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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 73 There is no lasting form: whatever worked in the past, another form may be called for now. Regardless of how brilliant the plan that got you where you are, holding on to it can become a liability if it doesn’t continue to re- flect reality as the ground changes. Loosening the grip on a specific, known solution allows space for transforming. Then, multiple op- tions or solutions can arise, for both ourselves and others. The text tells us that transforming renders us “spiritlike”—untouchable, not graspable or solid, and thus not able to be attacked. By hold- ing firmly yet loosely to the aim, we give chaos and uncertainty the space to sort themselves out. Insights beyond what we might expect can arise more readily. A simple, everyday example of transforming comes from the world of the grade-school classroom. To make the chaos of a third- grade classroom workable, a good teacher has to consistently cre- ate and maintain a container for learning, in order to form the maelstrom of energies flying around the room into a learning en- vironment. Naturally, this involves a relatively high degree of con- trol, but as educator Richard Brown points out, this control can also become an obstacle in class discussion. “As teachers, we can hold on too tightly to our idea of having a successful classroom, and in asking students to share their thoughts, we can subtly try to control them.” Brown, among others, teaches a technique that asks teachers to wait three seconds before calling on someone. In- evitably, more hands go up. After calling on someone and hearing his or her response, the teacher waits an additional three seconds before commenting. In that short period of time, Brown says, teachers can give up control and step out of the role of conveying information and transform into listeners. When students see their teachers learning in front of them it has a powerful effect. Forming the ground starts with the intention to succeed and the strong exertion required to do so. But when we push something, it moves and changes, so we’ve got to adjust our exertion to respond to the changed ground. First we form, but then we must trans- form. We cannot remain fixed, nor can we expect to permanently fix others or the environment. Continuing to push in the same direction that got us where we are can be counterproductive. BEYOND FORM The key to the practice of forming and transforming, as the text clearly tells us, is being without form: And so the skilled general forms others yet is without form. (CHAPTER 6) As a “skilled general,” we must not get stuck in any form we employ. Transforming requires a leap, yet there is a still larger leap of not solidifying or fixating on form itself. Being “without form” means not regarding the form of any situation as the ulti- mate reality but rather as an ever-changing manifestation. This has simple yet profound advantages: The ultimate in giving form to the military is to arrive at formlessness. (CHAPTER 6) Formlessness means shaping the ground, taking a firm and definite position, yet not fixating on it as the only solution. This doesn’t mean we don’t care or believe in the position we’ve taken. It means maintaining an allegiance to a bigger solution, one that serves the larger whole more than it serves one par- ticular plan. Being formless isn’t abstaining from engagement; indeed, it is engaging deeply and entering the play of forming and transforming. It simply means not grasping onto any par- ticular form, which allows the forming and transforming to be powerful and effective. Aikido offers a fine example. The founder of aikido, O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, mastered many martial arts. Yet it dawned on him that no matter how strong he might become, there could always be someone stronger. So he based his new martial art not on solidity and strength but rather on offering no fixed form to be attacked. Aikido is a practice of forming and transforming, using the oppo- nent’s own energy of attack to bring about a victorious resolution by becoming formless. His counterintuitive insight was that not taking a fortified position—not being “there” in a solid and fixed way— was the strongest position. Combining forming and formlessness gives aikido its power and effectiveness. The ability to respond to form is not about how many clever plans we devise, nor is it about holding steadfastly to our role or position. It’s about being in touch with whatever arises, and capitalizing on emerging solutions: Do not repeat the means of victory, But respond to form from the inexhaustible. (CHAPTER 6) At the parents’ meeting Nancy let the energy function by itself, trusting that the anger would be balanced out by the parents’ appreciation of the care their children were getting. She dropped her effort to win everyone over to her side, becoming “spiritlike” as she hung out with the parents without an agenda. It took hard work to keep dropping her habitual way of acting, but it also seemed fresh and even exhilarating. ➢ page 113 NOV 68-73.indd 73 NOV 68-73.indd 73 9/1/08 12:23:22 PM 9/1/08 12:23:22 PM