Yes Is Surrender
I’ve spent much of my time arguing with reality, like a man kvetching to God about the seasons. “It’s too hot in the summer!” As if I’m never supposed to be hot, or uncomfortable.
There’s a story of a Zen monk and how one day a baby boy is left on his doorstep. “Ah, so,” he says, and takes the child in and raises him for 12 years. Then one day a knock comes at his door. It’s the mother, wanting her child back. “Ah, so” says the monk, and hands the boy over.
Acceptance and being in the moment seem to go hand-in-hand. Both entail letting go. “Yes” as John Lennon put it, “is surrender.” When I say Yes I silence the static that blocks the flow of joy through my body and my life.
“There’s a good wolf inside me, and a bad wolf,” my friend Ernst once said. “Which one prevails depends on which one I feed.” When faced with a chore today that feels burdensome or a pain in the ass, I notice that sometimes I can identify my resistance as it begins to well up in me. I know the more time and attention I give this recalcitrance, the stronger it becomes. For those few moments there’s a race on between resistance and action. If I choose to feed action, quickly, I’ll just go and get the thing done. If I delay, the resistance grows and the bad wolf wins.
But when I stop and realize that it’s not the chore that’s the problem, but my attitude about it, I can just do it, and fly under the radar of resistance. It’s one of those graces that has come with age. When I can simply name it for what it is, sometimes I can let it go and run speedily to do the thing that needs doing, and then it’s painless!
I once heard a preacher suggest identifying the hardest thing you need to do today, and then rush to do that first. Your day is then made. You start the morning off by being a winner – not only accomplishing something, but also overcoming your own BS, and thereby feeling good about yourself in the process.
This is the joy of getting out of your own way; of the freedom that results from no longer being dominated by your moods. This makes life simpler, and simplicity is one of joy’s true allies.
I have important things I want to do early in the morning. But it’s late and I want to get a lot of sleep tonight. What should I do? As long as my health isn’t threatened, I can do without the comfort of so much sleep (at least for today) and opt for what’s more meaningful or necessary. This makes for a more streamlined way of making decisions and of living.
I notice I project my attitude about doing stuff onto the stuff, and this colors it, often negatively. But the stuff itself is neutral, the color of water. Before exercising (which I’ve committed to doing twice weekly) I used to start thinking, “Oh how I hate this!” It made it so much more difficult to do my push ups! (As if there’s actually something hateful about them). So I tried an experiment. I switched the sentence to, “Oh how I love this!” The thought somehow (don’t ask me how) improved my mood, and I started feeling better about the push ups. (My mind would later blurt, “This is ridiculous!” But it would be too late and I’d enjoy the push ups in spite of myself.) When I do this I strengthen both my biceps and my, err, Yesceps.
Ah, Johnny, you would have been 70 this past week. Wish you were still around to write songs because pushups are one thing, but another NYC winter is coming, and I’m still arguing with God about that one.