When I was in France this summer, I met with my teacher, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, for five minutes. He’s busy—he has commitments, a foundation to run, a lot of students who want to see him: thousands. In fact, we are all clambering to see him. Who knows what we want from him—a lot of weird things. This summer, for instance, he cautioned us, at the program in France, not to talk to him about so-called “tantric sex.” He said something like, “I don’t know what tantric sex is, and I don’t want to know. So if you think you’re having it, don’t tell me about it.” We can be pretty crazy.

Anyway, I met with him for five minutes. We were outside, on a porch in the back of the house in the exquisite Dordogne Valley where he was staying. He was in robes. I feel like he was barefoot, but probably not—he was probably wearing sandals. He walked in front of me, slowly, his back towards me, when I first got outside, and I followed. It’s when he walks, that I often see him as a prince, or these days, as a king. He has that quality.

Finally, he motioned for me to sit down in a chair by a table. Then he leaned up against that same table, about a foot from me, crossed his ankles one over the other, and smiled at me, or maybe even chuckled. We talked, and he laughed a lot, like he was happy, and having fun. It was like we were on a date—he was very near, and he was having a nice time. (We weren’t on a date, FYI, don’t worry.) But that’s what he made me feel—that he was having a nice time, just being there for that five minutes one early evening in the Dordogne Valley. It felt personal.

Like I said, he is very busy, there were other people waiting in the foyer to see him. Many people had come before me on that day, and the days before that. But he just leaned against the table, and smiled. He wasn’t anywhere but there. It sounds like nothing, but it startled me. Though it was completely simple and subtle, it was a gift. The gift was, I’m here. The gift was, You’re O.K., Deitch—you’re completely O.K.

But I don’t feel O.K. like that. I don’t feel, inside myself, that I know that kind of acceptance. No one’s ever treated me like that before, like there was nothing at all wrong. (This is nothing “spiritual,” by the way. This is not a woo-woo thing, with incense and bells and prayer.) This is what I left my summer with. This is how it is: You’re O.K., Deitch—you’re completely O.K.

Anyway, it’s time for me to tell you this. I probably haven’t conveyed it, the message. I haven’t been treated like that, and I haven’t treated people like that. So now I’d like to convey it. I’m going to start here. I’m going to start now.

(Photo: Rinpoche by Pawo Choyning Dorji; taken with a Hipstamatic iPhone camera)


Hello Out There

I get all excited about blogging, and then I get distracted. Mostly I get distracted by work. Sigh. And, you know, since I just moved into a new place, I’ve got a to-do list a foot long, and the little piles of things with no places keep catching my eye. Here’s an example. (That black thing in the distance is Scout.)

Anyway, as you probably know, Buddhism has this Sanskrit word, samsara, which is the endless cycle of suffering that we’re trapped in, not realizing that we can end it like that. [She snaps.] It’s a point-of-view thing.

This morning, Scout was doing his usual circling—tight and fast, like he was chasing his tail, but he wasn’t—it was more like he’s trying to listen to the sea in his butt. Anyway, he circled his way over to the doorway of my bedroom and only stopped when he clunked his head on the doorjamb.

After that, one thought led to another, and I started thinking about some of my friends in unenviable relationships. I was thinking about how those relationships are not unlike Scout’s circling. You try to hear the sound of the sea in your own butt, and then, one day, you hit your head on a doorjamb, and you remember: Wait, hello!—why am I living my life in little circles with my nose up my ass? There’s more to life than this. (You could be, for instance, sitting in your shack in East Marion, thinking about the melon in your fridge and blogging about your dog.) And suddenly you want to break up.

It’s all samsara—the dog, the relationships, the thinking about the relationships, the writing about thinking about relationships. This blog is samsara. You reading it is samsara. Then, you get off the computer, and what you read here leads you to do something, or say something, and that’s samsara. And karma.

Anyway, we can get depressed about it, or we can realize that this is fantastic. We’re alive and it’s amazing. Yay! (I think.)

