Wednesday, 29 July 2009

On Going Through Life

We have our own ways of sailing through the sea of life. Most of us have developed some kind of mental vehicle that fits our personality and identity most comfortably to deal with life. For some, it is the warrior profile of fighting through, for others it is the angelic look and energy that brings forth the best in people, and for others still it is diplomacy. Think of various archetypes - the hermit, the warrior, the wizard, the priest, the judge, the king, the queen, the page. You see that each has their own particular stance, their own style of sailing along.

And this can be a cause of suffering.

Read that again. It CAN be a cause of suffering, not must, but probably will be. A cause of suffering does not mean it is wrong. It just is an inherent condition of that mental stance. And life is like an ocean. If there is a hole in your stance, it is like a hole in your ship. Water will get in. The ocean has nothing against you. It is its nature to seep in.

Does it mean we cannot have stances? That would be even more claustrophobic than having a stance. It would be like saying a ship can sink, so we should not use a ship. Far more useful to say, "Here is a ship. I can sail in it. I know it can be sunk. When it hits an iceberg, I will head for the lifeboat."

Li Duan Qi Bu Duan, Qi Duan Yi Bu Duan

That's a saying from the Tai Chi classics. Translated: If strength is broken, energy is not. If energy is broken, intention is not.

So we use our stances knowing full well that for every stance there is a counterstance, that it can be broken. And when it is broken, we abandon it, knowing it has been countered. Our energy still heads in a certain direction. But when the circumstances are overwhelming, we conveniently change direction. It does not mean we give up, but sometimes to retreat is to advance. Sometimes, to take a sideways route is faster. The path changes, but the intention remains the same.

Same with life. We get attached to our mental stances because they become a way of managing our way through life. We get afraid when our stances are broken, because we forget that there are subtler ways of dealing with it. Often we fight with all our energy to hold the ship together, so both the stance and the energy are broken. Even then, we are left with intention. So we are not bereft. Given enough beatings, even intention can be broken, but then we are left with reality, pure and simple. And when we have no preference, no ship to defend, no lifeboat to man, we become like a cork drifting in the water - unsinkable.

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