Thursday, 28 January 2010

Excuse me, have you got a moment?

Although I've been life long explorer of human consciousness and spirituality and such, I’ve never really understood what all the fuss is about “being in the moment?”  To me it sounds akin to watching paint dry.  My brain likes action - my inner dialogue jumping furiously between old memories and future possibilities. But having such an active brain means my best-laid plans often get waylaid by “bright shiny thing” syndrome (“Oh look…a bright shiny thing!”) which, while mildly entertaining, is extremely frustrating when you’ve got an infinite list of things to do in a finite amount of time.

So imagine my surprise when one day, just recently, I got it.  I was “inspired” to do the dishes and, as I went through the process, I realized that I was focusing on nothing else but the feeling of the warm soapy water on my hands…and the way I was able to get every bit of crust off the old fying pan…even the smell of the not-so-fresh dish rag.  I was “in the moment” with washing the dishes and it was, dare I say, wonderful.

Being in the moment means being present to the task at hand without my brain racing ahead to the next item on the agenda.  It also means ejecting the stream of “shoulds” and “oughts” that often accompany me through my day.  It really is that simple.  It’s so simple, in fact, that I feel stupid even writing about it!  (She never got that? Duh!!)

There are a bunch of things going on in my life right now that could paralyse me with fear about the future, but when I gently pull my mind back from the edge of the precipice and focus on the task at hand, life just flows.  I’ve been so amazed by this that I was inspired to sit and write this post. And now I am ready to go and “be in the moment” with my pillow.  Good night everyone. 


Monday, 18 January 2010

Master Oogway and the Broken Leg of Life

Perhaps you are familiar with the ancient Taoist proverb about the boy who broke his leg?  It goes something like this: 

One day, a farmer's horse ran away. His neighbours cried, "What terrible luck that you lost your horse!" The farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not."

A few days later, the horse returned, leading several wild horses. The neighbours cried, "Your horse has returned, and brought more with him. What great fortune!" The farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not."

Later that week, the farmer's son was trying to break one of the wild horses and got thrown to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, "Your son broke his leg, what a calamity!" The farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not."

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, conscripting all the able-bodied young men for the army. They did not take the farmer's son because of his broken leg. Friends cried, "Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!" To which the farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not."

Recently, while watching the film KUNG FU PANDA (Dreamworks 2008) with my son, I was delighted when wise old Master Oogway reminds Master Shifu (who is in a panic because the villain Tai Lung has escaped from prison) that ‘an event is just an event.’ In other words, events have no meaning in and of themselves, only the ones we give them.  Though this may have gone over a seven-year-old’s head, it went straight to my heart.

This can be hard for people to grasp as human beings are generally far more comfortable with a firm, clear set of rules and values which name things as “right” and “wrong”,  “good” and “bad” as determined by some authority, earthly or heavenly. But the truth, I suspect, is more aligned with Master Oogway’s philosophy than religious or political dogma. 

Perhaps we know this innately, but we forget in the heat of the moment.  I remember not getting a job I particularly wanted some years ago.  I cursed the unfairness of life.  Soon after I was offered a better, far more interesting position that I could not have taken if I had got the first job.  I could have saved myself a lot of angst if I'd been centered enough to pause and consider that losing out on a job might have a greater meaning.  

We can all cultivate this kind of "maybe so, maybe not" centeredness, and heaven knows there are plenty of wise souls both past and present who offer practical teachings along those lines.  Jesus himself urged us not to judge, and Byron Katie, a favorite modern sage, urges us to “love what is.”

There is plenty going on in the world right now that one could call “good” or “bad.”  But it is perhaps wiser to remember that a broken leg is just a broken leg unless we deem otherwise.