Abandon hope

April 12th, 2014

1724123160_1385993729Sitting on the cushion, facing the wall. Eight hrs a day for the past four days. I notice that my facial muscles are clenched: tightness at the back of my jaw, tension around my eyes. Try to call up the slight buddha-like smile, thinking it might melt the furrow between my brows. Open mouth wide, crack, release. Think happy thoughts—no, stop thinking! Breathe slower. Watch breath. Relax. IGNORE the tension. Be with it, just be with it (oh shut up). Ouch. Start again…

Then, the mini-epiphany. The revelation of the blindingly obvious. Through all this effort to oh-so-equanimously be with it, there is a worm in the apple of my sincere attempts. The worm is called hope. For all my intention to be present with this experience, I am hoping that the experience will change. I am hoping that I can fix the problem. I am believing there is a problem to be fixed, and that there can only be one really satisfactory outcome: that outcome being, that somehow, my damn facial muscles will relax. Hope is the worm corrupting my practice. What if I just accept that this is how this experience is going to be, and it might change…or it might not? It might get ‘better’, or it might get ‘worse’. Who knows? What if I approach this experience as complete, without holding out for any kind of resolution? What if I just accept that the moment is completely perfect and fascinating, as is? What if I let go of hope?

Ah ha. Lightbulb on.

To hope is to set conditions and limitations on experience. To hope is to defer contentment. To hope is to say that things can only be good if they can be like this. Hopes are fantasies based on stories I already know—but the Universe is so much bigger than that! Who would have imagined, for instance, that my tiny dream home would come in the form of a 1979 Chevy schoolbus? My hopes could never have conjured up that.

I’m not saying that there is no point in cultivating what makes me healthy, or in renouncing what causes me suffering. I’m not suggesting that one should just roll up in a ball (or plant one’s ass on a cushion) and resign from the world. Ya gotta keep trying. What I’m saying is, that in spite of all my best intentions and determination, things will unfold as they will. Everything will change, and anything may persist—for how long, who can say. There is no point in waiting until the perfect conditions are in place, until all hopes are fulfilled, to live life to the max.

I experience loneliness. I experience confusion. I experience financial stress. I experience pain. Can there be only one solution to these problems; only one acceptable outcome? I might find a partner, a life path, some cash for the rent. I might get my muscles to relax. Or I might not. I can hope til I am blue in the face and it won’t make a bit of difference. All that hoping just serves to distract me, from the marbled magnificence of what is.

Hot hot hot!

March 21st, 2014

menopausal-hot-flashesMy themostat is completely on the fritz. I honestly have no idea any more if it is hot or cold, or just my hormones messing with me again.

I sleep with a bath towel and an extra blanket by my bed. I keep the window open so the dry desert night air cools the room. I wake in a clammy sweat, grab the towel and mop down. Then I quickly get chilled, and wrap up in the extra blanket and down comforter. When I’m warmed up I strip off the blanket and go back to sleep. Read the rest of this entry »

My name is Roshin

March 16th, 2014

dew dropMy name is Roshin: Dew Drop Mind.

This name was bestowed on me today by Roshi Joan in jukai, and it is absolutely my name. It fits just right.

‘Carmen’ is a name for spanish dancers and vamps, porn stars, video-game characters and drag queens. I’ve been wearing that handle my whole life, and it has always felt like the wrong size shoe. Too much drama. So not me. It creaks on my lips and sits badly on the page. Carmen Mills has crappy meter; it sounds like a saltshaker rolling off a table. But Roshin Carmen Mills, now that, has a nice, loping rhythm. Read the rest of this entry »

In defense of my species

March 4th, 2014

evolutionHello dear Bicycle Buddhistas – apologies for my sparseness in posting over the past few months. Simply being at Upaya, plus preparing for jukai, has been mopping up all my “free” time. I vow to get back to semi-regular blogging soon. But for the moment, here’s a piece i wrote for a nifty project called Global Chorus. Enjoy! And comment, if you will.  Please and thank you for your patience. -Carmen

I have had it with people shit-talking my species.

Listen up: humans are no more greedy or evil than any other critter. Just like dogs or whales or paramecia or tomato plants, we just want to be warm, well-fed, and well-laid. In a word, we want to be ‘happy’. Most especially we want to get laid, because we are motivated to perpetuate our precious DNA above all. This is hard-wired survival instinct, and to this end, like all animals, we will tend to feed and breed until our population reaches carrying capacity—at which point, we execute a dramatic mass die-off, and the cycle begins again. Read the rest of this entry »

Everybody leaves

January 14th, 2014

vintage-luggageA resident left today without saying goodbye. She packed her bags and got on a train bound for California. Going home.

This happens.

We are a tight little group and it is shocking when someone leaves, whether we expect it or not. They leave a hole like a pulled tooth. But soon the gap heals over, and we continue chewing comfortably through our lives.

This too is part of our practice in this little petri dish called Upaya. People come and people go. At first we are strangers, and then we get used to each others’ charms and idiosyncracies and neuroses. We quickly become fixtures in each others’ lives. But then just when you come to really know someone, to be familiar, maybe even to love them in a way—they vanish. The mailman who comes to the door every day, the barrista at the favourite coffee shop, the roommate, co-worker, partner, lover. They are always there, until one day, they are gone. Read the rest of this entry »

Sewing my rakusu

December 29th, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI spread out the pieces of my rakusu, in readiness for dunking in the pot of black dye. A ragbag of precious bits gleaned from the patchwork of my life, these include:

–A piece of denim from faux-bro Ki’s favourite jeans, veterans of many a forest rave we danced at together.
–A scrap from my dear departed friend Robin’s sexy black camisole, worn wildly on hot summer nights .
–Elena and Lola’s pink napkin, stained with pesto and chocolate-blackberry pancake.
–Terry’s white hanky sewn from his Cape Breton auntie’s linen tablecloth. Used to mop his face in the Tokyo summer heat. Imbued with the sweet sweat of Terry, falling in love.
–Obi-nine’s groovy Australian aboriginal cloth, patterned in snakes and bare footprints.
–A scrap of brown wool gabardine: pants worn by my dad as a dashing bachelor, then handed down and worn again by my brother Bennett in his hipster retro phase.
–Bum pocket piece from Romina’s fuzzy blue dance pants.
–A strip of chunky grey linen from Red Sara’s biking skirt. Read the rest of this entry »

No muss no fuss

December 16th, 2013

zen hairdoBzzzzzzzzzzzz…gone! Years of old memories, a tangled mass of chemically tormented dead cellulose, a dry pile of old me, fallen to the bathroom floor and carried out with the trash.

  1. My head, my body, my spirit feel lighter. Passing a mirror i catch the sun glowing through my backlit ears. What hair is left is a patchwork of chile-pepper and salt. I look kind of like a boy, it is true—all that tortured femininity gone with one sweep of the clippers. But it’s ok. I feel light, and my eyes look very alive.
<<backstory of my hair here>>

Taking jukai

October 30th, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made a vow that I would return to the high desert. I made my promise to the scrubby hills and the adobe walls, to Roshi Joan, and to myself. Vows are not lightly made and this one is ripe to be honoured. I’m a little terrified, tremulous, and excited. Trying to simply be ready for whatever arises, and to take it all forward from there into whatever mystery comes next. Stay calm, carry on.

In a few days I will leave for Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ll be there until end of March doing what one does in such a place: mopping floors, chopping carrots, sitting on my black cushion, wrestling with the vexing paradoxes of Zen, and picking thorns out of my bike tires. Read the rest of this entry »


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