If a man crosses a river and an empty boat collides with his own boat, even though he is a bad tempered man, he will not become very angry. But if he sees a man in the boat, he will shout at him to steer clear. If the shout is not heard, he will shout again, and again, and begin cursing. And all because someone is in the boat. Yet if the boat were empty, he would not be shouting, and not be angry. If you can empty your own boat crossing the river of the world, no one will oppose you, no one will seek to harm you. You can be content. – Zhuangzi
My life is a pastiche – an incongruous assemblage of materials, motifs, techniques, styles, beliefs, borrowed from various sources and amalgamated into this rather semi-solid sense of self. I don’t follow specific beliefs or teachings, but instead try to incorporate what rings true. The long passage above is from one of my favorite ancient thinkers – Zhuangzi – Master Zhuang. His writing is compiled in The Zhuangzi. He was a contemporary of Aristotle. I wrote about Zhuangzi before, but the metaphor of emptying your boat struck a chord with me. We all carry too much in our “boat” – our hearts, minds, and spirits. It weighs on us – some gloomy lumps are put inside us by others, and these should be the first to be jettisoned. Toss away the toxic blaming and shaming rags tarnishing your beautiful soul.
When your boat become more buoyant, you can begin the long process of stripping away the gloomy memories darkening your mind with unhappiness. Deal with the hard truths, bind the injuries and wounds. Dip your hand into the rivers of wisdom available to you. Find enlightened teachers from across time and space. Let their clear thinking wash over your soul like healing waters rinsing away the layers of grime and grit. We all our fortunate in that a great multitude of teachers from across the ages are available us. Let their sage words turn your eyes away from past misery and heartache. Say farewell to the sorrowful stones as they sink one-by-one beneath the sands of time. Your unburdening spirit will grow lighter.
We all carry negative attitudes towards ourselves. As the saying goes we are our own worse critics. Too much self-criticism blocks us from seeing ourselves truthfully. An honest appraisal of our actions/inactions is necessary. But hammering our hearts against a fictitious wall of shortcomings is destructive. Missteps are better than paralysis. Learn from failures. “We all are failures – at least the best of us are”. – J.M. Barrie. Failing means we are trying. Cast away the doubts that keeps you anchored and spiritually debilitated.
Finally, still your mind and pour out the inessential until all that remains is your fundamentally true self. Peer into your heart and recognize the essence of the universe reflected within. In this way, find contentment. Stop drifting towards artificial goals set by others. Be yourself. Let your mind wander in simplicity, blend your spirit with the vastness, follow along with things the way they are, and make no room for personal views. Empty Your Own Boat.