Dharma Glimpse by Philip Wallbridge
I’m not sure if the title of this dharma glimpse works. Bear with me. It is a play on the word ‘transdecendence’; a concept I have been mulling over this year. Transdecendence is about going downwards into something, in comparison to transcendence which is about going upwards, above, over. At least as I understand it. Transcendence is also apparently a film with Johnny Depp. It only has a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe I’ll give that a miss…….
Anyway, here goes. I went to the beach here in Morecambe late yesterday evening with my yoga mat. It felt like the first fairly nice day in a while up here. The sun was starting to go down, partially obscured by a blanket of clouds across the horizon giving it a more ethereal feel to me, the sea was about half the way out so the waves could still be heard lapping on the shore, and a near full silvery moon was gently glowing in the sky behind my left shoulder. It felt good. My brain and nervous system have been a bit frazzled recently you see. Largely self-imposed stress and First World problems. Feeling emotionally overwhelmed by interactions with family and friends recently, and decisions and changes looming ever closer. But I’m learning not to amplify and extend the internal vortexes swirling inside by trying to just let it be. Not judging and criticising myself. Or encouraging the ever ready, willing and able shame and guilt to come to the party. It will pass. Impermanence. Just as new difficulties, confusions and suffering will come in the future.
A side note here. If I was hearing someone else share this, particularly a few years ago, my jealous, striving and cynical parts would probably be popping up. Doing (predominately physical) yoga on the beach would sound respectively virtuous, impressive and a bit showy and pretentious to them. Indeed, when I started trying to learn some yoga there was some of that involved. And probably something like ‘spiritual bypassing’ too i.e. trying to do something seemingly spiritual to avoid really go into my own stuff and ‘bombu’ nature. Nowadays, yoga has become more of a necessity than an idealism. I’ve realised there is quite a lot of stagnant and easily retriggered trauma in my system (i.e. my body and mind). I can feel anxious, trapped and frozen quite easily. Yoga really helps to shake up the toxins and trauma, rebalance my energy, and get me more back in touch with body and the world. That, in all honesty, is a blessing when I can get myself on to the mat. I can’t always.
Back to the beach. I could get myself on the mat. I am doing some moving and stretching. There are some children playing to my left. Dog walkers pass by. Some have a look. Some make a comment. I’ve got used to this. It’s ok. I probably would in their position. Sometimes the dogs come up to me and have a sniff around. One dog did a natural excavation, if you see what I mean, right next to me the other day. I don’t know if it was some sort of silent protest. His ‘owner’ (I don’t really like that term or notion of ownership) apologised. I didn’t really mind. I found it mildly amusing. We had a nice chat. I now go from a standing position to all fours, ‘threading the needle’ to put one arm under my torso and lowering my ear to the ground. I notice my sense of the waves have changed. Not just the sound, but the sense of them. They suddenly feel more intimately connected to me, more a part of them. Without having to brave their lower temperature by going in them.
I was suddenly, spontaneously reminded about transdecendence. The idea of going downwards into the world – into all its pain, suffering and bombu nature, for spiritual growth and enlightenment. Rather than trying to extricate oneself from, and transcend, the world around us. I still don’t know which approach – transcendence or transdecendence – is right. Maybe there is no ‘right’. Maybe it is a false dichotomy or an oversimplified binary decision when the reality is something less clear and more fuzzy. Such is life. But, with my ear on my yoga mat and more connected to the beauty and calmness of the sea, it felt nice. And maybe that in itself is all I need to know for now.
Namo Amida Bu