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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 72 habitual self-interested approach of protecting her political future, and achieved a result no one would have imagined possible at the outset. Eventually, she had to transform in response to what arose, but the power of her act of forming was unmistakable. THE CONTAINER: A METHOD OF FORMING We can apply the skill of forming in a variety of ways. Our action might take the form of a very broad gesture with no specific goal associated with it, or it could take the form of a detailed and in- tensified campaign that involves managing the whole experience of those we encounter. This more com- prehensive application is what we and our colleagues have come to call “the container principle.” When you want to go beyond merely forming to shap- ing the options and intensifying the re- sult, applying the container principle is a natural next step. A container serves to hold something, either something of value we want to protect or something we want to limit the spread of. The container, as we define it, forms the environment for that thing by establishing boundaries and points of entry and exit, which we call gateways. The boundary—most often the walls or the sides of the container—provides the obstacle, the resistance, the hard part, the “no.” And the gateways have the quality of openness and vulnerability, the soft part, the “yes.” An effective container has a good relationship between boundary and gateway. The boundary or barrier is definite, but the gateway makes the con- tainer permeable. Our lives are filled with examples of the container principle. Our houses or apartments are containers, not only for people and goods but also for the energy and activity that go on there. Temples, cathedrals, legislative cham- bers, museums, and myriad other public spaces are all intended to in- spire a particular frame of mind and sense of reverence—and egress and ingress are carefully guarded. Offices, cubicles, and workspaces generally heavily influence the activity that occurs within. The container principle can also be seen at work in societal norms, government laws, treaties, and rules of engagement, which shape our behavior in the same way that mountain slopes shape the flow of water. In experiences that are all too common—such as facing a criti- cal presentation at work or having to deliver a difficult message to a teenage child—we are so focused on the impending conflict that we don’t think about how the container or environment can aid us in our task. Yet we can feel the difference between a formal meeting across the boss’s desk and coffee at the local café. We’re familiar with the limits of screaming about homework over the chaos and noise called family mealtime. Events and their environment—the con- tainer and its contents—are intimately interconnected, and missing how the environment affects the outcome loses the advantage that comes from relying on the power of shih. TRANSFORMING To be able to transform with the enemy is what is meant by “spiritlike.” (CHAPTER 6) We can’t allow ourselves to get stuck in the ground we’ve shaped or how we’ve shaped it, but rather we continue to transform— in relation to the goal we seek and the obstacles to achieving it. NOV 68-73.indd 72 NOV 68-73.indd 72 9/1/08 12:23:19 PM 9/1/08 12:23:19 PM