Some of my most intense moments of the week are conversations with my doctor during my weekly acupuncture appointment. Not about neurochemistry or the latest fill-in-the-blank or symptoms or prognoses, but about philosophy, about energy, about consciousness.
A recurring topic: My current set of symptoms (from an acupuncture point of view) clearly, screamingly, indicates a need for fundamental change. What needs changing, nobody knows. Certainly I don't. But he and I both agree, something needs changing.
Another recurring topic: I have no "refuge." Certainly I have a home to go to, and at that home a loving wife, a nice comfy chair, a nice warm bed. But I have nothing--no place, no activities, no refuge-- nothing that protects and nurtures me, the doing of which or being in which restores my essence. Some people find refuge in their hobbies. In reading. In their creative work. I enjoy my creative work (when I have the energy to be creative, which I haven't had recently, something that's a symptom of never recharging) but it doesn't restore me. It's work. Fun work, rewarding work, but it's work, and it's not restorative. Kyudo, I enjoy practicing. I find it enlightening. But not restorative. It's work. And the meditative practice I'm supposed to be doing... well, its practitioners all refer to it as "the work," and then in the next breath say "there's a reason it's called 'the work.'" Even the "restorative" yoga I've done is marvelous, and it's physically soothing, but for me, it's not soul-restorative. It's work.
Sure, a lot of these things fall under the rubric of "do the work, and let the work do you." And I do, and I do, and all these things do good things for me, I'm sure. But they don't restore me.
The Tibetan Buddhists (among others) open some of their meditations by chanting "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the dharma, I take refuge in the sangha"--the meaning of "the Buddha" is obvious, the dharma is the teaching, the sangha is the community of believers, the pilgrims on the same path as you. Make the appropriate substitutions for your own belief system (for example, the Christ, the Gospel, the Church eternal) and you can see how powerful this can be. Personally, I don't find refuge in any person or personification, nice though the Buddha is, I'm sure. I do indeed find at least some refuge in the teaching; but I don't have a community, or even just friends, that I can take refuge in. Today, a singing group from Yale was at the school, and they did some skits between songs, and I felt incredibly at home with their humor, and I laughed like I haven't laughed since I don't remember when. I do have friends I could take refuge in... if I could only get at them. They're not accessible; like me, they're busy. Or even busier. Or even busier, and with children. Mostly, they're out of town--not just out of town, out of state. Way out of state. I'm not quite sure how to address this, except by travel, which I find difficult to do and, what with school and such, difficult (or impossible) to schedule.
The most interesting thing he told me was that there was a study of people who were trying to lose weight and keep it off. Of course there was diet and exercise and the usual stuff, but what turned out to be the thing that made the difference was that one group had simply decided that they were going to change their lives. And expressed their intentions in those terms. The exercise/diet/whatever programs for the groups were identical; the only difference was that one group approached the program with the specific intention to change their lives. His prescription: Yes you need to meditate, yes you should do kyudo and yoga, yes you should do all the things that you know you should do--but do them with the intention to change your life.
And also: just shake things up. Do "things" differently. At least try something. But do things differently. Because, after all: clearly, whatever I'm doing now, needs changing. Immediately.
Just talking about this with you... I'm starting to get a little scared. And I really don't know what to do differently.
But things have got to change.
And as the old saying goes: if not now, when?