Patience and Tranquility

It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Right action for right action’s sake – righteousness – is the central goal of truly generative living. Righteousness is not strictly a mental exercise, neither is it solely a matter of the heart. It comes as body, mind and heart are unified in purpose and function.

Aligning body, mind and heart is much simpler than you might imagine. To realign these three elements that make up what you have to express who you are, you must first cultivate in yourself an often overlooked, frequently misunderstood and regularly discounted quality of being: patience.

Patience relates primarily to your physical nature. Patience is an active state of abiding, not a passive state where you are holding back, twiddling your thumbs or biting your tongue. To be patient in this sense, you must deliberately focus on the beauty in the physical world around you while remaining unmoved by the misapplications in the world around you.

Once you’ve begun aligning your physical nature, you can move to bring your mental nature into alignment through the spirit of tranquility. Tranquility is not a reactive or a reflective state produced from the inside-out, rather, like patience tranquility is a radiant stance.

Tranquility is known when your feathers are no longer ruffled by outer circumstance, not because you steel yourself to them or live in denial, but because your mind is centered on the       wonderful one within – the real you. When you maintain this mental centering and alignment over time, you come to the point where the vicissitudes of life no longer consume your thoughts.

Right action for the sake of right action is within your reach. You need not withdraw from the world to be righteous, in fact, you need the world around you to ground the positive charge moving out from you. You have everything you need to get started here and now, so don’t delay!

Take your time, have fun with it, don’t beat yourself up and relax! You have something tremendously valuable to deliver to the world but you cannot manufacture it according to concepts about what would be right or good. Your gift will find expression as you gather yourself – your body, mind and heart – into one accord and one place. 

It’s a matter of attention

Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own good.” – Pablo Casals

Each person is composed of a human shell – a mind, heart and body – which surrounds and is designed to be permeated by the being at his core. That being, or soul as it is commonly referred to, is perfect.

If, in the living of life, your attention is consumed by the outer details of circumstance, you will forever be putting out fires and being led around by that which is outside of you. If, on the other hand, you make the space to listen to and build up the courage to act on the goodness which is present within you always, you will begin to extend control from a balanced place where you were previously controlled by the capricious details of outer circumstance.

Your soul, your being, does not need to learn; it is already perfect. The learning required is strictly a matter of training your “human” capacities of body, mind and heart to accommodate the expression of the decency and goodness  – the light – within you.

I agree with Sr. Casal’s assertion that it isn’t complicated, but it does require courage. It takes courage to focus attention in places that have long been ignored by practical men who have convinced themselves that they must vanquish the devil in the details in human strength.

Never wrestle with or react to the devil in the details. Look instead to bring the light of understanding to bear on the details from within outward. In so doing you will find that you  treat even the most tense and convoluted circumstances you face with grace and ease.

Whenever you are anxious, stressed or reactive, you have stopped listening to and or acting on the goodness and decency within you. It is that simple: unnatural tension results whenever attention is misplaced.

 

Out of Position

“It is folly for an eminent man to think of escaping censure, and a weakness to be affected with it. All the illustrious persons of antiquity, and indeed of every age in the world, have passed through this fiery persecution.” – Joseph Addison

Fallen human consciousness rejects messengers of truth in the present and reveres the same in retrospect, albeit on their own terms. Whenever and wherever the veil of human arrogance or ignorance is pierced, persecution immediately follows. The light of truth is a direct threat to the darkness of falsehood.

The truth sits above religion and science. Both attempt to comprehend the truth, but the truth cannot be fully encompassed by the human mind. Our minds and hearts are designed to translate the invisible power of love through the pattern of the truth into the visible expression of life.

Humanity has the potential in this sense to connect that which is above, metaphorically-speaking to that which is below. When this is the case, “heaven and earth,” as the Christians say, are one. Put differently, the hermetic principle “as above, so below” proves true whenever and wherever the mediating link between man and his divine essence is in operation. This is not a privilege accorded to a few, it is the central purpose of everyone on earth.

Man’s dissociation from the truth is the direct result of a struggle for control over the truth, the attempt to arrogate unto himself the knowledge of all truth. Having fallen from his rightful place of dominion, he desperately seeks to dominate the world around him to appease the sense of insecurity, discomfort and impotency that accompany the guilt and shame of being out of position.

