Tuesday, September 10, 2013



I have the sweetest readers. I really do. After my last post, you have left me long, personal comments. You have offered encouragement and some good advice. You have even sent me personal emails and started dialogues with me. I really can't express how lucky I am. And because you have been so supportive, I want to tell you a little more.

First off, I am OK. I am actually better than I've ever been. I let myself get lost, and I am so glad that I did. I don't think we ever learn anything without first losing ourselves, and so I let myself get lost a lot. Sometimes it feels frightening, but it's not the kind of thing anyone should worry about. I'm just like you, only louder and squirrelier in my fright.

Why, though, do I say I get lost? What is the point of that?

Fundamentally, we all seem to experience a dissatisfaction with the way things are, the way life is. We sense that we are being deprived of the real purpose for our existence, that just behind the thick miasma of everyday thoughts and happenings is something always present that we just can't touch. I am talking about what I was told in AA is "a God-shaped hole."  I will take a risk and say that I think we all have this sense, even buried under positive affirmations or accomplishments or survival strategies we've learned. And I don't think that what we are yearning for is found in religion for everyone. We could call it a God-shaped hole because there isn't any word big enough to fit in there for lots of us but God. God is the biggest word for what I mean, but it isn't the only one. For others, it is Transformation. It is Purpose. It is Peace. We can feel it close, but it's through a veil. It's an aroma lingering on the edge of our senses that we just can't name. We are crying out for meaning and connection to the ultimate truth of life.

Like most people, I have filled up this hole, most of the time, with more of Self. Not like most people, sometimes that expression of desperate hole-filling has been destructive in obvious, palpable ways. But it's destructive for all of us. I am not alone in that. We fill the hole with internet activity. We fill it with gossip. We fill it with chocolate. We fill it by expressing our thoughts and waiting, desperate, for someone to respond with a love large enough to assuage the pain of our missing piece. And we get relief from these things—from exercise, from service, from friendship. There is not one thing wrong with any of what we do.

It just doesn't fill the hole permanently. It covers it with bandages that fall off again and again. We simply cannot make it go away because the hole is part of us. It is as necessary as nostrils. It is as ordinary as lungs. We need it because otherwise we never seek to become larger than we are.

I spend a lot of time, especially in my writing life, talking about and paying attention to the existence of this hole. Because once you see it for what it is, once you glimpse that you are forever left open for something you can rarely reach, there isn't really anything else to talk about. (Not that I don't spend most of my days on exactly that Nothing!) The hole is painful, but it is the only true thing you've ever touched.

When I was seven, I came home one day and told my mother that I was from another planet and that I'd come here to save mankind. I had passed through a magic waterfall and here I was, I said. This was an expression of my dissatisfaction with the state of ordinariness and noise that I found myself living in. With one sweeping declaration, I became for myself larger than I had before. My head brushed Heaven and my feet, like roots, grew into the asphalt and concrete, connecting with the earth beneath me, entwined with every other living thing ever to put down roots.

Eventually, I grew out of this. I realized that I am not an alien, that there is nowhere to ascend to, that I had accidentally made myself a God. And yet, what was that experience but a child's expression of the essential truth I've been chasing ever since? We are born from the bliss of ignorance. We pass through the waters of our mother, living suspended, aquatic, for a time. We are pressed into a sort of reality, crushed by the pressure of being born. And then we arrive strange, like aliens, to be greeted by the loving hands of Earth. As we grow, we develop a language that we can use to understand the world. We learn that we are "me" and our mother is not. When I first spoke, I called both of us "Baby," my mother and me. Our relationship was "Baby," acknowledging the sweet understanding that the two of us were joined. Later, I learned who Tara was. And that is where I, like everyone else, began the necessary business of both losing and finding my way.

I was, in fact, a creature from elsewhere sent to save humankind. We all are. We are all Bodhisattvas, our mouths filled up with dry crumbs of separation, our tongues thirsting for the time when we will be joined. Our work is to love everyone, to save everyone. We cannot seem to do it alone or in our lifetimes. That is why there are so many of us. We, all of us, are born to care for one another. We have merely forgotten who we are.

When you begin to realize this, the knowledge doesn't come in a flash of peace and divine understanding. It is neither relaxing nor is it soft. It hits you like a hard wave of salt water, leaving slap marks on your face. It hurts. And you can never again forget that you touched the truth of it. Sometimes, days seem empty. The Self you have constructed seems vapid, claustrophobic. The methods you use, without forethought, to survive life are exposed as the scrambling of sea lice on the sand. It is no longer good enough to just exist. It's not good enough to be happy or wealthy or successful or funny or smart. You will spend the rest of your life trying to deal with the poverty of words that you have to express the wholeness you have seen.

That is why I write here. And that is why I have to stop sometimes. When my writing fills up with Self, I need to pause and again let myself be knocked back off my feet. I am not a religious zealot. I am an ordinary, skeptical, scientifically-minded liberal who can't wrap my head around what most people mean by God. And, at the same time—as my parents blessed me to be—I am Tara. Not ordinary Tara Adams, with pimples and frizzy hair. I am Tara, Mother of Compassion, she who hears the cries of the world.*

We all are. We are made to be. It is the purpose of that hole.

If all of that makes me sound crazy, please accept this version instead: I am doing fine. I am allowing myself to notice the human condition, especially as expressed in my own narrow self. I consider this both sacred and necessary and it is what I think my life is for. Nothing I've said is intended to be taken literally. Nothing of import should be taken literally, or you will always miss the truth.

Again, I love you all. Thank you for your compassion and your encouragement. I will write something light and funny again, when it feels like that is what I have to say. Thanks for sticking with me through all of it.

* Tara is the Tibetan Buddhist Bodhisattva, an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. She is correlated with Kwan Yin in the Chinese Buddhsit tradition.


  1. Oh, wow. With your last post, I thought, "She's too worried about having ambitious content to her posts and it is causing writer's block!"

    Then you come back with this and hit it out of the park.

    I have no idea what this thing we're living is. I always love to read it when other people are trying to figure it out, too.

    1. Thanks, Katy. I'm glad it made sense to somebody besides me.


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