“When you live your life in accordance with basic goodness, then you develop natural elegance. Your life can be spacious and relaxed, without having to be sloppy. You can actually let go of your desperation and embarrassment about being a human being, and you can cheer up.” - Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chapter Ten.
How did he know that? How does he always know this stuff?
On Thursday morning I slept in. I didn’t have to work. I only had to be down by nine o’clock for the beginning for Shambhala Training Level II: Birth of the Warrior. I was prepared for two days of alternating between sitting and walking meditation, a few talks from a senior teacher, some additional meditation instruction, maybe a discussion group, and an aching back. I was not prepared to have fun. I was not prepared to enjoy myself.
This lineage is a marvelous thing. I don’t know how they know what they know or how they have managed to pass on what they know to so many, many people. I don’t know how these people know what to tell you, when to tell, and how to get you hang on when you feel like you are thumping your head against the wall. I don’t know how any of them had the faith to get even this far just based on the word of some strange Asian man with a funny accent, let alone the hundreds, thousands, it has taken to put the support system we now have in place so that skeptics like me can come this far.
I have been approaching my daily half hour of meditation as a chore. I was treating it like brushing my teeth or doing the dishes, just one more thing to check of my list every day. All I had to do was get through it. My intention was missing. It was a cyclical problem. Lack of motivation leads to a loss of intention which in turn feeds negative results and further diminishes motivation.
I can’t approach a training level like that. Twelve hours of meditation can’t simply be checked of the list like milk and bread. Moreover, if I truly intend to pursue this path, am I really going to go all the way through Level V just going through the motions? How stupid would that be? And what after that?
Meditation can not be a token gesture. Meditation brings mental stability which leads to insight. It cannot be forced. Stability cannot be gained through effort, only through willingness, sustained, repeatable willingness. That’s why there is “no point.”
The first morning I twisted in the wind, but it was a light breeze and I was otherwise calm. That afternoon I found giddiness (my “Bear” mind), and then a light hysteria. Not the screaming, panicking, running away waving arms panic, but the giggly, hilarious, totally inappropriate hysteria. “I wonder what would happen if I snapped her bra strap? Pinched his butt? Oooo, he took off his sweatshirt and that tank top is tight. I could just lick the back of his neck….Hehe, I wonder what she would do if I poured her water bottle on her? Wouldn’t it be cool if the magpie flew in through the open door?”
The second morning the rain cleared and we walked outside. Flagstone has such and interesting texture. It is fuzzy. In the afternoon they asked us to walk inside. There was irritation and annoyance to work with there. I have never walked that slowly! The room was thick. Then, like lightning it was over.
Jim Yensan was our teacher and he gave wonderful talks, answered questions, and growled at us, which only endeared him to me more. This was an all staff level, so our meditation instructors, umzes, coordinators, and assistant directors were all staff as well. We watched The Matrix as our evening “Dharma movie.” At our celebratory dinner we each had a “red pill” and “blue pill” (M&Ms) waiting for us on our plates. Tea snacks were filled with slightly edged laughter and barely contained energy.
My back does not hurt. I paced myself. Sit in my little rocker seat. Walk. Sit. Walk. Lie down on a zabutons on the floor with a couple of gomdens under my legs. Walk. Sit. Walk. Sit. Walk. Lie down. So on and so forth. I used my right foot falling asleep to keep myself awake. I decided this is not a good technique because, while effective, the feeling of the foot falling asleep and coming back awake is very intense and really only serves as a distraction, a kind of strange entertainment. I learned how to rock my neck every five or ten minutes to prevent it from stiffening, and how to fold, unfold, stretch, and refold my legs after I had decided not to let them fall asleep.
I didn’t figure it all out. I didn’t achieve any great epiphany. We talked about the cocoon of our habitual patterns, all those things which we use to protect ourselves from the world, to distort our view of the world into something safe. We talked about fear and going beyond fear, to fearlessness. We talked about the birth of the Warrior. And about red pills and blue pills and growling.
So passed Level II; it was because I was willing to let it be.