This is chapter 3 of the book zentao, the lifeway by D. L. Keur with F. W. Lineberry. Please note that this book, each of its sections and chapters, is still under revision until we formally send it to publication under its ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0692369104 ISBN-10: 0692369104
3 – a life flow
Ever made a plan, only to see that plan destroyed by something unexpected? Life has delightful and, sometimes, painful ways of upsetting the best laid strategies.
In the zentao lifeway, there is no dependence upon plans or lists. There is no expectation that daily routines will remain inviolate. Something as simple as ‘when to vacuum’ may, perhaps, demonstrate its practice:
Yesterday, I was writing, and, as I typed, I got the urge or nudge to put on my socks and shoes.
I did that—put on my socks and shoes—though I had no reason to do so.
The moment I completed that, I got the urge or nudge—actually a visual snapshot in my brain—to go downstairs and vacuum the lower level of the house. So, I did. Good thing, too, because, today, unannounced, came unexpected company—people who are extremely sensitive to cat hair.
This sort of thing happens all the time. I’ll be doing something—say, fixing fence line, something I was earlier nudged to do. (Good thing I listened to that ‘check the fence’ nudge, because, during the night, someone had crashed through it with a car.) While repairing the fence, I get an urge or nudge interrupting my focus that suggests I go back to the house.
It might be inconvenient to stop what I’m doing, or so someone might think, but, in zentao, we simply attend and do. And, again, good thing. If I hadn’t gone back to the house when I had, there’s a very good chance I would have had a medical or veterinary emergency, maybe both, on my plate to deal with. As it was, all I had was an upset mom and a small dog with its head stuck in a three inch gap of the bars of a child gate installed on one of the hallways.
Emergency over, I went back out and finished fixing the fence, then got nudged that now would be a good time to start dinner, even though, normally, I make dinner after evening chores. Again, good thing I paid attention. With no advanced warning, a friend of Mom’s showed up to take her to a concert that was happening in town, an event the friend had just been gifted two free tickets.
And so it goes.
Those in the military call it ‘situational awareness’, says Steve McCarter, a.k.a. author S. Bradley Stoner, who is a friend well-versed in such matters. However, the religious might consider it was some god-sent (or devil-sent) message/messenger delivering those nudges. Those inclined toward paranormal explanations might claim I was receiving premonitions. Skeptics might scoff and claim it was just happenstance. To me, though, it doesn’t matter the reason or the source. What matters is to head off problems before those problems become critical. What matters is that things go as smoothly and benignly as possible.
Life isn’t sameness and constancy when existing inside an interactive, interdependent reality, and we do live in such a world. Plans almost never play out the way they’re designed. Lists turn into hazy guides. Routine is disrupted. Despite this, one can ‘stay current’, which, in a way, can be likened, again, to breathing—breathing with life. One does this by remaining in life’s ‘flow’, which is best described as a kind of syncing of one’s own existence with that of broader reality.
To do it, you can’t ‘fight’ or ‘force’ things. You can’t coerce outcomes by sheer will. Instead, you synchronize with an unseen, but completely palpable, life flow, and, in so doing, tasks and projects go so much more easily that it’s astounding. Try to run counter to that flow and things just won’t and don’t work.
In living one’s life, there is a surer, easier way than plans and lists. It requires trusting self and trusting Tao. Trusting both self and Tao, though, is tough if lack of confidence, rigidity, and fear dominate.
In zentao, trust in self and in Tao (what is/what isn’t) is fundamental, even when the being-doing seems impossible. And it works.