Monday, April 25, 2011

exhaustion's usefulness


Sometimes it feels great to have put heart and soul into something and then to bask in what results. Where body and mind were just spent to the utmost -- running a race, good sex, working out a complex problem -- there is a floating sensation when the time of effort has passed. We say, perhaps, "nothing is left," but of course there is something ... otherwise we could not say "nothing is left."

But sometimes the fruits of our labors are spooky. Three, four, five days of meditation retreat and the mind with its ditherings has often worn out its welcome. We are returned to some ground zero and ... we can feel lost. "Nothing is left." Eek.

I've told it before but will tell it again: Once upon a time, after a sesshin or Zen retreat, I was walking home with a young woman who had also been at the retreat. We were just ambling along a New York sidewalk -- she towards her home, I towards mine. Suddenly, she burst into tears. "What's wrong?" I asked. "I don't have anybody to thank," she almost wailed. "Thank me," I said. "Thank you," she said. "You're welcome," I said. And the tears stopped.

Where "nothing is left," still there is something. And that something is something worth making friends with -- examining and making friends. When all the commotion is burned away, when all the something-else's are still, when exhaustion erases the mind's blackboard, what is it like? Who is this?

When we make friends, we do not make a lot of noise or express a lot of surprise about it. We are just friends over coffee, friends at the movies, friends on a walk ... we are do-ing our friendship and it is as natural as salt. It is important that we are friends, but in friendship it is unimportant ... it just is ... important to know, but not important enough to separate.

Who is this one who can express itself in a time of exhaustion, of spent-ness? Is s/he ever missing? Do we need to run a marathon every time we wish to feel his/her presence? Is s/he someone else? If s/he were someone else, why am I weeping?

Bit by bit, I think, we invite our clarity, out lightness, our easy-ness in. Exhaustion can be a useful tool. Not something to make a fetish or a religion out of ... just a good pointer to what was never missing in the first place. Separation can be both a horror and a consolation. Lack of separation can be spooky and a delight.

When the campfire burns out, isn't it just time to get a little sleep ... something ordinary and delicious?

Just noodling.

1 comment:

  1. A friend and I once rebuilt a GMC transmission. It went ok, for having done it all the hard way. But the most memorable moment was the struggle to lift it back into place without a jack. On our backs in the dirt, both of us, one hand each to lift and one to guide. It took several attempts before we got it in place. It was unexpectedly difficult, and being done, the exhaustion of the effort left us rolling in laughter. There was nothing funny about it, but it was belly deep joyful.