Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Illusion of Conflict

I love the taiji (yin yang) symbol. So much so that when I saw these bowls at the pet store, I couldn’t resist getting a pair for my dog. I smile every time I fill them with food and water. Although the significance of this symbol is likely lost on Rosie, it is a daily reminder to me of the perfect harmony of nature.

You are probably familiar with the design in which two curving shapes create a perfect circle. The two curving shapes represent yin (darker) and yang (lighter). Yin and yang are sometimes thought of as opposites, each with various associations–yin with the receptive, mysterious, feminine, earth; yang with the creative, manifest, masculine, heaven.

Rather than opposites, however, the symbol reveals the complementary wholeness of the circle as the two shapes eternally flow one into the other. This is emphasized by the small dots (represented by pawprints in the bowl), a light dot in the darker shape and a dark dot in the lighter shape, showing that the essence of each is contained in the other.

The Tao Te Ching teaches that the complementary movement of the Tao and the “ten thousand things” (the universe) is one of manifesting into creation and returning to mystery.

Nature reflects this in the seasons. The first day of summer is the longest day of the year. As summer progresses, however, the days get shorter, heralding the coming winter. I’m always uplifted on the first day of winter, knowing that as we enter the period of cold, rainy months, each day is getting longer, promising that summer will come again.

Joy and sadness cycle in their turn, yet each is part of the whole process of opening the heart.

Even our breath reflects this, as each inhale and exhale flow in rhythmic exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

When faced with an apparent conflict, this symbol helps me shift from a stuck adversarial perspective. It teaches me to look for the movement of complementary ideas, each reflecting some common value. Instead of using force against force, yielding allows the cycle to turn, creating openings for other ideas naturally to emerge. Harmonious resolution is then possible, and if not achieved, then at least my inner harmony is maintained.

I witnessed this recently when two parents were arguing about whether their water-averse child should take swimming lessons. One parent said that the child should not be forced to swim if she was afraid of the water. The other parent said that lessons were important to help the child become comfortable in the water. They were stuck in what they perceived to be opposite, immovable positions.

What I saw was that both parents were in total agreement on the key points. They both loved their child, both wanted their child to be comfortable in the water, and neither believed that forcing the child into the water was the way to achieve this. When they finally recognized their common ground, they quickly agreed to provide opportunities for the child to be around water with a skilled teacher who could (hopefully) gradually and gently help the child learn to enjoy the water. There never really was a conflict.

And really, there never is.

The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by combining these forces. ~Tao Te Ching

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Life's Breath

Life's breath rustles
Like breeze tickled leaves
Swirling in and out of form
Child's play
Here and there
Delight in all creation

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Just Sayin'...

Buddhism says:  Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed.

Christianity says: Love your enemies.

Taoism says: I am good to people who are good. I am also good to people who are not good.

Islam says: It may be that God will ordain love between you and those whom you hold as enemies.

Judaism says: Love covers all offenses.

Hinduism says:  A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel deeds.

The photo above is of Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion. This is my favorite depiction of her because in this statue, her serene countenance is untroubled by the swirling water beneath her and the dragons coiling around her. She is often shown holding a vase containing the nectar of compassion, which, in this statue, she is pouring into the mouth of the dragon.

I don’t know what else to say about what I see in the world right now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

There Is No Try

Quit trying. Quit trying not to try. Quit quitting. ~zen saying

Ha! The universe just had a good laugh at my expense. Or perhaps at my benefit. I’ve been “trying” to write this post for days. The basic structure of a post generally comes to me easily. I spend some time editing and polishing, but there is rarely a sense of struggle. But not this one....

I have come at the topic from different angles, using different examples, changing vocabulary, deleting everything and starting over. Nothing seemed to work.

When I was teaching legal writing to law students, I would sometimes encounter a student’s paper that was muddled, either in parts or overall. I would meet with the student, put the paper aside, and ask her to tell me in her own words what she wanted to say. In almost every instance, it was quickly revealed that the problem was not in the writing, but rather in the thinking. The student would realize that she didn’t really know what she wanted to say. By pushing ahead with the writing, she hoped to achieve some clarity, or to convince her reader of some clarity, that was not present in her own mind. That never happens.

This morning, as I sat at the computer befuddled and frustrated, I suddenly sat back and laughed. I saw how hard I was trying to write something about not trying. When I questioned myself, I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to say about this topic. I’m not even sure what the topic is!

How absolutely perfect. The message of this post was not for my readers; it was for me! And now that I think about it, that is surely true for everything I write. A Course in Miracles says that we teach what we want to learn. I am forever a student, and sometimes, like right now, a very humbled one.

So I’m sitting back in my chair and belly breathing, and waiting....

And what comes to me is the scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker is tasked with using the Force to lift his space ship from the depths of the swamp into which it sank. He believes it is impossible, but sighs and says he will try. Yoda responds quickly, “No! Do or do not. There is no try.” If you missed the scene, here it is:

Yoda and Luke

Trying is something we value and encourage in this culture. Try, try again is our counterpart to the quotation at the top of the post. But we can easily use this admiration of effort to justify trying to control or force something. Instead, we can align ourselves with an inner harmony. Then, no matter what we call it, there is a sense of energy flowing through us. What needs to happen, happens. There is no try.

PS–Since we are in Star Wars mode, here is my favorite “Force” scene ever. It’s not from the movie; it’s from a commercial! Enjoy.

Darth Vader and the Force