I was listening to a podcast about a group of medical professionals from a Catholic (Jesuit) university who went to Haiti a few days after the earthquake. The lead physician explained his motivation to help was rooted in one of the tenets of the Jesuit Order: do what no one else is doing. My first reaction was to think, “So typical! The Ego needs to stand out.” Then it sank in. Sure, at one level it can be a self-focused need to stand out, to do what no one else has thought of doing. It can also require deep insight to see what no one else has seen about the situation. When I took the competitive and comparative elements out of my interpretation, another level of understanding that is even simpler and yet more profound arose.
Sometimes what needs to be done is the ordinary. Not because no one thought of it, or no one wants to do it. Simply, the ordinary needs to be done because it isn’t getting done.
When I get my head and, therefore my ego, out of the mix, it really is quite profoundly simple. In the face of the difficult and the unwanted experiences that I meet, what is the most ordinary thing that is required?
Hakuin, in his autobiography Wild Ivy (transl. by Norman Waddell) writes of Myocho Daishi who sat in meditation while being confronted by brigands who threatened to kill him. They relented in the face of his steady sitting and Myocho wrote this poem:
Hardships still come
one upon the other
enabling me to see
if my mind truly has
cast off the world or not.
Hard to remember in the tumult of our messy lives that refusing to respond to the self-in-the-world is the most courageous.
Thank you for practising,