A lesson learned

Another day of toil; a bigger pile of rubbish and more problems. It’s looking increasingly likely I’m going to have to just give away some expensive items like the tumble drier and Little M’s bed because I can’t find any takers. My mum said to just do it and forget about it; “You’ve done your best so you can’t do any more.” She is right.

Although she doesn’t know it, she’s reminded me of one of my most important philosophies – that of letting go of things that don’t matter anymore. In Wing Chun, the striking fist contains energy only at the moment of impact: Too soon, and strength is wasted and the blow becomes slow and cumbersome; too late and the energy contained in the striking limb can easily be turned against you and your whole body unbalanced. Life is a bit like that sometimes. Everything has it’s right time for action; a right time for energy to be focused into it. Like the striking limb that’s too tense, putting energy into things at the wrong time can actually work against a successful conclusion. Holding on to something – expending emotional energy on something – that is no longer of use is just as damaging. I think there is a passage in the Hagakure of Yamamoto Tsunetomo that says something like “Waste no time on useless things.” This is sound advice.

A central tenet of Zen Buddhist philosophy is that all human suffering derives from our attachment to things that are impermanent. Possessions, money – even life itself – are impermanent constructs and will one day slip through our fingers like water. Perhaps a lesson from today is that rather than expending energy on trying to hold onto things that can’t be held, I should be celebrating and be thankful for the good things that they represented when they were part of our lives here in Canterbury.

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