Freedom Is not Always how We Imagine

“Freedom is not silence and peace,” an excerpt from Passing Through the Gateless Barrier, translated by Professor Guo Gu. Freedom is being at ease in noise and chaos.” 

I happen to like koans – paradoxical anecdotes to refine insight and to be applied to everyday life.

This early morning, I drove to my Toyota dealer to have my snow tires removed for spring. This is also the day a snowstorm was announced for our area (questionable timing).  At the same time, I needed to discover what was causing the squeaking and clanging noises for the last month. Of course, all I could think about was the unwanted expense that this discovery may entail. So, my mind was doing its little ritual dance as I drove along.

Once I checked in, sat down and pulled out my phone to check my emails, I read my daily email from Tricycle.  And this is what it said.

Freedom

“Freedom is not silence and peace. Freedom is being at ease in noise and chaos.” (the original is from the 13th century)

Ah, I thought, this is a message for me right now as I sat in the waiting room, ruminating about the worst. Everything I had read about the noise in my usually quiet car indicated trouble and expensive trouble, at that.

As I continued to read, I came to this paragraph.

“When you encounter a difficulty in your life, an impasse, solve it.  If you can solve it, it’s good. If you can’t solve it, it’s still good, as it’s no longer your problem if you can’t solve it.” Guo Gu(another provocative koan and one I suggest is sensible in our daily life and relationships with others  and not applicable to devastating situations)

My mother, who knew nothing of koans, would say that when you encounter a difficulty, and you can do something about it, do it.  If you can’t do anything, adapt and/or let it go.

Reminders

I often find these messages applicable to me, even though they are easy to forget.  It is such an ordinary event to take your car in to see if the rattle and squeaks can be repaired and to change the tires. What could be more ordinary than that? Still, the unexpected reminder, perfectly timed, helped me to step back and focus on what I could do rather than waste energy fretting about the what-ifs.

I did the first part, taking my car to the service bay. This was followed by a delighted YES when invited for a lemon poppyseed scone and a coffee with my friend at the Scone Witch. It was a great second start to my morning before going to do the things I had planned and wanted to get done. However, by noon, and hearing nothing from Toyota, my mind spun a few new tales that I quickly interrupted by calling to see how things were going. (checking it out)

Things were going great. An $85.00 part fixed the problem; my spring tires were still in good shape for another year, and the six-month service was uneventful. So, as the ancient wisdom earlier stated – the “problem was solved, and because it was solved, it was good.” I suspect, like me, you have experienced many occasions where that was the case, in both big and small ways.

However, the next part of that message, ”  If you can’t solve it, it’s still good, as it’s no longer your problem if you can’t solve it.”

I can think of many occasions where this is true, especially with our relationships and our human penchant for wanting people to be different than they are.  However, I am also sure this is not the case in the immediacy of a crisis or devastating news.  Once again, this is a cautionary reminder about words, koans, formulas, and advice, which I write so often.

There are some things that although they need to be accepted, will take a long time. Some things you never get over, but eventually you learn to live with.

The poet David Whyte describes it well:

“Anyone who has suffered real loss, the loss of a child, a marriage, a well-loved home, has always had difficulty conveying the absolute sense of devastation to those who are at present more fortunate. As if standing on fishes, Rilke described it, as if the ground had a life of its own and were swimming away underneath him. Many of us who take the solidity of the world for granted have had glimpses of what it would be like to have that ground taken away, ” he writes.

Please, please remember there is no straight line.

We wobble along, this way and that, trying to figure out what to do.  For all the words that get written there are no formulas. There are no experts that know exactly what you should do. Nor is there a definitive playbook. However,  hand rails and sign posts exist that can offer direction and rest stops along the way. There are our beloved humans who can act as bumper cars to keep us from falling over the cliff. And even if we do wear the victim mantel for awhile  do not be mean to yourself, as you will toss it off in your own good time. It is each of us who gets to figure it out – this crazy, wondrous, painful, privileged, and amazing thing we call life.

In other words

I point this out because I think it is important to remember if you or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness or there is an accident or death, this is not a problem to be solved. It goes way beyond that, and you will be standing on fishes until you can regain your equilibrium and figure out how to survive. And you will! And that is good.

Something else:

When I saw those koans this morning, I knew I would want to write about them. But early in the afternoon, I learned that a dear friend had recently received a cancer diagnosis, and I immediately saw the inadequacy of my more ordinary tale. And that is the trouble with words. They are so powerful and can soothe and heal, but they also bring hurt, pain, and misunderstanding. Ultimately, whatever we do, the most important thing is to opt for kindness. Kindness to ourselves, which can be challenging, and kindness to others. Don’t forget to trust yourself!  Ask for help and more information, and do not hesitate to ask questions. Out of the blue, life can change.

Many of you know my favourite quote from John Tarrant – “We are born, and we die, and in between, we get to keep each other company, and that’s the thing that counts the most.”

I am always aware that I don’t know the details of your lives, dear readers. And there may be more than one person here facing heartbreaking news and difficult choices. Please accept my best wishes and encouraging words for the best of what can possibly be for you in your circumstances. Take heart.  Thanks to all of you and sent with love, Trudy

PS Thanks to Gottfried for these photos today.

