Friday, May 29, 2020
Saturday, May 23, 2020
Understanding that we do not know is wisdom
Believing that we know the unknowable is suffering
First year law students often arrive expecting that they are going to be told all the answers to legal questions. After a few weeks of hearing professors say, “That depends on ...,” they begin to suspect that the professors know the answers but for some pedagogical or sadistic reason are keeping the answers a secret from the students. It takes a while to convince them that legal analysis does indeed rest on a number of factors and variables.
Oprah Winfrey’s magazine always ends with a column titled “What I Know for Sure.” I used to joke that I was in awe of Oprah because she knew something for sure at least twelve times a year.
Buddha understood that attachment or desire is the root of suffering. One of the things our brains are wired to desire is unchanging certainty. So strong is this craving, that our brains will grasp onto a false answer rather than tolerate the discomfort of not knowing. Once securely attached to an answer, the brain resists the trauma of releasing it even when a better answer is presented. I have seen my own brain do this. It’s kind of amazing.
And it leads to suffering. Because on some level we know that we are floating in an ocean of mystery paddling a leaky raft. Our soul swims lazily alongside, beckoning. “Come on in; the water’s fine.” And we just paddle harder.
Until we don’t. Until we are so tired of the suffering we cause ourselves, that we are willing to dive into our fear because we are less afraid of the murky depths than of staying where we are.
And guess what. The water is fine. And so are we.
You know nothing, Jon Snow. ~Ygritte, Game of Thrones
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
During a recent conversation with a martial arts friend and mentor, we were discussing our practice. Although we are at very different levels (he is light years ahead of me), we both find ourselves in a time of transition, partly affected by the shutdown and interruption of our usual routines, but that is not the only impetus to change. I was describing my sense of “where do I go from here” lack of clear direction. Did I want a different teacher? Did I want to learn a new form or a new style or a new weapon?
Describing his own shift in practice, he explained that he had dropped the notion of a specific teacher or learning a particular style. Instead, he was going back to fundamentals and exploring wherever his curiosity led him, following the guidance of his body’s wisdom after years of practice. Striking out on his own, everything felt fresh and exciting again. He said without apology or need to justify, “This is what I’m doing.”
Wow. I loved that statement. The simplicity and honesty of accepting ownership and responsibility. The self awareness and permission to not know, to explore, to be curious. To turn inwardly and listen, rather than to continue seeking “out there” for direction and guidance and instruction.
I immediately recognized what he said as the inspiration I was looking for, and I embraced his statement as my own declaration. My practice was reinvigorated, fun, and empowered.
And, as with all martial arts lessons, I quickly appreciated how the idea spilled over and permeated the rest of my life. Going back to basics, trusting our inner wisdom, listening rather than imposing. As MSI wrote, “Life becomes extraordinary in its simplicity – the response to everything that comes to us is the same: acceptance, compassion, and unconditional love.”
“This is what I’m doing” is a call to mindfulness, whatever our activity, a reminder to be aware, to be present, to not be so distracted that we miss our life. It is an assertion of responsibility for ourselves and our choices. It is liberating and empowering. It is grounding in a time of uncertainty and anxiety. It is a reassurance that we are enough.
So as we go through our day, let’s pause and listen, and choose. Then say with confidence, “This is what I’m doing.”
For in the sacredness of every moment, Divine Grace is telling you alone all that is required. ~Jean-Pierre de Caussade
Friday, May 1, 2020
What is left to say
when all is silent
What is left to grasp
when all is released
What is left to believe
when all is surrendered
What is left to fear
when all is love
What is left to be
when all is one