Friday, February 22, 2013

Winning By Surrendering

All right, i'm not leaving this house until i write something about the henro trail. I don't know why i have so much trouble sitting down and writing on this blog any more?

I guess the easiest way to get started is to thank Damian for his wonderful comments to my last post and say something about my reaction to those.

He wrote: "When I was on the pilgrim trail, I was often tired, sometimes wet, or hot, or lost, or unsure of where I would sleep that night, but I don’t believe I ever didn’t want to be there. Many a time, I remember thinking, regardless of what is happening around me, I don’t want to be anywhere else, doing anything else."

This is what i think of as the third stage of the henro life. As people set off from Ryōzenji, Temple 1, they are full of spit and fire (as my grandfather used to say) and are ready to conquer the world. They are thrilled to be on Shikoku and finally starting something that they may have been planning for years. I thought about it for a decade before i finally walked it the first time.

Somewhere near the end of the first week, some then start to notice thoughts floating through their heads along the lines of "What the heck am i doing here? Can i really do this? With these blisters ever heal? Will my muscles ever stop hurting? When will i ever find some real food again?" At this stage, you are still consciously thinking about the henro trail. In the first stage the associations are positive in the second stage the associations are questioning or negative.

For those that stick it out and settle into a routine, there is a sense of surrender, a sense of losing oneself into the routine of a henro's daily life. You're neither happy to be there nor unhappy for what you are putting yourself through. The daily hardships are over, your body is getting stronger, and since the routine from day-to-day varies so little, there really isn't anything that need to be thought about, considered, and decided. What will come up will come up. I'll find somewhere to sleep and will sleep. I'll find food and will eat when i do. I'll get to the next temple when i walk the requisite number of kilometers so there's no reason to keep looking at the maps. Just keep that subconscious eye open looking for that next little henro marker.

Once you settle into this frame of mind, 'contentment' is the best word i can think of to describe your life. Maybe 'equanimity,' but i prefer contentment. You don't want to be anywhere else, not because life is so great and you're having so much fun, but because, maybe for the first time, you are living, as opposed to existing, which, unfortunately, is what the majority of people alive do and call a life.

And when you settle into that frame of mind, you realize how beautiful it is and take your very first peak at why people pursue a spritual life. Even if you don't really understand it, you've had that first peek.

Damian also wrote: "I do not think of myself as having had “experiences” there. I just 'was' there."

Absolutely true. Why? Because in the act of surrender, whether you call it that or not, you have taken the first step in letting go of the ego. You have made that leap and found a way to live that is not driven by your ego, your personal wants, your personal agenda, your personal storyline, your personal desire to win, come out ahead, to get that job, to get that scholarship, to get that kensho experience, to get enlightened.

All of those 'experiences,' those daily interactions between a you, in here, and everyone and everything, out there, are just no longer important. All that matters anymore is getting up in the morning, walking during the day, eating enuogh to keep going, and going to bed at night. Then repeat one day at a time until you look up and find yourself standing in front of Temple 1 again.

This is a beautiful place to be. Amazingly beautiful. 'Experiencing' requires an experiencer and an object experienced. When you can get 'yourself' to that place where that is seen for the foolishness that it is, when you can intuitively see and feel that oneness with everything that is truely who you are, you find yourself 'being.' And once you feel it, you'll never forget it. Once you 'be' instead of 'do' or 'experience,' you're in love like you never have been.

Lastly, in regard to his simply 'being there,' Damian wrote: "Not very interesting, really."

Yes! Yes! Right on the money. Beautiful. It's not interesting. Not at all. Because to be interesting you have to be comparing it to other things. You have to be judging it, analyzing it. You have to take yourself OUT of that place to see whether it is interesting or not. When it wasn't interesting you had won the jackpot, drawn the winning lottery numbers.

When Being is all there is, whether that's on your zafu or in a pair of boots, you have found life. Not as 99.99% of the world's population would define life, but life as it really is. You have found Life, that awareness, that consciousness that is at the heart of who you are, that is all that you are, that is all that is, that is all that matters.

The key to Shikoku, though, isn't finding that. You apparently did. Wonderful! But, the key to Shikoku is the question, Does your henro trail end when you leave Temple 1 the second time and go home? Once you step on the bus and come back to this relative world of experiences and relationships, has that Being disappeared again into the smoke and mirrors that is sold as life in the modern world? Or are you able to keep it in your focus and readjust your life around that once back home?

The key to the henro trail is not what you see while there. Not what you do while there, Not how many temples you visit while there. The key to the henro trail is what do you drop off while there? What little pieces of that 'story that is you' can you let fall away with each footstep?

By the time a true henro returns to Temple 1, they have accumulated nothing but given up everything. And it's in this surrender and willingness to let go that they find everything.

Thank you so much for your comments!

1 comment:

Mystic Meandering said...

"...that awareness, that consciousness that is at the heart of who you are, that is all that you are, that is all that is, that is all that matters." Beautiful!

I have not withdrawn from the world to intensely follow a "path" so there is no in or out, and yet "the world" with its requirements keeps pulling me back into its vortex and "that Being" - that awareness of Being - keeps disappearing back into the smoke and mirrors... Very disconcerting...