A Traveler’s Friend

One of my occasionally unhelpful patterns is to connect with the people who are leaving.  I thought about that, uncomfortably, one of the deep Fall evenings we shared the way home.

There is another way to see that.  Having practiced this pattern for a while now, both sides of it, I know how to be a friend to the wanderers, to other somewhat lost souls, fellow travelers still on their way home.  The wanderer can use a friend.  I can make myself useful.

One of the deep Fall evenings, as we shared the way home (literally), I asked you how you were creative.  Last week you stopped by for tea after Sean’s class and showed me your drawings. They were really good. What was cool, you drew for yourself: to make notes after yoga classes, to contemplate, to understand the beauty, so the drawings were real, the models recognizable by hair or outfits, embellished to illustrate humorous aspects (you drew glasses on the “eyes of the chest”, which are not the nipples).  Because you drew for yourself, your voice was clear and powerful in the drawings.  We went over what we did in the class, tried some of that and some of the asanas from your older notes.  I modeled one really unpleasant pose from the class for you. You sketched it the next morning.

The “eyes of the chest” made an appearance in Sean’s Saturday class!  When you, Tessa, and I had coffee after the class, Tessa asked me how I was creative.  Pretty cool question, isn’t it?  It has worked well with yoga people anyway.

The first time you stopped by my place for tea, you had noticed that I had books by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Howard Zinn on the same shelf (the “smart books in English” shelf).   You told me Jon was Howard’s son.  Almost: his wife is the daughter.  Quite a family indeed.  On the other side, closer to us generationally, closer sometimes geographically, you told me that Jon’s son Will taught a class in Berkeley.  You asked me to go sit with Will some time for you.

In a coincidence amusing no one else, the class meets around the corner from the location of the monthly Saturday milonga where I go to a couple of times a year.  Literally around the corner, no streets to cross.  There is probably a business reason for that, block zoning or ownership or whatever.

As your airplane took you off the ground, into the air, over so much water, I sat with Will for you.  Figured, that would be a good time.  During the guided meditation session, Will sounded a bit like his dad sometimes.  The guidance was pretty light.  The Dharma talk was about importance and urgency of daily practice.  Urgency, because our time is limited.  The talk was down-to-earth; there was some swearing :-).  There was time for dialogue in the end.  Someone asked how one would get to know somebody once one recognizes we are not our stories.  The answer was something like (a) yeah, it gets uncomfortable (b) you already know them (c) nothing wrong with telling stories, as long as we know what they are worth.  Somebody asked if there is a Buddhist equivalent of the Christian eternal life.  Good stuff!

Will made an announcement about  a mindful parenting workshop he would teach at Spirit Rock soon with his wife.  I remembered Jon’s writing about walking meditation in the middle of the night, holding one of his kids when they were very little.  Will talked about being close to realization/awareness, when you, say, reach the top of the mountain (similar to Jason’s encounter with a cute puppy, the same idea).  I remembered Jon’s writing about one night when he and Will ended up camping overnight on the side of a mountain when the weather got treacherous during their hike.  Will mentioned quite a few people: teachers, relatives, never his dad, not by name or relation anyway, although once he referred to someone he “knew very well” (and saw them as if for the first time, during a moment of mindfulness); I wondered if that was Jon.  It must be so interesting to have that legacy.

Before the class and during the break, I spoke with a young woman, Sheri, who had been going to those classes somewhat regularly, after she attended a meditation retreat.  The retreat was good, but there was too much memorizing mantras in Pali, which was off putting (she is saying that and I’m thinking, where do I sign up). What Sheri liked about Will’s classes, they were deep but simple, not much religious stuff. Sheri is a weird one in her very religious protestant family, because she is curious about various spiritual ways.   I told her what brought me to the class: the books, you, your airplane.  She had never heard of Jon.

The legacy can be both a blessing and a burden, I suppose, because one needs to find one’s own way, in their time, no matter what legacy.  It’s the same for us.  We are blessed with our wonderful teachers, families, and each other, whenever our paths converge in our travels, but ultimately we create a way for ourselves, in our time (like maybe now ;-)), with our own powers.

Safe travels.  Be well.  Be a student.  Be a teacher.  Stop by for tea when you come back.

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