Notes on a Buddhist path

Leonard Cohen, I’ve got to be goin’…

January 20, 2013 By | 2 Comments

I’m tired of choosing desire, I’ve been saved by a blessed fatigue.” ~ Leonard Cohen

I’ve never seen Leonard Cohen in concert. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will

Two years ago when I moved to Victoria he was performing the night I arrived; an auspicious welcome to a city that has proven to be a deep and loving home to me. I would have seen Leonard that night were it not for the fact I was exhausted from loading up three households of stuff, two bravado ferry rides across storm riddled waters, and driving for five hours with my two cats sharing their vocal consternation the entire trip. Oh, and I couldn’t afford to go. Leonard is quite an expensive craving.

Last week tickets went on sale for Leonard’s new concert tour making an auspicious end of winter stop in my dear home town. When I saw the newspaper ad announcing the show, my heart skipped a frolicking beat. Perhaps I would finally be able to experience the legend of Mr. Cohen up close and personal. Well, maybe not that up close; although I can now afford to see Leonard, my budgetary proximity is closer to the outskirts of acquaintance than a nearby friend. Still, there was the possibility of our being in the same mammoth hall sharing hours of his dark molasses voice and sweet, sweet music. Then I read the date of the concert; it was the same night my meditation retreat will begin at Birken Forest Monastery.

Ah, irony and its irrepressible sense of humour. I had to smile when I realized the beauty of this confluence of timing. After my most recent reflections on my cravings, it’s incredibly fitting that Leonard would be juxtaposed with meditation. He spent five years at a Zen monastery in California and was even ordained as a Zen monk (his Dharma name was Jikan, meaning “Silent One”). His quiet sensuality and Buddha nature meld well with the subdued brilliance of his music; he is, as The New Yorker describes his most recent recording, a Higher Leonard.

Besides knowing I wouldn’t witness that Higher Leonard in the tangible future, I found that the craving to see him had more of the markings of a habit than a true desire. It was an old tape, a looping pattern of longing, whispering not so softly in my ear that I needed to experience this man in person before one of us died. Yet when I checked in on how I was truly feeling about our elusive cosmic date, I found there was really no hunger for Mr. C rumbling around in my belly. Instead a sense of gratitude quenched the furrows of me in realizing the tanha, the thirst, had dissipated. My true joy lay in knowing that I will be deep in silence on my mediation cushion when Leonard’s first note parts from his lips in my fair city. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Will I ever see Leonard Cohen? If our paths cross in a synchronistic dance of fortuitous calendar and budgetary rhythms…maybe.  For now I know my desire for wisdom and concentration is stronger than my yearning for music and a stadium filled with Leonard Cohen cravings.

I’m tired of choosing desire, I’ve been saved by a blessed fatigue.” Amen to that Mr. Cohen. And Hallelujah.

Leonard Cohen, “Crazy To Love You

Excerpt from “Crazy To Love You”, written by Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas, from Old Ideas, (c) 2012

Quote from “Leonard Cohen’s Zen Sensuality” by Ariel Levy, The New Yorker, February 23, 2012

Image credit:  Leonard Cohen via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Oh wow I’ve never really listened to this song or maybe I wasn’t ready to hear it…after this year, to listen to this…thanks Tess, it really sat me down to think. I’ve been writing poetry all my life and would love to have seen him too…I haven’t, whether it was because I was nursing an asthmatic son or just so broke I couldn’t afford nosebleed seats, it just never happened. Maybe we can go together one day, and sit in the whirling blue light of his magical words.

    • Mags, I would be ecstatic to see Leonard with you. I’ll keep that future one day open for us to share his magical words.

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