The Wisdom in Giving up all Hope of Fruition.
Vulnerability isn’t vulnerable if we brag about it.
Sadness isn’t tender, through which the light gets in, if we solidify it.
Making friends with ourselves isn’t world-altering compassion if our intention is to monetize it (you know, the self-care “industry”).
Service isn’t transformative if we use it as another Ted Talked credential.
Trauma isn’t a path to empathy and sanity if I brag about how big or deep or ugly mine is, vs. yours.
If I tell a story about going hungry one Christmas, without presents, my mom crying at her failure (though I didn’t judge it to be so) to give me love (though she did), and I share that from a simple, raw place—that’s beautiful. That can connect me to you, whatever your experience as a parent, or a child, or with money or lack thereof.
If, however, I share it from a “I may seem privileged as a white male but look at my hardships, I’m in the club, or a leader of the club, of those who’ve had it hard, your experience doesn’t measure up (or down) to mine…” well then that raw sweet slightly painful vulnerability turns to too-sweet saccharine, to hustle, to vanity. We can lose our heart in a quest for likes, in twisted intention.
The distance between vanity and openness is vanishingly thin, a thin red line along the crest of a mountaintop overlooking two oceans.
My parents’ Buddhist teacher talked about Dharma (truth) without credentials. We know it’s vulnerable if it’s truly hard to share. And then, if it’s truly vulnerable—it’s important to share, because it’s helpful. It’s empathy, it’s connection, it’s…Dharma without credentials.
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen
In Buddhism, it’s taught that the ego can and will use anything—including genuine inspiration to see beyond ego (you know, meditation)—to feed ego. That’s why meditation, from the Buddhist point of view, is described as the self-cutting sword, the self-burning flame. Even vulnerability, compassion, maitri can be turned into further egohood if we don’t notice them, and then return to the object of meditation.
If the Buddha begins to mistake his realization for confirmation of how fabulous he is, he’s no longer a Buddha.
The good news? It’s all food for meditation practice, for reconnecting with our fundamental sanity. In-breath, out-breath. Ah, I was lost in thought.
In Buddhism, fearlessness isn’t the absence of fear, it’s having made friends with our fear.
In Buddhism, hopelessness isn’t a bad thing. The only hope? Giving up hope. No, really. We talk about giving up any hope of fruition—not because we’re despondent, but because our attachment to outcome prevents us not only from our ideas of success…but from being present, genuine, and discovering a fresh, real success that’s of benefit to others, too.
As the Zen koan goes, the minute you speak the truth, it’s no longer true.
As a Zen teacher would add, laughing: that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to say it. Share it. Express it. Write it. We just have to remember that the beauty in our vulnerability, in our hopelessness, in our sadness…is that, if only for just one beautiful crystalline dark moment…we let go.
We let go of all hope of getting it all together. We let go of impressing others. We let go of being a teacher, a writer, an important person. We let go of being happy. We let go of anything we ever thought we wanted—and in that moment, we returned to our basic goodness, from which all joys in connections may arise.
So, as my parents’ teacher would say, Jolly Good Luck, sweetheart. Let’s leave off the Instagram humble brags, and make friends with the itchy awful boredom we find on our meditation cushions, breath after breath, small moments of awake sandwiched between lifelong storylines.
It’s called a path for a reason. May it be of benefit!
Image Oscar Keys/Unplash: source.