"All these walls were never really there,
Nor the ceiling, nor the chair.
I'm eking weeks of peace at the beach
I see the breezes weave the trees,
These walls, you'll find, are yours and mine
Defined not by them, I"
-The Streets, "The Escapist"
Day... one? Day nine?
I left the monastery on October 5, riding with Trime to Halifax, on the same flight as Trime to Boston. My cousin & her husband allowed me to stay in their house, with a quiet hideaway, a luxury apartment of a basement. All the noise--the talking, the music, the cars, the hammering, the music, the televisions--was a lot to take in, and I was easily exhausted. I learned some balance between kindness to myself, and discipline.
So moving forward really began last Thursday, the 13th.
Robin and I walked through Boston. I had loved the city when I visited for her wedding, 21 years earlier, and always wanted to return.
This time, walking about, my brain kept checking it against the landscape in Assassin's Creed 3. Was reverting to video-game memory escapism? Or was I appreciating the quality and educational value of the game? No reason to think it wasn't both.
After a good day & a few drinks, Robin dropped me off with my couchsurfing host.
I found his situation via couchsurfing.org, which has been such a valuable resource as I've traveled. This fellow had good references, lived around where I needed to be the next day, and responded promptly. Trifecta.
When I rang the doorbell, he came around the corner of the house & indicated I should follow him. The door on the side of the house was small, and I had to duck to enter, down the stairs, into the basement. (Cinderblock walls, a table, two chairs, and a refrigerator.)
Through a door, into a furnished area (white tile floors, finished walls painted taupe) and into a room with three twin mattresses, spread wall to wall with only a few inches between them. I ask if there are other guests, and he points out that the middle is his bed. Mine is the farthest from the door. Another guest will occupy the third, yes.
We sit and talk. He's friendly and funny. Brazilian, living in Boston now 14 years. He offers me a drink, but I'm not yet sure how I feel about where I am so I decline.
His English is good, but he's had no context to learn about Buddhism or monasticism, so when he asks about what I've been doing & about the weird clothes he saw in the photos on my profile, we hit a language barrier.
I ask about him. He watches Brazilian football, Brazilian teledramas. He hosts a lot--he's actually moved down to the basement because his roommates upstairs complained about having so many guests. I wonder why there are only six references on the website, if he hosts so often.
I use the bathroom. There's no door. I don't wonder about the references any more. What can be said? Where does one begin?
I admit to myself that I'm not going anywhere, and accept his drink. Brazilian Caphirinha. Made strong, with lots of sugar. It is enjoyable, but I haven't had much sugar this year. I wake up at 1am and can't get back to sleep for three hours.
The next morning, I'm waiting for Deidra with my luggage. No harm, no foul, but I am out of here.
Here we go. Back on the road.
In 2013-2015, I had (gasp!) settled down.
It wasn't intentional, but a good job (a great job, even) plus a cushy living situation (read: free house) lured me into complacency. As Ani Pema taught during Yarne, when one spends one's time inside their comfort zone, that comfort zone gets smaller and smaller. I had seen it happen to people, but had somehow overlooked it happening to me.
Time with friends was entertainment, time alone was music & drinking--filling space and time. Life was good, no? People wish they had it so good.
But within the first few months at Gampo Abbey I realized that this life hadn't just been uneventful. It had been harmful. Willpower & self-discipline diminished, relationships atrophied, bravery & confidence almost completely absent. I still recognized my ideals on an intellectual level, but was no longer walking the talk. Heck, I wasn't even talking the talk after a while.
As we studied and discussed "The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva," I realized that giving up my home & belongings had been a form of generosity; constantly moving & interacting had kept me in my practice. There's no one right way to live, but living on the road is my way.
And so here I am.
Halifax to Boston, Boston to Karmê Chöling, to Burlington, to NYC, and tomorrow to Chicago. Then Denver, then San Francisco, then Portland, Seattle, and back to Boston.
At least, that's what the plan looks like today.