Mindfulness for Transformation.

Put Down the Oars

“Put Down the Oars”

This is the April, 2014 “One Moment Shifts,” the monthly e-mail for those interested in tidbits for shifting perceptions to have a happier life. Enjoy!
A few years ago I attended a particularly memorable  meditation and Dharma talk at a zen meditation center. The message that day was about our human tendency to push, pull, force, manage, and control our ways through life and how this leads to (unnecessary) suffering. The speaker gave an example of canoeing in a river and paddling furiously against the stream, refusing to go with the flow of the river. I remember the speaker charismatically saying, “Just put down the oars!”
That Dharma talk was a great reminder for me. Dharma (our path) has a flow of its own. When I willfully refuse to trust, allow, and “go with the flow,” I am making a choice. For instance, when I try to control others by wanting them to do something sooner, going a direction in life or in a relationship because it will “look good” when my gut is telling me to abandon ship, or when I over-function to push down feelings, I am choosing to force, manage, claw, and push life around while kicking and screaming. I am choosing my frustration.
Just one quick story. This past year I tried something new: kayaking. My first kayaking excursion was a weekend trip paddling in a giant lake to different islands miles from shore. In essence, once we were out, there was no “calling it quits.” Midway through the second day, after hours of frustration and trying to make the kayak work in a certain way (and maybe a bit of crying), that I said out loud in exasperation, “This isn’t working!” I’m not sure who I was hoping would hear that, but something inside of me did. “You’re absolutely right, that isn’t working,” seemed to be the all too cool, calm and collected response. It hit me: I can’t make the water or boat do anything. My paddles are there to guide me along and help steer, not to change nature. I can choose to work against it (and continue to feel frustrated, angry, defeated) or I can start working with nature, allowing my paddles to gently move me over the waves in rhythm. I will just say, the rest of the trip went  much more smoothly.

We have a choice. Water, like life and dharma, is forceful and we can’t change it’s direction, but we always have the choice to try to change it or work against it. We have free will. Thing is, it’s lot of energy to try! When we feel lost and like we’re trying too hard, there’s a good chance our intuition is telling us just that; we’re lost and trying too hard. This is a good time to, “put down the oars,” and listen inward. Our intuitive voice will never steer us wrong, and whatever we really need will come to us exactly when we need it. The Universe (source energy, God, Goddesses, Buddha, Elvis, whatever) is good like that.

Happy Spring and good luck paddling your river!