Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Does Alice Live In Southern California?

I am in what seems like a diva realm to me; Southern California. The air is warm, everything seems clean and beautiful. There are palm trees everywhere and being March, everything is green. In some places the air is filled with the scent of orange blossoms and miscellaneous flower scents unknown to me. The gardens are magnificent. Even the small homes seem uncannily perfect in my eyes. Perception, imagination, the mind forms its opinions and assessments of what it takes in, in an instant. I saw a card in a spiritual book store the other day that reminded me, "with our minds we create our world". The quote was attributed to the Buddha and reminded me of the great power of our minds, how we need to use them with care and attention.

I find my senses filled with so many things in this perfect land. I greedily drink in the beautiful people and their antics. I could people watch for hours here. I am amused and entertained and slightly removed as if I am watching a movie. There is an unreality to it all.

And if the smelling and seeing isn't enough, there is the tasting. Twenty-five pounds of organic oranges for $10 fresh from the orchard. Avocados and fresh pecans, walnuts and dates, I've even bought a cherimoya to try. There are more amazing raw and vegan products in the stores than I can believe. I want to try them all but my wallet offers a cautionary note!

And so goes the festival of the senses. When does it tip over into greed, instead of mere appreciation and enjoyment? Where does one cross the line into craving and desire? How can we tell? How quickly does it happen and what are the signs? I wonder about these things as I eat the most amazing raw chocolate mousse made from Irish moss and brazil nut milk and cocao powder at Planet Raw in Santa Monica.

And do you see the Buddha here in the picture? He sits at the entry way to Venice Beach. Is he offering refuge to lost souls or perhaps simply emitting his energy to offer balance and calm. Or maybe he is simply bearing witness to the crazy things us humans get up to. Actually the sign near by tells you to stop or you will incur tire damage.

Now while this neck of the woods is beautiful, it seems a hot bed of excess if you look a b it. You can watch people pull up in front of the raw food restaurant in their black mercedes, call up on their cell phone for a juice and thrust a credit card out the window as one of the slightly harried young servers goes by. Ten minutes later you might find yourself nose to nose with a street person showing you a stuffed rabbit playing music. A young man passed me on the street and asked me if I could hear God.

There is so much of everything here sometimes it makes my head spin: the beach houses in Malibu, the houses on the hill that look like they might be museums, the upmarket hotels and swanky restaurants, the high end clothing stores, the spas and home decor shops. It is easy to feel their tug as you see them over and over. I remember the Dalai Lama saying that after driving by the fancy shops day after day, even he felt the lure of some of these things, even though he didn't know what half of them were. And so perhaps we humans are a bit like racoons, attracted to the shiny things we see, the tug of desire raised easily with little provocation? The inward gaze easily distracted by outward glitz.

And it is fun here in the land of perpetual sense excitement, the novelty of it all. But as I stroll the botanical gardens or the take in the produce in the farmers market I look forward to my return to a quieter life, with active tasks to do, to paint and garden and prepare meals. But I remind myself to enjoy the present, the beaches, the flora, the friendly folks who offer free goji berries as I wander their shop, or the free recorded Quan Yin prayer when I buy a small Quan Yin statue. I am easily drawn to feel slightly guilty in the presence of all this. But that I remind myself is wrong view. It requires awareness and some vigilance to enjoy, to remember to be present for the beauty, to drink it in, to not grumble when this orange isn't as juicy as the last and not to fall down Alice's rabbit hole of sensual desire.


  1. For me one of the great pleasures is to see myself being drawn to that which is strange and new, and then, after a surprisingly short period of time realize that I am comfortable where I am already, and that in terms of training/practice, we don't have "to go to dusty foreign places" (Dogen) to find our True selves. Thanks for nice slice...

  2. "be present for the beauty." I love that line.

    Southern California and Northern California are definitely sub-cultures.

    Glad you're enjoying all the fresh fruit and vegetables.

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