Middle Way Strategems
Instead of doing a newsletter such as many other coaches do, I will leave very brief scatterings of thought that appeal to me. I like this model better since it not only facilitates personal transparency but also allows some interaction with any reader who might have a thought they wish to share.
|The Lotus in Muddy Water
There is a very old tradition or teaching in Zen, of which monks remind each other frequently. It goes like this: "May we exist in muddy water with purity, like a lotus. Thus we bow to Buddha."
What does it mean to "exist in purity"? It is one of the basic monastic vows. It is also a story, a Buddhist story; one which envisions a being (the lotus flower), as much a part of the surface light/air as it is the dark/mire; which is intimately connected to pervasive disatisfaction (muddy water) yet which is, Pure. This is the sort of existence toward which Buddhism claims it is worth striving. Thus monks collectively renew this vow to Buddha every day.
The metaphor of the lotus describes well the relationship a spiritual coach ought to have with those who seek her or him out.. Like two lotuses in the same pond, essentially emerging from the same dark and mire, largely in agreement about purity and visited by the same bees and birds. Anyone who can read these words and know their meaning could find value in the sort of personal consulting relationship which the right spiritual coach would offer. I, for example, have a lot of practice at analyzing everything in terms of the harmony between the various elements in which the lotus exists. The lotus is pure and needs no correction, but everything changes and the task is to maintain harmony within change. If I were a Christian I might think that the lotus would be just fine if only it would reach out more energetically toward the sun; but as a Buddhist I suggest paying most attention to one's own bit of muddy water.
Childhood Vows : The Branching Streams
Children are mentally much more powerful than adults. They are born with a tremendous potential and power to affect change, and it is the rare adult who can match the focus, the strength, the ferocity or the unambivalence of the 12 year old boy who finally understands a little bit of why he hurts and vows to himself never to let that happen again. Or the young girl who thinks she is special because everyone says she is special and everyone treats her 'special'. She's never quite sure what that special quality is, but she knows it is there and she knows others can see it. It can take the best part of a lifetime to see how the axioms which result from vow energy can impede. Mostly it is some kind of fear that stimulates a child to invoke her vow-power, his ability to control conditions.
These examples are archetypal, of course, but they serve to illustrate my point that much, maybe most, of our Present is intimately conditioned by a web of childhood vow-responses. A lot of irritation and frustration could be avoided if the proper respect was offered to our vow-body. This is a distinctly Buddhist vocabulary which is much more helpful than the 'corrective' prescriptions which we generally administer to ourselves when we doubt.
The breeze that comes ashore there moves with an energy that comes
from the water. When this energized air moves, it uses up some of that
energy making waves. This is just basic physics of thermodynamics, but
it provides the perfect metaphor to illustrate how patterns we control
cause the turbulence we experience. As a coach, by listening for it, I
can find links between a client's disatisfaction and what patterns
might generate it. The significance of this is that if one changes the
patterns very slightly, it could result in a diminishment of the
disatisfaction. I always think and hope that if I listen carefully I
might be able to respond in a way that re-contextualizes the two
elements. In my jargon, these elements are what I mean by "the
extremes". There is a direct relationship between the degree of
agitation a given situation provokes and the energizing effect of