The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

The Poetry and Prose of John Omniadeo

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Summon the Protectors (Sunday cont.)

My Prostration retreat started all bright eyed and bushy tailed on Friday the 7th, but ended last night around midnight with a round of somewhat seedy, distracted and flaccid prostrations in Chinatown and then at UN Plaza on the grass. My bones ache.

As my retreat ended I ate the last of the schizophrenic's candy and offered its sweetness and anything good from my practice to Diotima and her fellow practitioners in Montreal sitting Zen Sesshin (a real retreat and not some trumped up John O. fiasco) and to all real practitioners, and to the many who have supported me, including you, Dear Reader, and to my Saint Anthony's Dining Room sponsors, and to the people of the Tenderloin and all of San Francisco and everywhere, and to my friends, my enemies and those unknown to me, all beings without exception.

I hope you all get something out of this because I feel like a failure. I am still John and nothing has changed.

Just because I am a failure, doesn't mean you are, though. Meditation is about living life as it is, and whatever your life is, it isn't John's life.

The whole point of these writings is to encourage friends to explore different types of prayer (I like the word “aspiration” but in everyday talk “prayer” will do) and different ways of approaching and practicing meditation and dharma in its most universal sense. All this stuff about John's adventures is just so many blurbs on the cereal box. I'm going to forget that from time to time, so it's best if you don't.

I will talk about doing the prostrations and how they relate to prayer and meditation at some point but it's a lot better story if I get there by way of Summoning the Protectors. One problem is that when it comes to prostrations there is not much to talk about, as my co-bower and friend Muddy Bill points out wittily in his report about his own prostrations. You just keep doing them over and over and sometimes when you start you're stiff and can hardly do them at all, and sometimes you are distracted or weak and end up pausing too long facedown in a day dream on your cardboard, and sometimes you get in a flow in the present moment and it's all downhill on spiritual easy street and the heart opens and the connection between your heart and your throat and your eyes opens and you are able to take in everything inside of you and outside of you without judgment. As I said, there's really not much to talk about. So it's easy to just start talking about something about which there is so much to talk about, and if you're John, John comes easily to mind.

Anyway, bowing, mantra and prayer are good ways to summon the Protectors. The only ways I know, personally. (If you add a little discrete fasting sometimes, that can help too.) So let me tell you about them, since that is closer to being about me.

Obviously the first Protector to show up on this retreat was the schizophrenic with his “this will help” candy. That's why on Sunday (we're still on Sunday) I brought the donations box, the one with the sign that spymistress Emma Peel said was too small. Even though I was not getting donations, it had the candy and the dollar from my first donor and a few other coins in it and I wasn't ready to leave home without them.

(The mysterious Emma Peel, by the way, was the second Protector to show up on this retreat, but she left Friday so I wouldn't be over-protected. She was not wearing stiletto heels when I saw her, looking for all the world like another Starbucks clone so none would suspect, but it was clear she would wear and do anything necessary on assignment.)

When I bow I usually recite my version of a refuge prayer, but because I had been inspired by thinking of Lama Lodro on the crack dealer's corner I had decided that all day Sunday I would sing the Mani while I bowed.

I hope I haven't butchered the melody too much over the years, but I learned this way of singing the Mani by listening to Lama sing it on an Eight Nyung Nye retreat. He said he learned it from some wandering yogi whose whole practice seemed to be to wander and sing it. The old yogi sneaked across borders without papers all over Central Asia with a shrug saying, “I don't do anything wrong.” He probably got the practice from his Guru, but Lama wasn't sure. It is a rich deep melody that climbs from low registers in the belly to high registers through the forehead and then returns to the heart, seeming to touch and free all centers as it vibrates. OM MANI PADME HUNG

The point of meditation is not to seek altered states. Those aching distracted, despairing moments are just as important as when you're in synch and grooving with your mantra. But as long as you stay aware, you can be with both, so you don't have to NOT groove with your mantra when that happens either. The point then is to raise energy to power more awareness so you can surf the waves of pride and shame and not drown in them. Every mantra, along with its other meanings, is saying “wake up.”

Now on Sunday, I was grooving. I had stolen Fire. I knew how I would rend the Veil. The prostrations flowed. My soreness seemed to leave me. I was in the zone.


When I stood up, my head lifted upright above my chest and shoulders and I could feel my heart open to the mystery of myself and all the other experiencing, sentient beings around me seen and unseen. I knew our miseries and joys and the emptiness thereof. Their miseries could come to me. The Lord of Love could handle them all. The benefits of my practice could go to them. Nothing to hang onto.

I went down and breathed out the whole John fixation onto the cardboard and just gave up on any attempt to contrive or manufacture or react to experience at all. I let go. My prostration retreat was working.

“Get the FUCK up!”

I turned my head to see a woman whom I have seen downtown over the years. She has a bull dykish buzzcut with a little mohawk look to it and rides her bike and spews streams of obscenities while grimacing wildly and chewing her own teeth. (I believe this is an extreme form of Tourette's syndrome. It used to be called possession by a demon.) She has never noticed me in particular before but has included me in her general disgust with everything around her from time to time.