 

 

16 replies
  1. Sue+Fitzwilson
    Sue+Fitzwilson says:

    Welcome Spring and all the hope that it brings. I can’t get out and see it because of my recent operation, but see it in other ways. Sending you hugs and warm wishes from Vancouver. Enjoy your blog and thoughtfulness.

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      How lovely to hear from you dear Sue. Thank you for your kind words. Keep enjoying your beautiful spring. And I hope we meet again. Warmly, Trudy

      Reply
  2. Diane
    Diane says:

    Dear Trudy,

    Your wise words, as well as those you quote, are a balm for my soul today. They’ve helped clarify my thoughts and feelings as I search for serenity amidst the ongoing “noise and chaos” of the past four years.

    I especially like ”If you can’t solve it, it’s still good, as it’s no longer your problem if you can’t solve it.” It’s a timely reminder of a lesson I learned in recent years… and often forget.

    I never understood this way of thinking when the going gets really tough. I mean, how could it be “good” to get a cancer diagnosis, or to lose a loved one?

    However, I’ve learned that hardships and challenges I can’t do anything about are not problems … they’re simply my life. In each moment, everything is right… how can it be otherwise? I’m alive right now, and that is good!

    I always appreciate your reminder that “We wobble along… trying to figure out … this crazy, wondrous, painful, privileged, and amazing thing we call life.”

    Thank you for embodying John Tarrant’s words and keeping us company every week!

    With gratitude, Diane

    P.S. I’m posting this where I’ll see it every day!
    “Freedom is not silence and peace. Freedom is being at ease in noise and chaos”
    (Do you know the 13th century source?)

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Dear Diane: What a beautiful and thoughtful comment you left. It could be its own post. It is a delight and a gift to me when I hear that my scribbles are useful. Yes, we keep “wobbling along, you there, me here…” as Marge Piercey puts it, in one of her poems. As for the book it is an old and revered text in Zen, called The Gateless Barrier, consisting of 48 koans compiled by Wumemguan. The only translation I have read was by Robert Aitken, until I read this piece the other day, by Guo Gu. It was an excerpt from his translation of the book, called Passing Through the Gateless Barrier. Take good care and hope we get to meet again. Warmly, Trudy

      Reply
  3. Sabine Kaspari
    Sabine Kaspari says:

    I’d also like to thank Gottfried for the pictures of these fancy rocks – they remind me of the Italian isle “Sardegna”, in which northern city “Pula” there are very similar ones:-)
    And thank you Trudy, for your telling this story right out of your life! Maybe you know this already: Once, the Dalai Lama was asked, if there was something in his life, he could not accept and what he did with it. He then told the story of an elder devoted Buddhist, who once had asked him, how long it would take him to gain perfection in a very special buddhist practice. The Dalai Lama had answered, that he was to old to master this exercise, which then lead to the suicide of this man. For a Buddhist who believes in reincarnation, this was the only logical action after such a statement by the master.
    Well, when the Dalai Lama was asked how he dealt with this guilt, he said that the only thing he could do was to learn to accept and live with it and be more careful with words in the future…
    Your headline: “There are some things that although they need to be accepted, will take a long time. Some things you never get over, but eventually you learn to live with.” reminded me of this story.
    Big hug
    Sabine

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Sabine, thank you for this story. I have not heard it before, and it is a good example. I will pass on your kind words about the rocks. The photo was taken on the beach where
      Gottfried lives on Gabriola Island. And the banner photo, is just around the corner. It is a lovely west coast island. Take care and best wishes always,Trudy

      Reply
  4. Margaret Rode
    Margaret Rode says:

    Trudy, thank you so much for this lovely and much-needed post.
    “As if standing on fishes” is so appropriate for those times!!!
    Love to you and yours

    Reply
  5. Janice+Falls
    Janice+Falls says:

    Reading the Tarrant quote, I found myself combining it with one from Ram Das: We are born, and we die, and in between, we are all walking each other home. Both wise thoughts. thanks as always xoxo

    Reply
  6. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    “And that is the trouble with words. They are so powerful and can soothe and heal, but they also bring hurt, pain, and misunderstanding. Ultimately, whatever we do, the most important thing is to opt for kindness. Kindness to ourselves, which can be challenging, and kindness to others…”
    and
    “Please, please remember there is no straight line….”

    Thank you for this blog post, Trudy; it’s exactly what I needed to read right now, all of it. It resonates with me as so very true and really touches me.
    I wanted to respond to your earlier blog in which you talked about being 77 and I really related to that one and was going to comment, but life happened. Then I read this tonight. Thank you.
    Blessings and Namaste,
    Wendy

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you dear Wendy. I am grateful that you take the time to send a note, when something resonates with you. Warm greetings, Trudy

      Reply
  7. Meghan Innes
    Meghan Innes says:

    I love this post mom!
    Especially “When you encounter a difficulty in your life, an impasse, solve it. If you can solve it, it’s good. If you can’t solve it, it’s still good, as it’s no longer your problem if you can’t solve it.”
    Thank you for writing this blog
    xoxoxoxo Meghan

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you dear Meghan. And thank you for reading my blog. Those words ring true for me even though I forget once in a while. But then I remember and it restores equilibrium.Loads of love, your mother.

      Reply

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