Breath-by-breath and step-by-step

Just imagine. Just imagine climbing up the outside of London’s 1,016 foot Shard? Sixteen grueling hours in extreme conditions. That was yesterday and one to remember for sure. Today is another day for all of us and that’s including the six women who got arrested once they had achieved their goal. Now they have the rest of their lives to live. There is a double side to achieving goals which should not, of course, stop one from setting targets and going for them. Perhaps they did what many would aspire to do. To stand up (climb up!) for what we believe to be true and important.

I bumped into this event about an hour before the lead climber unfurled a  flag announcing arrival, and their reason for the climb. Clearly they were technically skilled, had realistically assessed the challenge and the risks, trained mentally and physically for the job and decided it was worth a go. What made the climb practically possible are the edges of the Shard which have a ladder like structure running up the corners of the predominately glass clad building. Their convictions outweighing almost certain prosecution and of course potentially death. They knew what they were doing.

Goal setting is doubled edged. On the one hand we would be lost without something up ahead to aim for. Be that ever so small, such as sweeping the back yard TODAY. Or deciding (excuse the plug!) to join in for a specific number of meditation periods on the next Field of Merit At Home meditation day – 20th July. And on the other hand, having achieved a goal, one is left looking for another one, and another one….ad infinitum. Is that any way to live actually? Always having ones eyes fixed to a point in the distance and in so doing maybe miss the ground, or the rung, under ones feet. I bet those women were very much absorbed in their next steps. The reasons for taking them at that point in their lives paling into insignificance before the imperative to survive. As somebody said recently, Each step IS the goal.

What if, having set a goal something changes and a new or different direction is needed? The women on the Shard were originally going to install a piece of art work but decided they didn’t have enough time to do that before dark. So they let go of a major part of their expedition. I will remember that when I’m tempted to push on when turning around, or sitting down, is a wiser plan. It’s too easy to see failure in such circumstances when redirection can be an expression of valor, if you think about it from a certain viewpoint.

What is it that has us engage in the seeming antithesis of what the six did yesterday? That’s breath-by-breath formal sitting and step-by-step daily life sitting? After all in the life of Buddhist practice there are no fixed goals to aim for. Yes, we do set temporary goals such as meditating for specific periods of time each day. However what is significant is the relationship we each have to those goals. Can we let go or redirect as needed? What is it then that has us returning to our ‘sitting place’ over and over and over again? Within our teaching we speak about all sharing a deep knowledge (strong inner conviction) of what is true and important. We regard this as being the case irrespective of faith tradition, or absence of one. How this truth is given expression through action is our unique gift. Hopefully the basic motivation is altruistic.

After sitting we get up and live our life,
best we can.
After the climb there is the rest of their lives,
all merit as they go on.

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