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Riehlife Poem-of-the-Day: “Autobiography in Fourteen Lines,” by Susan Ollar

I met Susan Ollar eons ago it seems, at a Rigpa Tibetan Buddhist retreat. We spent the summer together at Lerab Ling in France. Since then we have become Sangha Sisters. Susan marked her 60th birthday this April. Pondering what to do about it, she decided to celebrate.

Susan recalled a conversation of ours. I'd said that in Ghana, West Africa, "Women of a certain age are considered wise, and given respect. These older women become everyone's mother."

Susan wrote a poem that burst from her heart, written in an incredibly short time. She says, "It speaks to me about my journeys and gives me reasons to laugh, sigh, cry, rest, celebrate." I feel that it's a bit of heart advice from a dedicated practitioner of Buddhist teachings given by her precious teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche.

Susan's poem takes my mind to Autobiography in five short chapters by Portia Nelson which Sogyal Rinpoche quotes in "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying."


Autobiography in Fourteen Lines
by Susan Ollar

I went searching everywhere, trying to make sense of things
I went searching high and low trying to make sense of things
I tripped on acid, smoked dope, rode the mescaline high, trying to make sense of things
I became a vegetarian, wore white, chanted mantras and thought I’d made sense of things
It didn’t last

I went to empowerments, sat on a cushion in the mountains for a month, trying to make sense of things
I got bored, watched the stories of my mind, tried to create more stories to destroy the boredom and it seemed to work. It all made sense.
It didn’t last

I dropped the search, left it on a shelf, went off to the world, searching for success
I found success, it was a hard trip and when I got to the summit, I fell down a hole and nothing made sense
I started the search again, tired, feeling feeble, this time knowing I needed a guide, someone who had made sense of things
I found him, oh my, hard to believe, I’ve gotta believe, he’s been my everything, year after year after year
Nothing makes sense, I sit on my cushion, it’s all right!

I look within, the stories go on, who cares?

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7 Responses »

  1. I applaud Susan for a lifetime encapsulated here on that cushion of honesty and humility.

  2. Thanks,Susan, for the simplicity,the feeling and the beauty of the words.

    May all your aspirations be fulfilled (if you have any),


  3. Eden, thanks for your comment filled with understanding...and the FB comment as well:

    "Coming to terms with purpose is dharma, which is a universal healer."

    I know Susan will appreciate this.



    Thanks for your comment. Good to hear from a Sangha brother who truly understands.


  4. Wonderful poem. It makes sense to me (!) unlike much else. But that is just OK. Thank You!

  5. Thank you, Eden, Michael, Rich, Janet, for your lovely comments and good wishes. It's wonderful to have companions in life who get me, especially because this poem came straight from my heart with very little thought involved. When I wrote it, I was in a state of joy, and was also feeling a bit daring. I'm often shy, but not that day. The Boulder Rigpa community, students of Sogyal Rinpoche, were having a Dharma poetry slam in celebration of the Tibetan new year (Losar). Everyone was welcome to bring their poetry or that of others who inspired them, to the festivities. I sat at my computer and the Autobiography came through, easily, quickly. I think I had a smile on my face the whole time I was writing. What a trip! I'm so grateful to have my poem on the Riehl Life website. Janet, I feel honored!

    Right now, I'm in the midst of the intense effort involved in moving out of my house for a month, while it gets demolished, and repaired, after some major water damage. I've discovered that I'm immensely attached to my home, my habits, my comforts. I'll be in a rental house with my two big dogs and the rental owner's big cat, Comet, one of the biggest cats I've seen (she affectionately calls him "Pig". ) The big question mark is how my dogs (one of whom has never seen a cat in his life, until Comet) coexist with Comet in the new environment.

    Wish me luck!

    Thanks to everyone, again.


  6. Susan,

    Your poem takes my mind to "Autobiography in five short chapters," by Portia Nelson which Sogyal Rinpoche quotes in "The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying."

    Happy 60th birthday once again. Yes, a time of joy, dread, disbelief, and wonder.

    Even though your poem was written in an amazingly short time, the poem's creation was decades in the making.

    Janet Riehl


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