Persecution is a fear-based reaction held by those who are afraid to be found out of place. It is an aggressive and violent defensive tactic that temporarily alleviates the sense of shame just as an analgesic dulls pain. The problem is that such an approach offers only temporary relief. The sensation of shame eventually returns and it is the early phases of the returning twinges of guilt and shame that the rationalizations flood in.

Fallen human consciousness loves to rationalize the rejection of perfection. They scramble to find sufficiently convincing excuses to escape the responsibility of living in the light of truth. They find ways to accept what they once rejected, albeit, as I mentioned above, on their own terms. Some of the most fantastic delusions under which man operates spring from this deadly cause.

Calm, Forward, Straight

As a living, breathing human being, you are an animate creature, capable of orienting in, being motivated by and coloring your expression with a wide variety of spirits. The spirit which compels or dominates your expression in any given moment gives evidence to the true centering of your heart, regardless of what you believe mentally to be your core concern. It is for this reason that it can rightly be said of most people that they worship they know not what.

Whether you claim to be (and may be in fact) more predominantly right or left-brained, the state of both heart and mind is a dominant factor in any deliberate, creative process. It matters not if you prefer a logical, sequential and rational approach or a random, intuitive and holistic approach if your heart and the cloud of emotions which clothe it, is troubled.

While I could and have provided many different examples of this principle over the years, I found another that may help drive the point home. The example is given in the context of training horses and riders, but it is easy to extrapolate the principle into specific application in any field of activity. General Decarpentry, in his fine book on classical horse training, Academic Equitation, writes:

And as for the “spirit” that should animate the student, the formula used by General L’Hotte to describe the spirit of dressage in the sequence of its aims can be applied to it: “Calm, Forward, Straight” (Calme, En Avant, Droit).

The most perfect calmness is essential in any dressage operation. However, despite its firmest determination, the rider will not always be able to avoid a shaking of his moral calm and he will never be able to recover instantly his physical calm once it has been ruffled by however slight and transient a loss of moral calm.

A flash of temper can be inwardly suppressed almost as soon as it is aroused, but its resulting effect on the rider’s nervous tension will persist for some time and, what is more important, for longer than the rider himself realizes. The horse, on the contrary, immediately feels this nervousness and immediately shares it, but needs a much longer time to forget than the rider. In this respect, the horse is gifted with an astonishingly delicate sensitivity, such that even the movements of his ears are a permanent indication of the “state of the horse’s soul” – if this expression can be allowed, which provide the rider with the means of perceiving a change in his own state of nerves, so slight that he may remain unaware of it, and even if the loss of calm is unrelated to the horse’s behavior.

Therefore, as soon as the rider feels any disturbance of his serenity, it is absolutely imperative to allow time for his own physical calm, which determines that of the horse, to be completely restored. A pause, a halt, provided that submission is not in question, is necessary before the lesson can be continued.

After some strong vexation, even if it has nothing to do with the horse, the trainer must be sufficiently wise to put the lesson off until the next day, and be content with a quiet hack.

I find the last sentence ironic in that many people confess to riding horses as a means of soothing their own nerves, of taking their minds off of “life.” Such an approach is a disservice to the horse and must be avoided if there is a genuine concern for its welfare.

In any case, the same pattern holds true in any and every situation you face in life. Substitute the horse for a student, employee, friend, lover, parishioner or political constituent and the principle continues to have immediate, practical application. Notice that General Decarpentry, whose work and writings are considered by dressage experts to be amongst the most important contributions to classical training in the twentieth century, does not mince words. He says that it is “absolutely imperative to allow time” for calm to be restored before continuing on. This is not a suggestion, it is an order! Anything less is the genesis of frenzy.

Many wonderful things in life have been destroyed by acting with a troubled heart. A troubled heart clouds the mind and therefore suppresses wisdom. It has a narcotic-like affect on consciousness, limiting both vision and perspective. A troubled heart focuses on and magnifies the limitations or blockages present and downplays and undervalues the means by which those limitations can be successfully and sustainably overcome.

“Mind over matter” is possible, but only with a cooperating heart.

Simplest Terms

Even the most difficult problems can be overcome if you approach them in the right way. One of the many life lessons I’ve found to be extremely valuable is the fact that you can parlay success in one area of your life into other areas. The translation into application in a new area may not be direct, but the principle behind your success will arm you with useful starting points in any new challenge you face.

