Sure, here is a possible outline for a non-linear memoir about enlightenment:
Prologue: Set the stage for the memoir by introducing the theme of enlightenment and the journey that you will be recounting.
Chapter 1: Begin with a significant moment or experience that shaped your understanding of enlightenment. This could be a spiritual awakening, a turning point in your journey, or a moment of realization.
Chapter 2: Jump back in time to your earliest memories or experiences that relate to enlightenment. This could include early encounters with spirituality or religion, or moments when you first became interested in enlightenment.
Chapter 3: Return to the present and describe your current understanding of enlightenment and how you have come to this understanding. This could include specific practices or techniques that have helped you along the way, as well as any challenges or setbacks you faced.
Chapter 4: Flash back to a specific moment or experience that had a significant impact on your journey. This could be a moment of great challenge or struggle, or a moment of great breakthrough or realization.
Chapter 5: Return to the present and describe how you have integrated your understanding of enlightenment into your daily life. How has it changed your relationships, your work, or your sense of purpose?
Epilogue: Reflect on the overall journey you have taken, and offer any wisdom or insights you have gained to others who may be seeking enlightenment.
I’ll admit, this one floored me. I hadn’t expected ChatGPT to be able to write a non-linear outline at all, much less immediately.
I set out to play with ChatGPT this week, to see what its potentials are, especially for those with cognitive disabilities. So far what I’ve learned is that it is extremely limited when it comes to being witty or clever in the magical ways people are, where you feel winked at, or know that something means more than someone seems to say.
However, for those who share information, and who are so full of personality that they can present easily known things in ways others find captivating, this may be their ticket to becoming amazingly prolific. It may be a small window within which it will work that way, because what people seek out in the first place will change too, but for an early-adopter with momentum, wow.
And for those with disabilities? This could be like having a personal assistant who clearly frames anything one wishes to present. I have struggled with an unreasonable amount of fatigue at times, which usually sets in while I’m going over and over texts, so know what I’m saying here. Non-creative tasks can absorb so much energy, limiting creative output in dramatic ways, even when inside a flood of ideas is ready to flow into the world.
Then again, it can work the opposite way. People who organize and edit for more creatively-inclined people, may find they need to tweak their branding, focus their talents in different ways, perhaps on deep detail work or polishing. There will be a market for polishers, for sure.
Here is one of about ten poems/songs I asked ChatGPT to write today. You can easily see what its limitations are, as well as its strengths.
The stars, a burning host Infinite, unknowable, A reflection of the endlessness That lies within the soul
In their light, we see A glimpse of something more, Something beyond the limits Of our mortal selves
They remind us of the vastness Of the universe, The boundless expanse of space That stretches out before us
And as we gaze upon their fiery beauty We are filled with a sense of wonder, A sense of the infinite That lies within our consciousness
The stars, a constant presence Guiding us through the night, A beacon of hope and possibility In an endless, unknowable sky
ChatGPT, when asked to write a non-rhyming poem at graduate reading level, about stars, infinity, and consciousness
And here is a dialog I asked ChatGPT to write, between a campfire and the sun. I began something like this when in college, but my then partner ridiculed the idea, so I never finished it. I’ve often thought about picking it up again, but know the moment is gone. P.S. I like that when I asked ChatGPT I used Please, and when it replied, the response was “Sure!”
Campfire: Oh, sun, how I long for your warmth and light. Every day, I try my best to mimic your glowing radiance, but I know that I can never truly compare to your brilliance.
Sun: Ah, campfire, my dear friend. Do not sell yourself short. Your flickering flames bring joy and comfort to all who gather around you. And although I may be far away, I am always with you in spirit, shining down upon you from above.
Campfire: Oh, sun, you are too kind. But I cannot help but feel a sense of longing when you set each evening. It is then that I truly miss your presence.
Sun: Do not worry, my dear campfire. I will always return to you, bringing with me a new day filled with endless possibilities. And until then, remember that you are never alone. The stars above twinkle down upon you, and the moon casts a gentle glow upon the earth.
