There is a great story in the Zen tradition that you probably know. A farmer’s horse runs away leaving him with no means to work the fields. “What a pity,” his neighbors say. “Poor you.”
“We’ll see,” says the farmer.
The next day the horse comes home leading three wild horses. “That’s great!” say the neighbors. “Lucky you!”
“We’ll see,” says the farmer. “Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not.”
The next day his son tries to work one of the new horses. It throws him and his leg breaks. “Wow,” say the neighbors. “That’s really too bad.”
The farmer replies, “maybe it’s bad. Maybe it’s good, though. We’ll see.”
The next day the army comes through, drafting able-bodied youths for war. Obviously they can’t take the farmer’s son. “Incredible news!” the neighbors say.
And the farmer – who is obviously a very patient man – says, “maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s bad.”
And on and on it goes.
In that story, I’m the neighbor. Every day I tell the farmer what’s good and what’s bad. Then I go to the coffee shop and babble about Heraclitus’ river. Then I go home and lecture my kids that time and space aren’t real.
I’m so busy being wise and making sure everybody knows it that the Truth – and the faith that makes seeing Truth possible – are altogether lost to me.
It’s a recurring theme lately. I let go and a grace so deep and still appears, leaving me silly with joy and then . . . I take seriously the idea that “I” did something serious and important and so ought to do it again. And then we’re off to the Separated-from-God races.
A Course in Miracles puts it this way:
You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing. Salvation is easy just because it asks nothing you cannot give right now (T-18.IV.7:5-7).
I tend to skip over that last sentence because its implications are so powerful. The whole course in right there. Whatever salvation requires is already quite literally at hand. I don’t have to do another ACIM lesson, re-read Tara Singh, meditate more or wake up at 4 a.m. and walk the dog through snowy woods while muttering in the direction of Jesus.
Those are the rituals the egoic self offers in place of the simple truth that if I’d like to wake up – like right now – then I can.
If I am willing to really read that sentence – if I am willing to give it some space – then I am going to have to see that the reason I am not saved yet is because I don’t want to be. I’m not ready. I am still deeply, even cunningly resistant to Love. And while that doesn’t make Jesus pound whiskey in a backwoods roadhouse, it also doesn’t leave me especially happy or peaceful.
And I really want to be happy and peaceful.
So what do I do? More and more it doesn’t seem especially complicated. When I am unhappy and in conflict it is because I am keeping Jesus – that loving symbol of the healed mind – at a distance. Since that’s the problem, the solution is to invite him back.
When I don’t walk my dog, I get irritated. And it’s funny in a way. Sometimes I’ll be talking to Chrisoula, telling her that I didn’t walk Song yesterday and here it is 9 a.m. and I still haven’t walked her and why do I do this to myself? And to her? Why is life so full and busy that I forget about my dog? Is it because I hate God? Or God hates me? Does God hate dogs? Why do I love being separated from truth so much? Maybe I should read some Ken Wapnick or Krishnamurti. Maybe I should write a blog post. Maybe I should return to the Catholic church and go to confession. Maybe . . .
And Chrisoula will say gently, “why don’t you take Song for a walk right now?”
I forget how simple the solution is. I like talking and thinking! The first time I sat in a Zendo, the teacher said that we were going to practice not paying attention to our thoughts and I was like, “wow, you must have really boring thoughts.”
She was right though. The Truth needs nothing at all from us. It’s not an insult. It’s freedom. And it’s ours whenever we’re ready.
Wow, this really struck home. How persistently I avoid simplicity and resist, outright, truly joining with Jesus. I’ve become aware of how purposeful this is on my part. All I have to really do is say and mean, “Not no.”
Thank you so much!
You’re welcome Norman. I’m glad it was helpful. I really do think that just seeing that we’re the ones doing it can be incredibly helpful.
Oh, Sean, your blog is so helpful to me!
I struggle and struggle until I am reminded that “I need do nothing,” then I invite Jesus to guide me and I obtain the peace I want so badly, that is right there for me, then something else happens and I’m struggling again. It’s as if I don’t want to give up the pain, and I can hear Jesus asking me, “Why are you DOING this to yourself? You could have peace instead of this!” It is a choice I make every moment of every day — to listen to my personal mind (ego) or to Jesus/the Holy Spirit. It is a CHOICE! And somehow when I choose Jesus and my Christ Mind, it first of all seems too easy (how can I have peace when this or that is happening?) and secondly, a sense of guilt if I do have peace – such as, don’t you care enough about this situation (my father’s dementia, for example) to be upset about it? But I’m working through that by not working through it but by actively surrendering to the Truth. Or at least trying to, by not TRYING to!
I hope this makes sense.
I’m glad you cited the quote above from the Course.
Your blog is so timely for me. Thanks!
It does make sense, Aleta! On some level, the work we have to do doesn’t really translate very well to words. It is like we are working harder than we have ever worked in our lives – but doing nothing. I think it is such an important thing to come to that space where we realize we are doing it. Everything else flows from that, in particular the asking for help, and the letting go.
Thanks for reading & sharing!
I just think to myself, that I need do nothing, and the Miracle Worker’s Prayer from the beginning of the book. Those bring me comfort. Great post, Sean!
Thanks, Michael! I love that prayer as well.
you rock, sean!
ha ha! Thank you Joel.