Table of Contents


A mistake I needed to make. That's what marriage was for me: the wrong choice, made for the right reason: to wake up. I can't make progress without mistakes; they're essential for making progress with love. If I never made a mistake, I'd have nothing to work with. Mistakes are what I learn from. Spiritual progress is what I do to keep from making the same mistake twice, ideally. In my experience it's often more like the 47th time, or the 815th. Recreational drugs were another mistake I needed to make. Writing as a career was another. My lives are littered with 'em.

Marriage was never for me. There was never a time I dreamed of settling down, raising a family. Marriage was something other people dreamed of; it just seemed odd to me, a little distasteful. I never wanted children; the thought made me wince. I didn't have an alternative I thought would be better, I just knew that getting married and settling down was not the right thing for me to do.

Grow or die. I didn't want to grow up. Grow is fine; I wanted to grow and keep growing. But "grow up" implies an endpoint, something accomplished: now I have grown all the way up. I'm a grownup now, so growing's all done. To me that means no more progress with love. That's spiritual death: once I stop growing, I start to die. Humans are the only animal like that.

Starting over. So I never grew up, I kept starting over, kept reinventing myself. I got to be a successful bureaucrat in Florida, excellent pay and great future prospects, and I chucked all that and moved to Boulder to study holistic healing. The holistic healing turned out to be a cult forming around a charismatic leader, so after giving it a really good shot, 12 years, I said fuck it, this is not for me and jumped ship.

Road trip. Then I went on a big road trip, checking out different places to live. I never considered what to do for a living, I just looked for places that seemed like they might be conducive to making progress with love. I picked Seattle. Good choice.

Hired gun. Here in Seattle I felt really tired of doing writing as a hired gun, so I tried to do other things for a living but kept getting drawn back to writing. It was easy for me, and good money, so I ended up going back to it. I now see that that was a mistake, but it was an inevitable mistake. Like marriage, it was a mistake I needed to make.

Lost horizon. I got successful at writing again, and this time success overwhelmed me; I can blame the success. Something made me lose my sense of adventure; made me go soft. Maybe it was just getting older, the fear of old age that made me lose my bearings. Whatever it was, I lost my horizon, as Rachel Yamagata sings in that lovely sad waltz. Here in Seattle, in my late 40s, I finally caved and thought, well maybe they were right all along, maybe I need to get married and settle down. I'm not getting any younger, after all; what am I gonna do when I get old? So I got married.

It felt like my life was over. Marriage was comfortable, a miserable ease. I worked in the yard and put money in the bank. For the first time ever, I traveled as a tourist. A back door tourist, the cheesiest kind. I really got into alcohol, all three kinds: beer wine & booze. I got a CO2 tap setup and had my own keg of fresh beer from Big Time and elsewhere down in my beer cellar, a funky garden shed below my garage. I brewed my own beer down at Gallagher's. I hosted wine tasting dinners for friends. I bought high-end scotch. I got more and more comfortable, so comfortable that for the second time in my life I quit growing. As I stopped growing I started dying. I started treating everyone in my life badly; I became a complete asshole. I was no saint before, but I got downright nasty with the people I should've been kind and loving with; I wrote them out of my life; they're gone. I gained weight, drank excessively, and gradually became dull and listless. I was circling the drain.

Waking up a little. Then one day in February of 2006 I woke up just a little bit, enough to take an objective look at my life. I saw that I'd become an overweight asshole, unhappy in a marriage I'd sabotaged by withdrawing from it. I'd withdrawn but done nothing else; I had no motivation to fix my marriage or leave it. I had no motivation period; I was a loser. On that day in February, meditation seemed like the answer, but my meditation had been feeling flabby and useless, just like me. I had started thinking about finding a new meditation teacher or a group to join, when something unexpectedly strong inside me rose up and said NO! YOU KNOW ENOUGH! FIX YOUR OWN DAMN MEDITATION! That was the little bit of waking up: hearing that inner voice that so clearly wanted me to work hard and make a better life. I didn't know it at the time, but that was the voice of my wisdom.

Weight loss. Guided by my wisdom, I began meditating more & better. I started doing other things that strong inner voice said to do. I created a diet for myself, and over the course of a year I lost about 50 pounds, most of which I've kept off ever since. My blood pressure went down, and my knees stopped hurting. Amazing what a little weight loss can do.

Walking. As part of the weight loss program, I started walking, a lot. Walking would become one of my new media for meditation, tho' I didn't know it at the time. I just knew it felt great to walk. I started going on camping trips every other weekend to some campground where I would walk for hours every day. I wanted out of the house so badly; the camping trips were just the ticket.

TV. That strong voice inside forced me to look at how I spent my time. TV was a useless time suck, so I stopped watching TV, and I also stopped reading fiction. I didn't need other people's stories, I was once again working on creating my own. I sat in the dark alone instead of watching TV every evening. In those dark sits I could feel strength really beginning to grow in me. I was steeping myself in my wisdom, listening as carefully as I knew how for what to do or not do next.

Meditation. Because I was in touch with my wisdom, I was able to meditate, to wake up just a little in those dark sits, even though I was still an asshole and a heavy drinker at the time. My wisdom was showing me how to meditate, how to make my shitfaced sits worthwhile. My struggle with alcohol was yet to come; it'd be a doozy. As I sat there in the dark, I could feel strength building in me. Sometimes it was so strong I was trembling in my chair with power and delight. In those days there was a feeling I had every time I woke up, from a nap or a night's sleep. It was a wave of pleasure washing over me, as if I had returned to the waking state trailing clouds of glory.

I'm so very grateful life was still there for me. I had to work up the courage to leave my marriage, and it was not a pretty process. It's the time in my past that I most wish I could do over, and be more up-front, and kinder, gentler. I moved out in October 2008 and started my life over again.

Now the world makes a lot more sense. I understand the world a lot better now, thanks to thousands of hours spent meditating, much of it grappling with koans my wisdom gave me.