I’ve written about surrender before. It’s one of those buzzwords that is probably in danger of losing its meaning.
That’s why I love the lojong teaching: “Abandon any hope of fruition.”
I am working with Pema Chodron’s book, Always Maintain a Joyful Mind, and in it, she presents 59 slogans and corresponding brief commentaries. Like a deck of angel cards or a daily reader, you flip (in order or randomly) to a page, read it, and try to apply it to your life for the day.
For the past few days, I have flipped to this teaching on abandoning hope. It sounds depressing at first.
But I’ve found it quite helpful.
I was recently accepted to a temporary monastic residency at Gampo Abbey, the Shambhala Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia where I volunteered for six weeks this summer. In order to prepare for the residency, I must take a number of prerequisite courses. It’s kind of like spiritual grad school.
Fortunately, I had already made a commitment to volunteer for the month of September (with the option to stay and work longer) at Karme Choling (KCL), a Shambhala Buddhist land center that offers these prerequisite courses and more. Coming here, I had hoped to be able to take the courses I need in the next few months before the monastic residency starts in January.
In actuality, however, my chances were looking rather bleak. I asked to take three of the prerequisite courses, spanning one week, during my volunteer time this month. Head of personnel said yes, but the kitchen manager said no. The compromise was that I could take the first course only.
Ok. I was sad, but accepting and grateful. I started to look into other options of where and how I could take the other courses.
Then, I talked to my friends and fellow volunteers about it, and one of them offered to cover all my shifts to allow me to take the second and third courses. She is the lady I referred to in my other post inspired by Hurricane Irma. Since she has been here during the storm and its aftermath, she has felt powerless to help her community on St. John, and wanted to help me while she is here.
I was overwhelmed by this generous gesture. Again, we got a yes from head of personnel, and a no from the kitchen manager.
It seems my plan to take the prereqs here had gone to shit. Admittedly, I was a bit angry, as I thought the kitchen manager’s assertion that the kitchen would be short-handed was downright retarded and unreasonable, since my extremely capable friend and fellow kitchen volunteer (with extensive professional cheffing experience, I may add) had offered to take all my shifts.
Emotion pumping full throttle, I went to meditate in the shrine room alone. My mind filled with a flurry of thoughts and plans about how to still live at KCL and travel to take the courses at other centers.
I began to see how even that would not really be doable, because it takes a long time to get from KCL to an airport (think: catch a ride to take a Greyhound), then multiple flights, and additional buses, rides, and trains to get to the other Shambhala Centers. It all seemed very complicated and unwieldy and expensive.
So, I then decided to abandon that idea too.
I started looking at cars on Craigslist. Van life is my go-to, back-up plan of action. I figured I could buy a car to live out of for the next three months. Something relatively cheap, and just truly dharma bum it, traveling to take all the courses at the various Shambhala Centers. Make a road trip of it. I thought it would be cool to link up with friends along the way. I really started liking this idea.
Then, I told one of the kitchen staff about it. He is an amazing new friend and bodhisattva with whom I must share some sort of soul family/profound past life connection. He was already cleared to take the week off when all three courses I need take place here to take another program going on at the same time.
And, he told me that he will give up his spot in the other program, so that I can take all three courses. The kitchen won’t be short-handed, because he is one of the main people and has a long, successful professional cheffing background.
He cancelled his registration, and talked to the appropriate people to ensure his sacrifice allows me to take the courses.
Now, I’m blown away. The level of kindness… The universe—in the form of two lovely individuals—bending over backwards to allow me to stay here and take the courses here and have a nice ride of it all… It’s so beautiful that I just can’t deal.
And, even if I am still told no, I don’t care. To know that such kindness exists in the world is the greatest gift I could possibly imagine.
I encourage you to try it out: “Abandon any hope of fruition.” See what it can do for you!