Saturday, July 14, 2012


It often occurs to me that I spend a great amount of time resisting, and very little time allowing. In fact, I probably resist, in some way or other, most of the present moments in my life. There’s always something just a little unsuitable, a little dissatisfying, in each moment, and so I resist it. Because it doesn’t seem perfect, I struggle against it and try to move on to the next moment, which I hope will be less flawed, more stainless and pristine and perfect. I recall a day last spring, for instance, when some girls in my class started giggling at an inappropriate time, and instantly I went into my best resistance mode. I bristled up a bit, put on my sternest face, and spoke in somber tones to the girls. It was as though their behavior was my physical enemy and I was out to vanquish it. The surprising problem with this approach is that, in trying to resist their behavior, I only added strength to it – and this is precisely what resistance to any present moment does. By struggling to eliminate their behavior, I only intensified the effect of it. By showing my most unsmiling look, I actually made the problem seem more powerful. Perhaps this is what Jesus understood when he encouraged his friends to offer no resistance to evil. He wasn’t suggesting that they be weak and passive. On the contrary, he wanted them to demonstrate the greatest power there is – the power of allowing. He knew that by letting any present moment be exactly what it is, they could actually eliminate any ability of that moment to control them. The ancient sages  understood this, which is probably why they were so drawn to water as a subject of meditation. Water never resists, and yet it is one of the most relentless and majestic forces on earth. If you try to “fight” with water, it simply yields, gives in, and thus wins the victory. Drop a heavy rock on a lake, and the lake merely allows the rock to enter and sink harmlessly to the bottom. However, this doesn’t mean that water is weak. Anything that can support enormous ships weighing thousands of tons is surely not weak. Perhaps, as I’m working with my students, I should think of myself as an ocean that is both yielding and strong, both gentle and compelling, both resilient and steadfast. No matter what types of “ships” my students may be on a given day, I can allow them to be what they are, and strongly support them as the ocean supports its ships. No matter how many "rocks"they drop on me, no matter how many cumbersome and vexatious behaviors they seem to unload during English class, I can good-naturedly give way and allow them to sink serenely into the depths. It would be a sweet and strong way to teach.

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