Sometimes people ask me if focusing on stressful thoughts for the purpose of doing Self Inquiry in the tradition of Byron Katie isn’t stressful in itself. I have heard a similar comment from people wondering if Buddhism’s focus on suffering isn’t gloomy and would keep you from having a happy life.
I found an answer to these questions in the most unexpected of places. Read on.
For Father’s Day weekend I took my children to Door County in Wisconsin. We went camping and kayaking with a group that was put together by Keith, Neil, Connor and Chris -the skilled guides at Northwest Passage. Take a look at the photos from our journey:
It was a beautiful weekend and to get to the point I noticed that the structure of our outings was more or less the following:
We would train in techniques to safely get out of the kayak if we capsized, then we would paddle and have fun. We would then learn new strokes to gain more command over the boat under different circumnstances, then we would relax and have fun. And we kept alternating this way throughout the weekend, between learning proper kayaking techniques and actual outings.
And so I had the thought that someone could say: why are you constantly focusing on what can go wrong? Don’t you spoil your chances of having good clean fun that way? And if I would have asked those questions to my kayak guides maybe they would have said the following:
Well, we are not focusing all the time on what can go wrong. It’s only part of the time that we do that, but focusing on what can go wrong in such a structured manner is so unusual that it may seem that way. It may seem that it’s crowding the day from more “fun” activities. And, no, it does not spoil our chances of having fun. Quite the contrary. Because we know how to deal with the worst that can happen then we can relax and really have fun and be “out there” more and be a little more fearless with it than we were before our training. And if “the worst” happens, well, we know what to do with it, and we can do it calmly, effectively, without freaking out.
Now, it’s all a matter of balance, right? If we spent the whole time training in how to deal with the unexpected that may not be as enjoyable as when we mix that up with goofing off, singing along, and enjoying our meals. And so we do that, too. On the other hand, simply trotting along without any training about how to deal with the unexpected, well, I honestly don’t understand any more how people can live that way. It may seem allright most of the time, but it’s like playing russian roulette with life. Those who “go into the waters” unprepared do it with an undercurrent of fear on the back of their minds that robs them from really being able to enjoy the ride.
Balance. The key word is balance, man.
Let me tell you one more thing: there’s some of us who have discovered how enjoyable it can be to be “out there” more and to live this way and so we love to spend our time helping others to see how much fun and safe it can really be. We may train more than the rest on the techniques and that is so that we can share them with others. By sharing them, we learn them really well, and that really helps when we go on trips on our own. So make no mistake about it: we don’t sacrifice fun along the way. Not anymore. It’s not necessary. Training in the tools and sharing them with others becomes just as fun as goofing off, singing along, and enjoying our meals.
The silent wisdom of the Kayak instructors from The Northwest Passage. And it may run so deep that if you showed this post to any of them they may say
I haven’t the faintest idea about what Eduardo is talking about. I was just doing my job.