Friday, November 7, 2014

"The wise reject what they think..."

I read this ancient Tao story, attributed to Chuang Tzu, a couple of weeks ago, and it resonated so deeply with me that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:

There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them.

So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.

He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.

He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps. 

This is me.  This is me being anxious about a boy.  This is me not knowing if I’m making the right decisions in terms of what I am and am not writing at the moment.  This is me getting swept up in the weekly cycle I referenced in the last entry, where everything is loud, and a crisis, and big, and even though I know how much better I feel when I let it go, some part of me must be addicted to that drama and chaos or else I wouldn’t keep returning to it.

Some part of my identity is tied to feeling like there’s no such thing as pushing too hard.  I push myself, I push other people, and then, as if to deny that, I say that I’m going to sit in the shade and relax…but I can’t stand it for long, and I get up again and start running.

Here’s another story I read recently:

One day a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yelled over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?”

The teacher pondered for a moment, looked up and down the river, and yelled back, “My son, you are on the other side.”

Headline quote.  Tao story.  Zen story.  Picture 1.  Picture 2.


  1. you just hit the nail with how i feel about me and my life. though i would consider the shadow being more of the "dark side" of my life i just can't get rid of - there is always a field in which i have to fight hard... actually since the last almost decade it is more like my life is on fire and i try to juggle some icey balls who melt in my fingers - and if they are gone... well i don't know what happens then

    hugs from germany

    Annie S

    1. It's the "fighting hard" part I'm trying to work on...why am I fighting? Why does everything have to be a struggle to overcome? Why don't I just let things be? (Except if I let it be, then the part of my identity that's wrapped up in fighting is lost and I fear that on some level.)

      And then there's my tendency to beat myself up when I don't live up to my own expectations - which is just another form of useless fighting...

      Here's to both of us giving ourselves a break. :)

    2. Hmmm, I guess I just have no choice than to fight. If I don't I give too much power over my life in the hands of others - like if I don't go to the court to fight for my work exam (which is like a reference letter but you are entitled it to it and to it be in a certain form etc) than my ex-boss will have a great power over my upcoming carreer, since this is paper is missing and it will be deemed as a bad sign by future bosses.

      And yup, I don't know what would be left of me when I stop fighting? OR maybe I know too good what would happen...

      oh yes, we just give ourselves a break for the next 24hrs :D

    3. Oh, I definitely think that there are times to fight, and it sounds like for you, this is one of them! But everything doesn't have to be a fight, and I know for me, I sometimes take comfort in working myself into the ground. Which is ridiculous. :)

      And you know, even a 24-hour break brings some peace of mind! That's why I try to relax on the weekends. (Although sometimes I'm better at that than other times...) So yes. I think a 24-hour break is an excellent idea. :D

    4. oh well, make that time a 15 years and counting-period LOL ....

      For me the 24 hour brake helps at that time, but afterwards I have a bad conscious because I didn't take care of all the things I should. Weird.

    5. Not weird at all. :) I have similar thoughts myself, although most of the time, I wouldn't have accomplished much in those 24 hours, and I benefited far more by giving myself a little time to breathe!