Today, Sunday, the Lords Day, because I am doing prostrations and bowing while chanting the Mantra of the Lord of Love, she has noticed me in particular.

“You heard me. Get the FUCK up!”

She throws her bike down in disgust, making it clear that I will pay for making her treat her own prized possession so badly. She walks across the sidewalk swaying and dangling her arms in a universal primate move that translates as, “Your ass is grass.”

She squats next to my donations box. It would not be polite to repeat everything she called me. She reads the too small sign, and says, “You got no permit, I am clearing this shit out.” She reaches for my box.

Now even when we have opened our hearts, there are times when we have to take action. We might justify this by saying we are acting for a greater good. Or we might admit that we are still attached to some things (like cardboard and candy) and just let our actions arise with the play of phenomena.

I remained cool and saw the Lord of Love in the center of her Neanderthal stance, radiating her contorted grimaces.

“Please don't take my box,” I said.

She seemed ready to grab the box and I'm not sure what I would have done if she had, but two things happened. First she seemed to become aware of something behind me, so she was starting to rush things a bit. And then she became aware of the schizophrenic's candy.

Her eyes lit up and she grabbed a handful of the precious “this will help” sweetness, thrusting it at me and taunting me with it, as if to say, “I'm taking it, so try to stop me.”

I started to say, “Take the candy, it's yours,” but I realized she needed a victory so I said, “Oh please don't take my candy,” in a tone that was probably a little too flat. But she didn't notice. I had dared her.

She stole the schizophrenic candy brazenly and defiantly but she was retreating very quickly, and I saw why she was willing to compromise on the candy.

A tough looking black man came at her threateningly from behind me. He was not actually that tough, but all black men are tough by definition to many people, and he was trying to look tough, and he had big shoulders and a cane that was obviously not for walking because he was walking just fine and raising it like a weapon.

“Git the FUCK out of here and leave him alone.”

She had retreated, but he was going after her. I said, "Hey man, it's okay; don't hurt her. She just livin in her own world.”

“She a bitch. I don't care if she crazy, man. I know she crazy. But she oughtn't to treat you like that. I seen you man. You cool just doing your thang here mindin you own bizness. Don't be hurtin nobody.”

He is still acting like he might go after her, so I try a little redirection.

“I like your cane.” He suddenly seemed sheepish.

“Aww it's a cheap thing. Fact, I hit her, it probly break.” He laughed at that and so did I and I knew the incident was over. I asked his name. Ricky.

“Thanks for the protection, Ricky. You the man.” We bump fists.

He went off feeling like he had done a good deed, not knowing that he too was probably saved by the schizophrenic's candy.

I went back to my prostrations and thought about all the Protectors. Of course the crazy mean woman was one of them. She told me to “Get the fuck up” when I was getting too comfortable in my practice. That's how you summon the Protectors, by the way. By seeing everything and everybody just that way. The Mani helps.

This made me think of the Guard and how I had slammed shut the Veil of the Temple by being so mean and laughing at him. It was time to go rend the Veil up on Nob Hill. Of course at that time, I thought would penetrate the Secret Female Place on the same journey, but I have a lot to learn about women, and “How I Rend the Veil” will be my last post about Sunday, The Lord's Day.

After that my retreat starts getting weird.

Love to All,

John O.


  1. I am sad to read signs of you losing faith in yourself John. I am loving reading of your retreat, and your bravery and open-ness.... and isn't it usually true that the real fruits of these things do not become apparent until some time has passed? It doesn't sound to me like there is any failing going on here - just alot of living, and being unusually aware of that living. It's hard not to be hard on oneself n'est ce pas?

  2. c4cara, thank you for your are right about many things but I want to issue two warnings:

    1) John O. is a master showman, con man and prevaricator and you can't trust a thing he says. If he says he feels like a failure, odds are he really thinks he is the coolest guy on the planet. He fears especially those who know these amount to the same thing.

    2)When the "fruits of practice" show up, it really is best to give them away and return to being what you were, in my case an ordinary failure. Otherwise you start having to carry them around with you and they start weighing you down like an old piece of wet cardboard.

    Thank you so much for writing.

    Yours in the Mystery

    John O.

  3. What failure? Much has changed. Words on my screen. Events in peoples' lives. Not just the people you spoke to/who spoke to you--the ones who saw you from a distance and didn't talk, but may have passed you every day all week. Your muscles and your lungs have changed. You are not the same John who started out a week ago--mentally, physically, emotionally. Not possible. What did you think would happen? (= to what outcome were/are you attached?) Let that go and just look at what did happen. i.e., Lots. You have thrown a pebble into the ocean, and the ripples will keep on going to shores you know nothing of. Be well.

  4. Maringouin,

    The outcome I was looking for was to wake up somewhere (preferably with Diotima) to the enjoyment of eternal youth and infinite wealth with all the denizens of the Tenderloin healed and whole and eternally young and wealthy also. It didn't happen, okay?

    Can a man not enjoy a little simple self pity anymore without all this introspection?


    John O.

  5. Ah. I see. I failed to grasp the big picture... wow that's a BIG picture! Okay: bummer. In terms of the big picture. But I shall persist in believing (in the tangled insides of my own mind) that you've done something really very special and I'm a bit awed that I'm able to call you friend.