Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Career

I realized that I had to make a living…that my interest in

Buddhism was not going to mean money. I was staying in

Boston when I had the brainstorm to become a plumber. There

were too many carpenters, and I didn’t want to work with

electricity because you couldn’t see it and it could kill you.

Not many people want to be plumbers. And I figured I could

help build meditation centers. I figured my teacher’s students

would all want to become teachers and be important. I thought

he probably wouldn’t have many plumbers as students. I was


And it was great training. My mind, at the time, was spinning

like a top…and I lived in a constant state of paranoia. Working

at plumbing, being in my body, constantly coming back to the

work…which was totally non-conceptual….was very much

like practicing mindfulness meditation, (shamatha).

My dad would have put me through graduate school…first he

suggested law school….then he suggested grad. school in

theatre, but what he didn’t realize is that had I gone that route,

I probably would have blown my brains out in a few years.

Luckily, by that time, I realized I had to figure things out for


So, I never made very much money as a plumber, but it did

what I thought it would. It allowed me to participate in the

world of my teacher to an intimate degree. It allowed me to

make a living. And it was an important aspect of my Buddhist


There are plenty of stories. The second apprentice job I had

was with this company in Boston, a partnership where one

of the partners had died, and the one that was left behind was

watching his company slowly fail. So, to compensate, they sold

stolen goods and pornographic movies out of the basement. One

morning, one of the plumbers came to work soaking wet. He had

just climbed out of the Charles river….evidently, his car wasn’t

able to do so. For some reason, I was assigned to work with

him that day. We went to the big job he’d been working on….

a multi-story building renovation. He said: “I’m going into

this room and going to sleep. Let me know if anyone comes.”

I sat outside the room for hours. He finally came out. He’d

gotten a call for a stopped up toilet in the building. We went there.

The bathroom was all tile…walls too…luckily. He started working

on the toilet with the closet auger…a short snake with a crooked

end. Nothing. He took the toilet up from the floor and put the

auger in the outlet hole and snaked it. Nothing. He got a garden

hose, hooked it up and began to wrestle with that toilet like Huck

Finn’s Uncle Jim having hallucinations. Suddenly, the largest turd

I never hoped to see slithered out of the toilet like a snake that had

surrendered. We just looked at each other, agape, in the

brotherhood of amazement.

That was one day.


At August 28, 2012 at 8:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a crazy story!!! I would think you would have to have an attitude as a plumber to deal with things like that all the time! Hopefully more then not you get to be a hero when it is all said and done...there is no relief quite like having the toilet working again.


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