When I was little, like 8 years old, I asked my dad to teach me how to play chess. My brother Steve was nearly 7 years older than me, and I watched the two of them play with envy, although at the time I didn't think of it that way. A bit of an attention hound, I wanted a taste of that space I saw my brother and my dad occupying, quiet, serious, no talking. I was fascinated!
I was never able to beat my father; he was a genius and had been playing since he was in the hospital, dying from TB when he was in his early twenties. He would play by mail, for heaven's sake, with the board to one side of his bed. Lots and lots of time to think about his next move. I experienced literal checkmate over and over again.
My teacher Adyashanti speaks about being Checkmated. If you have reached whatever age you've reached today and you do not feel as if you have been checkmated by LIFE, then bless you, you are lucky. You most likely will not reach the end of this form's life without that feeling, but even if you do, well, your last breath will teach it to you. You cannot win this game. Your King will fall.
When you are in Checkmate, you have no moves. You cannot stay where you are, as King, and you cannot move anywhere safe. There are no moves. In Chess, when a player realizes this, he tips himself (his King) over. He is captured, dead. The game is over. Checkmate.
When you experience the death of a cherished loved one, checkmate.
When you lose a body part, or the functioning of some body system, checkmate
When you don't have what you need to live properly, with enough food, shelter, water, companionship, checkmate.
When you have a choice to make about how to live...also Checkmate.
I am very fortunate to be able, at nearly 60, to be able to make choices about how I wish to live my life, in whatever time I have left in this form. Most of you who are reading this, I hope you, too, are fortunate enough to have some choices about how you show up in the world.
I know some of us must prostitute ourselves (no disrespect to prostitutes) to survive. That can look a lot of different ways, not just the traditional one, but the metaphoric one. Giving away energy we'd rather not, or for not enough energy in return, in order to keep our head above water. I know some of us are caught up in rather vicious addiction cycles, or other mental illnesses. I know some of us have differently-abled bodies and brains that don't operate in such a way to find ease in the world. I know some of us must care for others who are caught in the snares of mental illness or disease. I understand, as I have taken a few turns at the wheel under a few of these circumstances. We do what we can with the resources we have available to us in the moment. Checkmate.
This week I felt keenly checkmated as well. I chose to emerse myself in the happenings popping up in my feed. As evidenced by my last blog post, I had all sorts of feelings about gosh-darn-near-Everything. I wanted to talk about it. I actually did not realize that by publishing the post it would automatically be pushed out into all of our subscriber's mailboxes, and so thought I'd just post it and no one would read it. But, before I went to bed, I checked my email and realized hundreds of people would be notified of the post. Oops, I thought. What have I done?
When I woke up this morning and went upstairs to meditate, I could not get myself out of the way. All I could think about was I need to remove that post! People DO NOT subscribe to a yoga website to hear about my political and ethical belief systems! I watched myself fail to let go of the One Who is Meditating. I have been getting better (misnomer) at this lately; utter failure this morning. It was like I was absolutely ensnared in the ME and was utterly compelled to fix what I thought was a mistake. NOW. My mind wouldn't let it go even for my sit. Checkmate.
If I decide to engage in the world, the way so many of us whom I admire do, (HELLO Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, hello Greta Thunberg, hello Barak Obama) I will find that I will suffer. I will have all kinds of feelings and thoughts, some that are mine, some that are not my own, and yet they flood me with shame, hatred, rage and guilt. The suffering comes in the form of my own mind, but also in the form of the backlash of the world--the one I cared enough about to show up in! The rejection of strangers, but also my students, friends, my family, the anger I inspire in others which makes their minds and bodies come into dis-ease...it's not the outcome I want to face. Checkmate.
So let's say I decide to disengage. Shut off the TV: programming, news, clicking on my YouTube news subscriptions; stop scrolling Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter...
If I decide to go up to the proverbial mountaintop, and tell the world to leave me alone, my information (Andrea) is useless. I have shown up in the world, only to choose to hide my light under a bushel. I will know that books are being banned, people are being pushed into submission by the fears of the powerful elite, and I choose to say zero. To do zero. To be zero. This is a peaceful way to be, and was chosen by many enlightened beings as the only way to dissolve the ego (or at least cripple it) and live in harmony with nature.
Maybe it is the only way for them. It cannot be the only way for this form, Andrea. I take ownership, if not outright identity, with this form. I chose to use the resources I have available in the moment to try to show up in an uplifting way. Be the best Ego/Form/Self I can be. Self-actualization is not a place one lands on the hierarchy, it's a process. You and me, we are a process. We are energy in constant motion, like a candle flame. We look stable, but we are not. We are in the process of being (burning) and we have this moment to light up the space. A blown out candle, sitting idle with a wax and a wick and the power to shine, is not useful. To be useful, she must light herself up and burn herself out. But. Checkmate. There, on that road, she will burn out and die.
This situation we are in has to be viewed as a privilege. As the Grace of God. God Informs as Me. Me and God are One. Do not resist because you live in fear that you are separated from God. You cannot be separated. This is the core teaching of Non-Duality, and of yoga. This is the core teaching of Buddha, of Lao Tsu, and of Jesus Christ. (John 1:1). Ong namo guru dev namo.
We yogis love to do this kundalini yoga because it takes us out of the Story of ME for a few seconds, if we're practiced, and a little lucky. Seconds become moments. Moments become longer. Longer becomes a 20-30-60 minute silent sit. Longer sits become daily sadhana. Daily sadhana (spiritual practice) becomes a life attuned to the truth of the reality of being. Freedom from suffering cannot be achieved by withdrawing from the world, or by engaging with the world. Suffering is part of the falsehood that you are separated. It seems so obvious that you are, hanging out in this Ego/Form/Self. If that's your identity, you're up Schitt's Creek. You've got choices, yes, but either way, Checkmate.
The liberation comes from knowing your King, as she tips over, isn't real. That the You who is playing the game is an illusion. A candle flame insisting it's solid and permanent. An identity tied to a dream.
Die before you die. This is freedom. This is unity with all that is.
Sat nam. Hope to see you in class.