June 13 2024

It’s Not All About Me

by Anonymous

Interior of Budapest train station

A new chapter of my life started a few weeks ago with sudden changes—loss of an important romantic relationship and the death of a beloved friend. It was indeed quite a lot to digest all at the same time. I’m still digesting with much less indigestion than before, but nevertheless chewing at the changes.

I’ve travelled… a lot. I just turned fifty this year, and during this glorious lifetime I’ve had the good fortune to visit over 60 countries on all the continents (except for the polar ones). I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to settle down in one spot. And I’ve made some decisions about where to stay and work that didn't go so well. So I moved some more. In fact, since the 2000, I’ve moved fifteen times between seven countries.

But I want a home and an address I can remember and friends I’ve spent lots of time with and a familiar route to my house and a favourite grocery store. I want some dust to have settled on my knick knacks and some pets and a phone number with only one country code. I’d love to sit and watch the world go by on a front porch somewhere. And I’d love to share a mundane routine with a lover and best friend.

Now I’m working on a PhD at a university in England. I’m a student and practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. One of the better decisions I’ve made in my life is to devote myself completely to this path —not only spiritually but also professionally. The doctorate is about the Tibetans, their language, and their religion.

I want, I want, I want…

I had almost done it—found a place and cherished one with whom to settle and continue the last year and a half of research and write up. “Planner" could be my middle name. I want to get as much done as I possibly can during this life—there is just so much to do. But the plans along with the proverbial rug I was standing on got pulled out from underneath me. My beloved decided at the eleventh hour that my sentiments were no longer welcome. Shortly thereafter a dear friend announced her departure in sudden death.

My heart was indeed broken, as it so often goes. Within just a few days, I could barely recognise my own life much less salvage any “plans” so neatly tied together.

So I realised and then decided that it wasn't the time to settle—it seems at least the universe was telling me this. Out once more with the suitcase, but this time only one. Anything else was either sold, donated or trashed. And with my doctorate supervisor’s blessing, I’ve ventured out for a year of fieldwork and travel in Asia.

Someone told me once that nomads are never lost. I’m definitely a nomad, albeit at times unwillingly. So actually I must not really be lost, although lately it has certainly felt this way. Chögyam Trungpa, the great Buddhist master, once said:

The bad news is you're falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute.
The good news is there's no ground.

Flying—or should I say flailing—through the air, I know I don’t want to make this journey just about me. The rawness of the recent experiences have peeled back my shields and exposed my heart completely. In the past, the most challenging times are those during which I’ve learnt the most— there was no other choice but to look at the mess in order to patch it all back together.

The doctorate is not about me; I could not torture myself any further right now with the bureaucratic intricacies of research with the wind knocked out of me. However it has been the doctorate that has given me a purpose to serve the Tibetan people. It also happens to help keep me somewhat sane and even make me laugh.

Buddhist practice is not about me, even though to fulfill the Bodhisattva vows of developing wisdom and compassion for the sake of others requires loving oneself unconditionally with equal fervor. It has been study and meditation that have somewhat successfully pried my cramped fingers off of an imagined reality I mistakenly took for lasting sustenance.

Thus and behold: a blog about the year’s adventures. I’ve never put anything “out there” on the Internet before besides the occasional e-mail. Just plodding through the web page set up has already challenged my notoriously limited patience. But I’ll get there.

And yup – the planner is somewhat weakened in me but still kicking.

It is my sincere wish that these musings offer some inspiration for developing genuine compassion and wisdom. That’s worth far more than settling down, finding a mate or even being called “Doctor.” 

Image: "Arriving in Budapest" (CC BY-NC 2.0) by chris.chabot