Anutpattika-dharma-ksanti: the patient endurance of the uncreate
These are the words I shared as a Facebook status update on July 30th, 2011. It is a short line taken from Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra which I had been gently pawing at while sitting in the window seat of my Brooklyn Heights apartment melting in the summer heat. I was confused, scared, uncomfortable, and agitated. There was this belief that somehow, someday I could control and enjoy this life but that I was failing in my attempts to do so. Some would say that the persistence of this delusion was astonishing yet I sat there numb, weighed down, and silenced by my restlessness, irritability, and discontent.
On August 1st of 2011, I woke up and something was just…different. I looked up at the ceiling from the comfort of my bed. I stared at the plants that had turned the white walls of my apartment into a jungle. I listened to the sound of my dog Walt snoring peacefully beside me.
That phrase had been running through my mind for the last 48 hours. The patient endurance of the uncreate sounded impossible, out of reach, and necessary all at once. As it turned over and over again in my mind, I began to piece together what that would mean in my life. I was surrounded by things I had worked hard for. I had two homes, a graduate degree from a prestigious university, a full life in NYC, traveling around the world, and a big community. What I struggled with at my very core was this secret whose voice over the last few years had become louder and louder within me. I didn’t want any of this. None of it fit. None of it. My spiritual life had disappeared before my eyes, my connection with a higher power was non-existent, and my mind and body felt burdened and sluggish with toxicity. Just a week earlier I had broken down crying in front of my younger sister and said in all sincerity “I just wish everyone, and everything everywhere would just stop moving for a second, just a second because I can’t breathe and I can’t think.”
The insanity and severe stress of that statement make me wince as I type this. But that was how it felt in the moment. I had gotten to a point where I wanted the entire world to change and believed that until that happened, I would not be able to breathe. Now, this was not the result of one bad day at work or a messy break-up. This was a culmination of every area of my life being set on fire at once. Life unfolds that way sometimes. When that happened, I reached into my toolbag and realized that I had no emotional tools to walk through this alchemical process. I was at a crossroads, and as I lay in bed that morning in August, I realized that I was the one who had to change.
When I thought about “the patient endurance of my very own uncreate,” I thought of faith and trust. Somehow I knew that this was the only way to get back to me. I also knew that if I took small steps and just trusted in the deconstruction that there would eventually be a resurrection. I also knew that I would have no idea what that would look like. We put our faith and trust in so many things including people, corporations, medicine, and religion. But the struggle to put my faith and trust into something I couldn’t quite put my hands on was difficult. Sometimes you just know what you don’t want to be. That can be a powerful starting point and a guiding light if you allow it to be.
Part of the uncreate was traveling. Before I left New York City in September of 2011, I had contemplated moving back to Upstate New York or down to New Orleans. Somehow I settled on Los Angeles. I didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t have a job there. I didn’t have a place to live there. Oh, and my license to practice therapy wasn’t valid there. It seemed like the obvious choice. After two lonely years in Los Angeles, I packed up my car again. This time I headed back east to see with new eyes. Yes, I had begun the process of the uncreate, but you never know how much you have changed until you go back home. I moved into an old farmhouse that my grandfather built in upstate new york on 107 acres. As my uncle handed over the keys on Sunday morning, he said “Are you really going to be up here all by yourself? You’re going to lose your mind. I was here by myself for 30 minutes waiting for you, and I’m already jumping out of my skin.” I lived alone in the woods for months and would go weeks without talking to another person. That is precisely when the patience and the endurance began to make space in my life.
When I lived in Hawaii, I met a young father who joyfully told me that it was his son’s 7th birthday. He shared that he had read somewhere that within 7 years your entire cell body transforms and you are an entirely new person. He said that he loved that every single part of him was a father now. Nothing from his previous life of being single and childless existed anymore. Every part of him transformed. I smiled. At the time I remember thinking “I can’t wait until August 1st, 2018.”
Here it is, the day I have been waiting for the last seven years. It feels as if a cycle has come to an end. Not dramatically or with a loud noise. Soft, gentle and humble like the last line of a William Carlos Williams poem. And while I know that the cell transformation theory is mostly based on folklore, it still makes me feel good to think about how far I have walked into my own personal “uncreate.” Throughout this process, I found myself walking away from so many people, places, and things, and so many other things were outright taken from me.
The more I released my grip on what I thought my life should look like the more I was nourished and supported by the world around me.
The less I had, the better I felt.
The more alone I got, the deeper in love I fell with all of you.