retreat . . .
I have learned an important observation about progressing through life from studying the I-Ching. And that is to be still when it’s time to be still. I think that we all recognize times when movement forward is not happening. Or that a next move is up to someone else or forces that are externally beyond our control. In America, the cultural norm is to think of progress as a straight line trajectory up and away, all the time. But in real life, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, the most appropriate stance we can take is to be still.
Retreat into oneself can be an act of strength, not weakness as often interpreted in the West. Preserving one’s integrity while holding still is one of the most powerful concepts that I have learned from reading about Zen, the Tao-te-Ching and other lessons from the I-Ching. Keeping one’s flame alight, although hidden, is a way to get through situations when everyone around you is not of your kind or who are exerting different values from those you believe in. It’s a way to get through really hard times without falling on your sword. I felt like this often when working in brutal corporate jobs where I made good money at an enormous cost to my inner self. It made me devalue having the money because it cost so much for me to be in such environments. The people weren’t really bad, per se, but seemed to be driven by a mob/group mentality to make money or to achieve certain business goals at any cost. Rampant ego fulfillment ruled the day.
Last night, I was reading a novel,”The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles” by Haruki Murakami, a mesmerizing reading experience, and came upon those words again, uttered by a clairvoyant healer guy:
“So you see, when you’re supposed to stay still, stay still.”
Astonished to come across this familiar refrain, I am reminded once again of its wisdom.
I am keeping still.