One of my new practices for 2020 is to enfold one card per week into my routine from Thich Nhat Hanh’s set of Everyday Peace Cards, 108 Mindfulness Meditations.
On Mondays, I pick out a new card and then I read it every day for the next week. In just the past 3-weeks, I’m finding that the teaching on the card then naturally percolates and bubbles up for me throughout the week and helps to inform my daily practice. And sometimes I’ll do a bit of free-form writing in my journal about the card’s teaching as well.
The card shown above is the one I’ve worked with this past week: Stop Struggling.
As soon as I first read it last Monday, I chuckled aloud. You have struggled in the past, and perhaps you are still struggling – but is it necessary? No. Struggle is useless. Stop struggling.
In part, I reckon that I find it funny cuz it’s true. And in part, I reckon I find it funny because Thay just slices right into the heart of things and tells it like it is, making it sound so easy to do, when in my view of reality it often seems impossible. So I find it funny because I know how stubborn I can be!
I’ve experienced the relaxation and ease that comes from getting in touch with the insight of nonduality. I’ve also experienced the tightness and tension that comes from holding on with all my might. And sometimes the best I can do, is just to know when I am holding on. After all, awareness is the first and most important step in any kind of personal or collective change/growth work. If the light isn’t first turned on, there’s nothing to see!
So for me, the first step in the teaching of Stop Struggling, is to become aware of when I’m struggling. Then perhaps the next step is to ask myself why. Why am I struggling? What am I struggling against? What is the need that’s driving my current state of struggle? Is it a need for safety? For connection? For justice? For trust? For purpose?…
I appreciate that this card’s teaching causes me to chuckle every time I read it. Struggle is useless. Stop struggling. For me, it’s a reminder not to take myself so seriously. Not to take life so seriously. To check in with myself and inquire about where my attention is and whether it’s serving to benefit my well-being and the well-being of others.
It’s hella important not to use this teaching to beat our self up with. If where we go with this card is something akin to: But I AM struggling and this is saying that I shouldn’t struggle and the fact that I AM struggling means I’m not doing it right and now I’m struggling even more because I’m doing it wrong and that means I’m a bad person! then we should probably not approach this teaching just yet. We should choose instead a card that better supports where we are at in our practice and level of experience and understanding.
I reckon every wisdom teaching needs a bit of fleshing out. Otherwise, it sits in great risk of being misunderstood, over-simplified or serves as a means to partake in spiritual whitewashing (or worse: self-defilement).
There’s also such a things as a proper and less proper time and place. Let’s say, for example, a close friend is in the midst of a hard time. Let’s say they just broke up with their person. To say to them: “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets it,” great Leonard Cohen quote or not, is as insensitive as saying: there’s plenty more fish in the sea.