Universal Rules: No Answer Comes Before its Time
This particular concept has a lot in common with the answer to,
"Where did you find the book you were looking for?"
Answer: "The last place I looked."
And it's also part and parcel of the old joke:
A guy is on his hands and knees under a streetlamp, looking for something. A fiend walks by and asks him what he's looking for.
My keys. I dropped them."
His friend gets down and helps him look.
After an hour, neither has found the missing keys. The friend says, "Are you sure this is where you lost them?"
"No, I dropped them over there, on my porch."
Exasperated, the friend says, "We've just wasted an hour! Why are we looking over here?"
Nonplused, the man says, "Why, because the light is better over here!"
No answer comes before its time, because we don't recognize it as the answer until we are ready to hear the answer. And as the joke reminds us, it is often easier to search for answers in the light of what we know, than to risk the fearful darkness to find the missing key. So to speak.
I was reading a Zen book the other day, which is a lovely to look at kind of book. It's called, Zen in 10 Simple Lessons.
The book's emphasis is upon the simplicity of the principles of Zen, which are few indeed. As a matter of fact, Zen is often described as "simply sitting." Yet within that concept is the idea of patient exploration of the space between breaths, or the contemplation of a koan, or riddle, which might bring enlightenment, or a day spent in reflection in a Zen Garden.
And each day spent in this contemplation and focus is complemented by also "chopping wood and carrying water." In other words, everyday Zen, every day.
One might do this for many years, for a lifetime, knowing only that there is the possibility that enlightenment might come.
I remember watching "Kung Fu" as a teen, and seeing the child Kwai Chang Caine standing at the gate to the Shaolin Monastery, waiting for days to be admitted. I'm still amazed with that series, and with the essentially slow pace of it. The concept of patience, or "waiting patiently," grates on western nerves.
Another way of thinking about our idea for the week might be this:
No Answer Comes Before it is Earned.
And here is the apparent contradiction. Many people get quite good at the techniques required of "just sitting," and yet peace of mind eludes them. We then see that it is not in the learning of the technique(s) that one finds wisdom. The wisdom is in the "not knowing" that resides in the gaps between each breath.
In the west, there is the expectation that we have the "right" to answers, and the expectation is that the answer should come quickly and preferably painlessly. Telling people they have to wait and practice and focus and then "sit and breathe" is well beyond the ken of most. Thus the concept of guru shopping. Many have not developed the skill of patiently waiting, while living out each day fully and completely, and, of course, blame this on others.
The reason for all of the paradox-ness is this: the only way we make progress in this life is to absolve all others of responsibility – either for where we are or for our progress in answering our questions. When I think it is about others, nothing will ever be an answer. When I recognize self-responsibility, everything is an answer.
And that answer often is: "there is no answer."
This is one of those difficult to penetrate concepts. Let me try it this way.
What if I adopt two concepts and live them for a while (say, a decade or
Concept 1 – there are no answers.
Concept 2 – (from last week) cling to nothing.
What this might mean, say, in a relationship, would look like this: nothing in this relationship actually means anything other than whatever meaning I give it, so I can please myself, anger myself, bore myself, and I can learn about myself or not. And none of that will have anything to do with the other person. If I do not cling to the other person, I can engage with the other person as fully as I choose to. In other words, whatever I am going to learn about myself in the relationship is directly proportional to my letting go of expectations and clinging.
Ands this is so with everything. Answers come precisely at the point when we stop clinging to our need for them. Solutions materialize in the living out of life, not in avoidance. (That's the meaning of "chop wood, carry water." It's about answers coming in the midst of life, not out of special circumstances, timing, or "being special.")
You can't force an answer, and you can't make an answer conform to a pre-conceived notion of what it ought to be. Answers come when you get out of their way, while living your life fully in the interim.
This week, have a breath and let go of seeking after what seems to resist showing up. Instead, sit in the moment. Let the moment expand, without judgement. And see if the answer arrives, in it's own time. Not as a goal to be sought, but as an unfolding of your experience, moment by moment.