There is nobody who can teach the way of no way. It cannot be learned either. Teaching and learning require someone. When there is no longer anybody, then the way of no way is evident and there is neither need for learning nor desire for teaching. ~Todd Jackson
Game of Thrones fans will recognize this line, spoken to Jon Snow repeatedly by the wildling woman he fell in love with, and who died in his arms with these words on her lips.
The universe has conspired lately to remind me that, like Jon Snow, everything I think I know ... I don’t. No matter where I turn – to family, to friends old and new, to martial arts, to life in general – I am confronted by my absolute ignorance of, well, everything. It is disorienting and decidedly uncomfortable. Sometimes scary. At the same time, it is intriguing, exciting, and occasionally even fun.
It is, spiritually speaking, where the action is. Outside of my comfort zone, on the razor’s edge. It is where I see most clearly, if I’m willing to look, my habitual patterns, my stories, my insecurities and fear. It is where I’m given the opportunity to experience the raw beauty and fierce grace of reality, to taste the nectar of truth, to be stripped of all my defenses and emerge pure and powerful. If only for a moment....
It sounds sublime, and it is, but it is also messy, like diving beneath the lotus blossom to its roots in the muck. The muck is where the flower grows. And so it is with us. When we embrace all life offers, excluding nothing, seeing the sacred in every moment, no matter what, then our true nature grows rooted in the depths of darkness to bloom brilliant in the light.
The following poem was written a couple of years ago to support a friend going through a hard time. But today, it speaks to me to give me courage to step into the mystery.
The ground beneath our feet That we think strong Is but an icy crust Lightning cracks race Pop and thunder We dare not move It matters not We will fall through into our destiny And remember once again That what dies Was never real And we are laughing free
That’s what someone said to me recently after I had offered some advice that turned out to be not very helpful. At the time I offered it, I was quite sure it was very helpful, confident that I knew exactly what the person I was giving it to needed to do.
But much to my surprise (why should this still surprise me?!), I didn’t know as much as I thought. And I certainly did not know what was best for the person I was attempting to influence.
How did I stumble into this illusion of omniscience yet again? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the person I was advising was one of my kids. And to make this clear, all of my kids are adults, old enough to chart their own course, old enough for me to know better than to step over the healthy boundary between parent and adult child.
While I’m moderately skilled at being a good listener and not trying to “fix” the issues that friends and other family members share with me, apparently with my kids, I need a few more practice sessions.
So thank you, my dear adult child, for being gentle and loving in reminding me to step back.
You know not their paths It is not yours to know Yours is to have faith Only that
You’ve probably figured out by now that I am a martial arts nerd. I love the art of combat. Considering that my favorite TV shows are Vikings and Game of Thrones, I suspect that in a former life, I was some sort of thug warrior...with a dragon.
Although not that skilled myself, I like hanging out with folks who are. One day, while engaged in lively conversation comparing various weapons, I asked one of my teachers what his favorite weapon was. Without hesitation he answered, “the one in my hand.”
What an excellent martial arts lesson. Think Jackie Chan picking up a mop or a shovel or a pool cue and kicking some you know what. We might not always have our nunchuku tucked in our back pocket, or our sword hanging from our belt when the bad guys attack.
But more than that, what a brilliant life lesson. Whatever situation we are faced with, it’s no use wasting time wishing that circumstances were different. It is what it is, right then in the present moment. It is up to us to use what we have.
If, for example, I want to be happy, what good does it do me to think about some ideal situation? I’ll be happy when I’m on vacation, when I get a job, when I retire, when I have kids, when my kids move out, when I have a certain amount of money, when I have even more money, and so forth.
Or I want to awaken, and I know that if I meditate a particular way, read a certain number of books, attend the right workshops, attach myself to the best teacher, and chant my mantra, then surely I will achieve enlightenment someday and live in bliss forevermore. No, I will spend my life chasing illusion.
My teacher’s answer reminds me that all I have in my hand is now, this moment. It’s my favorite.
One who knows enough is enough will always have enough. ~Tao Te Ching
This timeless little chapter could have been written today instead of 2500 years ago. It is a reminder that what is of true and lasting value is often overlooked in the hubbub of a world seeking ever more loud and glittering distraction. A cultural mantra of “more, more, more” leaves us feeling less and less content.
Always searching for greater sensory stimulation obscures the subtle and natural rhythm and beauty of Tao.
It is without taste Look – it cannot be seen Listen – it cannot be heard
It is found not out there, but in here, in the silence of our souls. Recently I looked with a fresh eye at the area around my meditation cushion. It was cluttered with inspiring things to read, prayer beads, wisdom cards, essential oils, and more. By the time I went through all my preparation to meditate, I was already done and ready to move on with my day.
So I put everything away. Just a cushion on the floor. Just sit. Simple.
And amazingly, I found that it was enough. Use it; it will never be depleted