Buddhism Chan Train the Mind

The Joy of Failure

It’s been a while since my last post, since for the past month I’ve been singularly focused on a big audition. In the end I was very close, but I didn’t win it. I did learn much anyway, and times of failing are always great opportunities for growth.

All the wonderful and supportive people around me are all full of encouraging and soothing words of advice to offer. “It’s just politics, you can definitely get it next time”, “It’s all for the best, you’re heart wasn’t in it anyway”, egodeathand other pieces of shattered ego are being kindly offered to me to rebuild that ego back to it’s former glory. The thing that my kind support network is not quite noticing however, is that I actually positively rejoice at the opportunity to bask in the defeat of the ego.

For many months I was working as hard as I ever did, putting myself in front of many great musicians who were kind enough to lend me their time and attention, and criticize my playing so that I may get better, and adapt to the requirements of the position I applied for, a task which to me truly felt like shoving a giant square into a tiny circle. And yet, albeit the occasional corner that kept sticking out, square-peg-round-holethe square of my wild musical inclinations was mostly squeezed into the circle of required civility and propriety of symphonic playing.

I also learnt to manage my chronic tendinitis with the help of a wonderful therapist and a hefty Hatha Yoga and stretching regiment. I put all my inner attention on the task at hand, and dealt with the waves of anxiety by throwing my whole meditative kit on the demons of self doubt that kept assailing at every turn. In the end, I really couldn’t wish for a better audition than I played. I proved to myself that if necessary I can adapt to a very high degree to a task which I do not at all feel naturally inclined to partake in.

After all that effort, failing still leaves somewhat of a pit in the stomach, a pit of embarrassment and disbelief. Immersing myself completely in that feeling, or as my teacher calls it “Tasting it Fully”, rather than running from it in the various usual ways, is actually the most rewarding part of this whole experience.there-is-no-escape_o_837249 If you happen to be as superstitious as myself, and really feel that all things happen exactly as they must, you may in fact enjoy the spectacle of the squirming ego.

After spending a good long while with Master Linji’s saying “There’s nothing I dislike”, and Sengcan’s “The great way is not difficult if you just don’t pick and choose”, I start to really feel the joys of choicelessness. The river of this life flows as it does, as it will, and if we don’t build unnecessary walls of resistance, but allow ourselves to be vulnerable and bare, to feel these painful feelings fully, without making excuses or using rational arguments to drive the pain away, we can enjoy swimming in the pliant stream even when it’s quite tumultuous.

The suffering squirming ego, manifests as all those thoughts and feelings of resistance, dislike and all other forms of aversion. faces-withinWhen we choose to just sit in it fully, we might notice that there’s nothing much to it. It’s just a momentary experience, nothing more than a flash of lightning, or a passing cloud in the sky of experience. Not much to it at all. Every opportunity to watch this deeply is an opportunity to weaken the ego’s grasp over our every waking moment.

I did my absolute best. I put in all the effort I could, and acted fully with body and mind. I  tilled the soil, sowed the seeds, watered and tended them, but sometimes the plant doesn’t come out as you’d like. Standing there shouting at it will help absolutely nothing. So we start over- again tilling the soil, sowing and so forth. And every time, we get closer to the fruit we wish for.seeds.jpg

I have been practicing Buddhadharma since around 2008. Starting out in a Theravada context and learning from inspiring teachers, I then practiced Zen in both Korean and Vietnamese traditions, Vajrayana (Kagyu) Buddhism and now study and practice and in the lineage of Chan Buddhism (Linji Lineage of HsuYun), in which I am a Novice Priest and Junior Dharma Teacher. My highest aspiration and greatest inspiration is the actual pursuit of happiness – that means my own happiness coupled – inextricably – with that of all others.

2 comments on “The Joy of Failure

  1. Ok, totally me, trying , trying trying, to pass my Next Dan level in Kyudo ( sometimes misnamed Zen Archery). The graphic grabbed me right off. Hahaha. A Kung Fu Uncle used to tell me a lot, when we did Tai Chi Push hands….when you lose you also win!

    It does not matter how many time you get knocked down, it matters how many times you get up…brwnbuddha


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