The value of dropping it, all of it!


 

 

A favourite zen story

It goes something like this:

One day an elderly monk and a young monk left the monastery and headed for the village.  After buying supplies, they headed back.  As it had been raining hard a stream had become swollen.  On the edge of it stood a young women in her fine clothes; she was reluctant to cross the stream.  The elderly monk set his load on the ground and offered to carry the women across the stream.  She hopped on his back and he carried over and then came back, picked up his load and headed for the monastery. 

An hour or so later the young monk could no longer contain his his disappointment, his upset, his anger.  He told off the monk for breaking the rules by touching the young woman and carrying her across the stream.  The elderly monk listened calmly and said “I left her by the stream over an hour ago.  Are you still carrying her?”

Ordinary living: you and I are still carrying her!

It occurs to me that you and I are rather like the young monk: we are still carrying her.

What are you and I carrying from the past?  Hurt.  Grudges. Resentment. Anger.  Myths. Beliefs. Injunctions. Must. Should . Should’nt……  These make a heavy load and this load is constantly strapped to our backs.  Worse, as we get older this load gets heavier and heavier.  And we can never really be present in the present: we are worn out from carrying this load around even if we have got so used to this that we no longer notice it.

‘Extraordinary living’: drop it, leave the past in the past!

Want ease, grace, joy present in your living?  Then stop carrying her! Drop it, leave the past in the past.

Feeling like a failure as a mother/father?  Then drop the myth that there is a way to be a perfect mother/father.  Drop the myth that you should be a perfect mother/father.  Drop the baggage!  Just be a mother/father.

Carrying hurt?  Did someone hurt you?  Drop it!  You are hurting yourself today by carrying/clinging to the hurt of yesterday.  Have you never hurt anyone?  Really?  Take a good look: can you be sure, absolutely sure, that you have never intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone?  Go further and question the myth of hurt.  Who promised you that you would not be hurt or that you would not hurt?  Does life, real life, come with that guarantee?

Didn’t live up to expectations?  Drop the expectations!  Notice that expectations are not an inherent feature of the world.  You can drop the expectation that you will live up to expectations!  Yes, you can drop it!  Just live.

Carrying guilt?  What good is that?  Who benefits?  What difference does it make?  Drop the guilt. Act!  Pick up the phone and apologise.  Write a letter and apologise.  Meet up face to face and apologise.    Are you experience existential guilt in the sense of not living an authentic life?  Then act: live that authentic life!

If I / you choose to stop carrying her, to put the past in the past, then I say that our experience of our lives, our living, will be transformed.  Life will show up as being light, lighter.  And you and I will show up light, lighter.  Lightness comes with being at peace with ourselves and the world.  When we stop carrying her we can be present: just walk back to the monastery!

 

Getting present to the ‘awe/wonder’of Existence


“Existence is infinite, not to be defined: and though it seem a bit of wood in your hand, to carve as you please, it is not to be lightly played with and laid down.”  Lao Tzu

I say that if you and I dive into this, really dive into it, our experience of our living is transformed.  To be present to the awe and the wonder of Existence is to move from ‘ordinary living’ to ‘extraordinary living’. Sometimes, when I am present to that which exists between my daughter and I, I am profoundly shaken.  She is my world. And she exists only because my wife had a miscarriage.  It could so easily have been otherwise.

In the West, Existence is no big thing.  Existence slipped into the background centuries ago and most of us are never present to the ‘awe’ of existence.   That the mountains are.  That oceans and rivers are.  That waterfalls are.  That rain is. That snows is.  That the wind is. That trees are.  That grass is.  That deserts are. That lions are.  That birds are.  That fish are……….That I am.  That you are.  That we are together as beings-in-the-world.  That feelings are.  That love is. That sadness is.  That laughter is.  That language is…….

How magnificent Existence is!

“Existence is infinite, not to be defined: and though it seem a bit of wood in your hand, to carve as you please, it is not to be lightly played with and laid down.”  Lao Tzu

If you need some help in getting present to the awe/wonder of Existence I recommend reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Tears


The domain of experience: what is so

Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears. Tears.  Tears.  Tears.  Tears.

The domain of mind/concept: the ‘story’ that shows up uninvited

This is so sad:he was so young, had so much to live for.

