These last few weeks have brought me several occasions to contemplate this great thought from Lao Tzu:
“Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you wait until the right action arises by itself?”
Even though I love my work and have been very busy, like all of you, there are moments when things seem to go out of focus. It’s like being in the midst of a muddy puddle, and finding yourself unable to see. During times like this it’s hard to be patient. I find myself becoming everything but — becoming angry, frustrated, sad, disoriented, and floating.
It would be nice to say that since I’m in the business of helping people with change and transition that I have the answers, and therefore should not have to struggle so much. Ah, if only life worked that way!
As I’m fond of saying in workshops, “What I know, is not what I do!” Just because I know about the stages of change, the process we all go through when we are in transition — that doesn’t mean that I can master it when I am in the middle of it. Because, as I also remind groups, when I’m part of the mess, it makes no matter what my intellectual skills are. The bottom of my brain, where emotion stews, has this habit of taking over.
But, given time, and the discipline of keeping busy, continuing to plug away at my work, the mud really does begin to settle. And if I’m patient enough, right action will arise by itself. The trick is, to try not to push it into being. There is nothing worse than creating a false goal, just to make yourself supposedly feel good about “moving the ball forward”, even though you know in your heart it’s not the right goal.
So as the mud settles, it allows me to begin to see more clearly. For me, right now, it’s having too many ideas to pursue, and figuring out how to do one thing at a time. Sound familiar? Whatever mud is getting in your way, I hope you’ll join me in becoming patient and waiting for the water to clear. It’s no wonder everyone has always told us that patience is a virtue. That’s what we call stuff that is really hard to do!
So as the holiday season spins up, let’s all take some time to spin down, let the mud settle, and wait for clarity to come to us.