Campfire: Thank you, sun. You always know just the right words to lift my spirits. I am grateful to have you in my life.
Sun: And I am grateful to have you, campfire. Together, we bring light and warmth to all those around us. Let us continue to shine bright, always.
15 days until the end of the year. The usual momentum has taken hold of me to wrap things up, or play as wrapping things up, so I’ve washed the car, sorted through things and gathered donations, and begun the list of 100 accomplishments a friend first sparked me to begin quite a few years ago now. ♥︎
What’s interesting about the list is that what ends up on it are not often the things I strongly set out to accomplish or plan with timelines and detail. It’s more accurate to call my list 100 Appreciations.
There are a few notable patterns this year, ways in which I’ve stepped out of my usual groove, going to more events for instance. I was at the Lady Gaga show that a massive lightning storm disrupted, ending it early and sending a stadium full of people into common wings to sing and pray for the show to go on–to which the universe responded a resounding NO.
I was with one of my grown kids that night, who kept remarking that even with the shortening of the show everything was wonderful–our first grown-up concert together! After years of contraction and concern how could we feel anything but happy and grateful? We were good about masks and thankfully stayed healthy.
And I attended a poetry/comedy show with friends that was in itself an answer to prayer, as ALOK would list their upcoming shows on social media and I would wish “Miami, Miami…”, until one day the date appeared. I invited friends, and for the first time in I-can’t-remember-how-long, we lingered and laughed and overshared like crazy until forced to call it a night.
If you have never listened to nor encountered Alok Vaid-Menon, it is well worth your energy to do so. Although I fall into the ally category when it comes to transgender rights and activism, and believe myself rather educated on the topic when comparing myself to peers, I’ve learned that my knowledge base is actually quite shallow, and not to give myself too much credit for minimal apprehension.
While it has intellectually seemed a no-brainer to me that if even the heavenly ideal is “no male nor female no bound nor free”, getting stuck in gender binary thinking is an error, my notions can still be unnecessarily limited. Much like praising a melting pot rather than honoring unique individuals by allowing them to tell their own stories, and listening, my ideas have often reflected my own conditioned and consciously chosen preferences.
This year Rubin Museum also focused on an exhibit on site and via SMS which highlighted Buddhist figures that are understood as being ‘beyond’ yet appear as myriad forms. The same quality and name can be represented by a so-called female or male form. Then of course there are the unions of deities who exude qualities as one/both/neither.
What I’m saying is that there’s plenty of room for further understanding.
And last weekend during a holiday visit with my oldest we went to see the musical Hadestown! The show was full of powerful performances and had the intimate feeling of being in a hidden improvisational Jazz bar. Here’s a little animation someone made, highlighting one of the songs:
As for the rest of my list, and patterns I noticed, there were smaller trips too/getting out more, although no real travel in 2022… a famous local farmers’ market I’d never visited before, new vegan restaurants, knitting groups, scattered between lots of work and recovery from work, lots of plugging away at building my repertoire of healthy meals, lots of reading, therapy, and importantly, real attention to the Vajrayana practices I began this year. I’m probably most pleased with that renewal and deepening those commitments,.
Goodness, it seems like a lot when I type it all out (especially since this is surface scratching!), and I guess that’s part of the point of making time to list those 100 things.
It’s so easy for time to go by in a blur and for the aspirations one nurtured carefully to nonetheless fade into background. Some years, that blur is okay, quite natural. Then there are years like this one, where acknowledging the *so much happening* in my little ecosystem encourages hopefulness–energy to wake and be at ‘it all’ again for as long as I’m given to do so.
P.S. Why is WordPress giving me a prompt when I hit the WRITE button? I generally come here when my own thoughts move me, so that was a little strange.
My sense of time and what I’m running around doing with it, is a wee bit off.
While refreshing my Twitter feed incessantly, waiting to see what will come of the mid-term elections, I began going through WordPress subscriptions, checking on blogs I haven’t really been following, and updating subscription settings. Although I’ve never been one to ‘keep up’ via WordPress, there are a handful of blogs I read somewhat regularly, and a few bloggers whose stories I feel invested in. I was also following several blogs that fell dormant over the last few years, and I let most of them go.