This is painful: I will miss him; and I will miss her.

Why do I feel so sad?

Why so many tears?

I am soft, I am sensitive …..

What will my wife and children think seeing me tearful?

Stop being such a woman, be a man!

Pull yourself together, don’t let your guests see you this way.

Tears are part of the human condition.

Tears are a sign that you care, that you are human, that you are not a robot.

What is the right thing to do by his family, her family?

Blah. Blah. Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

Getting it!

It is resisting the experience.  It is taking flight into the domain of mind, of concept, of story!

What one resists, persists!

Being with what is so: the domain of experience

Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Sadness. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears.

Death: the awareness of the possibility of death as the access to owning one’s life and living powerfully


“The life of riches, ambition, pleasure, is in reality an intolerable servitude in which one “lives for what is always out of reach,” thirsting “for survival in the future” and “incapable of living in the present.””  Thomas Merton

This week I came across TED talk, titled “Before I die I want to….”

Watching/listening to this talk I was struck by the fact that someone had written “Before I die I want to live.”

When I saw this, sadness gripped me.  It occurred to me that you and I are given a tiny window of opportunity to partake in the glorious drama called existence.   As far as I know we are on the only planet that supports/generates life as we know it.  Just compare the images of Mars to those of Earth: ours is a breath taking world!   Yet, so many of us are totally not present to this.  We do not experience this beauty.  We do not experience this gratitude. And our living does not reflect any urgency in living well.   And for the most part we do not live well.  If we are honest, brutally honest, for most of us, our lives do not show up, in experience, as lives worth living.  Why because we are chasing those riches and/or engrossed in surviving/fixing.

Is there a way out of the trap?  Yes, the possibility of death offers us the door out of the trap into a vivid experience of living.   I have experienced this vividness, this wonder, this gratitude, this week.  How/why?  Two people who I know/like/care about are close to dying.  Being told that they are dying resulted in sadness and tears showing up in my house of being.  And along with sadness, Death brought with it, into my house of being, a vivid appreciation of the wonders of being alive.

We dread death, individually and as a culture.  We dread death so much that we don’t talk about it, we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t allow people whose quality of life is so poor to get help to end their lives.  We keep death hidden behind the curtain.  Yet, is this the wisest course of action for living well?

It occurs to me, and I am not the first one that this has occurred to, that the possibility of death is like no other possibility.  Possibilities other than ‘no possibility’ (which is the all to common default way of being in the world for many/most of us) have to be invented by us.  If I want to lead a life full of life I actively need to invent possibilities that I can live from/into that lift me up, inspire me to be, to put myself fully into the world and take a hand in shaping it.  When it comes to death, you and I do not have to invent the possibility of death.

The possibility of death is there, always there, right from the moment we are being pushed out / thrust into this world.  The challenge is to create/generate the right relationship to it.  The challenge is to invite the possibility of death into our house of being so that it influences/shapes our way of being in the world.  And to keep doing: keep being present to it.  Why?  Because when we are present to, really present to and experience the possibility of death then it shapes our living, our way of being in this world.  The presence of the possibility of death pushes us to live, really live, to appreciate the beauty of this world.

What I have noticed this week is that with death being present, vividly,  I have lived vividly.  I have really tasted the tomato salad.  I have really tasted the delicious ice cream made by my wife.  I have really listed to the music and got joy out of it.  I have delighted in holding the table tennis bat and playing tennis with my children.  I have enjoyed the wind and the sun stroking/brushing against my naked body and so forth.  I have even enjoyed the sweat pouring off my face as I work the exercise bike.

The real sadness of life is not death.  It is to live in such a way that when you are presented with the question “Before I die I want to..” you answer “LIVE”.  It does not have to be that way.  Just getting present, authentically present, to the possibility of death can/does make all the difference.  Put differently, authentic presence to the possibility of death, has the potential to transform our lives.

Are you up for that?  Or do you prefer to continue chasing the horizon, living for someday?  If so you might want to remember the wise words of Thomas Merton, the words that I opened this post with:

“The life of riches, ambition, pleasure, is in reality an intolerable servitude in which one “lives for what is always out of reach,” thirsting “for survival in the future” and “incapable of living in the present.””