“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius
There is an old Zen story about a king who wanted to teach his people a lesson. He placed a large boulder in the middle of the main road, completely blocking entry into the city. Then he hid and observed their reactions. The king watched as person after person came to the impediment and turned away or tried halfheartedly before giving up.
After several days, a lone peasant came to the rock. Instead of turning away he strained and strained to push it out of the way. It didn’t move. So he went into the forest and came back with a large piece of wood that he turned into a lever capable of moving the rock out of the way.
Beneath the rock were a purse of gold coins and a note from the king, which said:
The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.
This week, our metaphorical rock became a huge, solid, unknowable mass that every day seems to be swallowing whole a different aspect of our lives. The far-reaching changes that have resulted from the spread of Covid-19 have made it hard to see clearly, much less see positive possibilities.
Nonetheless, positive possibilities exist.
The truth is, good things are still happening in the world.
Stories have emerged of quarantined neighbours singing to one another from their balconies in Italy, of blue skies and birdsong in Wuhan, and of towns in Spain where every night people come out to applaud their healthcare workers.
In the world right now there isn’t less:
· Money; it’s just flowing differently
· Creativity; it’s focused in new directions
· Love; we are bonding and reaching out to one another
· Health; people are taking better care of themselves
· Natural resources; if anything there is more
Fear, and a feeling of powerlessness, are common reactions to events occurring outside of our control. But they don’t have to be our only reactions. And they certainly don’t have to linger.
Because you are never powerless in the face of anything.
In a time of uncertainty, this is something you can be certain of.
We always have the power to choose our response.
You can choose to search for something good, some advantage or opportunity, in everything that happens to you (if you are sincere you will almost certainly see it).
If you are unable to see it, then choose to fully accept what you see.
If you are unable to accept what you see, then accept that you can’t accept.
Follow this process and you will end up with acceptance as your state of mind.
Acceptance means: For now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly.
That’s a powerful place to create from.
“Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hit you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.” – Epictetus
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