Take a Straight Dose: Review of “Fearless at Work”

“Take a straight dose” is one of the slogans in Michael Carroll’s  Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands.

I don’t do much reading of dharma books of the Tibetan persuasion but the Shambala folks sent this one my way and I’m glad they did. For one thing, I find it easier to be appreciative of contemporary expressions of other traditions. I can set my zen-bitch mode aside more easily, and simply enjoy the offering.

In Fearless at Work, Carroll offers a real way to get to work at work and in the world generally, entwining the Tibetan warrior tradition of Trungpa with mindfulness practice. Fearless at Work is an astute and confrontive guide to practice off the cushion, organized around and inspired by the slogan practice exemplified by Atisha. As I read, the thought came up repeatedly that I was going to post this or that slogan on the wall in my office at work.

Carroll begins with “Face the Fierce Facts of Life,” including

– to be human hurts – at times unbearably so

– anything can and does happen

– each of us is alone: we are born alone and we die alone

– no one and nothing can save us from our lives

– we are going to die – very soon

– and when we die, 99.99 percent of the world won’t notice

– and those who do notice will forget … often

No silly dharma pablum there.

In “Ask, Who’s Kidding Whom?” Caroll writes,

“When we are willing to forgo the cowardly games of emotional one-upsmanship, we discover that human communication is a profound bond in which we touch one another, and how we choose to touch is how we choose to be touched. If we choose to smack someone with our hand, our hand is smacked as well. If we choose to kiss someone with our lips, our lips are kissed as well. If we choose to turn our back on someone, our back is exposed. If we choose to use gentle words, our voice is at ease.”

Now that’s one cold zen flip!

In “Take a Straight Dose,” Carroll writes, “Clearly discerning how we betray our humanity in our addiction to modern-day conveniences sets the stage for actually taking a straight dose, where we fearlessly experience life on its terms, not ours.”

Martin Luther said, “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”

And in the hot house of daily life with all its frustrations and disappointments, joys and letting goes.

Taking a straight dose is to realize the simple straight-up truth that all the great traditions celebrate.

For example, in Transmitting the Light, we have this subtle and obvious koan:

The Tenth Ancestor, Parshva, attended upon Buddhamitra for three years. During that time, he did not once lie down to sleep. One day, Buddhamitra recited sutras and preached about no birth. Upon hearing this, Parshva realized the Way.

Rolling out, rolling back,
how many scrolls of sutras does it recite?
It dies here; it is born there;
it has several kinds of chapters and verses.

My thanks goes to Michael Carroll for his rolling out and rolling back! Fearless at Work is an inspiration to make work our place of authentic practice.

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