In Poona one, and on the Ranch surrender seemed to imply submission, obedience to authority, doing what you were told. We heard Osho tell the story of the great Tibetan Master Milarepa being made by his master Marpa to build a house and then pull it down, a process repeated several times over. Gurdjieff did the same with his disciples, and I always feel an affinity reading accounts of his ‘Ranch’ at Fontainbleau. I think we Westerners took a long time to gain any understanding of what Osho meant by surrender. Yet Osho could also often be heard talking about freedom, individuality, rebellion even, and this we Western disciples thought was our language. For us No was only too natural. It was saying Yes that was hard, whereas Indian sannyasins found Yes only too easy. This was a difference between East and West Osho commented on several times.
Once I do remember on the Ranch when I acted out my feeling of revolt, of No – and the Ma’s in charge (Dolma and Vidya as I remember) said Yes, and accepted my decision. It was over going back into a Security job and sitting in those little Guard Box huts watching the cars go by. I just could not face the immobility of it, the isolation. I wanted to go out and play with my Survey Crew gang. Afterwards wondering how I had ‘got away’ with my little rebellion in a milieu where submissiveness posing as surrender seemed to be the rule, I attributed it to the totality of my conviction, its purity. Or maybe they could see I was almost about to have a nervous breakdown over it! Afterwards I did feel a great sense of gratitude, of elation, and of freedom.
The incident has stayed with me and thinking about it again nearly thirty years later I realise I’m back in the same predicament. Only this time there is no clear avenue of escape. My Guard Box is a bit bigger and I can cruise around the corridors and garden paths in my electric buggy. But there is no more roaming over hills and vales, going in a car off my ‘Ranch cum Home’, visiting far-flung friends. My companions here are all twenty to thirty years older than my mere seventy. They were all in the Second World War, and between us there is a chasm culturally. They have never experienced that mixing, or even dissolving, of nationalities sannyasins know and celebrate.
I am unmistakeably English, cannot disguise it. But I don’t feel content being back here in England. The English provinces seem so limited in outlook, narrow in their interests. I have always preferred living ‘abroad’, and loved being in America for that reason, a foreign country that spoke my own language (sort of). Gurdjieff could never bear the thought of living in England because of its barbarous food and climate. There is plenty of both where I live.
I can revolt against it – everything that affronts my ego, my conditioned sense of who I am. I do sometimes go and have a scream away from earshot. But there is not much energy in it, and it does not make me feel any better. Alternatively I can ‘surrender’ to my situation. Meaning what? How?
Acceptance, watching my mind as it writhes and squirms. There is a looking, an acknowledging of what is going on. Ah, there goes Mrs G again, there goes A’s TV blasting my corridor. Ugh, this must be one of John’s packaged soups. Of course I seek to change what can be changed – TV noise, poor food. We have food meetings, but seemingly simple things can be a big struggle. Getting someone to turn their TV down or close their door is never a matter of a simple request, a ‘please’. It involves a whole diplomatic negotiation with Carers and nurses. Surrendering, accepting is far from passive. In fact as far as I can see I am the most rebellious inmate here, and I chafe at the English placidity of my fellow inmates. They have been too long in the army obeying orders. So just having to live in a Nursing Home is a constant challenge. It is a rather different form of Commune than the ones we have been used to, but it still forces me to be aware of my reactions. Yet it has its own rewards – some of my oldies have been very fine, charitable men, a privilege to have known.
And then there is my disease itself (MS), with its insidious increasingly rapid advance through my brain. Again one can rant and scream out ‘Why me?’ But that is to no avail. Nothing can be done. MS is incurable the medical ‘experts’ tell one. And they are largely right. Yet there are a small number of those whose ‘No’ has brought them victory, a cure. There is a very good cheery magazine solely devoted to alternative treatments MS sufferers have found helpful, even curative. But such cures in most cases involve a fairly restrictive non-saturated fat diet,. This is a major frustration for me here where meat and dairy are the mainstay of every meal. I can’t bring myself to eat what only makes me worse and adds to my lethargy. So I have to negotiate my way round the worst excesses and have regular confabs with the cooks. Sadly for me there are limits to what an institution is willing to do for just one member.
I do have a sense still of hope; it would be another huge step to have to live in this body with absolutely no hope whatsoever of any stabilization or improvement. Remember Osho’s phrase in a different context, ‘hoping against hope’. In First Poona Ma Veet Asho was a good friend. Often I have pondered on her name’s meaning: beyond hope. No hope means no future; just the present however ‘miserable’ that might be. I see people here with my same disease almost completely paralysed, bedridden. They can have no hope, yet they go on living. When passing by their rooms I sometimes stop and marvel, go in and say hello to raise a smile. They must be in a state of complete let-go, physically at least.
All this is the outer, the body with its brain, which I am very aware of all the time because it does not function smoothly. There is no likelihood of going on automatic when almost every movement demands an added effort, almost a conscious decision – to get up, to take a step forward, to spoon soup into my mouth without slopping it all over the place. Most mornings (depending on when I am got up, and if the TV next door is not blaring so early) I manage a half-hour sit, and that can be blissful and is always centering. It is then a question of maintaining that inner awareness, that centred calm as I boogie myself to breakfast and the noise and agro of the day. My meditation is who, what, is doing all this; who is witnessing. And in that comes the surrender, not to anyone in particular though that can be part of it – to angry carers, to poor cooking, to noisy neighbours. Surrender I take in the sense of acceptance. It is like in Vipassana, naming the thoughts as they pass through the mind’s eye. It is neither passive, nor fatalistic. Ah here comes fatigue, inability to focus, TV noise, leg cramps, body spasm. And really that is my day, with some interesting (to my mind’s taste) reading or a radio/TV programme, plus a cruise around the big garden here when it’s sunny.
If fear is there note down that fear is there and accept it. What can you do? Nothing can be done; fear is there. See, if you can just note down the fact that fear is there, where is the fear then? You have accepted it; it has dissolved. Acceptance dissolves; only acceptance, nothing else. If you fight you create another disturbance and this can go on ad infinitum, then there is no end to it….Suppressed, you never experience the thing in its totality, you never gain anything out of it. Wisdom comes through suffering and wisdom comes through acceptance. Whatsoever the case, be at ease with it. [A Bird on the Wing Ch.1]
Just accepting a quiet, pretty reclusive life. Is there joy in this? Not much elation; but neither am I depressed. I don’t need Prozac thank you. It’s not a life’s ending I would have chosen. I don’t recommend it as a meditation, I’m sure there are easier ways. And yet… others with MS are much worse – I see them bedridden in my Home, let alone worse chronic diseases. Stephen Hawking paralysed in his computerised wheelchair is a celebrity case. But it is not a question of comparisons.
My situation is a wonderful one for inner work, for awareness. I feel it gives me depth, a lovely Osho word. I don’t have to busy myself looking after shopping, cooking, earning/managing money affairs – a decent enough Home with fine grounds is provided free. It is such an opportunity to go in. And that is so exciting and challenging, an adventure to embark on time and time again. To watch this mind and keep looking for that elusive Self within it, hiding away asking to be revealed. Ah this, and this, and this.
Would I say yes to a cure? Of course, and I do keep hoping – my latest is appropriately called Esperanza! But – meanwhile I practice acceptance. Accepting now and here brings in the Present moment, the only one there is.
(This article first appeared in Viha Connection Magazine)