As I said in the Sunday service a couple weeks ago: There’s no anger in just doing. No fear, no anxiety. No heavy sighing.
Today I'd like to add something to that May 10 message. What I didn't mention then was that the two movie clips about "don't try" that I referenced had both been selected based on my misremembering them.
In The Empire Strikes Back (1980), I thought I remembered that Luke had been really trying hard -- muscling it, so to speak. When Yoda repeated the instructions -- like, "use the force, Luke," or whatever the instruction was -- Luke exclaimed (in my mis-memory) in exasperation, "I'm TRYING to do that!" In this context, when Yoda says, "Do. Or do not. There is no try," he'd be suggesting that Luke relax a bit and not try so hard.
In the same way, in The Karate Kid (1984), I misremembered the context of Mr. Miyagi's line -- "Karate do 'yes,' or karate do 'no'." I thought Daniel had been trying too hard and gotten frustrated. In such a context, Mr. Miyagi would be meaning, "Just do your karate -- or don't. Don't get frustrated over results. Just do, and never mind the results."
Here are the actual clips.
Luke has learns to use the force to levitate a rock. Then Luke’s X-Wing starfighter sinks into a bog.
Luke: “Oh, no. We’ll never get it out now.”
Yoda: “Do you hear nothing that I say?”
Luke: “Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.”
Yoda: “No! No different.”
Luke sighs, “All right, I’ll give it a try.”
And that’s when Yoda says, “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
There’s no sighing in just doing. There is a wholehearted commitment – but it isn’t commitment to any particular result. Just a commitment to the doing – and a waiting and watching to see what the result might turn out to be -- an openness to surprise.
And here's the clip from The Karate Kid.
Mr. Miyagi is about to start Daniel’s karate instruction.
Mr. Miyagi: “So. Ready?”
Daniel: “Yeah, I guess so.”
Mr. Miyagi (drawing a breath): “Daniel-san, must talk. Walk on road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later – sqwk – get squish, just like grape. Here karate same thing. Either you karate do ‘yes,’ or karate do ‘no.’ You karate do ‘guess so.’ Sqwk. Just like grape. Understand?”
So, you see, in both cases, when I located and watched the clips, I discovered that the context was the opposite of what I had thought I remembered. Luke and Daniel weren't trying too hard. Rather, they were insufficiently committed to the practice they had supposedly come to learn. When Luke sighs, "All right, I'll give it a try," he's not whole-heartedly giving himself to the enterprise at hand. Nor is Daniel when he says, "Yeah, I guess so."
By the time of the May 10 service, I had viewed the clips and corrected my memory, so the sermon did not misrepresent the movies. What I want to add is that both points -- the point I had misremembered the clips as making, and the point the clips actually make -- are true. "Don't try" prescribes a middle path: neither, on the one hand, trying too hard, nor, on the other hand, "trying" as an excuse for half-hearted doing. "Don't try" steers between attachment to results (which is what is happening when we are trying too hard) and lackadaisical practice.
Some of us are more likely to err on the side of trying too hard. This is where the work of recognizing and differentiating from the Inner Critic is especially important. The Critic has teamed up with the Pusher to make us into over-earnest, stressed strivers. "Try! Try!" is the Critic's cry, and the more you heed your Critic, the stronger your Critic becomes. The Critic is never satisfied.
Some of us are more likely to err on the side of low commitment. This is where the work of articulating and committing to your vow comes in.
And very often we err in both directions at once: as when we strive after results instead of simply committing our lives to our vow -- our promise to keep up a certain kind of practice whether the expected results materialize on the expected schedule or not.
The solution, as I did conclude on May 10: Just let your vow point you in your intended direction, and cultivate the spirit of waiting and watching – attending. Make what room you can for grace, and let grace take over from there -- understanding that you can’t rush it. Grace, as they say, keeps to no schedule – but it’s always right on time.
Yours in faith,
The Liberal Pulpit
Recent past services:
Apr 5: "Taking Care, Giving Care." TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 12: "Traditions of Liberation." TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 19: "What's Your Great Vow?" TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 26. "Attending to the Indigenous Voice" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 3. "Transforming Your Inner Critic" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 10. "There Is No Try" TEXT. VIDEO.
Also find these videos, as well as videos of many other past services, at our Youtube channel: HERE
Adult/Youth Religious Education
Sundays, 4:00 - 5:15, in zoom room ending 7899.
Or telephone 646-876-9923, and enter meeting ID: 289 850 7899
On May 24, Jeff Tomlinson and Rev. Meredith Garmon will be leading the final conversation exploring this year's UUA Common Read:
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States.
You are welcome to attend this last class even if you've attended none of the previous classes and read none of the book! We'd love to have you for this important conversation.
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States is the 2015 Recipient of the American Book Award, and holds the 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature.
Order your copy from uuabookstore.org (or any major online bookseller).
More info about the UUA Common Read at uua.org/read
Sun May 31: The 1619 Project, part 1.
Sun Jun 7: The 1619 Project, part 2.
Practice of the Week: No Maligning. No Grudge-Holding.
Category: Slogans to Live By: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these slogans, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.
Adapted from Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion,
"Don't Malign Others," and "Don't Wait in Ambush."
"Don't Malign Others," and "Don't Wait in Ambush."
