By Ty H. Phillips
Ronnie Coleman, the eight time winner of the title Mr. Olympia, was quoted as saying, “everybody wants to be a body builder but nobody wants to lift this heavy ass weight.”
While not known as an intellectual, he makes a profound point. We all want the end result but we never want to walk through the dirt in order to get there. We live in our disposable society where we bleach our smiles in order to match our pop positive psychology and neglect what is fundamental to good emotional health—our shadow side.
Chogyam Trungpa frequently spoke on the sadness of true compassion. This compassion is not a self-loathing, wallowing sadness, but instead a sadness that feels and connects with spacious understanding, the rest of the world’s pain. It is a sadness of total exposure. We are raw and open with those we meet and communicate with in order to heal them and ourselves.
It is the road to enlightenment. It is a freedom that lays bare the knurled skin and past we have had, the neurosis we struggle with and the path we are walking on. It is not a process of denial and self-aggrandizement.
In The Mindful Writer, Dinty Moore talks of how so many writers and teachers offer up what we think others want to read or hear—what will be the most popular, what will get the most reads or followers or comments, and all the while we are being dishonest because we are lying. We are creating falseness of self instead of offering what we are truly feeling.
Dinty shares a quote that says, “It is not the business of the writer what the reader thinks. It is the business of the writer to offer what he feels.”
This is very much the heavy weight that Ronnie said no one wants to lift. It is the real work, the real struggle. It is the frustrations and angers that we should be exposing instead of tamping down under so much useless false enlightenment, and Instagram meditation and yoga poses. We need to offer up our guts in this walk of the dharma, not the glittering hopes of white America trying to sell out a speaking tour and hoping to turn a Buddha buck.
I am not trying to point the finger. I am just as much at fault for this as anyone. When I first became ordained I wanted to start a center, teach and preach, write full time and live the teacher/hermit lifestyle. The problem is, I wanted that and nothing else. I was living the dharma dream not the dharma. I was avoiding the dirt in hopes of my dream.
I see this more and more as I have been struggling with my own demons of late. As a lifetime sufferer of anxiety and depression, I tend to create patterns to get me through instead of sitting down where I am and understanding who I am.
I want to ease the chaos but what I have done so far is avoid it. It catches up to you.
I am in the chaos now. I suffer, I get angry, I get sad, I get frustrated and mutter to myself when I am driving to and from work, and I find myself wishing away every moment I have. I have, for lack of a better term, backslidden. I have settled in with Mara and he has settled into me. Maybe one day I will touch the earth—my earth, my dirt and clay and muck and say, “this is my witness.” For now though, I must wrestle in it until I am ready to lie still and let go of what I am holding on to.
I think I am close, or I am madness. Either way, something is happening. Trungpa told his wife, “I am either close to enlightenment or I am going crazy.” I am no Trungpa but I feel this sentiment fully. My fingers ache with both my sadness and both my willingness to be exposed, and pull away at times when I am experiencing self-doubt (or is it selfishness?).
So, I continue on the path, less directed this time and more just walking to wherever it takes me. It may have an ending or it may be just a process of exposure. Either way, I can no longer control it, not that I ever was.
What I can do, however, is watch and listen to the steps as I take them.
Editor: Dana Gornall