Synopsis: What’s the Name of the Game? Being Awake!
So, I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been writing for a magazine, Complete Wellbeing, for some time. (This is a link to my articles.) Last week, they asked me to write the lead article, on the topic, Mindful Relating. Hmm. Why me? Kidding.
Anyway, today was the day for the first go, and I cranked out the first draft of exactly 3500 words, and added a blurb for The. Best. Relationship. Ever. because that’s what the entire book is about.
As I was wrapping up the article, the movie version of “The Name of the Game” (ABBA song, but in this case sung by Amanda Seyfreid) came on. Here’s the chorus:
What’s the name of the game?
Does it mean anything to you?
What’s the name of the game?
Can you feel it the way I do?
Tell me please, ’cause I have to know
I’m a bashful child, beginning to grow.
The song is such a plea to be seen, to be heard. Now, of course, the lyrics are normal, and contain a lot of “you make me” language:
And you make me talk
And you make me feel
And you make me show
What I’m trying to conceal
If I trust in you, would you let me down?
Would you laugh at me, if I said I care for you?
Could you feel the same way too?
I wanna know..
Of course, lyrics. Writing it “right” would be cludgy.
I’d make a quick fix: take “make me” and replace it with “you encourage me to” and bingo! We can now name the game.
It’s called Waking Up!
In my article, I wrote:
“Short-form Buddha story: when asked who he was [a god, a sage, etc.] Buddha replied, “I am awake.”
Being awake (bodhi) causes one to see through to the true nature of things. I would (and do!) argue that awakening is “what life is supposed to be about.”
And we often settle for persuading someone to serve us the right breakfast cereal.
OK. So, being mindful is all about “seeing through life’s illusions.”
I won’t quote more of the magazine article, except for an exercise at the end of this. But that song–and the idea of naming the game–resonates, so off we go.
Let’s just assume that the Western version of the meaning of life (the one with the biggest pile wins!) might just not be all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s assume that meaning is a whole lot deeper and more internal.
That was Buddha’s point. Being awake is… it.
He discovered this after exploring being asleep. He was asleep as a prince, and as a pauper. He was asleep as a consumer, and as an ascetic. Interestingly, he did not declare other paths wrong. He declared them to be ineffective.
So, he sat. Meditated. Examined the only thing he could trust. Himself.
Waddya mean I’m fragmented???
Why is this the only thing we can trust? Well, as I endlessly write, the things we see, our opinions about the people we relate with, the stories we tell ourselves, our beliefs, etc. are all constructions–they are not real. They are filtered by us, to make the point we are trying to make.
And! We believe the stuff we shovel… until we don’t.
One level of “fix” is to shift some of our more rigid beliefs, heading toward more flexibility, but really, that’s just putting a perfumed bow on the shit pile.
The real level of “fix” happens on the cushion, so to speak, as we go inside and watch the crazy workings of our minds. This is the mindful part.
The kind of meditation we do and teach is shikantaza, which means, “only just sitting.” This as opposed to counting breaths, or chanting, or doing metta, or something active.
The advantage to just sitting is that we begin to see ourselves thinking. And what we see isn’t pretty.
A thought arises, and if it has charge, we are attracted. We start to follow it, as in, we start mind-chattering. I could do this, I should have said that, he’s a jerk, I’m hard done by, woe is me. And as the Buddha told us, we create dis-satisfaction.
And get this! We’re just sitting! The thing isn’t happening, isn’t real!
So, there it is… what we do, all the time, when we are in our heads–mental masturbation–and we get off on it, and suffer.
So, back to the cushion. As we practice, we see that we can detach from clinging to the thought and the story about the thought. Poof. Nothing. Emptiness, thoughts drifting like clouds. Until we attach again.
Now, if meditation leads somewhere, it leads to doing away with meditation. Buddha described the meditative process as the boat across the stream. He said, basically, “On the other side (where one is awake) of what use is the boat?”
The cushion teaches us how to be awake all the time. How to step out of mind-chatter, into the light of the present moment.
The point of the article is to say we each need to learn to detach and awaken, and that’s a solo process, has to be. But we can do it alone, in groups.
The great fish of enlightenment…
That’s what the lyrics imply. I can actually choose someone to practice with. An awakening buddy, if you will. In my case, because I am smart 😉 I picked my principal partner and best friend, the lovely Darbella.
And, for some reason, she picked me!
We hold up mirrors for each other, so we can see how we are falling off the rails, and going back into our heads, into our stories. It’s so nice to share! But to get out of my head, again… well, that’s up to me.
We made a deal to do this with each other, 32 years ago. Off the rails, back to awareness, off the rails, back to awareness… for all that time. We continue to encourage each other to think, to feel, to be open and vulnerable. We watch each other wake up, and we smile. We watch each other drift away, and smile.
I closed the article I wrote with a brand new exercise, and decided to share it with you. If you have the kind of relationship (or would like one) I endlessly describe, here is a way to define it, and to start:
Sit with your back against the headboard of your bed. Have your partner sit between your open legs, his/her back to your chest. Reach around and rest your hands on his/her heart.
Hold your partner for a while.
Then, say: “I am curious and interested in who you are, and who you are becoming. I want you to always feel safe and secure with me, just like now. So, I promise to always be this open and vulnerable with you, to hold you and your heart gently, and to, as I am now, agree to look at things from your perspective. I can never see things exactly as you do, but I promise to be open to listening, and responding.”
Then, change places, and repeat.