Wednesday, March 23, 2011

on my mat : scratching the itch (or not)

Do you have the patience to wait 
until you mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving 
till the right action arises by itself?
                     LAO-TZU, Tao-te-Ching

This week in class, we are playing with the idea of being non-doers, or at least non-off-the-cuff reactors.  It seems that whenever anything "undesirable" comes our way, be it anger or sorrow or garden-variety discomfort, our natural reaction is to meet it with "What am I going to DO?"  What we mean is, "What am I going to do to make it go away?"  So here is an interesting idea...what would happen if we didn't do anything?  What if we just sat still and invited in the discomfort and observed it with patience and compassion?  What often happens is that it passes and we see that these feelings are temporary and, like all else, drift by like clouds in an otherwise clear sky.  Pema Chodron refers to these feelings as being "itchy" and to our habitual patterns of relieving them as "scratching."  Ironically, scratching the itch, though it offers temporary relief, only makes you itchier; remember the chicken pox?  It's like that.  Of course, sometimes, when the initial bout of itchiness subsides, we realize that some sort of action is required. However, the action plan born out of clarity looks much different than the plan that is hatched from blind emotion;  I think we can agree that our first inclination does not always yield the best results. Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles to make the distinction?  I am working on it.

And, so, perhaps your intention this week is to cultivate a willingness to be itchy...


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