Saviors, Eugene

I’ve been thinking about saviors. How much I want one sometimes. How rare they seem! Even though all my Buddhist and yogic teachings about cause and effect don’t really make space for them, somehow there’s still space in my heart for the possibility of being saved. I can imagine salvation, sure, in the impersonal way that openness arises when the ego softens for a moment or looks the other way, but have a harder time with the personifications of that saving. Savior! I can’t even say the word without thinking about the Jesus of my childhood, who was supposed to be there to catch me the moment my bike tire hit a rut in the road and he saw my body flying, flying… falling. But we fall.

One of my Dharma teachers, Eugene Cash, beloved by many Bay Area practitioners, had a terrible bike accident a couple weeks ago while riding up Route One with the Buddhist Bike Pilgrimage. He was badly injured, and in critical condition for many days. He is doing better now, and beginning a long climb toward healing. Sara and I are praying for him, reading the updates every day, and I notice the ripple of shock that still passes through me whenever I see him, in my mind’s eye, in the hospital, pale and in pain. How many times the same reminder comes! Everything changes. “This is how it is”, Eugene would always remind us. Now his wife Pam reminds everyone in her note about him. This is how it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Saviors. Almost everybody wants one. The liberals want a liberal savior — the one they elected turned out to be human — and the conservatives want one in their flavor to oust the Other. Crowds of protestors want one, here and around the world. Why am I surprised? It’s such an ancient cry. The Hanuman Chalisa, Tulsidas’ gorgeous prayer to the monkey god that we sing each month in kirtan, says “You release from affliction all those who remember you in thought, word, and deed.” And so many religions make the same promise on behalf of their deities. But who is really there to receive my remembrance, to release me?

This month, change rocked Yoga Mandala, the studio where I teach. The managers called a meeting and told the teachers that we would close in three weeks unless a buyer was found. In shock, and out of our love for the studio and the students, a handful of teachers got together immediately to see if we could buy it ourselves. For a few days we dreamed and planned, and just as we were deciding that we were not ready, Yoga Tree stepped in with an offer. Saved! As Yoga Mandala morphs into Yoga Tree Telegraph this month, I feel dizzy in a way that feels more honest than the stability I often rest in. What if stability is such a deep, hypnotizing illusion that becoming more present is actually DE–stabilizing? If seeing more clearly How It Is actually takes the ground out from under us? Chogyam Trungpa suggests that this is in fact the case. That as we wake up we realize that we are free–falling, which seems like bad news, until we realize there’s no ground.

Without ground, what need is there for a savior? What possibility of one? Jesus isn’t there to catch us as we fall. But we so rarely notice that Jesus is the air itself, whispering in our ear the whole way down. And there’s no end to falling. And no end to the whispering.

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