Jul 28, 2008

Thoughts on Powerlessness

Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance,
complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness,
patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.


-- Rainer Maria Rilke


So, I'm laying here, immobilized with the head-cold from hell, and it occurs to me what an ego-killer illness is. My husband refers to these episodes with cold or flu as "hitting the reset button." That sums it up well. These are massive interruptions in the momentum of our lives. You can do little but let everything come to a screaming halt, and even when you recover, you can't just pick up where you left off. Not completely. Some threads are broken. Some projects you wished to accomplish have already passed their freshness date and can't be taken up again. Even if it's a day or two, a chunk of your life is gone, never to be restored.

As I lay here, it's hard not to focus on all the things I cannot do. I need to unload and reload the dishwasher but I can't seem to stand upright for more than a few minutes and even that is torture. Shower. (See previous explanation.) Eat. My taste buds are compromised so everything sounds dreadful. It requires too much effort, anyway. Clean the house. (The standing and walking thing, again.) I'd love to do some yoga, but... the standing... oh, and the forward bends that would cause my sinus headache to reach critical mass. Or, just blog this wonderful article on yoga a friend sent me, but right now, I'm having trouble remembering what I even thought about it when I read it.

The Headless Statue of a Seated Buddha Sits in a Hallway in a Buddhist Temple
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With little to do but contemplate the great mysteries of life, I find that even this, my greatest passion, is lost to me. It's as if some giant hand has played 52 pick-up with my thoughts. They're all in a jumble. I'm not sure what I believe... about anything. Now, I'm no fan of certainty, but I usually have some idea, some running narrative in my head, about life, the universe, the myths that shape our reality... Today... I got nothin.' Things I believed a week ago now seem puerile and reductive. I am suddenly overwhelmed, not only by the unmeetable demands of my daily, material life, but by the acute awareness that "the more I learn, the less I know." It all just feels impossible.

Now, on some level, I know that my sense of awareness and capability will return; that I will find the pathways through my mind again. I will remember my sense of purpose. But for now, I'm just a heap of broken circuitry.

This is a mini ego death. I've lost my sense of self, if only for a day or two. And, it occurs to me what a beautiful thing that is. Uncomfortable. Definitely. Assaults on the ego are never pleasant, but they are absolutely necessary. A reset button, indeed. The universe is just clearing out some of the old programming and forcing me back to the beginner mind.

A little over a month ago, I faced a different sort of interruption in the streaming content of my life. My computer died, suddenly, without warning. It was a power supply issue, now resolved. I moved quickly through the five stages of grief, finding, strangely, that it was a relief having that electronic tether cut. I discharged a number of day to day responsibilities and distractions that I have accumulated in my online life. I saw that the universe was, once again, hitting a giant reset button, and forcing me to be still, contemplative, and receptive. I realized something. The internet brings a crushing weight of information. Having the world at your fingertips is as exhausting and overstimulating as it is fascinating. I thought seriously about never reconnecting to the www. But, here, as in all things, the struggle is to find that middle path that allows me to live in the material world without being consumed by it.

Blue Jay
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The night before my new battery arrived, I dreamt of a bluejay. Bluejay's medicine is "appropriate use of power," if you don't know it. Bluejay and I have a longstanding relationship that started, to my knowledge, when I was attacked by one, as a small child. It dove straight at the top of my head and violently ruffled my hair. My mother insisted I must have gotten close to its nest, but I saw no nest, and it flew from a perch high in an old oak tree. No. Bluejay was trying, even then, to open up my crown chakra. So this night, before my battery unexpectedly arrived, I dreamt that I had a bluejay for a pet. I had saved it from some danger and it came to live in an open cage in my house, coming and going as it pleased. I expect it will take me years to sort out what, exactly, that means. And that's as it should be.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, from "Letters to a Young Poet"

1 comment:

Orion7 said...

I was not surprised to read what you decribe in this blog. I had the same issues in the beginning of the week. Although I did not have a cold I felt completely out of sorts for days. Not sure which reality I was living. Totally confused about everything I believed or thought I believed. I was feeling completely helpless and have no control over anything in my life. Feeling like I have no direction. I woke up on Monday morning thinking "Oh God, is this my life???" I found myself in a terrible mood. It felt like I had PMS (but I didn't). It felt like something was putting its hand over the mouth of my positive inner voice and that aspect of myself had no expression. I didn't want to eat, watch tv, listen to music, paint or read. Nothing brought me any satisfaction or peace. I felt empty. During those days thoughts of the ego came to mind. And I was contemplating what it means for the ego to go through these deaths. I felt like my ego was holding on like a cat would to a doorway to avoid being thrown into water. So reading your thoughts about what you were going through made me feel a little better and reassured me that I'm not the only one. Namaste my dear friend.