The Pathless Path

Wayne C. Allen – a simple Zen guy – writes about living and relating elegantly

july14

What we say is irrelevant; what we do is who we are

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What we say is irrel­e­vant; what we do is who we are — talk­ing a good show is mean­ing­less.


In This Moment

In Buffalo NY today, on the way to Chicago and points west. Will be at The Haven August 2. Look us up if you are in the vicinity!


saying vs. doing
This semi-lighthearted mani­festo consists of ideas that “hook” into each other. And one of those ideas is this: “inside” and “outside” are inex­orably linked. I would go so far as to say that I under­stand another “only” based upon their behav­iour.

Here are a few examples:

Rosa Parks: I would assume that her inter­nal theatre, back in the 60s, was “Systemic racism is simply wrong — inde­fen­si­ble.” Most read­ers of this blog would agree with this. But here’s the thing. So what?

Her belief is a “warm, fuzzy,” and we liberals nod sagely in agreement. Had she only thought her thought, we’d all be going “Rosa who?”

Her thought, however, coupled with her decisive action, changed things, massively.

How? She sat down in the front of a bus, and quietly refused to move. She will­ingly took the pres­sure, the beat-down, etc. At that moment, her inside and outside was in harmony.

And still, no exter­nal change.

Then, the word got out (imag­ine this happen­ing in a world with­out Twitter, etc.) … some­how, and got picked up by the media, and Rosa’s action stim­u­lated the hearts of multi­tudes of Freedom Riders, who went South and sat down, and in this way, began to break the back of govern­ment spon­sored racism in the US.

Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad — died with a hand­ful of true follow­ers. Spoke, and spoke, and spoke to thou­sands, yet the move­ment came from the nitty-gritty work of the “disci­ples,” who turned the personal, through their actions (and often, martyr­dom) into a fire.

On the other hand, I think of how many people I know who go no further than the talking, lecturing, and pronouncing.

Meditators who only medi­tate when things are going well. Communicators who only use the model in the good times, revert­ing back to lectures and brow-beating when confronted. People who want an open body (or rela­tion­ship,) yet who tighten up and shut down at the first hint of inti­macy.

Therefore, we’ve gotta ask,

Why are people so will­ing to talk a good show,

and so reluc­tant to actu­ally live it?

I won’t spend a lot of time on this, as I talk a lot about how we live out the dramas of our lives. What did occur to me was the “churchly” idea of sins of omis­sion and commis­sion. We’ll drop the sins part (as there really is no such thing) and just look at the vari­ables.

Omissions are the things we choose not to do, even though we know that the omitted behaviour would be in our best interest.

As usual you’ll notice that I’m not talk­ing about the best inter­est of others. It’s impos­si­ble to figure our life out by focussing on the wants and needs of others. Simply put, “the needs of others” is an endless and slip­pery slope. The prob­lem: where does one draw the line? And how many people qual­ify as having more impor­tant or press­ing needs than my own? And what do I do when all of those needs conflict?

Back to omissions

If I know, for exam­ple, that behav­ing and commu­ni­cat­ing in a certain way means that I am heard and acknowl­edged, and then, know­ing that, if I will­fully choose not to commu­ni­cate or behave in that way, I am “guilty” of omis­sion. It doesn’t matter if I preach or teach elegant commu­ni­ca­tion and behav­iour.

If my words don’t match my life behav­iours, I am a hypocrite.

Commissions are the things we choose to do, even though we know that the enacted behaviour is not in our best interest.

If I know that a certain behav­iour, atti­tude or way of being consis­tently gets me lousy results and/or “makes me” feel like crap, and if I continue to engage in that behav­iour (even if I only do it irreg­u­larly) then I am “guilty” of commis­sion.

No matter how strongly I protest my inno­cence, (“The debbil made me do it!”) or my history (“All the women in my family are like this!”) or my clum­si­ness (“I just slipped. After all, I’m human.”) — no matter what I believe others are doing, (“Anyone would have gotten upset under this situ­a­tion,”) I am not inno­cent.

If I make excuses for my the way I choose to behave, I am a hypocrite.

Now, I get asked, a lot, how to get this once and for all. And I reply, “Forget it! This is a lifetime task. One time and one time and one time. “

When I say, “get it,” I mean, “get it this time.” It’s actu­ally a good thing that we don’t “get it” once and for all. It’s much easier to simply deal with the next situ­a­tion, and the next, than wait (and wait, and wait) for just the right moment to fix every aspect of your life.

I guess, for me, the answer is endless consis­tency. The more care­fully I can address my issues, expe­ri­ence by expe­ri­ence, the better I get to know myself, and the more I can appre­ci­ate the prin­ci­ple of disci­pline. I am thus consis­tently disci­plined in my behav­iour, while being flex­i­ble in my beliefs.

Perhaps the way out is to give up on excuses, confusions and self-doubts.

I know. Big task. But most people I talk with show amaz­ing compe­ten­cies in several aspects of their lives, and then, for exam­ple, suck at inter­per­sonal stuff. The compe­ten­cies match what is needed in the inter­per­sonal arena, but the excuses, confu­sions and self-doubts are created and acti­vated in an attempt to stay stuck.

Often, this is because the fear of change outweighs the desire to stop the fool­ish­ness. Or, it’s an egoic, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to change if every­one else gets to stay the same” thing.

We get past this sticking place by directly and firmly dealing with the only thing we can deal with – our thinking and behaviours.

As we feel the excuses, confu­sions and self-doubts aris­ing, there is noth­ing to do but to notice, and in the notic­ing, make another choice. It’s not about elim­i­nat­ing the excuses, confu­sions and self-doubts first, then chang­ing the behav­iour. That’s futile.

It’s simply about acknowledging the excuses, confusions and self-doubts, gently letting them go, and then acting in a clear and concise way.

This is integrity — staying open, feeling, acting, not shutting down or thinking too much. Inside, matching outside. And just being on fire.

This week, ask a few inti­mate friends about your abil­ity to actu­ally live what your mouth is promot­ing. Look at your level of frus­tra­tion. Ask your­self about your omis­sions and commis­sions. Then, one time, match deeds to words.

I think you’ll like the result.


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1 Comment

  1. William

    The other night over dinner I became reac­tive when my wife talked about a book that gives a novel view of rein­car­na­tion that goes against all of the major reli­gions. After I get over myself I apol­o­gize for being reac­tive and wonder where in my child­hood such nega­tive energy comes from. With other forms of my reac­tiv­ity, say my jeal­ousy, I’m learn­ing to do the next loving thing even when feel­ing cold and angry. This has been heal­ing for me in that moment. Sitting in that restau­rant saying I’d never read a book in which the author, alone of all the adepts and saints of the world, claims to have the truth, I wonder how I can learn to be play­ful with my thoughts instead of so defen­sive.

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