The Elements: Water

I’m not going to complain about the heat, because everyone around here is feeling it. And, truth be told, I’m on a peninsula surrounded by water and covered in grass and trees which are doing some fine, green breathing for the community. Still, I’m sitting in LB’s kitchen drinking a cup of coffee and sweating, the dogs poor hot panting messes on the cool kitchen floor.

Two things, though. While I was out getting the aforementioned coffee, I saw the Long Island Sound in the distance—blue sparkling water, choppy and dotted with bobbing things of a nautical nature. Just the sight of it brought on the sense memory of the anxious moment when you hit the water—hot to cold, dry to wet, air to no air, light to dark. Talk about transitions. They say that sneezing and, like, orgasm, are glimpses of the experience of enlightenment (or something like that), and if I were on that panel, I think I’d add diving into cold water.

But also, today, at the coffee place, an empty cafe in the style of old-timey places (actually, I think it is an old-timey place), the young guy who made my latte yesterday was sitting down at an upright piano, playing perfect ragtime for the only other customers—a portly middle-aged couple with bad haircuts. It really was a moment out of a David Lynch film, and, even though things are rather difficult at the moment, due to some issues of the heart (not literal), it made me happy.

Thank you, dharmakaya, for allowing us our minor reprieves.

Introduction: Toby and Angela

A few months after we finished the Vajradhatu seminary, in 2000, Toby, Angela, and I were standing on the sidewalk outside someone’s tenement apartment in the East Village one evening, wondering why so many of the older Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner’s that we knew were so crazy and/or nasty. I’d asked my friend Berkley about this earlier (she came up with that crowd), and she’d said two things: that Buddhism isn’t about getting nicer—it’s about becoming more who you are; and that if you see a sadhaka (such aforementioned advanced practitioner) behaving in such a way, you can bet that they don’t practice.

Anyway, Ang and Toby and I were a little worried about this—were we going to end up nasty? So we made a pact. We all promised that if any one of us started behaving badly, the others would use a codeword that meant, “Believe it: It’s happened to you.” That code word, we decided, was “crazy/nasty.”

The fact is, though, that ten-and-a-half years later, both Toby and Ang have become giant softies. Ang is finishing her chaplaincy residency at a Vets Hospital in Seattle, and will be going into a long retreat in the fall (if you want to donate to that, write me at deitch(at)trishdeitch.com, and I’ll tell you how), and Toab has just set up shop doing brilliant acupuncture and herbs out on the edge of Chinatown here in New York.

When I get down about whole momentous endeavor, I think of them, and get my crazy/nasty ass back on the cushion.

Ten-second Rant/Dharma: Contemplating the Holiness of Gross Things

This is what I was contemplating this morning, before I took Scooby to the park:

My faults are as large as a mountain, but I conceal them within me.
Others’ faults are as minute as a sesame seed, but I proclaim and condemn them.
I boast about my virtues, though I don’t even have a few.*

Then Scoob and I went for a walk, and I immediately got tweaked because a runner blew his nose onto the road right in front of me. I thought, “You wouldn’t do that while you were carrying your briefcase down Madison Avenue in your Barney’s suit—why here?” And, really, why do people blow their nose in the street while they run? Is it, like, a biological thing? Because it looks more like a macho thing—like you’re in your running bubble, all high and self-righteous, and you think, “I’m such a healthy stud that I’m sure this dog-woman wouldn’t mind a little of my snot on her clog.”

It was like the one on the left
So, anyway, others’ faults are as minute as a sesame seed. Trying to get back to that, I thought back on past times when people did gross things in the street, and, because of the benefits of hindsight, I can see that they were just things—not good, not bad. Like, one time I saw a homeless man rummaging through a garbage can with one hand, and with the other hand, holding a Dixie Cup around his dick so that he could pee.** That doesn’t bother me now. (Actually, it didn’t bother me then, either).

