Monday, September 24, 2007

Ambition vs. Participation

When we meet our moments in our lives, too often, we meet them with ambition.

We always want every moment to be a certain way, to offer a certain kind of support, to provoke stimulation, in other words, to satisfy. We tend to arrive at every moment of life saturated with the need for things to be the way we want them to.

I was discussing this briefly with my local workplace spiritual genius, Annie, who has a lifetime of practice in grass-roots Christianity. This morning, she put it thus: we do not want the will of the Lord to be done, we want our own will to be done.

This is ambition. We don't participate in life, we demand of it.

When one finds oneself in repose, receiving life as it arrives, one has the opportunity to participate more. This may not be some massive, fabulous altered state of higher consciousness, which is what we too often demand of our spiritual work. It might be quite simple. We might just be living, receiving our lives and accepting them.

We won't be fabulous. We will just be.

Chogyam Trungpa spends a good deal of time explaining that ambition, the desire to get somewhere, to be better, to be "good," is basically a product of ego. When Mr. Gurdjieff advised his followers that man cannot "do," he may have been referring to this ...as we are, everything comes from ego, and ego does not do, it demands.

It wants, it needs, it must have.

As stated in the first two of the four Noble truths of Buddhism, we suffer, and the root of our suffering is desire, or demands. So ambition, the desire to get somewhere -- yes, the desire to get somewhere in our spiritual path -- is actually where our suffering begins. We are all so busy trying to get somewhere, we never see where we really are.

My original group leader, Henry Brown, who is dead these many years, God rest his soul, called our effort in spirituality the effortless effort.

The effortless effort is one of receiving and giving, not demanding and taking. To begin to understand this requires a revolution in which everything is overthrown. It's only when we realize that the whole regime is corrupt that anything new becomes possible.

In "Cutting through Spiritual Materialism," Trungpa says:

"We are too keen to learn something, too busy attending to our ambition to progress on the path rather than letting ourselves be in examining the whole process before we start...

...This was the experience of the Buddha. After he had studied numerous yogic disciplines under many Hindu masters, he realized that he could not achieve a completely awakened state simply by trying to apply these techniques. So he stopped and decided to work on himself as he already was. That is the basic instinct which is pushing its way through. It is very necessary to acknowledge this basic instinct. It tells us that we are not condemned people, that we are not fundamentally bad or lacking." (Pages159-160.)

Yogananda said much the same thing. There's plenty of hope out there.

We don't trust in ourselves. We don't have a right valuation of self. If self is a tiny, needful, grasping thing, then all it can grasp and get to satisfy itself is tiny things. It doesn't know that it would be much happier if it stopped wanting things and just saw what it had.

There needs to be a much more expansive and global acceptance of Being within us. Real Being does not need to take and grasp more and more in order to satisfy its self; it is already satisfied when it gets here.

Here's a revolution: we can give ourselves permission to defy the message the Rolling Stones summed up our society with, and start out satisfied! How 'bout that?

That which is already satisfied has no ambition. It offers itself by default the opportunity to participate in life, to inhabit what is rather than bend it to its own will.

We have such beautiful possibilities in front of us. There is so much good that could grow within us and be offered to others. Do we sense this?

Usually, I think we don't.

I'm tempted to continue here, but this seems to be enough for today.

May your trees bear fruit.


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