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Geri Larkin

Stumbling toward Enlightenment
Berkeley, Celestial Arts, 1997.
"Many religious teachers talk about the nourishing waters of prayer and meditation. What we are nourishing is wisdom. And once you have your first taste of real wisdom, you won't want to look back. Then you're on the path for real. Wear good shoes." (p. 61)
Larkin's ironic humor endeared this book to me. And the fact that she mostly talks about herself, her own struggles to walk her chosen path. I did feel preached at occasionally, for example when she says
"Whining has become a part of our social landscape, and it feds worry, fear, and shame like dry pine needles feed a fire. We are so proficient at it, and it is so seductive, that only your gut committment to spiritual growth, your promise to yourself that you are going to keep going no matter what happens, will move you past...." (p. 196)
Since I am not only proficient at whining but habitually identified with it, this kind of judgment just tends to encourage my self-blame. (See my discussion of negative ego.) And I don't think my feeling lectured at there was only my stuff; the contrast to the quote above it is evident.
But far more often than preaching, she's setting an example for being compassionate with ourselves as we stumble along. My favorite part is Chapter 9, "The Invaluable Lessons of Miserable Days." Here's a sample:
"First I was late waking up, and I was the one responsible for chanting the whole temple awake. I remember opening my eyes, looking at the clock which told me it was almost five AM, mumbling, 'oh shit,' and running full force downstairs to open the gate before anyone tried it and found themselves locked out of morning practice. I tripped over my pants and fell halfway down the stairs, picked myself up, and then walked smack into a door which I couldn't see because I hadn't bothered to flip on any light switches in my rush. Then not a single match would light when I was preparing the candles on the altar in the meditation hall, and halfway through my chanting everyone else awake I realized that I desperately needed to urinate, so I snuck into the bathroom where I proceeded to chant at the top of my lungs hoping that the other residents would think the extra sound they were hearing was rain. I forgot half the chant, I was so distracted. Then when everyone else joined me in the meditation hall for deep bows my pants slid down to my knees because I had forgotten to retie the belt in my mad dash from the bathroom. I burned the breakfast oatmeal and put too much ginseng in my tea, which made it taste like I was sucking on a filthy sock. At my grimace, the temple priest looked over at me and quietly said, 'Oh, a bad hair day,' and went back to drinking her tea." (p. 84)
© Copyright Catherine Holmes Clark 1996; last updated 28 January 1999