I have been watching a series in Netflix called “Losers”. My first impression towards this program was that of entertainment. “So exciting, I will find some details about the bigger losers in history” -I said- but to my surprise I found out that every “loser” mentioned in every chapter was completely a winner. A complete history of braveness, openness and vulnerability was revealed after the deep histories of lose.
I think that the content touched my heart because lately I have been thinking that we do not know how to lose. All the conditioned patterns, habits, educational system, university speeches are directed toward being “someone”. Most of our behaviours are built to stand up proudly in our self-centeredness, self-importance, because in that way we WIN. We have a misunderstanding about be confident enough with be the top number 1. If you win you are someone, if you lose you are insignificant.
Has anyone have spoken to us about how to learn to fail?
Has anyone spoke to us about how many times we are going to feel discouraged, dispaired, deeply sad, confused, frustrated in our lifes?
Did anyone tell us that all of these emotions are useful, because through them we can reinvent ourselves with an opened heart that is capable to accomodate everything?
Buddhist philosphy has some inputs that can enrich this view of endurance. “Endurance of life” I would say. Ani Pema Chodron, an american Buddhist nun, was inspired by the phrase “Ever tried, ever failed, try again, fail again, fail better.” by Samuel Beckett to lift her up once all her life was falling apart. She says that at one point she felt that her life was over and she needed help. She visited Trungpa Rinpoche, her teacher, who told her in a very calm way ‘Well, it’s a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over. And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth. And you are lying there, and you have a choice. You can either lie there, or you can stand up and start to keep walking out to sea’. Lying there is what a lot of us choose to do at that point, because it is easier and does not require much work. But you can choose to stand up and start walking, and after a while another big wave comes and knocks you down. You find yourself at the bottom of the ocean with sand in your nose and sand in your mouth, and again you have the choice to lie there or to stand up and start walking forward. Trunga Rinpoche said “So the waves keep coming’, ‘And you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humor to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward’. ‘After a while, it will begin to seem to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller. And they won’t knock you over anymore’.
This advice given to Ani Pema Chodron was in some sense for all of us. It is difficult to continue without the evidence that we are going to have results when -we want- as -we want. This -not goal orientated attitude- is not easy, specially in the times where we live, where almost everything has to have a clear and materialistic purpose. Things that are not productive are useless, and therefore we can discard them easily. Taking the advice from Trunga Rinpoche, it isn’t that the waves stop coming; it’s that because you train in holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart, the waves just appear to be getting smaller and smaller, and they don’t knock you over anymore.. External conditions does not change, what it changes is our attitude towards experience.
I was impressed with the story of Surya Bonaly in the Netflix series. Her courage and determination towards her goals was heartbreaking. Not because she reached what she wanted, but because although she knew her disadvantages in the competition (body style, performance, racism in the jury) she did not give up. She did not win, but certainly what she learnt was much more than a simple medal. She changed the history of ice skating allowing more black people to not be discriminated in competition due to foolish characteristics of skin and body shape. Was because of her struggles, because of all the times she had to work hard (almost to perfection) that she developed perseverance with herself and others (including the old-system in ice skating), patience with herself and finally the biggest lesson ever; that to win or to accomplish something, whatever it is, is not the most important thing, is just part of the pathway. Is because of the difficult times that we are stronger. There is no other way to be stronger. In fact what happens along the pathway is our precious gift; the qualities developed, the humanness sowed in our heart to be opened towards pain, suffering, frustration. A broken heart that is fertile and ready to fertilize human values such as honesty, patience and understanding. Seeds only flourish once they break the earth. Flowers only can grow when we can be courageous enough to resist the uncomfortable feelings and emotions inside of us.
I think that is the most scary and beautiful part of life. Be opened to receive failure, pain, suffering, criticism and recognize that we do not know how to deal with them. We do not know how to relate to these aspects of life. Is not bad neither good. Is just what it is and it is okey to not know about that. We are ignorant and that is okey. We are all ignorant! The good thing about this is just because we know we are ignorant, we can start to learn.
I would have liked to learn how to let go more easily my self-centered attitudes, taking care of myself but also taking care of others. I would have liked to know since I was little that all these altruistic values does not come just because we want them; instead, we should create the conditions for them to flourish and building certainly take time and effort. No pain no game. I would have liked to understand many years ago that the enemy is not necessarily ouside of me waiting to destroy me, the real enemy is inside of us and is our ignorance of not knowing how to relate to our difficult situations. I feel so liberated to be such an ignorant!. The truth is that the more I realized how ignorant I am, the more freedom I feel. Sometimes I know how to relate with those aspects of myself, some others (many others) I have any idea at all, but that is okey. I talk to me tenderly allowing myself to not know, and at the same time be aware that just because I do not know does not mean I have the right to do any harm. I should be careful but understanding with my own limitations. Sometimes I am very aware of not harming, and some others I, unfortunately, harm.
Life is not easy but undoubtedly if used properly, can bring the best qualities of ourselves to the surface. Stay aware, stay openhearted, stay conscious, try to be a loser in your life and experience the rawness of this vibrant journey called life.