One dormant blog I kept was full of beautiful photos I knew I’d want to see sometime again, and another was very plain, but the writing was straight-forward and honest in a way I admired. The thing about this second was, I wrote it?
That question mark is not a typo. Here’s what I wrote about the blog on Twitter, since I was there:
I just found an entire blog, many posts including more than a dozen memoir pages. I wrote all that, paused, then forgot about it? Entirely?
Then again, it was 2016.
It’s so strange reading pages like these, where I seem pretty clear about things I experience myself as having just figured out.
I’m fascinated. This woman was wrestling with confusion over appreciating some freedoms of being deeply neglected in childhood, and how that seems to have made a link between cultivating being neglected and having freedom?!
Haha, she’s pretty intense.
She was planning to be better to the people in her life, to explain herself more clearly-rather than blaming others for not seeing/knowing the obvious and acclimating to being misunderstood. I’ve done that, somewhat, but she still feels like a different person.
She’s a person I know, but not me.
I wonder who will understand what I mean by placing importance on the year 2016. What happened that year that might have shifted the blogger’s course so much, so suddenly?
I wonder if she would have finished the memoir if she’d kept going? Do I think it’s great, reading it now? In some ways, yes, it has strength and place. In other ways, I see she wasn’t ready.
Perhaps I should write and offer editing services.
ReadingGesture of Great Love, the newest book from the Time Space Knowledge series by Tarthang Tulku. Striking quite a different tone from TSK itself (still my favorite), it is immediate and refreshing, appropriately urgent. Yet, there’s a friendliness which pervades the book too, similar to another given to me earlier this year, Radically Happy. Both focus on greeting life with openness and ease day-by-day, and both could be given to a person who isn’t on a Buddhist path necessarily.
I can’t see yet whether the text will sustain this urgent tone, but in an early portion the author zeroes in on that narrow-minded scriptwriter I’ve mentioned before, who in my case had become adept at mimicking my inner guidance system. Here, that scriptwriter is called “the regime.”
I’m fond of sword metaphors and Taoist themes because there is a focus on energy. Things can happen to offset chi, affecting whether a character’s skills remain capable. It could something as subtle as a barely perceptible fragrance that fills the air, or a tune similar to a soothing one. Parsing out said deviations, exposing them, could take countless eons.
So, the book so far suggests parser and loop as entangled, involved in mutually assured entrapment, and knowing this as the way to step out entirely (never any trap nor person to be trapped).
So what about the Bodhisattva ideal Mahayana posits as worthwhile aspiration? “Beings are limitless; I vow to save them all.” This doesn’t mean to save as in a hero-person acting as a savior to “beings”–it rather cracks open that notion, as in the story of Avilokitesvara, who exhausted his capacity to empty the hell realms over and over again, before sprouting eleven heads and a thousand arms.
I like how, in the version of the story below, Amitaba Buddha is a sort of father figure, dusting off their child, giving them new and better armor to better fulfill their longing:
One prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokiteśvara vowing never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from saṃsāra. Despite strenuous effort, he realizes that many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into eleven pieces. Amitābha, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokiteśvara tries to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitābha comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes. [WIKIPEDIA] 
Even so, I’ve long been drawn to the quote “The foolish are trapped by karma; the wise are liberated by it” because of this dynamic…(beings as) bridges opening and closing the gates, even if only to display that there are no gates, no beings to open them for. Time pointing to no time, endlessly. Is this what Dogen calls Ceaseless Practice?
No suffering, no end of suffering…
Human beings become exhausted when they attempt to hold and manage karma, to respond out of ideologies, but the Bodhisattva is (made of) Love. There’s no draining voice in Avilokitesvara’s mind repeating “I’m tired…” There’s nowhere for such a voice to be generated from nor to land.
It’s strange to consider his passing, although I’d felt him steadily fading out of view, for a while.
