The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Taking Risks

During my recent trip to Krabi, I convinced Mentor to give up our seats in the van and take a walk on the beach back to our hotel. She hesitated.

“Its full moon and we have a flashlight,” I pointed out. She agreed.

The resort manager who had brought us to the restaurant was a little harder to convince. Is it safe, was all I wanted to know, since I had promised The Thinker that I would take good care of myself. She reluctantly said yes, and so we walked back.

When I related this anecdote to The Thinker, he said in good-natured exasperation, “Why must you always insist on doing something when someone tells you not to do it?”

It isn’t about being rebellious or stubborn (though my mother would BEG to differ). Nor is it about being arrogant, indifferent or foolhardy. It’s about learning to be fearless.

All my life I’ve had the people who love me tell me not to do this or that. That’s what those who love you are supposed to do. They don’t mean to hold you back, just protect you in the best way they can. But ultimately, the object of your fear is looking straight at you. Not at them. And you have to decide whether you want and need to conquer it.

I think many people misunderstand the concept of risk-taking. They think it’s about throwing caution to the wind and plunging headfirst into the unknown. That works but not all the time. Real risk-taking - to me at least – is giving some thought to the situation at hand and then deciding to go forth without knowing the exact outcome but accepting that it could go either way. This prepares you for whatever awaits at the end of the road. It is also shows respect towards yourself, those who love you and the situation itself.

Editrixed sent me this bit by her favourite columnist Cary Tennis two months ago. It has given me the courage to take some scary risks this year.

Doing the things you are not prepared to do prepares you to do them. That is how you learn. You don't walk in knowing how. You walk in ready to have an experience and be changed by it.

You may not feel ready to do something that is necessary. You do not control the timetable. This is evident when people die, are born, get married, move away, are fired, hired, change their minds: You are not ready for what the changes in the world around you require you to do. Nonetheless, you deal.

Everything may indeed happen for a reason, but we do not have to know what that reason is before acting. If you wait to know the reason, you may never act. You act. Then things become clear. That's more often how it works. Rather than rational certainty, often what you need to act on is a trust in probability, and a trust in inevitability, and your own desire. Trust your own desire. It will often lead you the right way.


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