Apr 07, 2016 The power of trusting and fighting in the moment, rather than chasing or running away
An acquaintance near my age is preoccupied about getting older. Compare that to my teacher Baba Ram Dass, who ultimately transcended his deep depression over his near-fatal stroke in his late sixties, to recognize and accept his stroke as fierce grace from his already deceased teacher, to not attach to the body or anything else, but instead to be in the now, to bathe in his teacher’s love, and to be and share love in every moment. Now, nineteen years after his stroke, Ram Dass continues seizing the magic of each day and to share with others at live gatherings in Maui each year.
Compare my aging-concerned friend, also, with a former law firm colleague who sees this life as our only life, with no divine plan for us beyond that, who instead of being nihilistic through that view, sees life as a complete accident and therefore considers anyone alive to be incredibly blessed with this accident, and welcomes his daily life as a result.
If we only have one life and are not reincarnated, we certainly have the choice between seeing life in nihilistic terms or else in terms of the good fortune that we are alive, reveling in each breath, having taken at least billions of years to have gotten here. If reincarnation is real, then this current life is but part of the ride. Of course, since people and other beings continue living and being birthed even at the moment of one’s bodily death, that continuation of life is a reincarnation of sorts in itself. One of the greatest challenges of practicing non-duality is to not hold onto concerns about whether one will reincarnate and whether one will ever again have awareness or consciousness — or maybe it will be a different form of awareness and consciousness than we now have, perhaps even a collective consciousness — after one’s heart stops beating.
Of course, once we completely dissolve our fear of death, fear of failure, and all other fear, that is when we can truly live and truly harness and apply our full power. As Eugen Herrigel quotes a shogun’s sword teacher: “’the ultimate secrets of swordsmanship also lie in being released from the thought of death. [With fearlessness of death], you need no technical training, you are already a master.’”
Thanks to Zoketsu Norman Fischer — with whom I shared mostly silent contemplation during the 2015, Mindful Lawyering gathering at the Garrison Institute — for his following words of insight on overcoming fear of death, and accepting death when it is time (minute 20:00);
“There is no such thing as death. There’s only breathing in once and then breathing out and then not breathing in anymore.”
“Death is happening every moment. Every moment we die to the past moment. It’s over. It’s gone.” “Death is something that liberates our lives and awakens our lives.” “Dying in this last moment receives this new moment.”
Once we truly live in each moment, which is the only reality that we have, we no longer feel imprisoned or limited by sickness, foul-smelling environments, uneven playing fields, seemingly betraying friends, nor shyster opponents. Instead, we fully engage with, delight in, and seize the moment, perhaps even getting to the point where we can mentally slow and stop certain moments to be even more adept at addressing any bows and arrows coming our way, and redirecting them accordingly. A great example of that is when Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill character — and her father Robert Thurman clearly knows the power of the now — finds herself buried alive in a cemetery, and rather than giving up or crying in despair, finds a way to release herself from the coffin and heavily packed dirt above her.
Once the fear disappears, and once we truly trust and live in the moment, the magic appears and unfolds, and our power and exhilaration become so great that we need to be ready to harness them both. That may be what Cab Calloway experienced when he forgot a lyric in his ultimately famous “Minnie the Moocher”, and then in that very moment came up with the song’s most catchy phrase “Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho,” later followed by “Oodlee-odlye-odlyee-oodlee-doo”. It is akin to a lawyer’s being thrown a curve by a judge’s improvidently sustaining an objection to a lawyer’s line of questioning, and continuing a new line of attack flawlessly, without skipping a beat, and perhaps with more skilled ferocity than ever.
If we truly want to be vessels and sponges of inspiration and power, we must shed our egos, fear of death, and duality. All that shedding may be perceived as a sort of death of the old leading to a rebirth. All that shedding brings us closer to living and relating more on the soul than role level, where nothing can harm our soul. The power of daily meditative practice — which I too often let get waylaid with work and non-meditative personal tasks instead, even though I am able quickly to bring myself to profoundly beneficial meditative states — can be a great method towards being such a vessel and sponge.
Part of living in the moment is living at zero, To give a combat example of the power of zero, t’ai chi master Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo — whose several workshops I have been privileged to attend — is quoted as having aptly said: “Normally we think that if [our opponent] has 100 pounds of force or power, I better have 150. But then if I get 150 pounds of force, he may have accumulated more himself. Or there’ll be somebody else with more. So next time it will be my 150 against his 200. Then I’ll need to go to 250. . . and still, there’s always going to be somebody with more than me. So I need to reverse my approach. I need to take my own power down to 0. Then there’s no chasing or spiraling. Nothing can change. If he has 100, I have 0. If he has 150, I have 0. If he has 200, I still have 0, on and on, whatever he has, I’m always beneath it, it doesn’t change or affect me. I’m not chasing his attributes, or competing, or catching up, or exceeding him. That’s taijiquan.”
Being at zero also can be conceived of by considering the oxygen bag that drops down when an airplane’s oxygen supply is reduced. The oxygen flows through the bag, but the bag does not inflate. The bag is at zero.
Be fully present and powerful in the moment.