Friday, June 19, 2009

Hello At Last

Hello at last.
You have only
just begun to
know each other.

(Allan Gurganus)

Reading Sara Jenkins’ book Hello At Last, is like meeting someone on retreat and going for a walk with them. On retreat there is a heightened sense of awareness, kindness and receptivity, so in a way you really get to know someone, in a way the ordinary world doesn’t support. There is time, mindfulness and kindness. I have the experience on retreat of wishing everything was retreat. Would not the world be perfect if we could sustain this intensity? I cling to the pleasure of it, and that’s another thing I get to work on while on retreat.

This idea is carried forward into a practical idea of living in a single sex community, working in a team based right livelihood and going along to the center. I’m told it’s like being on retreat in ordinary life. I’m told people make rather rapid progress under such supportive circumstances. Unfortunately, from this perspective, I have a wife and kids, and do not live in the heart of the FWBO order where that would be a real possibility. So my kids are my gurus and I don’t have maximally supportive conditions.

Speaking of living on retreat in ordinary life, don't forget the upcoming Urban Retreat. There are some new photos, videos and talks.

To keep the dharma alive in me, I read. Spending time with a spiritual friend is not easy so reading a book is a kind of substitute. I was quite happy to get to know Sara Jenkins though her personal account of friendship.

Friendship is a lovely subject and Sara Jenkins chooses a more personal approach than Subhuti does in his book, which is much less personal. She writes, “I’m afraid of saying too much, of being too personal. Afraid of saying something I hadn’t realized myself…” (p.72). She is talking about exposing herself to sangha, but her book too is an exposure, deeply personal.

She strikes me as an intellectual introvert; I think I would like her. She experiences TBMSG in India and tries the communication exercises there. I was jealous she went to Pune and toured the sites, met Lokamitra. I’m also reading The Prisons We Broke by Baby Kamble, a Dalit female memoir. My heart goes out to this community.

My first draft of this review focused on what I felt I would like to talk more to her about, my preference for different language. I wish I could be in dialogue with her. I feel this is a wonderful book, and wish to have her further elaborate certain issues.

Her teacher is from the Zen tradition and she talks a lot about dismantling the self. I have a close friend who likes that talk and finds it helpful. I respect other’s path. I myself don’t find that way of talking about it helpful. I prefer to realize my parts, in my multiplicity and transcend them, act skillfully, in my own interest. Of course with awareness, old selves peal away easily and we mature and plot a more pure path. Which is I think an approximation of what getting rid of ego talk is all about.

She writes about a response she thought of, “…it sounds like something a therapist might say", implying she was being “less than authentic.” (p.63). I wondered about her experiences in therapy, I felt defensive as if she was saying therapist=inauthentic. The section is a quite moving account of how deepens her communication and friendship, and perhaps I’m quibbling, but I wondered where this was based on her experiences in therapy. She is well read and elsewhere jokes about Business Attention Disorder (BAD), a made up disorder to describe her struggles to pay attention to the accounting of money in her life (p. 70), as though she has some familiarity with the DSM.

So I quibble with her book, like I quibble with my close friends, a kind of way of intensifying the dialogue, out of a kind of bizarre friendliness. This is a lovely book which I recommend.

No comments: