Transformation from the Top
My friend who is moving to Maryland and has landed a new, good job has decided to declare bankruptcy. She is letting go of her Michigan house. She wants a fresh start, something that maintaining her Michigan ties will not allow. She is kissing the Great Lake State goodbye. I am bummed but cannot blame her.
Her decision has solidified my desire to have less stuff. That means buying less stuff (although that is hard to imagine because I don’t buy much of anything anymore but books). She now has the unenviable task of going through absolutely every single thing in her house and deciding whether to try to fit it into a new, small apartment, give it away, sell it, or have it dumped into the Granger landfill. Fortunately, I have already started that process. I see how imperative this track is. Life is not about what you have. Even if it were, having less might still be saner. Of the Be-Do-Have aspects of life, having is the least important.
My ability to do things is important. Having and gaining skills always makes one more marketable. However, I am seeing that that is a lot less important than I have been giving it credit for being. I still don’t regret the debt for my MBA, however, simply because it is like a big red banner saying, “She is trainable.”
My focus is on becoming the person I want to be. Skills can be learned, but I see skilled people everywhere that cannot be promoted because they lack the emotional self-control and development to help other employees. They don’t need to learn Access or SQL; they need maturity. Companies do not usually have the resources to get people from the technical level to the emotional stability level.
I am starting the second half of my life. I have a serious hodge-podge of occupational experiences. I’ve tried to learn from all of them. I do not believe I only have technical skills to offer. Lots of people have those and you can get them almost anywhere, for a price, of course. What I have now is the ability to communicate with many different levels and perspectives of people. I have empathy for even people I don’t like because I have often been in their shoes in the past. I am a liberal with conservative roots. I have a professional degree and a blue-collar heritage. I have been evangelical, Eastern Orthodox, and may be a Buddhist now. I am a newly-minted business college graduate living on a pension and Social Security. I am a living bridge between groups with no understanding of one another. I am sure that I can come in handy.
This is where Zen comes in. Transformation is real, but you’re generally not going to get it from school. I want to give of what I am this second half of my life. This requires presence and availability. These are not skills you can send people into training for. These are part of the very fabric of a person’s personality. Zen is like stretching the inside of a container. It provides more space and makes it more difficult for anything to overwhelm the container. Nothing is bigger than the container itself. That room is what enables conversation, relationship, and transformation.
What’s funny is that Zen is free. I can do all the zazen I want and not clutter up my house with worthless crap I don’t want to drag when I move. I am operating at the Be summit of the Be-Do-Have linkage. I am working upstream, which is where all the power is. I am working at the causative point, as opposed to continually fighting the results of my actions. I am making space where it matters most—within.