveal the world in untold depths, to refine our movements, the flow/expression. It was possible to live in an awareness of it, to propagate the way of life, the way a mother instructs her child — to instill the things we needed to live well, to move forward. Not everyone could dedicate their lives to looking into this. The connections I’d made as a writer, it was an unbelievable way to reveal the world.

 

At Baekdamsa, the practice was perfect. It glowed and burned, completely overwhelming my abilities. It rose from the background, a ringing wave of One Mind presence. It beckoned and shone, melted everything into plasma waves. My whole body raised up in a convection, breathless moments lost, lost in her. As soon as there was a drop she’d appear — an opening in the thought mass, the fluttering thoughts before falling asleep; she always came then. The way to welcome her was to give her everything, allow her anything, absolute control, to the point of giving up the thread of life. There was no reason to continue beyond her. I gave my life whenever she appeared. I conditioned myself to allow the space, what she wanted.

 

To become a Zen monk is to be an empty container for the One to utilize, but it’s never empty, the expression is constant. It doesn’t mean to become useless, though my interactions with others became less and less. Only Tae had any meaningful dialogue with me. She understood what I was doing. She could sense it. She’d opened the door. It was quickly filling every corner with its ringing brilliance. It was spectacular, like watching the river suddenly rise from a tinkling stream to a 100 meter deluge. All it took was a good day of rain. The process, I didn’t want to disturb it. I didn’t want to hear from Tae. It would probably have been negative, destructive, or God forbid positive – then my mind would’ve been even more occupied with her. I needed the time in-between. I was locked in, no chance for any release for another month. There wouldn’t be much left of me by then. It was hard for me to turn away from Tae the first time. I dreaded what would be the second.

 

I love that the avalanche that occurred came directly from the situation with Tae, resolving the love. To survive I had to give everything away. She’d grown into me too deeply. I was at the point where I couldn’t bear another emotional disintegration. I was willing to die. I gave the One everything: the longing, the sad songs, the pain and regret. It wasn’t so much a practice as a mode of survival. I had no defense against the dissolution of self. I didn’t want it anymore. The connection through to the One became a constant, a cosmic union initiated through the love for a woman with an established practice of her own. She became a conduit, a mirror, an expression of pure love, an eye to an eye, mind to mind. I was burning with her, a fire that could not be put out. I became incandescent. If I was still for a moment the flames would rise.

 

The One was soon flooded with all the imagery running through my mind. I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore. There was only one stream, one channel — either it was playing old loops with something rising behind it, or it was the One. It was exhausting work redirecting the flow, or recognizing when I was playing a loop and giving it up. It was a very slow death. Every piece of the thing I stood on, the thing I regarded as myself, was falling away. It was some kind of existential crisis, though it was positive. I didn’t want to be those things anymore. After 10 years living with the One Mind in varying degrees, I’d come to prefer it to my own crude, sad affairs.