Anyway, the point is 1) my faults are as large as a mountain, but I conceal them within me; others’ faults are as minute as a sesame seed, 2) I have a real hard time not judging people based on my own likes and dislikes, 3) wouldn’t it be great if no one blew their nose onto the street?, and 4) either way, our lives are dreams that pass quickly, so whatever it is, maybe it’s just a little bit sacred.

*From Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s “Crying to the Guru’s From Afar.”

**This was in the old days, before Giuliani took all the homeless people and turned them into dog food.

This Is It

I went to the doctor today at the NYU Clinical Cancer Center. I don’t have cancer. But at one point a few years back I had a scare, and now I have to go in routinely to make sure that that thing I didn’t have hasn’t come back. Anyway, I was in there with the fancy surgeon who specializes in a particularly gnarly kind of cancer that doesn’t generally have a good outcome, as they say. He told me that I was fine.

So then I asked him how he was. He said, “I’m bored.” He was wearing a really nice suit. He’s one of those very well-groomed, handsome men in his forties with silver hair and bright blue eyes that looks like he spends his weekends with a blonde on a boat. I said, “Really? With what you do, you must see some pretty heavy things,” and he said, “Yeah, well, you know, it’s all the same after a while.” Then he backtracked a bit, like you would if you’d said that. A moment later he repeated his thought, “But I’m bored. I guess I’m having a midlife crisis.”

Bored. Some dharma cohorts and I were given the assignment recently of contemplating, a couple of hours a day, precious human birth (as they say in the business) and impermanence. So, like: How amazing is it that we’re, say, Starbucks-drinking, J. Crew-buying, three-D-glasses-sporting humans living under Barack Obama, rather than baby chickens being sent down a funnel and ground up alive? Think of the opportunities we have! Or, I took a crowded subway to 34th Street today, and wasn’t blown up by two suicide bombers—fucking thank God, no kidding—or hit, when I emerged from under ground, by a cabdriver drinking a Starbucks and checking his email on his iPhone. My daughter is alive and well. Someday, if she’s lucky, she’ll be an old woman. My dog, Scout, suffering from canine dementia, really, really enjoyed his morning cookies. Someday soon he won’t. And someday soon I won’t be around to give out cookies: I don’t have a lot of time left, that is, to do something really worthwhile.

Anyway, I said, “Wow, there are a lot of great things to do out there instead of being bored.” And he said, “Like what?” What could I say. I’d sound like a religious fanatic. You can’t just say to someone: Look up at the sky. Feel the rain on your face. Take the subway home. Tell your wife and kids that you love them. You can’t just say, This is it. You won the lottery: It is your lucky day.

Getting Your Socks-With-Sandals Groove On

The Sartorialist today described this Parisian woman as “cool.” I wouldn’t have thought that from looking at the picture; I would have described her as goofy. But there must be some quality about her that isn’t coming across in photo, some je ne sais quoi that turns even goofy to cool.

Diane Keaton had it in “Annie Hall”—there she was in her stupid hat and fat tie and dude still wanted to kiss her. Lear had it on the heath: raving in his underwear, he was still king. I think that’s what the je ne sais quoi is, the confidence of kings: lungta, in Tibetan—the unlimited energy of basic goodness, or inherent wakefulness. (Wow, that’s freakin’ far from the chick in the the jodphurs and the Corkies with socks, but what the hell.)

Maud had a friend in high school, in Halifax—Lauren—who used to wear socks with her Birkenstocks, and her grandmother’s white wool coat that closed with a sash. If I wore that I’d look like a Vermont lady who drank homemade wine and sprinkled cat hair on my cereal with my flax seeds. But Lauren, who embodied lungta, was beating both boys and girls (and dogs) off with a stick.

Trungpa Rinpoche, the man who brought Tibetan Buddhism to the West in the late Sixties and early Seventies, used to tell his American students when they’d lost their lungta, to pull up their socks. There’s a story about how one day he said this to one of his students—pull your socks up—and the student said, “But Rinpoche, I’m not wearing socks,” to which Rinpoche replied, “Then pull up your pants.”

Clearly, that’s what the Sartorialist lady did, she pulled up her pants.