Well, I will say this: the whole "being alone" thing is getting easier. Don't get me wrong; it's still hard practice, but I'm getting better at it, to the point where I am actually beginning to value it. It is bringing a clarity to my life that may have been being squelched or drowned out by all the external obligations that my life imposes upon me. But I also know that--in my heart of hearts--I'd still rather "be with someone". I'm getting okay with that simply being as it is; that feeling of wanting. My current life will not be "this way" forever. Nothing is anyway "for ever". I may suddenly find myself in a relationship. I may suddenly find myself a monastic. I may suddenly find myself looking a bit like Mothra. It's all up in the air. Everything is.

And that's okay. That's as it should be.

I love Sunday mornings. That sounds so trite and pat, but that doesn't make it any less true. And the quieter the morning the better. The kid's gone, the soon-to-be ex is gone. It's just me, the cats, NPR and Classical Guitar Alive. It's about the smell of steeping coffee beans, biscuits baking in my little toaster oven, incense and cold rain. It's about the complex slightly acidic taste of my pipe tobacco lingering on my palate while I drink my sweet, hot, creamy mocha. It's about that feeling of peace I get knowing that no bill collector will call today, that no one will clamor for my time, and that I can focus my attention on my sangha, my service to my teachers and friends, the dharma, my breath and myself.

My self. My needs. My spirit. My mind.

These things aren't "selfish" even if they are "self-ish". I've suffered for a long time from the mistaken view that they are the former. Also, I'm not saying that I've been unduly taxed throughout my life--far from it. I've suffered the luxury of "me-time" plenty in my life. But "focusing on myself" has always had the lingering aftertaste of "selfishness" in my life, and it's taken me a long time to understand that that is not a "right view" either. If I don't truly nurture myself, I won't have anything to give to the people I love and care about. It's sort-of like making your bed: it's not absolutely necessary, but it does make going to bed that much more pleasant.

On the other hand, I now know that "focusing on myself"--for real--is probably something I've subliminally avoided doing. Being with myself, being truly subjective about what I'm feeling, and at the same time being coldly objective about who and what I "am" is not something that I'm particularly good at, or have ever wanted. I look at things like self-worth and -value, and I get very down. I've spent a lot of my life building myself and "writing my story". But as I go deeper into this Zen practice, I see something a bit more clearly now.

"To what end?"

What good is the story of my life? Like all people, I have tales that I tell. And I have some whoppers. I've been fortunate to have led a very interesting life in the eyes of many people. But what does that story add up to for me? Is it worth anything? Am I merely clinging to the peak of a wave? Am I trying to declare and place a value upon something that is inherently worthless and empty? (That sounds really self-flagellating and depressing, but it's not. It's an examination of a phenomena through the lens of the Dharma; no more--no less).

When someone is constantly saying they're this or that because of things they were or did in the past, they're inherently not what they purport to be. Why? Because those times are gone. The "I was" is as grounding as "I want to be" because one is tethered to the past, which can never be again, and the future, which is never actually manifest. You are constantly coming or going, but never really "here". And as time goes on, I feel a deeper and deeper desire to bring that "here" more into focus and allow myself to peacefully abide in it. It has been what's been missing from my experience my entire life; to simply abide in the now, being just who I am from moment to moment. To abide is a skill, a blessing, a gift. And I am thankful, on this quiet Sunday morning, for all the teachers that have entered into my life, and are such powerful illustrations of just how useful the skill of peacefully abiding is.