Thursday, August 17, 2006

Smell Flowers

When life changes dramatically it can often leave you feeling desperate and out of control; almost as if something were pressing down on you. While this is unfortunately common, it is also preventable. Consider the following Chinese parable as an example of what haste can do to impair judgment:
~~In ancient China there was a man who because of an accident had a limp. It was next to impossible that anyone would want him for a husband and so the man went to a good friend to ask for advice. The friend, being wise yet harmless, told his handicapped friend that he would do whatever he could.
The friend then proceeded to visit another friend of his- a woman with a crooked nose. Now in those days a defect like a crooked nose was no small matter and the woman was becoming desperate to be wed. She implored her wise friend to arrange a marriage for her. The friend then realized the solution to his problem.
The wise and twice burdened man went to his friend who walked with a limp and told him that he had found a beautiful girl for him. In fact, he told his friend, that he should go by and see her at such and such a time and at such and such a place. He further told his friend to borrow his horse so that he could appear to be more important than perhaps he was.
Then the wise man went to his crooked-nosed friend to instruct her in the way to be wed. He told her that he had arranged for a very handsome man to ride by her house at such and such a time and that if she liked him, she could marry him. Only, he told her, to be truly more enticing you must feign disinterest. "When he rides by, press this flower to your nose and lean out the window as if to look at the horizon while smelling the flower." All this was done and the crooked nosed woman and the halt-legged man both agreed to marry. However, after the wedding ceremony was over and the guests went home the bride and groom were revealed to each other when the bride removed her veil and the man escorted her to the bridal chamber. It was too late for anything to be done and they realized that they had missed out on some important details.~~
This story, called "zou ma kan hua" (ride a horse to see a flower), illustrates the importance of taking the time to see exactly what it is you're getting yourself into, especially when you begin to feel desperate. Here are some tips for keeping your head:
1. Take a step back. This means look at your situation objectively and try to identify the who why what where when and how of your predicament. Also, see who else you are going to effect and what that would mean for them.
2. Get some advice. In my opinion it is not unreasonable to have a kind of "council of sages" to turn to when you have a major life crisis. Try to get someone with life experience to lay a second pair (or a third, fourth, et cetera) of eyes on your scenario. However, don't misplace the weight of the advice given. Your friends may be fun to hang out with, but your old neighbor who just went through his fourth surgery might have more life experience and give you a new way to look at things.

3. Make a decision. You should never just be idle. Make a choice about how to respond based on the best information you can get and carry out that choice. When new information presents itself or the situation changes you can also
make a new decision. The making of a decision does not mean that you cease to have options, it means that you cease to be a bystander in the farce that is your life and become an active participant, a player if you will, in that grand production.
4. See clearly the consequences of your choices. Don't just be an animal that acts without consequence. When you do anything ask yourself if it was worth the effort you expended, what you could have done better, what you did well, et cetera. When evaluating yourself try to be honest. This process will help you in the future when tougher choices are presented before you.
5. Make a plan. Based on your experiences, make a plan that will help you in the future. For example, if your car breaks down- how will you get home? How will you go to work? What would be the cost of doing so? Is there another way? In this way, you can anticipate problems and respond fluidly to them.
In karate, that is yushin/mushin. Thinking actively about all solutions and then developing a "sense" for solving problems by making it a habit.


Blogger Andrea said...

Good article, but I'm not sure how the pictures fit in- you are talking about making choices but you use pictures from a set kata- is it about the choices you have to respond or... que?

6:29 AM  

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