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!

 

If the herd is headed for the cliff the sane thing is to break free from the herd no matter how uncomfortable you feel!


What am I to be, to do, to have in this world?

How do I decide what/how I am to be in this world?  How do I decide what to do, how to conduct myself, what to chase after in this world?   Of all questions these are the most important questions and they do not have easy answers.

Given that these are the most difficult questions and there are no ready made answers how do I answer these questions?  The default is simply to follow the herd: look around me and buy into the way of life that everyone around has bought into. Look deeply and you will notice that we human beings are herd animals.  We just don’t use the word herd instead we use softer more appealing words like ‘community’, ‘profession’, ‘vocation’, ‘nation’…..

“It’s all made up!”

If we are fortunate there will be glitches in the ‘matrix of the taken for granted every day life’ and we will notice these glitches.

I noticed these glitches.  I would go to school and be told “X is great, this is the right way to be, the right thing to do…”  and I’d get home and I would be told “X is totally wrong!  It is the wrong way to be, the wrong thing to do, the wrong thing to chase after…”.   At home I would learn a set of views/practices and upon arriving at school I’d be told that these were wrong.  I was lucky enough to be born into one culture and live in it whilst at home and then be embedded in a different culture during school hours.

At the age of about 8/9/10 I remember thinking “Its’ all made up!”  That was the most liberating thought of my life – it changed/directed the course of my life.  I focussed on school work rather than religion.  I studied Physics rather then Biology and thus dashed my parents hopes of becoming a doctor.  I went to a university far from my parents home rather than one nearer home.  I chose my wife rather than get an arranged marriage.  I made friends irrespective of their colour, their race or their religion instead of sticking with my ‘own kind’.  I questioned things and asked difficult questions rather than accept the ready made answers….

Being with the herd does not make you ‘right’, going away from the herd does not make you ‘wrong’

Most of us will experience a series of glitches in the ‘matrix of our taken for granted way of thinking and living’ and one or more of these will grab our attention and open our eyes so that we see beyond the surface.  When we see beyond the surface we may come to the conclusion we are living a false life, a shallow life, a mindless life, a meaningless life, a joyless life, someone else’s life.  Then we are confronted with choice: act/reclaim our life as ours or to go back to being with the herd and pretend we never saw what we saw.

Most of us lull ourself back to sleep and get back to following the herd. And if we don’t do that then the people around us act on us with more and more force to get us back in the pen with the rest of the herd.  Our argument, their argument is often that the herd cannot be wrong, we must be wrong.  With that in mind and with a commitment to leave us with the freedom to transform our lives I share with you the following passage from R.D. Laing’s book, The Politics of Experience:

“From an ideal vantage point from the ground, a formation of planes may be observed from the air.  One plane may be out of formation.  But the whole formation may be off course.  The plane that is ‘out of formation’ may be abnormal, bad or ‘mad’ from the point of view of the formation.  But the formation itself may be bad or mad from the point of view of the ideal observer.  The plane that is out of formation may be also more or less off course than the formation….

In particular, it is of fundamental importance not to confuse the person who may be ‘out of formation’ by telling him that he is ‘of course’ if he is not.  It is of fundamental importance not to make the positivist mistake of assuming that, because a group is in formation, this means they are necessarily ‘on course‘.….. Nor is it necessarily the case that the person who is ‘out of formation’ is more ‘on course’ than the formation……

If the formation is itself off course, then the man who is really to get ‘on course’ must leave the formation.”

How present am I to the moments of delight?


Yesterday I driving the Mercedes with the sunroof and four other windows open.  I was in a little bit of a hurry to get to my end destination as my eldest son was waiting for me.  Then suddenly the breeze kissing my cheeks and playing with my hair was noticed by me.  I stopped: that habitually “I” was stopped in it’s track.  In it’s place was present joy – simple delight in being alive.  And then gratitude gave me a big hug.  gratitude for the brother that bought the Mercedes for me and keeps it in good order.  gratitude for being alive and being able to drive – fast.  gratitude for the breeze on a hot day.  And gratitude for family and friends…….

Then I got present to this simple fact:  most of the time wonder is present in the ordinary moments (like a cup of tea or the smile of a fellow human being)  yet the  “I” is so wrapped up in “getting somewhere”, “doing something”, “making something happen”, “not tripping up”, “making the best use of my time” and such like.  The absurdity is that the “I” says it wants to be happy yet it is so wrapped up for its happiness plan that all the raindrops of happiness land on the desert.

So the answer to the question is that in my everyday automatic way of being I am not present to the moments of delight.  That does not mean that the world is not full of them.  And if I want to experience the joy of these moments then I need simply to be present – to be aware, to be mindful, to move from the mind to the body and simply view the world from the lens of “what works” rather that “what does not work” and the lens of “gratitude” rather than that of “complaint”.