In one of my favorite books on horseback riding, Reflections on Riding and Jumping, the author, William Steinkraus, draws an interesting correlation between two loves of his, music and riding. He describes how a systematic and progressive approach to anything – building a sound foundation and then building upon it – can lead to successful outcomes:

Surprisingly, perhaps, my belief in this approach has been reinforced by my musical experience. People who know that I love music and still play the viola or violin almost every day have often asked me if there was any relationship between my musical activities and my riding. They probably expect me to say something about hands or rhythm; but I’ve never found these things to have much direct relevance per se. What has been relevant, however, is the relationship between position and function, and especially, the method of practicing difficult technical material by isolating all the elements involved, reducing them to their simplest terms, and learning to cope with them on that level before putting them back together. To master a very difficult passage on the violin, fiddle players often practice the actions required by the bow arm and the left hand separately, and invent little ad hoc exercises that accentuate the particular patterns involved. Then they go back to the passage and practice it in slow motion, to give the correct neural paths a chance to establish themselves; and when they finally play the passage at the proper tempo, it’s all there – not miraculously, but mechanically.

Difficult riding problems can be dealt with in exactly the same way. The key to a demanding Grand Prix jumper course is often a particular difficult line involving big fences, difficult distances, a combination and a turn that must be executed with great precision. Yet each of these elements can be isolated and mastered in simpler form in schooling long before we face them all together and in a more complex version during competition.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the difficulty or complexity of a large project you face, you can retrain your first flush of feeling. Where there was panic, there can be poise. Where there was fear, there can be wisdom, if not the state of mind and heart that leads to wisdom if you stop and take the time to think, to analyze the situation and to break it down into its simplest terms.

The Friction of Memories

It’s not the work which kills people, it’s the worry. It’s not the revolution that destroys machinery it’s the friction.” – Henry Ward Beecher

Memory is a double-edged sword. It affords us the ability to learn from our mistakes, so that when we fail, we can then fail better. Conversely, it holds us back, causing friction in what would otherwise be an easy undertaking were we fully present.

The process of thinking – of truly accurate thinking – occurs at the narrowly defined intersection of the temporal (past, present, future) and the eternal. “Wisdom,” as the Apache say “sits in places.” Consideration of the past, present and future must be weighted appropriately, for any imbalance will result in in unnecessary and deleterious friction between the cogs in the living machinery that you have, that is, your body, mind and heart.

Most importantly, however, is your connection to the eternal. You are a plumb-bob suspended from the eternal in the midst of the temporal. If the forces of past, present and future are properly balanced, your living will be plumb. If, however, you allow the past to exert a greater pull than the present or future, your life will no longer be plumb and you will feel, or others will notice, the wobble in your expression.

This is the very reason why so many people fail to do what is right, even when they know deep down that it is the right thing to do. Their connection to the eternal calls them in one direction, but their attention wanders. If it remains fixed in relation to the past, then the friction of memories will grind their progress to a halt. If it oscillates between past, present and future erratically or frenetically, frenzy will result and forward movement will stop.

Remember your connection to the eternal – to the core of your central purpose – and you will always be present in relation to that which you undertake. When that connection is clear and strong, you will be serenely suspended amidst the tempting and tempestuous forces of past, present and future.

 

Energy, Discipline, Spirit

Managing people, like training horses or parenting, is all about harnessing energy and teaching discipline, while preserving spirit. The best managers, like the best trainers, possess a remarkable capacity for empathy and their high expectations are never lowered by sympathy.

I have no doubt that there is a marvelous spirit resident within each and every person on earth, a spirit that must be properly clothed to highlight its finer qualities. The connection to spirit (not the spirit itself!) can be broken by overly severe discipline or conversely, by the absence of discipline.

A broken man, like a broken horse, has lost the connection to the spirit that animates him. The spirit is still there, as is the form until death, but the flow of life, energy and passion between the two is reduced to a trickle.

Nurturing or restoring that connection is my life’s work. Whether working with people or horses, my great hope is that the spirit of the one with whom I am privileged to associate at any given point in time is allowed to be magnified into dignified expression. Dignity requires control and restraint, both of which are the product of discipline.

The uncontrolled expression of spirit is doomed to burn out its vehicle expression. The overly-controlled expression of spirit is muted and impotent, dull and uninspiring. There is a golden mean in expression, a flowing state in which body, mind and heart are aligned and poised to give birth to brilliance. And that mean is available to every single person on earth.

Whether I’m managing, riding or simply being a father, inspiring that brilliance is one of my central concerns.

What about you? What concerns do you fill your heart with before you look into the eyes and thereby the soul of another, regardless of their individual story, of your history with them or with how you feel at the moment?