November 28, 2006

Wrong Bus

The other day, I got on the wrong bus. I know very well every bus in Lincoln does a loop around the downtown and past the state capitol, except for two, Number 1 and Number 24. All other busses make this loop, so I felt comfortable hopping on the Number 11 as I passed the bus stop, to let it take me the few blocks to home. Instead, it immediately turned onto the interstate and started heading in the exact opposite direction. “Oh well,” I shrugged, they all make a circle eventually.

I often wonder if I am riding the wrong bus. What Buddhism teaches often seems at odds with my goals. I spend my time working towards the future, always the future, always planning and scheming and hoping things will be better. I am certainly not in the present moment. Buddhism teaches that nirvana is now and that right now we truly have everything we need to be happy. I believe that, but sometimes it seems that if I were truly happy I would not be seeking change so ardently.

I think perhaps I am overcomplicating things. (A talent of mine.) Being happy with the present moment doesn’t mean I should do nothing. Pursuing my goals is part of my present moment. Surely I can do both, but the balance is precarious. It is not always easy to check my daydreams in favor of my real moments and sometimes I am so lost in now, usually when now is unpleasant and dispiriting, that I loose sight of the larger picture.

I have two choices in front of me and both seem to lead to the same future. I can stay with my job at the University and become a graduate assistant next summer, working on the same program all summer, transitioning into a leadership role, and taking the project in the direction I think it should go. The financial benefits are considerable and there is a high degree of certainty. Alternatively, I can leave this job in order to work on a project with Shambhala Mountain Center which will become my thesis (terminal project) and allow me to do exactly the in-depth research I really want to. The financial benefits are practically non-existent and the level of uncertainty is high.

Before the Shambhala design project, I would have felt that option number one was exactly what I wanted. Now, opportunities have presented themselves to bring together all the aspects of my education I felt were irreconcilable. I can fold Buddhism into my architecture and practice planning with social theory. I can explore everything I’ve wanted to. At least, I think I can.

The other day, I sat on the bus as it went its merry way wondering to myself if it really was going to end up where I thought it was. It was late, and there was a chance this was the last bus and it was heading back to the barn. Then I would have to call a cab to take me home, and that would cost money. No matter what choice I make, there is a chance it will take me places I didn’t plan on going and that it will cost more than I ever reckoned it would.

The other day, I sat on the bus and surely enough it took me exactly where I needed to be, even if the ride was long and traveled through unfamiliar territory.

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