The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara while moving through the deep chaos of renovations saw that form is emptiness. She lost her head over that insight. I take it only as a comment on the profoundity of the teachings and not a reflection of the vast complication that is my life at the moment. However, Avalokite presents an important consideration which is the point of our practice: how do we lose our heads skillfully?
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
With apology to Rudyard Kipling who began his poem with the implication that success lies in keeping one’s head when all about are losing theirs, I am beginning to understand that the object of practice is very much the losing of one’s head. My head. Lost, fallen, tumbled off its precarious perch atop a spindle of a spine. Strangely, this is a good thing because as that unwieldy lump falls off, I am left with nothing to rely on but my intimate connection with who I am.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating…
I was blessed with a number of conversations over the last week with friends and colleagues who are good at holding my feet to the fire of trust, patience, transparency, and meeting aversion. Perhaps the best teachings I received were to drop away from the anxiety that keeps me from speaking my truth. The tendency when we fear loss is a natural gasp, an intake and holding of the breath which easily translates into a holding on. When I see this as nothing more than a knee-jerk response fueled by thoughts of loss and not any loss that is real, my head falls off. That frontal lobe dominance, that story-machine which churns out the miserable and the macabre – it withers and shrivels and drops off.
This is a challenging practice. It calls on us to hold our seat in the firestorm yet not be foolishly consumed, to be flexible in our commitments yet honour them, to hold true to our values yet find a path that is mutually nourishing. It calls on us to lose our head and find our heart.
Avalokiteshvara lost her head one day. And as I contemplated in the deep course of practice, I found the heart of what is true, intimate, and pure.