False (and true) dichotomies

False (and true) dichotomies

When my friend Charles looked at this photo of a women picking up leaves, he saw a person fully present in nature. Someone tending to the natural life cycle of her lawn. Someone beautifying her space, by hand, with her neighbors in mind.

Zen, futility, or something in between?

Zen, futility, or something in between?

I saw futility. Back-breaking work that will never appeal to me. Work that could be done by a teenager in need of money for a pumpkin-spice latte. Work that a lawn professional wants and needs and has the proper tools for.

That difference in perspective is profound. 

But then, so are the many false dichotomies we react to every day. 

In writing about Finding the Middle WayJack Kornfield, the wise and popular teacher of Buddhism and mindfulness, boiled it down to this: "The more we delve into the middle way, the more deeply we come to rest between the play of opposites." 

I love that: "the play of opposites."

I read that to mean: By removing the tension of either/or, we can celebrate rather than struggle to resolve our own complexity and confusion. We can enjoy the contradictions in others. Our empathy will lead us to be more supportive and less judgmental. We will laugh!

When we appreciate the muddle in the middle, good and evil are not mutually exclusive. We have space to form our opinions and participate in civil discourse.

News isn't only real or fake. We read and listen for greater understanding.

We don't either win big or fail miserably at love. We keep trying.

If our kids aren't bound for a top college, we don't worry that they are throwing their lives away. We have faith that they need more time to figure things out. And that their path—meandering down the middle somewhere—is exactly where they are supposed to be.

But I think one dichotomy is actually real.

We can choose to do things the easy way. Or we can do them the hard way.

Everywhere I look, someone is doing something the hard way. Often that someone is me.

Staring at a closetful of clothes unable to decide what to wear (me). 

Picking up leaves one armload at a time (not me).

Sorting expense receipts manually rather than committing to a tech solution (me). 

Questioning my intuition when the information it gifts to me is perfectly clear. (Don't we all do that one?)

It takes work, but I believe we can learn to trust enough—in ourselves and in the universe—to live comfortably in the middle way. AND we can also choose to do things the easy way.

Why not benefit from the wisdom that has come before us? Why not use the tools? Why not ask for help?

Why not save our strength so we can share it?


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