Thursday 5 November 2020

Don't side with yourself

Saturna island, BC

Stand firm. Don't back down. Stand up for what you believe in.  This was the kind of advice I heard when I was growing up. And to be sure, for a timid girl like me who was likely to back down whenever someone with a louder voice (which was just about anyone) spoke to me, it was helpful advice. I learned not to be a doormat and not to follow wherever someone else wanted to lead me.

But at some point -- maybe this point -- conviction and certainty begin to seem less useful than they once were. What would it be like to loosen my grip a little? 

"Don't side with yourself," said the 17th century Zen master, Bankei. I heard this expression the other day from Joseph Goldstein. It hit home. 

Maybe because the world is in a state of flux like I have never experienced in my lifetime. Maybe because the older I get, the closer I feel to the girl I was who found happiness sitting on a rock beside a little creek, counting the yellow leaves that drifted down from a cottonwood and landed softly on the water to be carried off gently down the stream. I didn't have to worry about being right or wrong. They are still my happiest moments.

I thought about the idea of not siding with myself this morning. Two days since the election in the US and the world is awash in side-taking. Opinions, fierce views -- what would it mean to let go, just a little, and see the other side? It's humbling to recognize how hard it is.