Suffering on the Platform of Life? The Warrior Says “No More!”

The 30 seconds or so up on the platform BEFORE getting ready for the swing are intense, chaotic moments of panic, anticipation, doubt, and indecision.  In spite of that seemingly calm demeanor, there is a swirl of things going on in my head and my body….  the stream of consciousness goes something like:   Oh my God… I don’t have to do this… my heart is fluttering…. I can find a good excuse to back out…. no,  follow what you want…. but you don’t have to… you have heart disease you shouldn’t do this…. go for it!   

These are the moments before choosing, and as I wait for my turn I am most aware of all of the reasons that I do not want to do it, and all of the ways that it would be completely reasonable to turn around and climb back down to the safety of the ground.   And yet, I stay — I know that in just a few seconds I will step out to the edge of the platform, will lean out and grab the trapeze, and squarely face the opportunity in front of me.   I have been reading books by Carlos Castaneda recently and in his journey with Don Juan he learns to distinguish between the Hunter and the Warrior.   In these moments up on the platform, the HUNTER in me is active…. the part that notices with acute perception what is happening on the platform, in my mind, in my arms and legs and toes, and in my heart.   Just as the hunter in the forest listens and feels the most subtle shifts in the wind or sounds around him, the hunter within me strives to notice what is happening… my breath and beating heart, my doubts and urges to flee, and the undercurrent of fervent desire for something.   The hunter notices all of these signals, and with awareness selects the ones to pay attention to and to follow… the hunter points the way.   If the Hunter is awake, then the choice that I make is made consciously.

My turn comes, and I step up, inching my toes to the edge, holding a safety bar on the platform, and stretching my whole body out over the platform to grasp the waiting trapeze.  I look out and down and all around — this is it, it is right in front of me.   In just a few seconds I know I will here the call of the “Ready!  Hup!”   “Breathe,” I tell myself.   “Notice that you WANT something here…. the rush of leaping and moving into this experience…  you want to give yourself to this, to seize it…”   At this point, I have made the choice to move directly into this experience.  I still notice the parts of me that are afraid and that doubt.  My heart beats fast, and I remind myself to breathe.  I notice that I am committed to leaping.   “Feel your toes…. raise the trapeze bar UP…. breathe again” I say inside.   I hear the “Ready!” and bend both my knees.   Then I hear “Hup” and I jump up and out.   “Yes!   You are moving IN….”   This is a thrilling moment of the entering into the experience.  It is a bit like the second that a rollercoaster car reaches that split moment just over the top of the hill when it begins to move DOWN…. it is going, it is on its track… it builds a momentum of its own and it is not coming back.  It is the Warrior in me that has chosen to leap, that chooses with intention  to “enter into” the experience, to step over the line beyond the point of no return,   There is a paradoxical surrendering to the experience while simultaneously acting from will and intention.   An unpredictable whoosh of experience occurs that I am both “in” and that I am “present to.”    The Warrior has the capacity to act with both agency and surrender, moving fully into and through the experience while observing it at the same time.   It is not comfortable.  It is, however, very ALIVE.

There are many important moments in life when I find myself at a crossroads of choice.  In front of me, something that I want, that excites me, perhaps that I am frightened by but I know is needed, that has about it the urgent quality of something important being at stake.  Something that the most fundamental and real part of me knows to be the true path.   At that crossroad is also doubt, reluctance, and when something really matters fear and even terror.   This part wants to shrink back… wants to seek comfort of the familiar… wants the security of avoiding possibly painful moments of physical or emotional hurt.   Very often, I choose to remain on the platform, to shrink back and stay safe… and I realize that in that place I suffer.   I have spent a lot of time in this mode…. on the platform of life, suffering.   In this mode, I tell myself that there is some later moment in life when I can take the risky step.  The thing is, there is no such thing as later because all we have is right now — this moment — to choose to live or choose to die.

Recently I have noticed in a profound way the difference between remaining on the platform suffering, and choosing to enter into the difficult and scary place in my personal and professional relationships.   When I feel afraid, I tend to worry A LOT what other people will think and how they will react.  The prospect of making others angry or saying something that might prompt someone to reject me can be terrifying for me.  It is the neurotic tendency described by Karen Horney as “complying.”  When I have had difficulty in relationships, my tendency has often been to avoid confrontation… to shy away from being direct and honest when I have something difficult to say.  In the framework of Process-Oriented Psychology, it is a tremendous edge for me.  As a result, I have spent lots of time on the platform suffering… in some cases I have stayed on that platform fretting back and forth for years with certain people who are close to me.    A recent experience stands out for me with a friend and colleague who is someone that I highly respect and deeply love — and yet I have been suffering in this relationship for way too long.   In a recent interaction, I suddenly realized that I was “on the platform” and the hunter became active.  He noticed my fear, my sweaty palms, and the butterflies in my stomach.  He noticed, too, a longing for agency and self-authority.  He noticed the impulses of the child inside afraid of rejection, and he noticed love for this person and a desire for something more real and true.   I am not sure if it was a Warrior-energy or not, but I made the choice to follow what felt true, stepped to the edge, and spoke directly and honestly about the things that disturbed me in our way of interacting.  It was tremendously uncomfortable, and also tremendously alive.   On the other side of that experience, I realize that my compassion for this friend has deepened — I have more space, and more love.   We may or may not be able to reconstruct a new relationship, but I know that whatever we have will be cleaner and more authentic.   And, I have discovered a new capacity within myself… still a bit wobbly… but growing, to follow the signals of my heart with greater courage and authenticity.

Hope for the Guest

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think…and think…while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time
before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten…
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the
City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next
life you will have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir says this:  When the Guest is being searched for
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that
does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.
  (Kabir, translation by Bly)

So, what happened back on that trapeze?   In this class I was learning a new trick called a SET HOCKS OFF.   There is a real thrill in doing a trick and at the end reaching out for the catcher and making the catch.   Here is my Set Hocks Off!   Please add your comments to this post — it is very gratifying to see what reactions feelings or thoughts get prompted in others.

~ by Art on May 12, 2012.

One Response to “Suffering on the Platform of Life? The Warrior Says “No More!””

  1. Thank you for your honesty and clarity of your process, it’s helpful to read. It takes a lot of courage to dive into those internal places that you are going to. The metaphor of standing on the platform rather than diving into life is a good one! I can relate. And I love it that you are doing the trapeze flying! That takes ropes course work to a new level.

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