Who Are You… Really?

January 12, 2012

So I’m still trying to figure out how to follow up the Death post… the response was incredible, and filled my heart with love. Thank you to everyone who sent love, I can feel it.

While wrestling with the draft for my next blog post, I came across this mind-blowing video:

This is pretty much the deepest fuckin’ video I’ve ever seen. I get the feeling I’ll be spending the rest of my life trying to live the truth spoken here.

And don’t you just want to BREATHE that air!?!

“You are free. You are whole. You are endless. There’s not bottom to you, no boundary to you. Any idea about yourself appears in you, and will disappear back into you. You are awareness and awareness is consciousness. Let all self-definitions die in this moment. Let them go and see what remains. See what is never born and what does not die. Feel the relief of laying down the burden of defining yourself. Experience the actual non-reality of the burden. Experience the joy that is here.”

“The person who is a master in the art of living makes little distinction between their work and their play, their labour and their leisure, their mind and their body, their education and their recreation, their love and their religion. 

They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence and grace in whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing. To them, they are always doing both.” – Zen Buddhism Text


Be you.

Be excellent.

Be happy.

Inhale : Acceptance
Hold : Gratitude
Exhale : Release
Hold : Trust

One morning I was meditating and experimenting with words, and I came up with the mantra above. It seemed to powerfully relate not just to breathing but to cycles of life.

When you exhale, you’re not afraid that you won’t take the next breath. You don’t cling to the breath you’re holding. Holding onto a breath when you’ve taken all that you need from it turns it into poison. You trust that there will be a next breath, so you let go, release, the current one easily, joyfully. You trust that the next one will come.

And it does. You don’t fight it because you’re afraid of a new breath; you accept it, and that breath gives you everything your body needs from it to continue living. If we could be grateful for every breath, which is a small gift signifying that we are still alive – imagine how powerful that would be.

I can also choose to apply these words to my life. I accept the good that comes into my life; I appreciate it, feel gratitude for it. I then do not attach to or cling to it, but release it back into the universe. And then I TRUST that the good will come back into my life again, and the cycle will start over.

The cycles of breathing and acceptance/gratitude/release/trust also relate to the Buddhist word for suffering, dukkha, which literally translates into “a stuck wheel.” When you get stuck somewhere, you start to suffer. Dukkha also means “uneasy.” A stuck wheel cannot perform its function: to turn freely and easily. The cycle of breathing, the cycle of life, the turning of the wheel, all depend on your accepting the present, while not clinging to the past, AND trusting in the future. One part becomes unbalance, and the whole cycle is thrown off.

Imagine how powerful it would be to be able to accept, be grateful for, release, and trust that everything you need in life will come and go in its perfect time. All you have to do is accept and be grateful for what is, release what was, and trust in what will be. And keep breathing.

No to noise. No to traffic. No to electricity. No to cell phones. No to advertising. No to billboards. No to buildings. No to coffee. No to alcohol. No to money. No to beds. No to three meals. No to going out. No to music. No to fumes. No to distraction. No to temptation.

Yes. Yes to wind rustling through avocado trees and making twigs and leaves come down like rain. Yes to crickets. Yes to sweeping. Yes to hoeing weeds.  Yes to the crunch of avocados falling into deep leaves. Yes to the smack of heavy ripe avocados hitting pavement. Yes to buzzing flies. Yes to avocado-fattened squirrels. Yes to silence. Yes to varied birdcall.  Yes to a tiny praying mantis. Yes to spiderwebs strung with morning dew diamonds.

Yes to spots of warm sun on my face through the trees. Yes to impossibly tiny baby avocados who never had a chance. Yes to hour-long meditations. Yes to sand-filled cushions.  Yes to not moving. Yes to sweating from carrying “twigs.” Yes to misty mornings. Yes to California poppies. Yes to fresh rosemary and basil. Yes to views of rolling Tuscan hills.

Yes to ladeling out scoops of white rice. Yes to a Thai feast. Yes to the most amazing carrot cake I’ve ever had. Yes to sweeping leaf-strewn wooden sleeping platforms. Yes to walking on slightly moist packed dirt paths and feeling them give in certain spots, ever so slightly. Yes to the strange species of insects I’ve never seen before. Yes to red finches. Yes to the many golden Buddha statues. Yes to barefoot monks in safflower robes.

Yes to Asaaf Geoff’s voice that is less like normal speaking and more like a resonance coming directly from his chest. Yes to flamboyant Thai women. Yes to little big-eyed 4-year-old boys named Lucca from England. Yes to some animal nesting in Gloria’s hair in the night. Yes to a heavy animal that joined us on the platform. Yes to crazy spikey orange flowers. Yes to long-spined handmade brooms. Yes to the embarrassing mother of a monk. Yes to washing dishes. Yes to reading. Yes to journaling. Yes to contemplating.

Yes to the breeze on my skin. Yes to a red mite scrambling across the page. Yes to seven hummingbirds landed at once outside the monk’s quarters. Yes to taking off one’s shoes before entering a building. Yes to explaining Vibrams. Yes to coyote squealings. Yes to riding in the back of the truck with the shovels. Yes to the platform in the tree.

Yes to the walk up the steep hill. Yes to the quick long-tailed lizards.  Yes to swallowtails and cabbage butterflies. Yes to the vibrant stars. Yes to the quarter moon shining through the branches. Yes to stretching. Yes to deep breaths. Yes to quick breaths. Yes to simplicity. Yes to stillness. Yes to long stretches of time.

Metta Forest Monastery is a Thai Buddhist meditation monastery in the hills of northern San Diego. I like to go once or twice a year for a weekend retreat – it’s free! You can sleep in the “dorm” or bring a tent and sleep on platforms under the avocado trees.


A day at the monastery looks like this:

5:30am – Morning chanting, Dhamma talk, group meditation

10:30am – Potluck meal provided by donations from the Thai community (Sunday is a big, delicious event)

4pm – Q&A with the head monk, Ajaan Geoff

5pm- Work time (sweeping, cleaning, weeding – whatever they need help with)

7pm – Evening chanting, Dhamma talk, group meditation

You don’t have to be Buddhist, or even know anything about Buddhism – everyone there is very welcoming and tolerant (no one said anything when I straightened my aching legs after my first one-hour meditation and inadvertently pointed the bottom of my feet at a monk…a big no-no, apparently).  It’s extremely peaceful and beautiful, and it’s so nice to get away from life & technology for a weekend (or longer).

If you have any questions, feel free to comment!