“Surrender also means acknowledging the raw, rugged, clumsy, and shocking qualities of one’s ego, acknowledging them and surrendering them as well. Generally, we find it very difficult to give out and surrender our raw and rugged qualities of ego. Although we may hate ourselves, at the same time we find our self-hatred a kind of occupation”.
I was travelling into Brighton on the no. 12 bus, along the coastal road, with white cliffs to the left and sun- and wind-kissed fields and Downs to my right. I was on my way to see friends, I was a little late, it was a beautiful evening.
And suddenly out of nowhere I sensed what Chogyam Trungpa may have meant. What the whole project of Buddhist meditation might mean.
Lean back into the body and stay with what there is.
No fantasies, no forward planning, no “I should be this” or “I should be that”. Just sit back in your body and feel the guts doing their thing, the spine doing its thing, the lungs doing their thing. Just sit back.
Just sit back and feel the body unfolding – breathing, blooding, existing. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s really hard but it’s also visionary.
I suddenly got a glimpse of a whole kingdom, a whole landscape which was so real and simple and unadorned. And most importantly was not leaning forward into the “not real”.
Anxiety and stress and suffering comes from leaning out of the moment into some “other” version of your life. A life where you are on time, where there is no worry, where you’re not a bit overweight or convinced of your own badness.
But Trungpa is so right. That sort of obsessive leaning forward into a “corrected” version of you is a full-time occupation and one we don’t want to give up: “We would have no further occupation if we were to surrender everything; there would be nothing to hold onto.”
And the somatic work of meditation, as outlined by Trungpa’s student (and my teacher) Reggie Ray, is the path to that ability to ‘sit back’ into reality.
Daily reacquaintance with the insides of your body, sensing and familiarising yourself with that ‘back line’ of your spine, linking your lower belly, chest and throat – this is the path. Gradually, gradually, it becomes easier to sit back and stay in the rugged reality of having a body in a world that moves. There’s a lot going on, it’s rich and florid and chaotic but it’s so nourishing and simple. And it’s entirely free of that neurotic and exhausting leaning forward.
“Self-evaluation and self-criticism are, basically, neurotic tendencies which derive from not having enough confidence in our selves, confidence in the sense of seeing what we are, knowing what we are, knowing we can afford to open”.
That whole process of knowing ourselves is not a Socratic project of thinking about ourselves but a much more shamanic path of actually feeling ourselves existing, feeling the incarnation, feeling the blood. Trungpa doesn’t spell it out but Ray does: the daily practice of somatic meditation takes us into our bones and viscera and jaws and pelvises. And from there we can know ourselves. And we can sit back.