Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Dharma of High School Musical Part 2 - "Get'cha Head in the Game"

I want to be really, super clear here, because I've had hesitations about writing more postings like the one I wrote last week.

Here's the thing. I am not joking. I really, honestly think there's a Dharma lesson in the song "Fabulous" from High School Musical 2. I can't say whether this was intended by the song's authors, but I genuinely heard a lesson in the song after probably the thousandth time I'd listened to it. The lesson had been there all along, but it took the right causes and conditions for me to "get it."

I say this with the deepest respect and reverence for the Buddha's teachings, and also knowing that I am a complete novice when it comes to my understanding and analysis. This is why I go to pains to quote impeccable sources, teachers who have a much greater understanding than I have or perhaps ever will. Most of them are tagged over on the right hand side of this page. I welcome any clarification or rebuttal of any of anything I put forth; like I said, I'm no scholar.

My intention in my work on this site is to inspire others to take on compassion as a focal point in their lives and careers. Often, this veers into other, related areas of Buddhist study, but they're all closely connected. As someone who's in the entertainment business, I think it might be helpful to point out that there's room for a powerful teaching in any medium, whether it be a small, heartfelt movie, a Broadway musical, or a Disney Channel teenfest.

And perhaps part of the reason millions of fans connect to the High School Musical films is the thread of compassion that runs through all of them. We are no different from Sharpay, each of us always wanting the newest toys, and justifying it to ourselves like she does.

And that leads me to my next observation:

Last night, after my amazing nine year old daughter Lily made us dinner (for real!) I asked her to list all the songs from High School Musical, so that I could search for more Dharma lessons. Her equally amazing brother Eli shouted out "Get'cha Head in the Game," and I knew immediately he was on to something.

Watch the video:

The lyrics are a stunning back and forth between the running monologue in Troy's head, and what he knows to be important, that he simply must "get his head in the game." It's like two voices, battling for Troy.

Here's worried Troy remembering all the things he's been told to do:
Coach said to fake right
And break left
Watch out for the pick
And keep an eye on defense
Gotta run the give and go
And take the ball to the hole
But don't be afraid
To shoot the outside "J"
And then mindful Troy simply remembers that none of this is possible unless he's here, in the present moment:
Just keep ya head in the game
Just keep ya head in the game
Here's worried Troy talking about the past and the future, both in the same verse:
Let's make sure
That we get the rebound
'Cause when we get it
Then the crowd will go wild
A second chance
Gotta grab it and go
Maybe this time
We'll hit the right notes
"Let's make sure that we get the rebound," is worried Troy worrying about the future. "Maybe this time we'll hit the right notes," is worried Troy comparing to the past.

But then mindful Troy reminds us what's important:
Wait a minute
It's not the time or place
Wait a minute
Get my head in the game
Wait a minute
Get my head in the game
Wait a minute
Wait a minute
There is such a simple and profound lesson here. Thich Nhat Hanh says, in "The Miracle of Mindfulness,"
"Joy and peace are the joy and peace possible in this very hour of sitting. If you cannot find it here, you won't find it anywhere. Don't chase after your thoughts as a shadow follows its object. Don't run after your thoughts. Find joy and peace in this very moment."
Thay later quotes Tolstoy in the book:
"Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion."
Even more recently, Eckhart Tolle shared similar sentiments in The Power of Now:
"When you are present in this moment, you break the continuity of your story, of past and future."

"Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now."
These great teachers seem to be saying the same thing: "Get'cha head in the game."

This doesn't mean that Troy should give up! As Tolle says in The Power of Now:
"For example, if you were stuck in the mud somewhere, you wouldn't say, 'Okay, I resign myself to being stuck in the mud.' Resignation is not surrender. You don't need to accept an undesirable or unpleasant life situation. Nor do you need to deceive yourself and say there's nothing wrong with being stuck in the mud. No. You recognize fully that you want to get out of it. You then narrow your attention down to the present moment without mentally labeling it in any way. This means there is no judgment of the Now. Therefore there is no resistance, no emotional negativity. You accept the 'isness' of this moment. Then you take action and do all you can to get out of the mud."
Troy can "get his head in the game," accept the "isness" of the current moment, and then take action and do all he can to win the game! How profound this is, when we all spend so much time worrying about what actions we need to take, how we've done them the "wrong" way in the past, and how concerned we are that we'll repeat our mistakes in the future. But while we're worrying, we've created a world where "something's wrong," and we're unable to take any action other than to fix what we perceive to be wrong. If Troy's worrying about getting what the coach said "right," he's not going to be able to react and play to his fullest ability. Likewise, when we're worrying about what might happen, or what happened in the past, we're unable to really act from any place of strength; we're simply reacting, on full automatic.

And when we're reacting to the past, or worrying about the future, we're likely to be defensive, angry, and self-centered––and much less likely to be compassionate. *

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