This friend and I met in a virtual space dedicated to skeptical Buddhists, both with unhealed wounds from fundamentalist childhoods and serious physical limitations (his greater, yet handled with more grace), but also qualities of joy, curiosity, and ‘what’s-it-to-you’ irreverence–things which made us well-suited for Play-as-Being.
There were also meditation and dream circles, disability circles, art and music circles, sustainability and philosophy circles… circles within circles within circles, and you just can’t measure that kind of time! I don’t want to, either.
As I reflect on his life, and the way our community existed as part of his/his ours, so many little stories arise and disappear like bubbles popping in the air, leaving me mostly happy. We were so fortunate, all of us who played parts within our long virtual experiment, to have exchanged so many kinds of currencies together in so many wonderful lands, to have gotten to know one another so well.
Rest in peace Zennie, and see you around. I wonder what dreams may come…
Wonderful practice session this morning, still ongoing really, since I come to write just after meditating. The rhythms and music and feeling of the practice were guiding, leading into a sense of reaching deeply into light… light in the sense of lightness rather than brightness. The subtlety and beauty of this place, indeed the place itself, almost imperceptible, yet very much ‘there’ too, seemed a place wherein friends and I could simply experience no-being-ness together. Blissful.
Considering refuge tree practice, I wonder whether visualizations may have arisen as devotees sat beneath trees, finding shade–refuging–from harsh sunshine. The heat is incredible here, Miami in August, so the way this makes sense is quite tangible, and helps me to really experience the trunk and branches of the practice, where the bodhisattvas and arhats may be situated, where “I” am. “Bodhi” dimension. Yesterday in therapy we talked about boundaries and tears, and the way that when readying for retreat, boundaries are thinner, dreaming more constant and vivid, tears more near at hand.
One day last week, I made a mistake in sharing too much about my background with a new manager, which may have happened because I was caught up into her energy, perhaps related to this ‘thinness’ phenomena. I can find myself almost drunk with an openness that seems like freedom at the time, but in retrospect I find embarrassing and may well be inappropriate. She and I do not know one another yet. I just knew she had experienced a lack of support in early life, emancipating from her parents at a young age, yet had managed to pursue her education. Impressive. I took this fact as immediate kinship, so flung open the gates.
I texted later and apologized for oversharing, asked her to keep what I’d blurted out between us. She said she would, so that’s where we are. If I’d done something like this years ago, I probably would have contrived a reason to leave my job, feeling too exposed, but perhaps due to therapy–having that place to hear and be heard–the stream kept flowing.
Back to dreaming and remembering dreaming. Have missed that. The dreams are not hyper-insightful, but they are interesting, such as last night’s dream, where I attended a once brother-in-law’s wedding. Neither my ex nor BIL were there, but I got along fabulously with his new husband, and the party atmosphere was just my vibe… colorful and inventive pastries, champagne and dancing. The feeling was: I’d gotten the day off work as a surprise, then found myself in the midst of a bright celebration.
It’s amazing one can take a group of memories, discard most of the facts, and weave the ‘senses of them’ seamlessly into another time and setting. The saddest of all phrases is “what might have been”, a poet wrote, but at least today, I don’t feel sad, just thoughtful about it all… everything that has happened to this point.
Maybe this has to do with Kahneman’s System 1 and 2? Based on what the so-called facts of various matters are, I feel a certain way that is conditioned and suggested to be appropriate according to those facts. However, there is a larger context I’m in tune with, in which those feelings and facts don’t hold much weight/don’t seem to matter very much at all, and don’t keep me from happiness.
Perhaps it’s also because I’m okay with melancholy in general, and can enjoy the imagination that arises with even regret, for who can say. Perhaps I chose exactly well, but may never know. Perhaps one day I find myself so blissfully happy that it puts ‘it all/the whole catastrophe’ into perspective. Or is that the same thing? 🙂
Leaps of faith.
