As the Dharma Wheel Turns:
A Monastic Tale of Intrigue, Sex and Celibacy in Three Parts1
Welcome back, loyal readers. Let’s address the baby elephant in the room right off the bat. “Where have you been, Kiara?” The truth is pretty simple: happy and in love, with no genuine material for sarcastic and incisive blog posts. But I missed you guys and don’t want to leave you hanging. So I thought we’d take a trip together to a time in my love life when things were a little messier, more uncomfortable and, hopefully, more entertaining.
Today I’m going to tell you a story in detail of attachment, copulation and emotional turmoil that took place in my monastic days. It can be broken down neatly enough into three sections: Infatuation, Heartbreak and Celibacy. Each section will be its own blog post. I’m hoping you’ll relate to the emotional landscape. And, who knows, maybe if you find yourself in one such phase in your own love life, there will be some sordid comfort in these variously torrid and self-pitying accounts. Without further delay:
Part I – Infatuation
It was a hot summer in 2012 and I was in love. Or at least that’s what it felt like. You know that feeling at the peak of a purely fantastic and imagined love affair, when the presence of your crush sends you spiraling into a long-forgotten state of pre-pubescent terror? I’m talking about crushes where you’re transported physically and reduced verbally to your twelve-year-old self, when she first became aware of her capacity for romantic interest. All of a sudden you’re sweating profusely, doing a weird, affected laugh you’ve never heard before and oversharing in a way that would make even some of your established friendbase feel slightly uncomfortable. Ah yes, blossoming infatuation: a state awkward enough when your crush is only encountered for discrete portions of your life, like at the gym or office, and made distressingly more acute when you live together in a small wilderness community for Buddhists.
Though I used to find this state enjoyable, I now find it quite anxiety-producing and unpleasant. When I was first dating my dude let’s call him “Man Friend of Desire” to protect his anonymity- a close friend asked how it was going. “I really like him?” I told her, with interrogative dismay. She seemed delighted and went on to say something triggering and insensitive, like “how wonderful!” To which I replied, “I feel like I’m dying.”
But back then, I thought it was all very fun and exciting, so I floated around on giddy clouds of nervous anticipation, wondering when I was going to turn a corner and find myself face-to-face with the older gentleman who was taking up so much space in my brain, let’s just call him “SeñorCrush” for brevity’s sake. So I picked up some funny monastic OCD habits, like obsessively looking for his shoes. Before you get all judgy and weird on me, at least give me a chance to explain. Living at a temple means there are sacred spaces that demand the removal of dusty footwear. When I was SeñorCrush-stalking, I’d peek around “town” to see if SeñorCrush’s shoes had been surrendered neatly outside the meditation hall or bathhouse. Then, maybe I would decide to pay a random visit to that location. It’s like “accidentally” bumping into your crush at the gym on Saturday because you stalked him on Twitter and he was all, “Working hard at the gym #hellaswoll #beastmode #perseverance,” only the wilderness Zen version.
So I stayed crushin’ for a while, spinning elaborate fantasies of whispered conversations in the dark silence after evening meditation and, of course, of frantic robe-removal in closed quarters. What was actually happening betweenSeñorCrush and me in physical reality was a whole lot of nothing. I can see from a distance that what was happening internally for me when I focused on so much of my energy on SeñorCrush is that I was abandoning my own life and experience in favor of the one I was creating in my head.
Eventually I told SeñorCrush of my feelings. I felt strung along for a while, willingly participating in the fantasy that it still might happen, and then confronted with SeñorCrush’s very public romances with other women. [Enter Heartbreak, stage left.]