The Distraction of Knowing
Once again, not a corporate post but one that speaks to a culture shift from a personal level. When we change how we show up we create new possibilities, so for me corporate culture shift is as much about processes like Scrum and concepts like Lean and Agile as they are about the people who power it all.
We were siting in Dharamsala with the head of the Tibetan Library, an auspicious meeting with a most senior monk. The question was asked around creation and how Budhists see creation if they don’t have an external God like figure. The Deisha answered:
“When the Buddha was asked this question, on how everything was created, where it all began, he answered with a story. You are shot by an arrow. The arrow enters your abdomen and is sticking out from you. Blood is flowing out of your body, lots of blood. Do you start to ask where the arrow came from, what path did it follow, how strong was the man who shot it ?”
Now I am sitting in Dharamsala as part of my quest to find that something that has been haunting me for two decades. This isn’t my first trip into Asia searching and once I again I have this strong feeling that what I am looking for isn’t here, it never was. It feels as if the search itself is a distraction. As I listen to the teachings, surrounded by other questors eagerly searching for an answer, I feel sadness, adrift in a sea of longing and bewilderment. I listen to teachings in the mind and getting clarity of the mind and it feels like a tempting half truth. In the west we are hooked on the mind and thoughts, intellect and reasoning and I can’t help wondering if we hear these teachings in a way that warps them – we hear a path that is mind based but the path as I know it doesn’t come from words and thoughts, it comes from the body and feelings.
When we listen to the teachings with our western ears and mind, do we hear a path that seems to promise that meditation will shift our energy and bring compassion, it will shift our thoughts and so bring us that longed for peace and happiness ? But what if we have it all wrong ? What if meditation wasn’t the path but a tool to focus the mind so that you can use it to choose feelings ? Feelings, not thoughts! Feelings generate thoughts and we have programmed ourselves to be in a sea of memories and stories that self generated the feelings that have become us. Generating a thought without feeling is a powerless path of struggle.
The path isn’t outside of ourselves, it isn’t in our thoughts, it is inside, held in our physical bodies, when we look outside, when we look to words and logic and rational thinking we are looking for the path of the arrow.
So I stopped listening to the words and listened to the man who was speaking. I listened to how he saw the word, to how sharp and clear his mind was, at how loosely he held his words and logic. I listened to his stillness, always present even when he seemed to get heated, he never lost that stillness and serenity.
I listened to him talk about the horrors of the Chinese occupation of a Tibet, an occupation that has decimated language, culture, monasteries, centuries if knowledge, families and brought starvation and physical abuse and torture to millions of families and I listened to him talk about the people – how can you stand in front of a man and point a gun at him and kill him ? I am struggling to find words to capture this because words don’t hold the serenity and compassion that carried his words.
I saw for the first time listening to these monks what compassion looks like when it is lived – the ability to think about a person holding a gun and shooting someone with concern, with the thought of how much suffering and anger that person must be living with for this to be something they can do.
In one of those moments of clarity I realized that I can’t understand this with ease because I have lost my ability to feel and embody feelings. I have been stuck in words and can only see the word and understand it through thinking and in thinking I am disconnected from the truth. I have spent my life distracted, focusing on where the arrow came from.