The Drunkard and the Lover

The Drunkard and the Lover

As I transitioned into the new year, I felt ready to begin anew, to move past some of the grief and loneliness I had been experiencing in the last week of 2021. As if on cue, I was stricken with the flu on the 2nd, which gave me even more time to examine my current state, although this time mostly horizontal, through night sweats and skull-numbing headaches.


I intended to record a video to show up in this weak, raw, and vulnerable moment, but my voice is almost gone, and I am coughing heavily after a few sentences. But rest assured, I will still let you into some of my angst through my words.


It has been a journey into isolation and loneliness the past two weeks – my two closest friends here became unavailable for different reasons, one also succumbing to a severe illness. And while I have made many connections on this lake, I am someone who does not build up depth, trust, and intimacy with people quickly. A stranger in a strange land, the expression goes. In addition, and somewhat ashamedly, I still feel the effects of heartbreak from a couple of months ago. It was a short, intense relationship that pulled on the most profound aspects of my lifelong inner feminine healing process, forcing me to face all the ugly parts of that internal relationship: the betrayal and lack of trust, the dependency and validation, the overemphasis and need for sex and eros and contact. And experience has shown me that this inner feminine, the anima as Carl Jung referred to it, tends to possess the face of my previous beloved. This is very much a work in progress and one that has invited me into a state of pause.


One bright spot in the last week has been my discovery of the contemplations of Richard Rudd: poet, and creator of the Gene Keys system. I specifically found myself listening to an album called The Ecstatics, where Rudd explores the mystical nature of some well-known individuals like Walk Whitman, Ananda Mayi Ma, and Hafez, along with some lesser-known mystics that were new to me.


I have found this series incredibly inspirational, and I was brought back to a time, 10-12 years ago when my life shifted dramatically – I was in my Saturn return (~age 29), I left my comfortable corporate job, sold all of my possessions, discovered zen, yoga, tantra, meditation, and poetry. All things were pouring in and out of me with great ease and joy. AND there was so much that I was utterly unconscious of! And certainly still am. Looking back, I can see and feel that dream of youthful optimism, reaching ecstasy without pain, without suffering, without heartbreak and disappointment. And Rudd sums this up beautifully:


The path of love involves a different kind of suffering from the path of meditation.


The path of love drags us through the world, whores us through the taverns and marketplace. And we will be battered and bruised by it.
But one day, one day we may have the epiphany… that the love on the outside is but a shadow of love on the inside


We who have passed beyond the age of 40 or so, we have learned that all is not what was promised. And even if we find it, it slips through our grasp. It eludes us, and it must do, because love in the phenomenal world is the effect of a deeper love, an acausal love, and this deeper love, this ecstasy is beyond any effects; it does not have a target; it is simply our true nature.

Two small new years resolutions/intentions I have committed to are:

  • No alcohol for the first three months
  • Drastically reduced use of news and podcasts

Both connect to the ecstatic state referred to above. Both news and alcohol are significant distractions from the inner landscape. And while I have not been abusing alcohol by any means, even moderate amounts are not in the best interest of a human healing his body from serious disease.
Rudd’s exploration of Hafez reminded me that the reason for reaching for alcohol is all too similar to that of reaching for love, except that they end up in drastically different locations. Rudd quotes Indian spiritual master Meher Baba comparing the lover to the drunkard:

The Sufi master poets often compared love with wine. Wine is the most fitting figure for love because both intoxicate. But while wine causes self-forgetfulness, love leads to Self-realization.

The behavior of the drunkard and the lover are similar; each disregards the world’s standards of conduct and each is indifferent to the opinion of the world. But there are worlds of difference between the course and the goal of the two: the one leads to subterranean darkness and denial; the other gives wings to the soul for its flight to freedom.

The drunkenness of the drunkard begins with a glass of wine which elates his spirit and loosens his affections and gives him a new view of life that promises a forgetfulness from his daily worries. He goes on from a glass to two glasses, to a bottle; from companionship to isolation, from forgetfulness to oblivion. Oblivion which in Reality is the Original state of God, but which, with the drunkard, is an empty stupor–and he sleeps in a bed or in a gutter. And he awakens in a dawn of futility, an object of disgust and ridicule to the world.

The lover’s drunkenness begins with a drop of God’s love which makes him forget the world. The more he drinks, the closer he draws to his Beloved, and the more unworthy he feels of the Beloved’s love; and he longs to sacrifice his very life at the Beloved’s feet. He, too, does not know whether he sleeps on a bed or in a gutter, and becomes an object of ridicule to the world; but he rests in bliss, and God the Beloved takes care of his body, and neither the elements nor disease can touch it.

One out of many such lovers sees God face to face. His longing becomes infinite; he is like a fish thrown up on the beach, leaping and squirming to regain the ocean. He sees God everywhere and in everything, but he cannot find the gate of union. The Wine that he drinks turns into Fire in which he continuously burns in blissful agony. And the Fire eventually becomes the Ocean of Infinite Consciousness in which he drowns.

My favorite line is: He, too, does not know whether he sleeps on a bed or in a gutter, and becomes an object of ridicule to the world, but he rests in bliss, and God the Beloved takes care of his body, and neither the elements nor disease can touch it.

Cheers to the path of the lover – willing to love wildly and freely and have my heart broken repeatedly!!!

And the need for the break from news and podcasts is clear to me – I/we are being confronted with a pandemic of fear and isolation and division, and seeking outside solutions and answers and distrusting our inner guidance is only a recipe for more isolation and separation. How much of what I’m feeling is my own making? This topic I will soon explore on its own.

I leave you here for now. In the hour or so it took me to write this, I am feeling physically stronger, emotionally more connected, and overall much lighter.

Thank you for being with me, and I’d love your feedback.

Zen Again

My teacher (did I really say that? more on this later), Zentatsu Baker-Roshi, is in Boulder this weekend giving a seminar on the Evolution of Zen at the Chautauqua Community House. Spring rain and Winter’s final touch are mixing together and providing an excellent weekend to be indoors contemplating the human existence and meaning of self!

This seminar is much more casual than the Sesshin I attended several weeks ago – no robes, no chanting or prostrations, plenty of breaks and conversation. Roshi generally sets the context for our discussion then responds to questions, all the while trying to frame the theme, the Evolution of Zen.

We have been working extensively with the differences between “Evolution” and “Development”. Development is more static – moving within the field of the known, using that known to separate something else out, or ‘develop it’.  Evolution can be likened to an unrolling, a boundless process that is new in every moment. Something I am exploring personally is how do I create the conditions necessary to make my practice more likely to evolve?  Our Sangha (group practicing together including the teacher) has been looking deeply into trust, and how it, along with acceptance, are an integral part of evolving ones own practice. Another way to look at this is ‘being secure in vulnerability’, something I try to remain aware of, rather than close off and go within my own walls. We also explored the differences between Faith and Trust, two closely linked words, that are in Roshi’s words “part of the same experiential groove”. The subtle difference is that Faith walks a fine line with belief, which can be limited. Belief to me is static, based in the known and discounts the unknowable. As soon as you believe something, you are no longer open to the unknown, because you “believe this is the way it is”. Its security and safety and easier that way. I think I like Trust better as a word to describe opening myself to that unknown, as Trust is rooted more in experience, of which every moment is new and potentially boundless. At some level you even trust that you don’t trust.  There’s some Zen for you. 🙂  I’m out of time but will write more on my thoughts about what it means to have a teacher and practice with a group.