Wednesday, July 28, 2010

State of Mind

I heard an anecdote once about a boy who was sent into a palace with only one task: he couldn't spill any water from the spoon he carried. He navigated his way through the halls without spilling a single drop. When he returned, the Taskmaster asked him what the palace was like. "I don't know," the boy said. "I was concentrating on keeping the water still."
He got sent in again. This time he spilled all of his water, but could relay every detail about the palace levels and decorations. The Taskmaster informed him he would need to try harder next time. He could learn, in time, to both hold the water steady, and appreciate the world around him.

It's easy to focus in on one aspect of life and ignore everything else. On the other hand, it's easy to live in a state of constant "distraction", and try to experience every single aspect life that may or may not exist. The Taskmaster story alludes to the idea that we can do both at once, and maybe hold more than one layer in our minds at once.

In horseback riding if you try and focus on one thing at a time you're screwed. Heels down, elbows in, back straight, chin up, wrists even... it's impossible to remember all the rules and tips. However-- once you understand the nature of your horse, you can simply move forward (through jumps, dressage moves, etc.) and your cues to the horse (once you learn how to execute them properly) will be automatic.

In human relationships I've heard a lot of "rules and tips" as well. Play hard-to-get; two people will get sick of each other if they spend too much time together; opposites attract; don't talk about your past unless you want to scare people off... Umm - really? I'm pretty sure if you try and follow all the little tricks you'll end up acting like a paranoid and inconsistent therapy candidate.

Life can seem complicated. It's like there's a 5-dimensional (does that exist?) spiderweb of rules and tricks and little paths that may or may not lead anywhere, and everyone's sliding around like beads on a multilayer abacus (those wooden bead things for counting/math). But how, if this is true, can a human work through all the distractions and myths and opinions in order to direct the actions of a horse that is 6 times their size. How can so many unique individuals stay lovingly married for a lifetime?

Maybe they can see through the web. Maybe, for them, life's many different layers and aspects are guided and shaped by their ability to see through the spiderweb to a fundamental truth. Maybe they can hold more than one layer and aspect of life in focus at once, and gain a sense of perspective and understanding despite all the factors and distractions that arise. Both of my examples, by the way, are clarified by the idea that every living creature wants to be understood. In relationships (both with people and with animals) if your actions are motivated by love, everything is simplified.