Nice to receive birthday messages this morning, although there’s some hollow quality in a few that feel more unfamiliar than they should, feeling more like the messages one receives from the dentist or ophthalmologist. Humans try to hold on too long sometimes, pretend their limited-run show is still ongoing or may be called back on stage any minute, and though this doesn’t seem avoidable, I think we can, with intention, loosen our narratives more, let our characters and interpretations of them fly farther away from the contexts we fix them in.
I’ve long been drawn to the biblical story of Mary and Martha, to contrasting characters’ modes of action. I think of myself as having strong Mary tendencies while admiring Martha-type industriousness from a far, but many who know me in daily life might disagree.
Anyway, these two came to mind because with sudden urgency I went plundering a decade’s worth of emails last night, looking for the Buddhist refuge name I’d shared with just one friend. (I’ve taken on practices more comfortable than any in ages, so it seemed right to search for ‘my name’ as a locator…part of a set of coordinates, if you will.)
I’m turning 52. When I took refuge 12 years ago, my name was written on a small card I promptly lost. The meaning of the name was written on the card as well, but I couldn’t read it and was too shy to ask clarification.
Thankfully, although I couldn’t find it, my friend could. 🙂 It’s a funny name really; it’s visual representation would be something like this:
A note I happened upon when searching, regarded the Mary and Martha story. In it, the same wise friend shared the sensibility that we’re both Mary and Martha at different times in our lives, or, he said, “More accurately, we are always both Mary and Martha.” They may be presented as a contrast, but are not truly in competition.
I didn’t see this simple truth when first given this name, I felt I had to not place much importance on what I thought of as trappings of the journey I was embarking on. I was untrusting of myself, suspicious of falling into similar cult-like ‘obedience and conformity’ behaviors as I’d experienced in churches when young. Praise from elders and connection within groups is a deep longing for those who yearn for family, and the idea of available love can be very seductive. Thankfully, something in me always kept some light of questioning, even back then.
[In a a vivid dream of walking down a busy highway with Jesus, I turned to ‘evangelize’ to a group of ‘unsaved’ people my age, Jesus didn’t. When I noticed and looked back, he was still walking, so I abandoned course and jogged to catch up with him instead. It took me weeks to come to the conclusion that I had to question, even go against, what my church was urging. I’d prided myself then, as many seem to now, on being willing to go so far as to embarrass myself ‘for my faith’. Many can recognize this when they see it from others, especially in political buffoonery, but don’t most religions have some version of killing ego? ]
My rebelliousness, what my ex-husband called my feralness, won out. Perhaps the Lama could see that as the case? I like to think now, that he picked up on an underlying ferocious when he chose the name. 😉
“Emptiness and appearance do not negate each other. Just like a rainbow can appear, but doesn’t have to have truly existing entity. Knowing this true nature of all phenomenon is the darshan of Manjushri.” -Dzongzar Kyentse Rinpoche
I described to my therapist the feeling when, after waiting and waiting, with many buses stopping and going, a bus finally approaches that seems to be your bus. The numbers are fuzzy but there are the right number of digits. Then, those digits slowly take shape; their edges become clearer. It’s within this context that I’m willing and happy to take on more structured practices now. It isn’t performative, and if it’s just for a time again, that’s okay.
Speaking of names (I’ve mentioned this before), I work across the street from the bus stop a boyfriend wrote as the setting in ‘our song’. The lyrics describe our second meeting, two years before we became involved–a very long time when young: “Won’t you be my friend, and tell me, what’s your name? Won’t you be my friend, don’t turn and walk away. Won’t you be my friend, believe me when I say, I have hopes that some day we’ll meet again.”
He was a lovely person, and although the relationship lasted a blink, the bus stop is a daily reminder to me that auspicious timing is worth waiting for, and names can be like signs over the doorposts of life chapters. When I later met my (now ex) husband, I asked him jokingly “Don’t you know who I am?” He startled, believing I might be someone ‘important’, which indeed I became to him.
So many worlds in play, none of them ‘me’, Who May be sitting in a garden somewhere, Under a tree.
