Letting life happen

I was listening to a talk by Paul Haller recently, called ‘Just Sitting Being Alive’, which he delivered in Belfast sometime last year (it can be found on the Black Mountain website).

One thing he said about Zen practice that struck me; that stillness is ‘when we can just let life happen around us’ (or something to that effect). (It is interesting that the same point – being in the moment – can be made over and over, and yet have something new to learn from each time).


Personally, I struggle with that quite a lot, as is evident from this blog, never knowing when acting or not acting is the ‘right’ thing to do. Hypothetically speaking, if you see someone about to walk into a puddle, do you warn them? Or do you let them walk into it? The worst that could happen is that they ruin their shoes. Am I responsible for the state of their shoes? I’ve walked into plenty of puddles in my life, but I wonder if I would’ve listened if someone had shouted out a warning.

Someone from my Zen group said, perhaps the test is whether one is acting out of selflessness and compassion, or for the privilege of being right. In practice, it is not easy, though, to separate the two. I actually think my indecision stems more from the fear of being wrong — what if I’m only imagining the puddle? And we return once again to the fear the ‘I’ is constantly subject to, or creates.

‘Letting life happen’, rather than being seen as an act of passivity, then becomes a means of standing back from that fear, of losing the ‘I’, and of trusting the other person to sidestep their own puddles and spare their own shoes.

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