So, yes, I will confess that I'm addicted. It feels all wrong to have spent these past few days--yes, even including Christmas--pretty much neglecting my daily writing practice, namely these Buddha Diaries. Last night I had two back-to-work dreams. In the first, I was anxious to show up on time for a fictional job, something I have not had for the past twenty-five years, since quitting academia in the mid-eighties. Getting there involved taking a small elevator from the shabbiest depths of some back alley, where a gang of aggressive louts took pleasure in beating people up. Waiting for the arrival of the elevator, I was aware of their lurking presence and waiting to be set upon. As one approached, I grabbed the nearest weapon, a gleaming, roundish metal object--but it proved to be covered with oil and slipped out of my grasp. Still, I managed to adequately defend myself and eluded my attacker... that one time. The next assailant was a hefty woman who, weirdly, approached me later in the dream to apologize...
The second dream took me back to the USC campus, where I taught many years ago. I had received a small envelope with my assignment of two classes, and showed up for the first at the appointed place. It was an unfamiliar and not entirely pleasant feeling, to be back in the classroom. Most of my first hour was devoted to the attempt to persuade one of the students, a rather ugly young man, that my class was not about facts and how-tos, but rather about the internals of the psyche. He was not having this, and had decided by the end of the session to withdraw from the class. I noticed, now that I looked carefully at his face, that he had no month--or rather than his mouth was misplaced, somewhere down below the jaw. I worried that the rest of the class--mostly, I have to say, attractive young women!--would follow his example and withdraw.
Leaving the classroom, I checked my envelope for details of the second class I was to teach and puzzled over the fact that there were only two. Was this a mistake? My full teaching load, I thought, should be three classes. I was quite relieved. But then, examining the reverse side of the envelope, I realized that I must have received the wrong one. This one was addressed to a Mr. Baines. (The bane of my life!) I would have to find the English office to seek a corrected version. But the campus was so much changed since my time there as to be unrecognizable. I had no idea where the English office could be. I tried consulting my I-Phone, but it proved unhelpful. I was still wandering around the campus when the dream ended.
I do feel the need to get back to work. There is much to be done. I'm happy, this morning, to be back to my writing practice. But my meditation was distracted by a thousand other things to do. I have neglected my email, and piles of messages have been arriving from new LinkedIn contacts, from Facebook, from Twitter. I have, perhaps foolishly, jumped into all these things in order to have means to spread word about "Persist." I do not know how to put these vehicles to best use, and feel obligated now to spend time getting familiar with the protocols and etiquette of each, and with their possibilities. I have review copies of the book to get into the mail, many of them to fill long-outstanding promises--I had expected to receive copies from the printer somewhat earlier than their actual arrival.
Looming ahead of me, too, are those speaking engagements I have been lining up. I have mentioned before in The Buddha Diaries that I don't consider myself a speaker, but a writer. Generally, in the past, when I have had to speak, I have written the words down and read them. With these coming events, I am determined to get past the hang-ups around speaking without notes. I can speak well. My voice, with its remnant English accent, seems to appeal to an American audience, and it remains a less-than-fully explored medium with which to reach out and touch people. As most of us, I suspect, I want my life to have had some meaning beyond the purely personal satisfactions, of which I have been blessed with many. I want to make a contribution of some kind to the lives of those with whom I'm fortunate to share this planet, and I see the challenge of this new medium as a way to expand my reach.
Has anyone noticed that the descriptive line below the title of The Buddha Diaries has changed from the one that used to evoke "the vicissitudes of life"? It's now simpler, more concise, more active in intention: "...getting to the heart of the matter." For me, it's an important statement of purpose about my writing. I can take it, also, as the motto for the practice of this new medium I'm approaching. I'll be reporting on it, I'm sure, in the first couple of months of 2010, as I begin to see how it all turns out.