Friday, February 10, 2012


The emotional repercussions of preparing for departure show up in numerous subtle--and not so subtle ways. We leave tomorrow morning for the drive up to Monterey, where we'll be spending the first night of five away from home. Sunday afternoon, I'm speaking at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas (if there are Buddha Diaries readers in the area, please take note: the session is scheduled for 3PM.) After a night in Monterey, we're booked for two nights in Carmel and one in San Jose (where I'll be speaking at San Jose State University) and one more with friends in Palo Alto. My last speaking engagement is at Menlo School, where I'm invited to speak to the school's assembly as a part of their Writers Week events.

I'm comfortable at home. I know the daily rituals--the morning tea, the daily walk, the patterns of the day. I know each of the steps on the staircase, my place at the table, the feel of the couch in the living room. The bed is ready for the familiar imprint of my body. I enjoy the company of George, who tends to follow me around throughout the day and curl up to sleep wherever I happen to be--except when he's demanding to be taken out to the back garden to play. I know the sound of the telephone rings and the kitchen smells.

So leaving this is hard, a pulling up of thousands of tiny roots that keep me grounded. I find myself in a strange environment, where everything has to be tested out anew and every sensation is unfamiliar. I tell myself--not too convincingly, to be sure--that this is a good learning opportunity, a fine test of my understanding of those wonderful Buddhist principles about impermanence and change. It's a good way, I assure myself, to sharpen my awareness and my being in the present moment. And, as is usually the case, emotion trumps reason and leaves me feeling thoroughly unsettled inside.

That quiet anxiety about being away, uprooted, is complicated by another one, equally familiar--this one about standing up in front of a group (a crowd, perhaps?) of expectant strangers and finding the right words to express what it is I want to say. Again, reason tells me that the anxiety is absurd. I have done it countless times, without every coming to that complete standstill that I fear, running up against the wall of babbling incoherence or dumbstruck silence. I imagine what it will feel like, standing there with all those eyes fixed upon me and finding not a single word to say, no thread to follow, stories and bullet points swallowed up in the abyss of abject confusion. And I tremble at the thought.

The symptoms of all this nonsense are a more-than-usual shortness of temper, a greater impatience with matters large and small, a physical discomfort that pervades the body and particularly the pit of the abdomen, an undercurrent of emotion that feels like a persistent, low-grade panic. Thankfully, I have tools to address those feelings--though not always the skill to use them with success. I know how to become aware of them, something I did not know too well in the past, with the result that they could take possession of me and start to run the show. I know how to watch them as they arise and, if necessary and useful, get a fix on their origin. I know how to use the breath as a means to watch them go...

Knowing how, as we all know, is one thing. The practice is another. That takes, well, practice! I'm still working at it.

I'll have my trusty laptop with me as I travel, but may be less than regular in my entries. I trust you'll bear with me. And if you do have the opportunity to stop by at one of my "appearances," I do hope you'll take the time to introduce yourself. I'd love to know you.

1 comment:

CHI SPHERE said...

Your on your way to share important insights with other artists and writers in beautiful surroundings.
The garden is in bloom and just needs your sunlight and water.