Sunday, October 4, 2009


Last night I was riding BART into San Francisco to attend a modern dance performance, anticipating experiencing a mixture of visual beauty, stimulation and satisfaction and nostalgic sadness. Sadness because I'm no longer participating in the SF dance community, other than as an occasional audience member. As I sat on the train watching the outside whizz by, I remembered the book I was carrying, The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron, and decided to open it at random. On the first page I landed, the word "egolessness" caught my eye. I thought, "what does that mean?" Curious, I read on.

In the words of Pema, "In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity." Ah ha! Now that sounds like a familiar topic, one being explored by this very project - Forms of Identification. She goes on: "The teachings on egolessness points to our dynamic, changing nature. This body has never felt exactly the way it's feeling now. This mind is thinking a thought, that repetitious as it may seem, will never be thought again. I may say 'Isn't that wonderful?" But we don't usually experience it as wonderful, we experience it as unnerving, and we scramble for ground. The Buddha was generous enough to show us an alternative. We are not trapped in the identity of success or failure, or in any identity at all, neither in terms of how others see us nor in how we see ourselves. Every moment is unique, unknown, completely fresh. For a warrior-in-training, egolessness is a cause of joy rather than a cause of fear."

I looked up, observing the blurred trees and buildings out my window, listening to that familiar low pitched squeal of train wheels on train tracks with an overtone of muffled voices. I felt a wave of understanding cover me, like a caring mother's hand stroking my hair, shoulders and back. I took a breath in and out, and noticed how all the sudden I felt more curious and present with myself than defeated and lost, and I thought, "Yes, I want to be a warrior."


  1. Wow, that's pretty powerful. Before I even got to the last line I was thinking that I wanted to be a warrior, too.

  2. Right on! That's, the Jessica that I know and love.