Be like water

Part of the zen approach to life is to be like water, to go with the flow (and not see yourself as the water drop but as part of the water). Water can be gentle and soothing or powerful and instantly destructive, but the gentle trickle can accomplish lasting change – as any limestone can tell you – while the destruction wreaked by loud manifestations of water often gets repaired pretty quickly.

Water adapts to its surroundings, takes the shape of what it finds, does not insist on being anything else.

I know (of) someone who is like the sea, made up of many individual waves of dark and light, among and under which many sea creatures play and lurk. He sees himself aptly as a work of art, of light and shadow. The brain is infinitely more fascinating than beauty, he says, as beauty fades and changes and loses its appeal, but the workings of the brain continue to intrigue.

Most people, however, only get to see the cute little seal who waves one of his flippers at them, and are oblivious to the rest of him. What they don’t know either is that he does not choose to be this way. It is simply what he is and like water, he goes with the flow, adapting himself to the circumstances, but he is also the rock in the middle of the stream that watches and influences the flow of the water around him.

Throughout my life, I have found that in times of turbulence, most people around you will rapidly flow away along the path of least resistance to seek easier surroundings. (I said “most people”, as not all will do this.)

When all you have to rely on is yourself, you may have to be like the rock and not allow yourself to be swept away or swept along. This, then, will cause sand grains and pebbles and smaller rocks to snuggle up, finding shelter behind you, in your wake, for a while.

We’re all like the water and like the rock at times, and at other times, we have no choice but to be like the pebble that seeks shelter behind the rock to get some rest and recuperate.

Eventually, each rock turns into smaller rocks, then pebbles, then sand grains, only to be turned into massive rock again later. And then the cycle repeats itself.

We are all different, yet we are also all really the same.

From the Tao Te Ching:

The supreme good is like water,
which benefits all of creation
without trying to compete with it.
It gathers in unpopular places.
Thus it is like the Tao.

The location makes the dwelling good.
Depth of understanding makes the mind good.
A kind heart makes the giving good.
Integrity makes the government good.
Accomplishment makes your labors good.
Proper timing makes a decision good.

Only when there is no competition
will we all live in peace.

Also from the Tao Te Ching:

Water is the softest and most yielding substance.
Yet nothing is better than water,
for overcoming the hard and rigid,
because nothing can compete with it.

Everyone knows that the soft and yielding
overcomes the rigid and hard,
but few can put this knowledge into practice.

Therefore the Master says:
“Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom,
is worthy to become its ruler.
He who is willing to tackle the most unpleasant tasks,
is the best ruler in the world.”

True sayings seem contradictory.

This Too Shall Pass

Eclipsed Words By Aishwarya Shah

“And this, too, shall pass.”

This is a proverb indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary and time solves all problems.

I once read that the great Abraham Lincoln used to have a grand affinity for this proverb. On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln included a similar story in an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee. This is what he said;
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.”

How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

When we are in trouble, we feel that we are the only person who is facing these mountains full of doubts…

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The problem with zen

Zen or zen buddhism may be one of the most abused concepts of our time. Does it matter? No.

I use the word “abused”  but what I mean is “misused” because zen and mindfulness are often deployed as marketing gimmicks.

A pretty pebble sells for more if you call it a zen pebble and a garden pond becomes more special if you start calling your garden a zen garden, which helps sell ponds.

Zen is not about the pond. It is about the garden.

It is about what is right here, right now.

And it just struck me that that’s where things often go wrong too. Zen does not say “if there is a bear in front of you that is about to attack you, right here, right now, smile at it sweetly because it is probably empathy bear and empathy bear feels your pain”. But that’s what a lot of people seem to think.

Zen says “if there is a bear in front of you that is about to attack you, right here, right now, get out of there but do not forget to grab your rucksack”.

Because if the bear gets you, it won’t matter whether you took your rucksack or not, but if the bear doesn’t, it will.

When you fall off a cliff, get stuck on a branch and find tigers waiting below and a juicy ripe berry in front of you, go for the berry because it won’t matter to the tigers. But it will make a difference for you, regardless of whether the tigers get you or not.

Zen is practical. Zen says “look after your garden and stop obsessing over the damn pond.” The garden will bring you food. The pond won’t. Zen also says “don’t discriminate between people with pond and people without pond”.

A veggie patch is much more zen than a pond (unless the pond was already there anyway).

Zen is about letting go of the idea that you have to have a pond.

Zen is not about hedonism either, however. That would be the same as obsessing over the pond.