All this future wife business has gotten me thinking more deeply about who I am and who I have the potential to be. That’s what happens during pivotal life-changing moments, like births, deaths and weddings, I guess. In preparation for the craziness that will most certainly ensue over the next few months, I’ve been working on settling my mind and calming my soul. It’s almost second nature to sit myself down and take big, deep breaths when a wave of anxiety is starting to overcome me. I don’t know how I existed without yoga either. And my newest adventure is coming up in just about a month, where I’ll spend a full day of silent meditation at the Rochester Zen Center.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff set me up with some key teachings from taoism, which have helped me more assuredly direct my sails in this quest of self discovery. Here are a few key messages I took from this book, which I hope you find solace and inspiration in:
Appreciate things in their Natural state. Hoff shares the story of The Vinegar Tasters, which comes from a a 2500-year-old text, Tao Te Ching. In the story, three men try vinegar and the last one claims to enjoy the taste. The moral is, “(S)ourness and bitterness come from the interfering and unappreciative mind. Life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet.” (Benjamin Hoff, 6) How am I putting this into practice? Black coffee. No, seriously. As Future Husband can attest, I can’t take anything the way it is. It’s always all about adding an extra dash of basil and crushed red pepper to this or a touch of cinnamon to that. Tweaking is fine (and as I wrote about in this post, that’s a great skill to have) but it’s so important to enjoy something as it is and not to override the Flavor Within with embellishments, so to speak. This is important too, when it comes to the wedding. The new task at hand is to strip and pare down the gauntlet of ideas I’ve collected over the past year into a clear and simple vision. (*Fingers crossed* — Wish me luck!)
Exercise calmness of mind. In other words, be simple-minded, like Pooh. This is incredibly difficult for me. A friend recently told me that our average attention span is five minutes shorter than it used to be, and I believe it. I am a victim to multi-tasking. Hoff reminds us to use what we have and to keep the problem simple. Be “the calm, reflective ‘mirror’ mind of the Uncarved Block,” says Hoff (12). Or, as Future Husband advised me to do just yesterday, remember that it’s never as complicated as you think.
Unbounce Yourself. Think of it in Tigger terms because, why not, asks Hoff. Why not, indeed. In the story Hoff shares, the gang of woodland creatures in the land of Pooh decide they want to stop Tigger from bouncing in to scare Piglet. A nice idea, I guess, except for the trick part. They try to get him lost, but then get lost themselves. Tigger’s massive bounces help them navigate the way home and at the end of their journey, he cheerfully reminds them, “Tiggers never get lost.” Ohhh Tigger. Here’s Hoff’s point: “Sometimes the characteristics that you try hard to eliminate come back anyway. But if you do the right things, they will come back in the right way at the right time…” (Hoff, 61) I can’t attest to whether this is factually accurate, but it’s a nice idea — that our faults have purpose and value. And it makes me less stressed out. So let’s go with it, shall we? Just don’t let me think like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM73_-y41yE.
Embrace your Inner Nature, not your “inner nature.” Hoff goes on to insist that we trust our inner nature. I have to be honest with you, folks. I’m a little skeptical here. A long time ago, I started realizing that you can talk yourself into anything, and that there’s not a whole lot of rhyme and reason to the world. That’s not to say that I’m not a spiritual person, nor is it to say that I don’t recognize the power of taking time to get to know yourself. It’s just that idea of having layers of the self you’re unaware of that throws me for a loop. At any rate, Hoff explains Inner Nature this way, and it’s in a way that really resonates with me: “The first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own Inner Nature, and not lose sight of it. For within the Ugly Duckling is the Swan, inside the Bouncy Tigger is the Rescuer who knows the Way, and in each of us is something special, and that we need to keep.” (Hoff, 65)
….Which brings me to my next question: Is my timidness and fear of the spotlight my Inner Nature or my “inner nature” — the nature I perceive myself to have? What characteristics exemplify the real me? If my temporary obsession with cultural literary theory taught me anything, it’s that my ideal characteristics essentially depend upon the setting and the timing and the situation at hand. There is no “real me,” but there is a me that comes out during certain times, when opportunities to rise to the occasion present themselves. You know, like really, really big events, like my wedding, for instance. And that’s the me that I want to shine.
Luckily, Hoff threw me a bone with his next lesson on Wu Wei, which essentially means, be malleable. Hoff shares another age-old analogy, comparing our need to go with the flow with water, literally, going with the flow. It is effective in the way that water flows over and around the rocks in its path. “[It] evolves from the inner sensitivity to the natural rhythm of things” (Hoff, 68). Now that, I can do — that’s the natural me: being flexible. It’s the me that knows how to write and talk to a multitude of people and audiences. It’s the communications me, who loves the challenge of reaching out to people who matter in a way that matters to them. I may just have a winning formula here. I’ll just approach the unpredictability of the wedding in the same way I approach work, and special occasions, and lunch dates — with a calm but attentive attitude. If I tap into the Inner Me — the me who sits back and lets things unfold comfortably and organically, with a little mending and pruning along the way — I think I may just be alright.