“It’s as though you were up in a tree hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands and feet can’t touch any branch. Someone appears beneath the tree and asks, ‘What’s the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?’ That’s a way of asking, ‘What’s the meaning of Zen?’ or ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ If you don’t answer, you evade your responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life. What do you do?”
-“Despair & Resilience” by Myotai Treace published in Mountain Record 22.3, Spring 2004
Some have walked away from the election results feeling elated. Some feel as if they’re left hanging from a branch by their teeth and are at a loss for how to encounter others who are calling out with needs of their own.
You’re hanging onto a tree branch by your teeth, desperately trying to save your own life. It’s not the best time for interruptions.
What do you do?
Do you pretend not to hear them? Focus more intently on your own life hanging in the balance? Amp up the distress level in your face to signify that now’s not a good time?
What are the strategies we resort to that let us turn away without being seen as turning away?
* * * .
To some, the result is ‘unthinkable.’ There is an opportunity in that.
When the unthinkable occurs (a broken expectation, a car accident, a job loss, a betrayal, an illness, a devastating setback), we can turn away from such moments all together, or try to gain some distance from the pain and confusion of them, or, we can take them up directly as a yoga practice (called samyama) and intimately consider them.
To attend to such moments as a practice is:
- to maintain your attention there (dharana),
- to be open to their expansiveness (dhyana), in order to
- to experience the heart of the matter (samadhi).
While these appear to be three distinct steps, they’re actually interrelated and are practiced collectively in a non-structured way.
Samyama isn’t ‘mulling things over’. It’s not about ‘getting to a good (dispassionate) place’ either. It’s a path to action:
Yes, you’re hanging from a branch with your teeth. And yes, someone else has appeared on the scene with their own needs who desperately awaits your response. Yes, this is an “unthinkable” moment. Lives are at stake. What’s your ‘unthinkable’ response?
* * *
On Sunday, November 20th from 2:30-3:45pm, Sarah Capua and Al Bingham will facilitate a special (donation-based) coming together for people who, particularly in the aftermath of the election, are interested in channeling their awareness of where they are into a path for action. Whether your intention is to effect transformational change or make it through Thanksgiving dinner, being in touch with where you are is an important part of that process.