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Do Not Push The River

Image result for lao tzu softness triumphs

Life as Contradiction

Why is it that softness triumphs over hardness?  The Grand Canyon is an amazing sight. What is  even more remarkable? … the rock was eroded by water and the canyon formed. The softness of the water wore away the rock, slowly, one day at a time.

When I’m confronted with difficulties, I can feel my body tense up and my mind begins to race. Neither of these physical reactions are useful to progress, but this is my body’s automatic reaction.

Problems feel (and sometimes are) urgent. Sometimes, just being quiet and adapting feels wrong. Change is often not brought about by waiting but by action. But what is the right thing to do? What action do I take?

1. Wait And See

Many times, I have two modes. Dive in and ‘fix’ things OR ignore it and hope it goes away. As a knee-jerk reaction, neither of these is particularly useful. I’m trying to learn that when I’m in the place where I only see these two alternatives, that I try to stop and take no action for the moment.

What is working for me these days, is to assess the situation and decide IF there is something that I need to do. Because I like to fix things, I tend to want to take charge, find a solution. It’s taken me a lifetime of sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong to learn that quiet assessment is a productive way to begin.

2. Looking for Resources

When I see there is need for change, but I’m unclear what I can or should do, I look for resources. Sometime I forget that, at least in this country,  resources may be abundant. But, it’s up to me to find the right resources and then utilize them. This might be something as simple as asking for support from people who care about me. Or, it might be becoming better informed or finding an organization that is taking action and see how I can support them. When I am most agitated, this is the step that I am most likely to skip. I’ll just react to the situation and often, I make it worse.

3. Diving In

It’s important for me to remember that most of the important lessons that changed my life were risky. I had to dive out of my comfort zone and into ‘who knows where’, in order to make progress for myself and others. This sucks. There’s a saying, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

This means that for the gift of being born in the wealthiest country in the world, I have a responsibility to look out for those less fortunate. I need to be a citizen of the world.

For me, this means finding a place where my contribution will make a difference in my small corner of the world. I may not be able to change everything, but I can change one thing, myself. And I can add my voice to others. It almost doesn’t matter what way you start or how you participate as long as you find a way to do it.

4. Deciding and Acting

Like the water that eroded the Grand Canyon, I can be a force for change that is quiet and steady. Through my:

  • actions towards others; a daily practice of kindness
  • commitment to justice and fairness; my time and attention
  • listening to the those I disagree with; making sure I hear and think about all sides of a issue
  • being informed beyond my comfort zone; making sure I am studying and learning new things all the time

This all takes energy and frankly, while we work less than we may have 100 years ago, the amount of information we need to process is overwhelming. For me, this means picking a few topics that mean the most to me and focusing on them.

There isn’t a right way to do any of this. There’s only the broadening of perspectives and willingness to be wrong, to listen and to act.

5. Not Making a Decision is a Decision

Like the water, I can, over time, improve myself with tiny steps. And I can accept responsibility for my shortcomings and mistakes as well as my successes. I probably have more of each than I am willing to admit.

As long as I know we are in this together to make the world a better place, then I feel better and do better. Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Image credit: Lao-Tzu


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