My yoga instructor likes to toss out homilies. Amid the instructions to inhale, exhale, up-dog and down-dog, she adds pithy quotes from feel good gurus like Zig Ziglar and the Dali Lama. Sometimes I agree with her advice and sometimes I don’t. Today she said, “One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make in your life is whether to try harder or to walk away.”
I think there is another option, a more peaceful option.
Let’s suppose you’re wrestling a problem—and it’s a bear of a problem. Stinky, mean, slobbery. And you get to the point where you’re just too tired to wrestle any more. So you stop. What happens? Consider what would happen if you stopped wrestling your bear.
Maybe he wouldn’t be so mean if you weren’t always chasing him with sticks.
Maybe he would go and play in the river and wash away his stinkiness if you gave him some space and time.
Maybe he would still be slobbery, because he is, after all, a bear, but now that you peaceably coexist, you discover that all his fur makes him a great snuggle-buddy, he’s awesome for scaring away optional burglars, and he sleeps a lot, so for half of the year he’s pretty much a non-issue.
I’m not trying to make light of anyone’s problems, but I do think that sometimes the path of least resistance is superior to the runaway trail or the warpath.
Sometimes we think that we need something to make us happy, but the real answer isn’t gaining something, but letting something go. And that something is generally our ego and unrealistic expectations.
Dylan Thomas wrote:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
But remember that Dylan might have been a brilliant poet, but he was reputedly a melancholy alcoholic who died at age 39. His daughter wrote, "But ours was a drink story, not a love story, just like millions of others. Our one and only true love was drink.”
I don’t know the Thomas family and I hate to make judgment calls, but maybe Dylan, who was so gifted with words, could have had a happier story with a different ending if he hadn’t raged quite so much.
Not every situation is bearable, and not every bear is worth the bother of our time and attention, but sometime today between my yoga breaths it occurred to me that fighting and walking away aren’t the only two options.