Thursday, January 17, 2008
Struggling against struggle
Awakening before 5 a.m., in the tangible cool and darkness of January, I breathe in and out, and once again, I am struck by the contradiction between my inner and outer state.
Everything that I know about my inner work is interpreted through my formatory apparatus.
Everything I talk about, everything I say, all the ideas I encounter, and every external sensory impression that I have comes together to form an object, like a stone, that blocks entry into my inner being in the same way that the stone was rolled across Jesus's tomb. My very conception of the work itself is the problem. What I create in terms of form is the biggest obstacle within me to the discovery of anything real.
Zen Buddhism attempts to find ways to defeat the machine by opposing it with conundrums that offer no answers. Islam attempts to find a way to submit, to surrender. Christianity attempts to teach us how to accept what we are with love.
Of the three, I think perhaps Christianity is the most sophisticated, because it attempts to surmount the difficulty through a process of recruitment, using the most powerful agent possible--Love--to incorporate the fact of our resistance into the reality of our life.
Whichever one we choose, unfortunately, for the most part we all remain stuck on the same piece of self-constructed flypaper. We buzz our wings furiously, giving the impression that there is a lot going on. But there we sit, fixed in the glue of what life delivers.
This morning I cracked open Gurdjieff's "Views From the Real World" at random, and read a page before I got out of bed to make my coffee. On the page -- I don't remember which chapter it was-- he said to someone, "you can't do anything." He went on to tell the person how they needed to observe themselves and see the separation between who they were, and what they were doing.
This is an excellent premise. However, the difficulty with it is that no matter which way we step, we cannot step outside of these five senses that we live through. The best that we can do is to include a sense of the inner senses within us as we live and work, and even that is quite difficult. The inner senses, the flowers, may partially open and awaken, but they still live separately from the outer senses, and it is difficult to integrate them, even when one can sense that both parts are available and active.
It is only when I intend to bring the inner and the outer together that there can be a meaningful conjunction, and, oddly, a great deal of the time I see that I don't want to be bothered with that, even though I know the stakes.
In this matter we are, perhaps, much like Americans addicted to junk food: even when offered the right kind of impressions, a savory sauce consisting of the best kind of inner food, we turn it down in favor of bulk carbohydrates with lots of sugar or salt mixed into them.
One of my stock solutions to this problem is to invest in gravity. Gravity is a very helpful force; in addition to keeping us all from flying off the planet willy-nilly in every direction, on a brief but exciting collision course with the nearest asteroid, it helps ground us. The downward movement within, sensation, the weight of reality itself, may burden our flesh, but as we suffer it, it can assist us in an effort to be more centered.
Our mortality itself functions in much the same way: a sense of the fact that we will die helps us to be alive.
If there were no death, we would not even know what life was. In this way, the weight of death, which sits on me every morning in the darkness as I awake, is not necessarily a cause for fear, but rather hope. Within the tomb there lies no corpse; no, if I can roll away the rock of outwardness, I may well find that what appears to be death, is actually life; and what appeared before to be life is, in fact, death. Paul peppers Romans with the piquant flavors of this mystery.
Whether I accept it or not, Death is the gravity of this inner planet of mine.
Less than a week ago I had a sitting where I sensed the totality of life and death as a new form of wholeness. All those images of demons and skeletons that Tibetans are so fond of populating their spiritual art with began to make sense.
There is an inner temple that includes life and death within it as equal partners, a place where death becomes as beautiful as life, where all things blend together in a constant act of transformation that cannot be labeled as creative or destructive.
My group leader Henry Brown told me of this hopeful attitude towards death many years ago, but I was too young and unformed to understand what he was getting at. As I grow older, more and more of what he told me becomes tangible.
So perhaps, instead of struggling against death, I can accept and live within both life and death; instead of struggling against myself, I can learn to struggle against my struggle, until I see that what I need to do is let go, instead of cling. If the entire structure, the entire form of what I have ingested up until now within life is the obstacle, I can struggle with it for as long as I wish; but maybe, just maybe I can toss that whole struggle aside, and try to live honestly,
right here where I am.
Trungpa certainly thought that it was not only possible, but necessary.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.