Although Jack has been urging me to write a book for 20 years now, I’ve always felt I give my contribution to the world through my teaching. I happily share the love and wisdom that have come to me in this life, and that’s enough. Simple, intangible things satisfy me; the light of this morning’s beautiful sunrise, the ocean turning pale pearl and opalescent at sunset. I don’t need to write a book to be fulfilled. Besides, there are enough wonderful books in the world; towers of unread books loom over my living room.
After his book reading at InsightLA in 2017, George Mumford turned to me and asked, “So when are you gonna write your book?” I demurred, citing the reasons above. He gave me a piercing look, “Don’t you want your grandchildren to know what you stood for in your life?” Tears sprang into my eyes, “I never thought of it that way…yes. I do want that.” So, twice a year since then, I’ve been able to set aside a few weeks to write. However, as a well-known writer pointed out recently, that’s not how you write. You write every day! This year, 2020, InsightLA has grown up enough for me to take real time this year to do this. This is why I’m taking a year off teaching retreats (with the exception of one, scheduled long ago – The Magic of Awareness – registration opens 1/27.
Though I’m only teaching one residential retreat this year, I’m still teaching regularly. Writing is somewhat intermittent – yet, here I am, doing it. Taking this time is a privilege, a gift, but of course I’m struggling. Jack and all my writer friends assure me this is part of the process. What they don’t know is that it doesn’t matter what I do! If I write a book, the book won’t be good enough. I won’t be proud of it. I will compare it unfavorably to my friends’ books. I’ll pray no one reads it, and then feel hurt when no one does. This is a pattern present during my whole life so far. When I talked with Ram Dass about it, he sympathized; he’s been there. That’s one of the best things about Ram Dass – whatever unsavory, unspiritual thing you confide in him, he can always top it with a story of his own. Then we laugh at the way we humans keep struggling, in an absolute vacuum of necessity, flailing away at a sticky spiderweb of self-reference and comparison. The web of self is always suspended across our path and we walk into its invisible, clingy embrace, so hard to brush aside.
Ram Dass suggests his practice of “I am loving awareness” moving from the top of the head down. Halfway between the head and the heart, let the “I am” go. Just “loving awareness, loving awareness” down into the heart, the heart of this human incarnation, Being itself. In this realm, the web isn’t sticking to us, we’re free. Free to love it all, the comparing thoughts, the struggles, the self. One night at dinner, I swallow my fear, gulp, and read a couple pages of my writing to Ram Dass, his companion Dassima, and his young helpers whom I call the super monkeys, incarnations of the monkey-god Hanuman. He listens intently and, to my surprise, says: “This is beautiful.”