Whoever and whatever the force that brings us into this world and to which Rumi is so eloquently pointing, it is without doubt the greatest mystery of life, yet our attention gets constantly caught up by peripheral considerations. Our fears and hopes are at the forefront of the peripheral preoccupations which shape and mould our movements in this world. Usually these limit us in various ways because we are bought up to exist within clearly defined boundaries. We tend to move through this life believing that this is how it is and will always be and we become so entrenched in this idea that most people live their whole lives this way, never knowing the unique and infinite potential that is right in front of them and within them. Yet all around us we see that there is a vague stirring of dissatisfaction, an inner rumbling of discontent, a deep and a deepening inner sadness, but if the cause of these symptoms is not addressed they become a disease, chronic and stupefying.
Zombiism is a word that encapsulates the rise of a modern trend; the age of the living dead. When having too much of everything has simply overwhelmed the senses and left an awful lot of people in a semi-conscious state. Look around, look closely, look at the unsmiling faces, look into the dull, unshinning eyes. As miserable and frightening as this picture may appear to be, it is nevertheless within our individual hands to turn our own mind and life around. We don’t need to change ourselves or do anything accept recognise the treasure that exists within us. The mystery of being that surrounds us in every breath and in every moment of our lives need not be created; it already is, we have but to stop and notice it. Reaching out to grasp our infinite potential requires the ability to look into the face of mind-created fears and tackle them from the place of intuition and spontaneity.
There is one incident that Chogyam Trungpa recounts in his autobiography that I have never forgotten and which made quite an impact on me when I read it, back in the nineties. No doubt because I had a somewhat similar experience and could very much relate to his situation. It had happened somewhere in Tibet when he was a young man, probably in his early twenties, prior to the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
He and two assistants were on their way somewhere in the mountains. Their path ran past a monastery and as they approached, they heard the deep, rumbling and guttural sounds of a large Mastiff guard dog. As they got nearer they saw the animal chained to a post near the entrance gateway. It had worked itself into a fine frenzy over their approach and was snarling, frothing and wrenching at its chain in a most unfriendly manner. The two assistants were tense and stiff with anxiety as no doubt Trungpa also was, however, there was no way to skirt this path or take another route. They had to continue on their way with the hope that the animal would remain securely tied to its post. Just as they crossed the gateway of the monastery however, the dog suddenly managed to pull itself free of its chain and immediately rushed upon them in a black ball of fury and fangs, intent on attack.
It was at that very instant that Trungpa did something completely unexpected and inexplicable. Instead of trying to escape as his two attendants immediately tried to do, he turned around towards the animal and charged straight at it making a loud sound as he went. The dog was so startled by this turn of events that it yelped and backed off, in an instant and uncertain truce. No one was hurt and they were able to continue on their way, somewhat ruffled but unmolested!
I love this story; it is a shining example of taking fear by the neck and looking it straight in the face. Naturally one would not want this experiment to go wrong, and in Trungpa’s case it did not. It certainly requires remarkable courage and daring. I have a few of my own dog stories in Tibet, which took place during the 1980’s and on one occasion with several large man eating beasts at a burial ground near the foot of Mount Kailash, into which I had inadvertently stumbled alone. I could not have turned on those animals because there were five of them and they were not fat and well fed dogs used to human company; these beasts were wild and hungry and used to the taste of human flesh. I did the only thing I could have done in that situation, other than running, which was not an option as I was near a cliff face that fell away at least 100 meters to a valley below, so I just sat down and began to sing, and it worked!
These are extreme examples of confronting and dealing with fear, yet no less valid for being so, and rather memorable of course. This is not to say that we should endeavour to overcome fear. Fear is an extremely important and vital life protecting mechanism. However, there are a number of factors with regards to facing our fear and the way that we deal with it that can be very liberating. I am not advocating the headlong or blind rush towards the object of fear, despite the story that I just related. I have mentioned these incidents because they are a striking example of tackling a problem outside of the use of conventional wisdom. Trungpa’s response which demonstrated openness and spontaneity bought about an entirely unexpected outcome. Why not turn our lives into a dance and dance our way through it, since afterall, as has been pointed out very succinctly on many occasions, none of us are going to get out of this alive.
If we allow ourselves this kind of openness, if we are willing to surprise ourselves and others, we place in our hands a key that can help us to unravel mysteries of being. But exactly how you might ask and understandably so? There is no how, there is no set formula. The way manifests once we begin to dance and then the dance becomes the way. It requires only an inner intention, decision and courage. The dance of life implies a joyous and spontaneous attitude, a willingness to accept change at the very instant that it arises before us, in whatever form that it may be manifesting and a willingness to break free of conventional wisdom and live in the moment. We are sure to be surprised by the outcome.
Dance when you’ve broken open.
Dance if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you are perfectly free.
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