Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More
What Level of Craziness Can Drive Us To Sanity? An Adapted Zen Parable
There was a giant of a person who had been gifted with resources beyond what anyone could even conceive. With the entire world being his oyster, all possibilities lay before him. Yet, there was one hitch- he was almost completely asleep to these realities as well as asleep to reality! And, to top it all off, he was asleep that he was asleep!
Like all other extraordinary humans, he was carrying on something fierce with every form of yawning, stretching, shaking, rocking, mild slapping his own face and other strange physical machinations. What possessed him to carry on so? Oddly enough, to not wake up! Or, was it to actually wake up? Nonetheless, this giant of a man, so mightily blessed, continued to sleepwalk through his life. What would become of him?
On his journey he had stayed a variety of places, and most of them having had darned poor plumbing, especially leaky faucets. Some had disturbed his ongoing habit of sleeping, in the daytime, nighttime or just any old time. More than anything else in life, he would get himself so blasted bent out of shape with that infernal, “Drip, drip, drip….” It nearly drove him out of his mind! “Perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” he mused later.
He went about fixing the faulty faucet at each place he lived, a number of times, each time with limited success. He had been in his current place the longest and had worked extensively on the faucets in question, only to make very small improvements. He called plumbing consultants who each swore they could solve the problem. Every last one of them did for a time, but not for long. Each defended himself saying that whatever he did to try to fix it before only made it less than totally fixable now.
He couldn’t recall how many times he had enacted this ritual to fix the “drip, drip, drip,” what he called his “travail,” all to no avail. Some times it bothered him less, other times more, and occasionally “beyond beyond.” He became cynical and skeptical because he could not see a way of obtaining any lasting relief. With passing years he noticed the same attitude in others—resignation. This was even more disturbing to him than the drip!
Perhaps it was his imagination. Yet perhaps it was his internal muse that lead him to see something he had never noticed before. It seemed to him that the more he angrily fought his life circumstances, the louder the “drip, drip, drip” became. He didn’t quite know what to make of this. Yet, he couldn’t deny that it was curious. It had captured his imagination, yet he yearned for illumination.
His irascible mind kept returning to how the “drip, drip, drip” shouldn’t be, that it was unfair and surely there were many to blame, and at these moments he would have surges of sharp anger. His wanting to lash out only blocked his bodily instincts. He got so wound around his mind’s idiocies, that he was a nervous wreck and stressed to the maximum! “Enough,” he told his mind, heart and body one day, just in the nick of time. “Discipline! Relax. Breath…long, slow, deep breathes,” he told himself. And so it was.
On one occasion, when a series of difficult changes, losses and pain had accumulated, the dripping became almost deafening. It actually fully awakened him and this had never happened before! While initially he felt intensely awkward and uncomfortable, as he lingered because he had nowhere else to be he found something rather interesting happening. Surprising himself, he found he could better breath, feel and observe. He never thought he had any difficulty in any of these areas, yet he started to realize he had been surprisingly out of touch with himself, his senses and the world.
More of the time though, he began to see glimpses of a greater idea than he had never imagined before. In private moments before sleep or upon gently shaking off the morning sleepy winks, he couldn’t deny that his life had improved greatly, especially with himself. He felt more alive and, remarkably, more awake. Like magical lightning in the summertime, there were moments of joie de vivre.
It was precisely then that this giant of a man started to slowly awaken to all the marvelous resources within him that he had been asleep to for so long. He started to stretch out, build and develop his abilities, one by one. He found that he could only build his internal resources so long as his intention was pure and he was awake and present. Otherwise, nothing made any lasting difference.
He thought one day, “Gee, it’s really remarkable that I’ve no particular interest in fixing that leak any more.” He had simply lost interest in fixing the unfixable. Stranger still, the “drip, drip, drip” had faded into the background of his life, since he had come to front center stage. In fact, he had come to actually enjoy it as another shading of life’s awakening beat, “drip, drip, drip…” He felt something he had never felt before—contentment in being awake. Someday, perhaps, the “drip, drip, drip” would handle itself. He felt peaceful knowing that either way, any which way, it only was “mind over matter”-if he didn’t mind, it didn’t matter. Of course, what does he know? Never mind.
This story portrays how anything can drive us crazy enough to reach sanity. Even a lowly water drop, repeated over time, could cut a hole in a rock or help us see through the imaginary ego-mind opening up space to inhabit our True Self. Whether it is through rain or cold, wind or storms, sunshine or heat, or simply the day in and day out rhythms of daily life, the possibility to awaken is ever-present.
It doesn’t have to take great crises, tragic losses and untold pain, misery and suffering to awaken, although for some it obviously does. The fear of a person’s life making no difference, only toiling in obscurity and going nowhere, surely is an alarm.
The story shows how persistence, eternal vigilance, Attention! and lightness in facing and moving through any challenge are essential to awakening, as are presence and witnessing the mind from outside the mind to see what craziness it is up to now.
Reflecting upon Henry David Thoreau’s infamous sentence, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation” from his book Walden, can serve both to warn and to awaken. Even then, there is no guarantee that anyone will awaken from the ego’s dream or, once awake, will stay awake. Yet who could deny that this would be God’s dream for us all?