(Un)learning

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.


--Tao te Ching, Chapter Nine (S. Mitchell translation)

A long time ago, I took a train trip from Michigan to California. Having never really traveled by train, it was difficult at first to learn how to walk in that environment. The train shook from side-to-side just slightly enough to throw off one's balance if you tried to walk as you would on the sidewalk. Additionally, the train was speeding along at 75 mph or so and you could see the scenery blur by through the large windows to either side. It was a very disorienting experience, at first.

Then, the train conductor offered some training on how to set your center of gravity on the train (walk like a duck!), it was possible to move about fairly easy. Learning where to look in order to move about the train cars so that the blurred scenery didn't make you feel dizzy or sick came next; it was possible to focus on the interior without walking with your eyes pointed to the floor and maneuver around.

The trip afforded me the opportunity to learn to walk with mindfulness, you might say. To realize that you can't just "do as normal" in every situation. My entire walk and way of looking around had to change so I didn't fall over. ;)

At the same time as it was easy for me to re-learn how to walk in a new place, I think about how it's not always as easy to re-learn how to think and "be" at times. Plunging headlong into a situation without considering how to engage, how to behave can be disastrous as falling over in the dining car into someone's lunch. Hehe. And yet, we are quicker to hold onto old ideas of not just "who we are" but "how we are."

For instance, I spoke with a friend recently who has been going through a lot of relationship troubles. She had been hurt by her significant other's lies and misdeeds; when she would assume that someone else was lying or acting with ill intent, she would automatically believe they were "just like" the significant other and out to hurt her. She would react the same way in every situation, rather than seeing a moment for its own uniqueness.

There can be "conductors" (like on a train) throughout life who are there to help unlearn old actions and learn how to adapt to a present situation. My friend - right now - is unwilling to hear what the conductors in her life might say about how to learn a new way to think and be. I'm sure that with time, she'll grow and adapt again. Like on the train, she will re-learn to walk and know where to look to get through her situation.

Thoughts?

Be mindful,