“Do you trust yourself?” the therapist asked me a few months back. I considered the question. “It depends,” I admitted after a long pause.
It seems axiomatic to me that good people do bad things, selfish things, stupid things, ignorant things. Some of what’s happened with the #metoo movement is proof positive of this, at least those cases that aren’t about rape, assault, or a gross abuse of power (and expectations of immunity).
So what happens when a good person does a bad thing?
When Eckart Tolle's "The Power of Now" came out, I was struck by the introduction, where he says, "...a time came when ... I had no relationships, no job, no home, no socially defined identity. I spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of the most intense joy...."
I wondered what would have happened if he had been picked up by city services and taken to a psych ward for evalution, and this story was born.
* First published in 2009, in "The Mysterious Divination of Tea Leaves" (John Hunt Publishing)
Many aspiring writers view their creativity through a lens of sacredness or specialness or inspiration. As in, “This is my sacred craft,” or, “I’m an important person, a special person, and I have something important to share with the world," or, "I need to cultivate my inspiration."
This is the kind of self-important chatter that will leave you with writer’s block so thick it feels like a 2-ton rock sitting on your chest.
People know me these days as a pretty outgoing guy who enjoys parties, has given more than a few public readings of his books, and recently split his pants dancing at a friend’s wedding. I have a successful business that has me putting myself out there in dozens of ways every month, from webinars to chatting with strangers.
I made a fateful decision: I sold my house in Philadelphia in the fall of 2009 so I could afford to write a book. Not just any book -- it would end up winning a prestigious award and putting me on the map.
It was an amazing two-year process that taught me a lot about myself, and made me a far better writer. And it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
As a culture, we've moved squarely into the post-feminist era. Talk of "male privilege" has become common, and things like Goddess circles, women-only power groups and organizations, period parties, and a reclaiming of the objectification of women's bodies are more and more common.
But there's an elephant in the room, and he has a penis.
Art struggles in our postmodern world, where genius has been pronounced dead and mediocrity and irony congratulate one another on their empty existence. A trip to a modern museum of art leaves most of us scratching our heads in confusion.
Cutting-edge art and literature have lost their power over our collective imaginations because they can no longer speak for us in any meaningful way. Art has become an inside joke about an inside joke that fewer and fewer people are interested in hearing. Here's where it might all be heading.
You ever notice that long-time meditators can still be assholes? Meditation doesn't seem impact and transform jealousy, lust, anger, or arrogance -- if it did, there wouldn't be so much scandal that plagues most spiritual communities. So what good is meditation, then?
JunPo Roshi talks about his own journey from the monastery to the therapist's office, and back again.
Ask a self-proclaimed spiritual teacher what enlightenment is, and you'll likely get a bunch of doublespeak and nonsense. It's a good bet that many so-called teachers don't understand it themselves, so obfuscation and dodges can keep alive the mystery, and the projection, from student to teacher.
Here, Jun Po answers this question in simple, straightforward language.
Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi sits across from me on a rainy morning in Massachusetts in 2009, a black hood draped over his head. We are on the porch of an old lake home, overlooking a small stand of trees and then, through an opening in the underbrush, water.
We are both holding steaming cups of coffee, and even though it is late June our hands huddle around the cups for warmth.
Later that year Kelly returned to Boston to serve as the Tenzo, or cook, for Trungpa and the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpei Dorjé. The position was an honorable one, and Kelly spent a month preparing, learning the finest Japanese preparation for the six-pound red snapper he was going to cook.
Author note: this excerpt is read in its entirety in the live reading at the very bottom of this page
Anger had so long been a part of who I was; I was angry at my upbringing, angry at the Catholic Church of my youth, angry at my bank account, angry at my girlfriend, angry at the world, and often angry at myself. What would it mean to live in a world where anger was inconceivable?
The sun rises rude and intense and disregarding of a headache that presses dully with each heartbeat. I try to hide my face in the pillow but without the blinds drawn it is like trying to stay dry under a waterfall.
I surrender and go through the routine: coffee, shower, clothes sticking to a wet back. I pause to look at myself in the bathroom mirror. Steam hazes my image, but I see a man who looks older than I remember, bruised under eyes that are dark and veiled with sleep. The jaw is set in a hard line. The mirror-man used to smile sometimes, sometimes growl, sometimes look playfully back, but more and more he looks like this man, tired and aging.
The East Village was a different New York in those days. You’ve heard the stories, usually tinged with nostalgia, an irritant to anyone that spent time in a city that was dirty, dangerous, expensive and yes, glorious. In the mid-90’s the East Village was like a geologic phenomenon. Two great pressure plates were converging into a single stress fracture, known as Avenue A. I had a 200-foot square foot apartment on the front lines of that stress point; it was more expensive than I could afford, but was in Manhattan and it was all my own.
Between us is a fine layer of sweat. She is wet. Is always wet, in a way that makes my desire uncoil and want to explode out of me.
I change position, hooking my hands in the hinge of her knees and pushing them back. Our eyes meet before I let mine go slightly out of focus, leaning harder on the inside of her knees. There is resistance, almost imperceptible. A subtle pushback, a slight refusal, so small I’m not sure I feel it. I pause and unhook my hands, settling onto her body, less threatening, less invasive, pushing my desire back down a notch. I still feel the pressure of her legs against me, her inner thighs resisting me in a way that subtly subdues me.