Stay in Touch

June 2018 Musings

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”
--Alexandra K. Trenfor
If one is an awareness practitioner, then everything happening in one’s sphere is part of the curriculum. We’ve enrolled in a course titled “A Transformation of Seeing,” where training centers not on what we see but how we see. We’re taught to become stewards of the attention, which we soon come to realize is key to how we “perceive” the world. When attention is on the habitual beliefs and assumptions of conditioned thinking, our vision is clouded and our perception of life, distorted. When attention is on Awareness, we are present to Life as it is and perceive it with a startling immediacy and clarity. And of course, we suffer less! 
Lessons in this school of Life are seldom straightforward and the gradient of difficulty increases with practice. We have to surrender much of what we know to grasp the basic principles. And just when we’re frustrated beyond belief by our inability to comprehend the teachings, Life compassionately delivers a tiny hint or a giant clue about where to look, and sometimes even what we need to see.
Most recently, the hint arrived in the form of a song from the seventies musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” (Yes, it seems this classroom uses all kinds of visual aids and borrows from all religious traditions to educate!) Christ sings the following in the garden of Gethsemane, as he awaits his arrest and subsequent execution.
If I die what will be my reward?
I'd have to know, my Lord,
Why should I die?
Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain?
Show me just a little of your omnipresent brain.
Show me there's a reason for your wanting me to die.
You're far too keen on where and how, but not so hot on why.
Alright, I'll die!
Just watch me die!
See how I die!
Then I was inspired.
Now, I'm sad and tired.
After all, I've tried for three years, seems like ninety.
Why then am I scared to finish what I started,
What you started –
I didn't start it.
God, thy will is hard,
But you hold every card.
I will drink your cup of poison.
Nail me to your cross and break me,
Bleed me, beat me,
Kill me.
Take me, now!
Before I change my mind.
Everyone finds themselves in their version of the Garden of Gethsemane at one time or another (perhaps multiple times) to face the inevitability of what has to come to pass to be free of suffering. In the face-off between ego-identity and Life, will the choice be for the crucifixion of ego-identity; will there be the willingness to unconditionally surrender “my will” so “thy will is done?”
No one willingly comes to the Garden of Gethsemane. Fortunately, the curriculum in Life’s school is constructed as a series of encounters that wears away “my will.” Over and over again, we are faced with circumstances that are not going “my way.” Over and over again, we are confounded by our inability to affect outcomes. Over and over again, we’re required to come to terms with our lack of agency. We rage, we grieve, we despair, we sulk, we retreat, we lash out only to be met by the compassionate silence of Holy Indifference.
There are few things worse than being identified with a thwarted ego railing against its inability to order the course of existence. We could easily spend years in a dark room, identified with being a victim of circumstances, angry at “my” lack of choice. But perhaps until we have experienced that level of suffering, that level of anguish at being that separate from Life, we won’t freely choose the Unconditional in every moment.
With practice, one principle becomes abundantly clear. Awakening is just not available on ego’s terms. It’s not a contest. We’re never graded. We are simply given as much time and as many opportunities as we need to surrender whatever version of “my will” that still resists “how it is.”
Growing up in India forges an assumption of faith that Gods and Goddesses exist to intercede on one’s behalf. Whether it’s to ensure an auspicious start to a business venture or secure the harmony of a marital partnership, there is always a power to be petitioned. It has taken years of Zen practice to “see” why no “God” interceded on Christ’s behalf to save him from dying on the cross.
The Buddha taught that we have one person to save, ourselves, and we should each work out our salvation diligently. As long as we’re holding out to be “saved,” we’re still identified with the illusion of separation; we’ve still not grasped the essence of our True Nature.  As it says in What You Practice Is What You Have:
What we are being guided to do is cease to identify with the ego-self, recognize our authentic nature, an expression of the Intelligence That Animates all… and from that place of conscious compassionate awareness embrace into unconditional love the incarnation that has believed itself to be that separate ego self. The movement from being mentored to being the Mentor is how a person can “work out your own salvation diligently.”
In a flash of intuitive grace, you find, at last, unconditional love and acceptance for the you that you were taught to see as a sinner, the despicable person that self-hate has beaten, and in that moment of acceptance, you realize that the sinner is the saint who has been teaching you how to love unconditionally.
In that moment of intuitive grace, it is possible to realize that we are the sinner, the saint, the unconditional love and acceptance, and the awareness that contains it all.”
Being met by Silence in the garden of Gethsemane, surrendering to the death of the ego, and not being saved from the crucifixion are all steps on the road to resurrection. It’s all a necessary part of the process.
Is it worth it? What’s the reward?
The Buddha smiles serenely.
In an old Zen story, a jolly, little figure dances in the marketplace handing out sweets to little children.
And a monk at a Monastery writes:
Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, grass grows by itself.