First, don't malign others. It’s good common sense, and advice you might have gotten from your mother. In fact, I actually did get this advice from my mother when I was a boy, and it worked like magic.
When I started seventh grade, it was in a new, much larger, school in another town. This was a very frightening experience for me, because I had never been out of the little town that I grew up in. I was convinced that all the children in the new school would be much smarter and much more sophisticated than I was, probably also taller and older than I. Maybe I would get very poor grades, maybe nobody would like me, I wouldn't have any friends. I was really worried about this all summer before school began. I went to my mother and said: “What am I going to do? What can I do?"
She said, "Don't worry about anything, just don't make nasty remarks about others and everything will turn out okay." So I took this advice to heart, and I resolved I would never make a single nasty remark about anyone, ever.
I can vividly remember the moment that I was standing in a group of children who were all making nasty remarks about somebody. I became really frightened, because it was expected that I would also make such remarks, and now what was I going to do? But I didn't say anything. Everyone else was talking, but I literally didn't say a word, and the rest of the school year I never made a single nasty remark about anybody. Motivated by my fear, I had a strong determination to practice this slogan. In my mind, it was a matter of survival. I didn't understand why this would help, but I trusted my mother, so I did exactly what she said. By the end of the school year, to my great astonishment, I realized that people liked me and were saying nice things about me. This really surprised me. And then I realized it was because my mother was right, that if you don't make nasty remarks about people, people will like you. Since then I have kept this practice, and it has been one of the greatest practices of a lifetime for me.
We might malign others from a vague aim to make ourselves look better by comparison. Or we might do it because we’re holding a grudge. So if someone says or does something hurtful to you, don't hold it inside, nursing it and keeping watch, waiting for that moment when you can leap out of the bushes and attack the person that did this to you.
All the time that you were lurking there in the bushes, you were losing yourself without realizing it, losing your practice, losing the opportunity to learn from your pain and hurt and open up. Instead you were lurking in hiding, festering your hurt, making it bigger and more virulent.
When you find yourself lurking in the grudge shrubs, come out into the open. Don't look for revenge. If you have an enemy, try to engage the enemy with energy and compassion, straight forwardly; don't be sneaky. Often, we don't know we're lurking, so learn to identify what it feels like inside to be lurking. Become aware of the sorts of thoughts and feelings that go with lurking. Then commit yourself to coming out from the bushes into the open, where you can feel what you are feeling and express yourself as best you can.
If you malign others to make yourself feel good by comparison, you’ll never feel very good. It may even make you feel pathetic in comparison. Please stop that whole destructive approach.
Without maligning, you’ll still recognize people’s hateful or destructive attitudes and weaknesses. Sometimes, it may be warranted to speak up. If you can see other people’s problems without needing to prop up your own insecure ego, you can respond more directly and appropriately.
One key to releasing yourself from the maligning habit, is the ability to forget perceived slights or insults. Many people carry grudges for life, and when we let indignities keep eating away at us, our unforgiving attitude cuts us off from others.
Beyond carrying the grudge, you may begin to plot revenge – waiting patiently for just the right moment for an ambush, a time when that person has let down zir guard, or when ze is in a weakened position, and then we let zir have it.
You can see how this pattern escalates. First one side is insulted, then the tables are turned, and the other side gets insulted back. First you are the underdog, and you scheme about all the things you will do to those who disrespect you once you are in power. And once you are in power, you mistreat them just like they mistreated you – and they then plot their revenge.
Tightly held remembered insults take over the mind, making us a slave to the actions of others. Pursuing a vow not to ambush can free us from that unhealthy pattern.
Begin by noticing your response when somebody insults you. What is the physical sensation and what thoughts arise in your mind? Looking back, how many grudges have you been carrying with you, and for how long? How does it feel to carry a grudge, and how does it feel when the grudge softens or dissolves or you consciously let it go?
Then reflect on the difference between speaking critically and using speech to harm.
* * *
Moment of Zen: Fascinated
The course you travel as you roam about seeking earnestly for the path: that's the path. Suppose you look down to see this path you're on. If you do so while walking, you'll trip on something. If you stop to do so, you only see the ground around your feet: a spot, not a path. Better get back to looking for the path.
At a private meeting Grouse said, "I'm not sure that I am dedicated enough to my practice."Verse
Raven said, "Never mind about being dedicated."
Grouse said, "The truth is, I haven't the foggiest idea of what the practice really is."
"Me, either," Raven said, "but aren't you curious?"
Grouse said, "Fascinated."
Raven said, "There you go."
In a trackless forest,
making my way slowly through brush,
I came upon an unlikely hut,
and a woman in the doorway,
hoe in hand, watching my approach.
"Which way to the road?" I asked.
She studied me silently.
"Which..." I started to ask again louder,
when she said, "Just keep on."
Before I could say, "Which direction?"
she stepped back and
closed the door.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith GarmonPREVIOUS ☙ INDEX
Zen at CUUC News
E-Shrine of Vows
Check out our electronic CUUC Shrine of Vows: CLICK HERE. Eventually, these will be printed out and incorporated into a physical display. For now, draw inspiration from your fellow Community UUs by seeing what they have vowed. If you're vow isn't included, please email it Rev. Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org