Dying For Joy
I once took a workshop called The Six Day (you can guess why). It was supposed to transform you by exposing the games you played and shaking you free of them. Sometimes, it wasn’t pleasant. What was most memorable to me was being woken up each morning and, before breakfast, made to run up a long, steep hill. (We were allowed to run — or stand and pant — no walking!)
Ever run up a steep hill? We all ran together, but the race was not against each other, but to beat your own time from the morning before. Also, as a rule, you were supposed to support the others around you.
The real purpose of the exercise was to plainly reveal to you your mind and all its tricks. Well, have you ever run up a steep hill? Try it sometime. The first thing you’ll notice is – unless you’re in great aerobic shape — you’ll get completely winded almost immediately! And that’s what happened to me. After around 20 or 30 seconds, I found myself bent over, my hands on my knees, wheezing and gasping for breath. My mind kicked in big time. I heard it saying, “I CAN’T DO THIS! STOP!” I started again. Then my lungs start to burn. And I mean BURN!! And my mind was saying things like, “You are going to DIE! Fuck this!! Please STOP!!”
That’s when that rule kicked in: Support the others. And that’s when I made a remarkable discovery: If I just listened to my mind, I was screwed and miserable, and I stopped running. But when I focused my attention on someone around me who had also stopped, and I called out — “Come on! You can do it! Let’s GO!” — I stopped listening to the voice in my head, and I started running again. I forgot about me! I became about someone else, and I, for a moment, disappeared: My burning, suffering body, my screaming brain, gone! Obliterated! All that was left of me was the shouting of support to the person next to me; movement and breath. Time, me, everything else, evaporated. It was scary and exhilarating all at once. And a kind of dying, for the moment. But what came alive was what lifted my legs and lurched me forward and had me smash my time from the morning before!
That was my spirit (or what some refer to as the Self) taking over. It required me to disappear a while so that joy could emerge.