Like an old tree, deeply rooted and yet abandoned to the elements, we ecstatic contemplatives are drawn to let go of our worldly ambitions.
To the extent that our worldly ambitions wane, we are increasingly compelled to plug ourselves into the light-socket of self-arising bliss, joy and ecstasy, repeating this act over and over and over again… through many lifetimes, perhaps… until we realize that this is the only ambition worth pursuing.
How does one arrive at this realization?
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When certain signs of absorption manifested in me during the early 90’s, it took several years to understand what was happening.
During those several years, it became clear that any previously-held expectations I’d had to become someone in the world had evaporated.
I was not going to become a Protestant Christian minister, as my father, his father and several other men in my family heritage had done.
I was not going to rise through the ranks in the music industry, despite the very real possibility that this trajectory would evolve.
I was not going to go back to school for a graduate degree, thereby borrowing time until a profession presented itself.
Knowing this — that worldly ambitions no longer interested me — did not initially bring peace or tranquility. Instead, I lived with the nagging sense that something was wrong with me. Should I not be working my ass off, buying a home, raising a family and saving for retirement?
The signs of absorption, meanwhile, were leaving me in a persistent state of bliss, joy and ecstasy. Without the benefit of human guidance, I meditated ten hours a day for a year or so… and then the pace dropped to an hour or two a day for weeks and months at a time, followed by sporadic meditation for another stretch (as I heeded the admonitions of various neo-advaita teachers who insisted that meditation is just a “diversion from what is”). Time passed during this “on the fence” phase, and I did the best I could.
Finally, a year or two into the new millennium, having connected with human teachers who guided me to meditation retreats and offered encouragement, my practice solidified into a true sadhana, and the signs of absorption stabilized into a constant state of saturation.
After another little while — on February 1, 2005, to be precise — I committed to a lifetime of rigorous and skillful meditation, come hell or high water. I built my worldly existence around practice, and I’ve seen my “day job” as a way to support this practice ever since.
By virtue of this formal commitment, I learned this: Not until I was ready to make a lifetime’s commitment to my practice, and was able to spend about nine months integrating a rigorous and skillful practice into my daily routine, did I begin to understand the importance of total surrender supported by die-hard patience.
Until the qualities of surrender and patience are firmly established, the contemplative is operating at a profound disadvantage.
The contemplative who has not come to the point of surrender, and who does not have the patience to stick with his or her practice for as long as it takes, is bound to be dismounted from his or her practice.
Without surrender and patience, the contemplative will inevitably compromise with his or her deepest longing, chasing the tail of ego-identity for Lord knows how long.
* * *
Have you not, since childhood, periodically come into a sense of the transcendent? A sense of something greater than your little self, some Intelligence tying this whole multi-dimensional play field together? Did you never play the “who am I, behind all this” game?
If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then you know what it is to which we offer our surrender.
When it slowly dawned on me that, by God I am a jhana yogi and this is what my life was always angling toward — when I finally admitted to myself that an ego-identity chasing its own tail will never deliver true satisfaction or resolution — there was nothing left but to surrender to the divine energy that, in retrospect, has been guiding me throughout this entire lifetime.
My head, as the saying goes, is now in the tiger’s mouth.
There is no going back.