I have never in my life wanted a job. I have never wanted a career. I have never wanted, for any minute that I can recall, to be settled, have children, buy a house, mend gutters, go to cocktail parties, or talk about what's on TV.
When I was young, people told me this was a phase. They said I would regret my flagrant disregard for our culture's norms. Now I'm forty-one years old. And, if anything, I have only clarified my intention to walk away from it all.
And yet. There is no walking away from it all. Not really. Despite my dreams of becoming a homeless vagabond, a meditating yogi in the guise of Patrul Rinpoche or Ryokan—or even like Mingyur Rinpoche—I am, at the moment, dutifully finishing my PhD in counseling psychology (completion date = August); I'm a good citizen who pays rent on time, washes the car, and talks with my family on the phone ; I'm married, with all the attendant emotional and practical bonds that entails; and Devon and I are even publishing a book together that is supposed to be helpful to people when it comes out in ten months.
And yet. Midway through my eight months alone in a retreat cabin last year, a phrase landed for me that I've never been able to shake:
Be no one
I find these three lines impossible to live up to. But they function as a beacon for me, and when I drift too far from their light, I start to experience a kind of existential turbulence that forces me to examine what's most important.
And what is that?
Knowing that we are going to die. Knowing it could happen any time. What is the most important thing?
For Devon and me the most important thing is the dharma. When we took our marriage vows almost ten years ago, we skipped the parts about "to have and to hold" and "death do us part." Instead we agreed to be partners in awakening. That is our most fundamental commitment to each other.
So we know more or less where we're headed. We just took genyen vows with Mingyur Rinpoche. When I finish my PhD in August, we'll give up our apartment and most everything we own and enter a period of practice. We'll shave our heads. Do a pilgrimage. Spend eight months in retreat and semi-retreat. Then we'll come out for a long book tour. And then, if all goes according to plan, head back into retreat once more.
Along the way, though, I'll pick up my hours for licensure. And we'll keep teaching. And probably keep writing. And of course we'll keep talking to each other and keep talking to our families and keep being part of all this.
Maybe it's not about walking away from anything, in the end. Maybe it's just about finding our unique expression, our way of serving the world. Some people serve the world through raising kids and running NGOs. Others, like us, serve the world by sitting on a cushion for hours a day and then going out and telling people about it.
One's not better than another, I don't think. Maybe you just have to know what's right for you, and then do that thing. Until it changes. And then do that thing. Or that's how it seems to me on this particular Sunday morning on the island of Oahu as I write these lines, as I consider my time here in Hawaii, working, serving, engaging—which I have loved—and I consider our next step, which I believe so deeply in.
Sending many heartfelt wishes your way,
P.S. Also, this Lumineers video really landed for me this morning. Thought I'd share . . .