Waking while dreaming another family related dream. Why now? This time I was visiting my sister and her husband. I arrived wearing clothing very far from my wheelhouse: white faux fur coat, boots, and perfectly curled high-volume hair. I was greeted very warmly by them… except that everything I touched had to be erased right as I touched it, so that my mother wouldn’t have any idea I’d been there or that they’d treated me nicely. When I mentioned something about this, as my nephew handled something I’d either given him or was mine (not sure), my sister behaved as though it was very offensive to point out the obvious.
I love the way dreams spell out true things, things one knows but isn’t saying. In this case how I was welcomed by my family as long as I played along, as long as I behaved as a polite outsider without stakes in anyone speaking in truthful ways about past, present, or future. It was often the case that I’d let my mother tell blatantly unreal stories that painted herself in a bright motherly light, only saying sometimes to my sister on the side, “It really didn’t happen that way.”
I always knew the price for not doing so. And I guess I always knew there would come a day when I would push back, when the cost for not doing so was too high. This happened when my grandfather died, years after my marriage falling apart, and I considered moving closer to them. I knew we’d either have to forge more honest balances, or that she’d be ‘done with me’ the first time I didn’t play along, which I could only do as a visitor, not as someone living nearby, interacting every day, being interdependent with them.
We know what occurred, which is the ‘done with me’ part, but the part I’m still working through is the role my sister played. I had my sister on a pedestal, I think, as someone who played the needed games better than I did, but who would eventually be my ‘surviving’ family. I saw her as the more resilient one, the more strategic one, but as someone who, having been through so much as a child, realized I was there for ‘all that’ too. I learned through this that she was quite happy to be the only child left standing in our mother’s life. Whether anger toward me was in service of the necessity of rejecting me, or its own thing, I’m not sure.
It’s quite a story really… out of five marriages and five children, the only one left for my mother is my sister, playing these games together, doing what’s needed to get what’s wanted. I can’t articulate the money part; it’s a big, but not the main, factor.
I don’t feel upset by all this on a daily basis now. I have thoughts that pass by and I think something along the lines that it would have been so beautiful to have figured out the balances… to have been valued and loved enough to have included as someone worthy of having their voice and stories heard, their real presence around, etc. I wonder about my niece and nephews, wonder if my sister or mother ever wonder about my kids, who they knew and pretended to love for decades. I wonder if I should feel badly for my kids not having the kind of family around them others have, or whether they are fortunate not to be entangled.
Again, as with my in-laws, I chose reality, and it didn’t go well for me.
But then again, it did. Eggshells are scarce, my health is a lot better, and so many things about who I am being are more okay.
I think the dream is saying that these patterns are still there, although I don’t feel them, and that they are working themselves out on their own. As long as I don’t suppress them, I think they’ll gently move their way through, allowing me to relax even places I don’t experience as tense and knotted. This will further help my health, further allow my energies to flow where they are welcomed and needed.
When these kinds of knots let go, one thing I’ve found happens is that I can see farther into what occurred and/or is occurring. I can see back into choices I made to counter one type of longing with another, one type of belief system or influence with either its opposite or complimentary. I am not a mastermind, as evidenced by the way these schemes didn’t work out ultimately, but when I think about what I was saying to my family by my choices, because I couldn’t be honest with my words, there was a lot of rejection of their ways. I was always finding ways to opt-out of their thinking, without expressly saying so. I was always introducing ‘other’ ways to see and do things. I raised my kids differently, without corporal punishment, etc.
This was actually my way of staying in their lives.
Is this why I was so dressed up? Was that how they saw me, coming in as a fancy outsider? I usually downplayed things so as not to trigger those accusations, back then, but I guess here I am myself, playful and “high volume” whether they give permission or not.
The wonderful thing is that the more these underground tensions release, the wider the sky seems to be, too. These are gentle shifts and explorations, not bothersome. When I woke this morning I said aloud, “Why still these dreams?” It felt like I was bored by them, rather than hurt by them.
I’m just not finding this carousel particularly interesting anymore.