Due to circumstances beyond my control, it turns out I have time to do a post today anyway. And as it happens I really like this photograph, so am recycling it.
I've been through a series of digestive health problems over the past month that have been, to say the least, debilitating. You can't possibly realize how utterly mechanical we are about eating and digesting food until every meal you eat makes you feel bad. It reminds me of when I had very severe sciatica in college, at which time I found out that we all take ordinary things such as walking for granted.
I see that the energy that this is taking out of me has left a very little in me for emotional support. As a consequence, I see a definite negative trend developing. At my best moments, I'm pretty darn good, but at my worst, I am a whiner and a moaner, in need of a change of diapers.
This negative reaction is all taking place in my ordinary parts. The self that is separated from these parts still seems to be quite healthy, and--to my great surprise, gratitude, (and even resentment at times--I won't bother trying to explain that)--is very busy working on its own agenda.
I get these two parts confused frequently, because I forget that they are really quite separate things, and that whatever "I" am currently calling "I" stands in the middle between these two natures. There is an inherent tendency in us to try and pollute our two natures with each other. ...Is "committing adultery" mixing the higher with the lower, or the lower with the higher? I wonder. That phrase has numerous esoteric meanings, but that one hadn't occurred to me until just now.
If I have learned anything from this humbling experience, it is that we need to see ourselves within life exactly as we are now, as objectively and honestly as possible, without mincing any words or beating around any bushes. We need to see that we are emotionally fragile. We need to see that we are not strong.
This reminds me of something that my old group leader Henry Brown (God rest his soul) said to us once: "The work is not for strong people. We are here because we are weak, and we see it. Strong people don't need the work."
His comment reminds me of the need to admit that we are powerless in alcoholics anonymous. And that leads us back to Psalm 51, doesn't it?
It's this learning of humility, of seeing our place, of seeing that we are not very developed, that is so essential. Only by constantly coming up against the humbling circumstances of my life do I put aside the ego-aggrandizement that I constantly create for myself. It is in these moments of real human existence that I see what is true about my life.
This morning, as I was being wheeled into the operating room to have a minor procedure done (they looked inside my stomach with an orthoscopic device, which sounds so cool it seems a pity I had to be unconscious for it) I was deeply touched.
I was touched by every human being I encountered; each one of them a real person, making an effort -- no matter how mechanical -- to serve other people. In those few moments, the relationships with these strangers were what fed me. I truly saw how all of these people are there to help support us and to work to try and help us be healthy. I must say real tears came to my eyes as I lay there on the gurney and saw my fragility, my rather petty minor fears, and the support that these people working around me were trying to offer.
One could accuse me of just being sentimental about this, but there was something much deeper taking place. This is my life. This is real life, this is how my life is. How often do we really stop to see that? To consider where we are, and who the people around us are? To actually be there for what is happening, to sense it with the body?
It's a difficult thing, to experience this human life. If we really want to open ourselves, and accept it, we have to accept the emotional blows that we hate.
We have to suffer our suffering.
So I come again to this moment that has happened to me often this year where I see how delicate my emotions are; I see my weakness; I see how necessary it is to be honest with myself about this. At the same time, I see that there is another side to this life, a part that, although it is also weak, is trying to develop a connection with something much deeper and more sincere than my ordinary parts.
And I see that forces higher than myself are willing to support me and feed me
...only not according to my own agenda.
My confusion in the midst of this is no surprise. I don't know much about the higher; I don't know much about the lower. I have spent so little time inhabiting this place between them in any real way that I am bound to be ignorant. It's much easier to be identified with the lower, where the machine knows exactly how to respond to everything, and there is no responsibility on my part. And it's much more difficult to find a connection with the higher, which exceeds my ability to understand, and which I generally would prefer to use or abuse in an incorrect way when it touches me.
These conditions are humbling. As my own teacher told me last night, "we reach this moment where we see we haven't developed very much." We need to be honest about that. Believing that we have achieved something, that we have somehow become amazing, compassionate, powerful creatures, is perhaps the greatest delusion that we can engage in.
For myself, all of this hammers home the famous statement by Jeanne DeSalzmann, "I must stay in front of my lack."
Consequently, it seems to me at this moment that daily practice might best be turned towards the inner contemplation and outer experience of these two words:
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun