Wise Old Sayings
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Wise Old Sayings

Wise Old Sayings
~ Andy robins Roshi

Earlier this month, I met a lady in hospital who is days away from her one-hundredth birthday. I had not met her previously, and before I could introduce myself, she said, “It seems as though it is our destiny for the world to fall apart.” The words took me aback, and initially, I was left wondering why she had chosen to make this statement to me and whether it was going to be her world that was falling apart or the world in general. I asked in what way she saw it falling apart, and her response was swift and articulate, coming back at me, saying, “Everything is too fast; people have lost the importance and value of slowing down” and then quoting some Shakespeare saying, “wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast.” 

From a hospital bed, the world can seem fast-paced; the National Health Service (NHS) is busy with nurses and doctors coming and going, bright lights and noisy wards. But as our conversation opened up, she felt this speed was detrimental to society’s survival. It was an intriguing conversation for me. The summer months have been extremely busy with a new role of Healthcare Chaplain, early starts, late finishes and lots of travel, all of which has needed me to move at pace. I know this isn’t a healthy long-term option. However, initially, it’s an upsurge of energy seemingly gained from the pleasure of doing the work. It has kept me going yet left me wondering how long I can sustain it, perhaps unlike the joy and nourishment we might obtain from weeding a flower bed in the garden. In the process of pushing ourselves for whatever reasons, whether financial, self or external gratification, our nourishing practices begin to drop away; zazen, yoga, walking in nature, diet and other methods suffer.

So, how can we practice when the pace of life picks up and doesn’t look like it will slack off? The answer that comes to me is what I often find myself saying to children: It will help you in life if you learn to be bored. In Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism), bardo is the state of the soul between death and rebirth. When I get into a state of busyness, for some reason, I feel myself pushing to fill every moment, a form of agitation, not being able to put anything down. Trying to prevent the death of one thing to resist the rebirth of something else is when we must seek and sink into “bardo.” Those dull moments of driving the car to work, walking hospital corridors between visits, and waiting for the kettle to boil. The breath is deep and slow; rushing ceases. If we can treat each of these moments with the energy and concentration we put into our zazen practice, we will discover a zone where we can find nourishment and healing with movement. Over the summer days when I have had to drive long distances leaving home before 6 am, missing Wandering Ox’s morning zazen, I have done just that, driven and nothing else, no radio, no podcast, no music, instead becoming the other, in this case, the car. We are one. Strangely, the journey slows, the golden sunlight, the mist on the road, the changing colors of the trees and the cool air available to nourish and heal. Time seems to ignore rushing, and I arrive as planned.

Shakespeare’s wisdom may have come from the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Indian text he had read, and we can speculate that he may have read the words in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu;

“Who’s murky enough to settle slowly into pure clarity,
and who still enough to awaken slowly into life?”

I sense the one-hundred-year-old lady has spoken wise words, and if we are to change our destiny, then much has to give. Individual, local, national and global decisions must come from a place of clarity that isn’t found at full throttle unless we are making room to sit zazen or utilize those dull moments in life.

Andy Robins Roshi is a ZL Instructor and Coach.

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Comments (1)

Love this, thank you! I have a long commute at the moment that I tend to fill with audiobooks, podcasts, music, etc., and I am instead going to try to be “one with the car”. Can you say a bit more about Shakespeare and the Bhagavad Gita? Did he really read it? I have never heard of this connection before and can’t find anything online…

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