Friday, February 18, 2011

Trying is Trying

I wrote on Wednesday about a new two-part resolution of mine -- from now on in my preaching I won't tell people to do things that I, myself, am not doing and won't spend so much time telling people what to do (or not do).

I've continued thinking about this because, as I said the other day, this is a whole lot of what most people think preaching is all about.  If I take this off the table, what's left?  Well, I suppose, we could explore together those things that we ought to be trying to do.  I remember hearing a Buddhist monk once talking about the sense of overwhelming dread she felt as she approached the day she was to take her vows.  "How can I vow to be mindful?" she said.  "How can I vow to be equanimous?"  There was no way, she thought, that she could promise to do those things, and so she couldn't see how she could take her vows.

And then, she said, one day she realized that the vow was not to be mindful but to "practice mindulfness."  Not to be equanimous, but to "practice equanimity."  She would only be promising to try and that, she realized with great relief, she could most certainly do.

To try.  And here I see a solution to the challenge offered by the story of Gandhi refusing to tell a young boy to give up sugar until he, Gandhi, had first done so.  Here is a solution to the challenge I gave myself of only being able to preach to the congregation about things I, myself, am already doing.  I could, instead, allow myself to include the things I am trying to do; to explore those goals I am trying to attain; those practices I am trying to make a part of my life and living.

And yet . . .

And yet there is, I think, a danger here.  My spiritual guide, the great Jedi Master Yoda, once famously said, "Do or not do.  There is no try."  "Trying" can -- and I want to emphasize that it can -- provide too easy a way out, too comfortable an escape route.  "I'm only trying to do this."  Yet even trying is doing -- you have to actively do something to be trying to do something.  You have to be trying.  And yet how easy is it for us, if we allow ourselves to think of our efforts as "only trying" to soon begin letting ourselves off the hook when we don't feel well, or the weather's bad, or it's just too inconvenient?  How easy is it for us to watch "trying" turn into "not trying?" 

From my own experience, I'll admit, it's all too easy.

And, so, maybe Yoda is right.  (And when was he ever wrong?)  Maybe there is no such thing as "try."  There is only "do or not do."  Because even our attempts at something are something we must do.

In Gassho,

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