All posts by Deena

Looking Is the Key to Finding a Truer Self

Some people came upon Nasruddin one night crawling around on his hands and knees under a lamppost.

“What are you looking for?” they asked him.

“I’ve lost the key to my house,” he replied.

They all got down to help him look, but after a fruitless time of searching, someone thought to ask him where he had lost the key in the first place.

“In the house,” Nasruddin answered.

“Then why are you looking under the lamppost?” he is asked.

“Because there is more light here,” Nasruddin replied.

I heard this story from one of my first Vipassana meditation teachers, Satya Narayan Goenka.  S. N. Goenka, who recently passed away at age 89, was one of the most important teachers of Buddhist meditation in our time.

This particular ancient, Sufi story of the wise fool, Nasruddin, was told at the 10-day, silent meditation retreat that I attended in 2006. It was the year my mother died. My house had just burned down to the ground with everything in it. My marriage had ended. The time seemed ripe to learn this valuable tool.

The Vipassana retreat was comprised of 10 days of silence, meditating, eating and resting. At the close of each day was an hour-long, recorded video talk by S. N. Goenka. His talk always included teaching stories, the kind that showed us the world, or ourselves, differently. A good story has levels of meaning and on first hearing, you know something’s up because of your reaction… a grin, a shiver, a whimper, a laugh. Yet, the strength of the story is not always obvious or immediately understood.

Whew, you could have heard me groaning on hearing this story. To me, it was not at all subtle. It smacked me awake to the folly of looking for truths outside of myself. I believe that every one of us looks in certain places for the “key” to  happiness. But perhaps we are like Nasruddin looking under the lamppost, when we might profit more by looking inside our own homes. It was clear to me that I should look inward for the answers I was seeking. Learning to look, instead of react, turns out to be the key.

Goenka’s teaching of living each moment happily with an equanimous mind, in order to progress toward the ultimate goal of liberation from suffering makes a lot of sense to Ivan and me. We have scheduled a 10-day, silent meditation retreat in the Kaufman, Texas Vipassana Center for March. tcrn854h



In The Practice of the Tao, Every Day Something Is Dropped

I once attended a Metropolitan Opera performance transmission in a Florida movie theatre where eager opera-goers arrived hours earlier for a 3 hour performance. Not surprisingly, by the time it was finished these geriatric Floridians forgot where they had parked. There was a cacophony of car horns honking and indicator lights flashing while everyone pushed walkers around the lot trying to locate their vehicle.

Ivan and I don’t have a remote to honk the horn and flash the lights to find where we’ve parked, when we don’t remember. Instead, we had a Sears roof top car carrier, a big, dirty, white eyesore that enabled us to easily spot our van. It’s further distinguished by the great scar the carrier was dealt when we plowed into an underground parking lot forgetting that it was on top… proving our sorry lack of memory already.img_0194

We reluctantly bought the carrier to hold the extra stuff that we didn’t need but weren’t ready to part with yet. We’ve reassigned a few possessions to friends and found a good home for a lot of stuff at my daughter Rebecca’s house in Canada.

We can rejoice in further reducing stuff. It’s a mixed blessing though, because I can now imagine being in the same sorry lot as those opera-goers, trying to find where we’ve parked.

“In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added.
 In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped.” Lao Tzu  from Tao Te Ching


From Where I Hail Is Not as Interesting as Where I Am Headed

Today I realized that home really is a state of mind.  We have no physical house any longer. And yet wherever we are, we reset the GPS location to announce ‘home’, because it is wherever Ivan and I are together.

We have not joined the 220 million people (which would be the fifth largest nation in the world), who live in countries other than their birthplace. We are not a part of even that nation as we don’t live anywhere now; we are homeless wanderers.

Our nomadic status yields a mixed response; awe and jealousy, bewilderment and disbelief, wonderment and aspiration.

We often meet denial at first; “No way, you don’t have a home?!” Conversations close with acceptance. “Well good for you”.  And then a parting comment; “I hope I’ll be able to do that one day” or the opposite “I could never dream of doing what you’re doing!” An unofficial poll seems to draw a split vote.

Yesterday, strolling in the Asheville Arts district, artists asked us where we were from, a common conversation starter. Invariably, the answering of that question would cause us to plant ourselves for lengthly periods describing our new life and how it came about.

We were stopping to chat for longer than we were walking. Since exercise was the purpose of the stroll, at the next studio, I declined answering that show-stopping question. When I hesitated, this artist surprisingly mentioned how he had just met a couple who said they were from ‘nowhere’. He related this couple’s incredulous story of having sold all that they owned and were now nomadically wandering. I was so surprised. I felt transparent. He had seen right through me and somehow knew I was also a wanderer.

Nomad Deena
Deena at Home in Assateague National Seashore

Some argue that travel is great if you have a home to go back to.  Ivan and I agree with Pico Iyer who said:

“Home, in the end, is not just the place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand. Home is the place where you become yourself.”