Sunday, February 10, 2008

Surrender and Defeat

I have been in a state of defeat the last couple of days. Which is not the same as surrender. Surrender is a place of strength and courage, of willingness and certainty. A cavernous heart open and vulnerable and welcoming. Fearless. Defeat is huddled on the armchair, overwhelmed and stuck. Eyes and mind shaded to beauty, potential. Even the magnificence of the sharpened blue sky cascading over the landscape is ignored. Bleakness within and without.
I could list the (tedious) reasons for this state of mind. Better still, probably many of you who know me, or something of the current circumstances of my life, could write the list for me. It is not a new list, it is worn and tattered, tea and peanut butter stains and snarled bits of lint caught in the wrinkles are evidence it has been shoved in pockets and laid on the table time after time. Life after life. Always with a sigh.
Possibly, however, your list will be incomplete. Because only I and my teacher, and those with clear hearts so pure and open they have no boundaries, know the inside out of my habits. Carried around, sometimes mournfully, as a precious definition of existence. Precious not meaning good or of value, but a refusal to abandon.
People often say how busy they know I am. Am I? Actually procrastination is an old friend. Whenever Jetsunma mentions the poison of slothfulness in a teaching, I wince. Combined with resistance, also familiar, it is a neat little package for wasting time. And feeling rotten about it.
This is not a sackcloth and ashes confession, or a solicitation for assurances of good character. Self-honesty is simply a method for exposing that which ultimately hides the truth.
Part of the dilemma has arisen from the sense of not living purely by the truth. That the apparent display of who I am, what I represent is not always in accord with the situation. This is not a reference to ultimate truth or reality, merely the day-by-day activity of my current habitation. Its uncomfortable to live in even a moment of half-truth about who you are or what you do. Although not uncomfortable enough, I guess, to provoke me to mindfully and consistently engage in pure view, which would help clear up the problem once and for all.
Yesterday the potency of mindfulness was brought to my attention. It is an accurate and sharp sword to slay confusion. It is so easy to look at the list, or the people around me, or the weather and mud and lay blame for the quirks and foibles of my life. To create an enormous mound of inconsolable reasons and let it landslide over the heart, barely leaving space for breath. Defeat seems inevitable. Yet not wallowing in the mire, and instead becoming aware in the moment, which is nought but potential, is more powerful than imagination allows.
In a teaching on fearlessness (Shambhala Sun March 02) Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said that as warriors embarking on a path of fearlessness, "We begin to feel that the we are dealing with a rich world, one that never runs out of messages." Recognising these messages in every moment of mindfulness allows apparent defeat to be the foundation of true surrender.
Yesterday was long and hard, I was tired, unwell, in pain and overwhelmed by the enormity of tasks before me. In the afternoon, a gift from a dear friend arrived for Losar, the Tibetan New Year. The white tube clearly did not contain a sweater or a pair of socks. A Dharma item, a poster perhaps. Sludging home through the mud, I reminded myself, whatever it was, it was arising in my mindstream, and to take heed of that blessing.
Opening the package, I wept. It is an exquisite thangka of Hayagriva. I have made many prayers to Hayagriva, the deity of pure speech, that my writing and speech should arise from pristine compassion and be of benefit. His statue, blessed by HH Penor Rinpoche, is centrepiece on my altar. He is an aspect of Chenrezig, the great compassionate one, whom I love dearly. Most amazing of all, my friend later told me, this thangka was one of several Dharma items bought in Taiwan, and chosen by Dragmar Tulku Rinpoche- himself recognised as an emanation of this deity. This is an indescribable treasure to appear in my life.
So there, amidst the rubble of apparent defeat, rose the warrior in my heart. A tangible message in just one moment of one day. In a sense, nothing happened at all, except a softening of the brittle shell cocooning my heart. Allowing the rawness of potential to take shape. A wild, ferocious powerful potential, on a single inhalation. Followed by a teardrop, merging silently with the ocean, invisible in the vastness. But moist, fertile. Defeat became surrender; it probably always was. There is no good or bad, there is only this one single moment of everything. An open heart will know this, and welcome every moment mindfully, tenderly, with joy.