"Not Two"

Just last week I was sitting with a client who was struggling with a big life decision. Its so very hard to have choices and paths because we can get caught up in the pressure of right & wrong and failure & success. Today’s morning reading from THE BOOK of AWAKENING by Mark Nepo reminded me again of the importance of staying open to all paths. Hope you enjoy these words of wisdom as much as I did:

Not Two: To Reach Accord, just say, “Not Two!” -Seng-Ts’an

Almost fourteen hundred years ago, one of the first Chinese sages we know of offered this brief retort to those who pestered him for advice-”Not Two!”

This reply is as pertinent as its is mysterious. To make sense of it, we need to understand what isn’t said; that everything that divides and separates removes us from what is sacred, and so weakens our chances for joy.

How can this be? Well, to understand this, we must open ourselves to an even deeper truth: that everything-you and I and the people we mistrust and even the things we fear-everything at heart follows the same beat of life pulsing beneath all the distractions and preferences we can create.

Once divided from the common beat of life, we are cut off from the abundance and strength of life, the way an organ cut out of the body dies. So, to find peace, to live peace, we need to keep restoring our original oneness. We need to experience that ancient and central beat which we share with everything that exists. In feeling this common beat, we begin to swell again with the common strength of everything alive.

Yet we tend to lose our way when faced with choices. Tension builds around decisions because we quickly sort and name one way as good and another as bad. This quickly twists into an either/or sense that one way is right and another is wrong. In prizing what we prefer, we start to feel a thirst for something particular, which getting we call “success,” and fear of not getting it, which we then call “failure.” From all this, we begin to feel the tightening pressure not to make a terrible mistake. Thus, we are often stymied and confused because we forgot that-beneath our sorting of everything into good and bad, right and wrong, success and failure-all the choices still hold the truth and strength of life, no matter what we prefer.

To be certain, sharing a common beat does not mean that everything is the same, for things are infinite in how they differ. And faced with the richness of life, we can’t value everything the same. But when we believe that only what we want holds the gold, then we find ourselves easily depressed by what we lack. Then we are pained by what we perceive as the difference between here and there, between what we have and what we need.

We still need to discern the ten thousand things we meet, but holding them to the light of our heart, we can say, “Not two! Only one!” And realize there are no wrong turns, only unexpected paths.

  • Mediate on a choice that is before you.

  • Identify the distinct options you have.

  • Try not to view these options with the urgency of what you prefer; rather focus on the experience each option might offer you.

  • Try not to attach your sense of identity to any one option.

  • If you don’t get what you want, try not to see it as a failure but as an unexpected opening.

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