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The Glass of Muddy Water

Can we sit still long enough to see clearly?

image courtesy of

It’s time to be still. (Read that sentence again. Then do it before reading on.)

Trauma, horror, devastation are everywhere — whether because of mankind’s violence or because of nature’s response to our ignorance and greed.

We can doomscroll or we can look away. Neither will make us feel better. Even raging at the machine will not significantly change anything out there.

Humankind has contained the same elements — from the sacred to the profane — throughout all time. You reading this, and I writing it, are just different recipes of everything we see out there. We have it all in us, we just emphasize different ingredients in ourselves.

“I don’t have the terrorist in me, though,” you might say. And you might be right about you.

But I know that, for me, if I believed something enough — if I truly believed that what I was doing was inherently a good deed, even if it caused devastation for some — if I believed that it was an act of sacrifice and patriotism, that my family and my people were better off because of it…I might have it in me.

My beliefs create who I am in the world and how I behave. It’s important to pay attention to what they are.

I have that violent seed in me. Will I water it?

I have that fighting wolf in me. Will I feed that one? Or the peaceful one? The consequences are unfathomable.

So. It’s time to be still.

To sit still long enough to let the glass of muddy water settle, the one my teacher, Anam Thubten, told me about — so we can actually see clearly. Let our beliefs drift to the bottom of the glass, so we can see the simple nothingness and emptiness of …

…what is.

Yesterday, my wife and I travelled to Boulder. We actually started the trip a little tired. After five hours in an airplane, we got into our rental car and headed to the AirB&B. Half an hour later, we arrived at our destination, but it was in the wrong city. I’d entered the right address, but the wrong city into my phone. We were already shot, and now the address in Boulder was an additional fifty-five minutes drive away.

Elena was furious. Probably the maddest I’d ever seen her. And yet, understandably so. Of course, her being her, she managed her fury in a very clean way. Nothing was aimed at me. It was just pure frustration, with expletives and banging of dashboard.

For some reason, I was calm. I felt SO bad, of course. I said sorry. But there was nothing to do about it that wouldn’t exacerbate the situation. I allowed my calm and her fury to live in the same car while we navigated back to our correct destination. As I settled into that particular muddy glass of water, and sat still for the long, silent drive home, I realized a couple things.

  1. The beliefs involved are too many to name — but here are a few: I should have been more careful with the navigation. I should be more mindful about everything. Elena shouldn’t have let me be in charge of the navigation in the first place, so it’s really her fault. :-) Elena shouldn’t have gotten so mad because I was tired.

  2. The ‘what is-ness’ of it all is, I didn’t notice that the navigation system had generated two identical addresses, one for Denver and one for Boulder, and I’d just chosen the first one.

Notice I don’t say that I should’ve noticed it (muddy water). I just didn’t notice it (clear water). I don’t think for a moment that Elena shouldn’t have gotten furious (muddy water). She just did (clear water). And — this is even more important — I don’t say to myself “I suck because I did this and now Elena’s mad, and it’s all my fault” (real muddy water). It’s just, we’re two tired women in a car, in two different states of being for the moment (clear water.

What do you have in your glass of water right now that you could be still about? Make a list.

Then practice just sitting still for longer than you want to. See what happens.

(May all beings be safe from inner and outer harm, be free from guilt, shame and hatred, and may all being live with the ease of an open heart.)


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