My Family is Robbed and I Face My First Test as an Immersian.
It’s 11:15 pm when our Labrador, Toby, lets out a howl as if channeling Cerberus himself.
The sound rips me from sleep. I hurry toward the back door and switch on the light. Toby is up against the back gate, trying to tear it down.
I run out the front door in my boxers and investigate. No one is there, but something’s missing.
My wife, Heather, steps outside as I run toward the road at the end of our driveway. “What are you doing? What’s wrong?”
I gaze down the long, city street. My heartbeats thump in my head. Anger burns my face. “Someone stole Shaylie’s (our 7-year-old daughter) bike.”
Soon, Heather is on the phone with the police and I am driving around the neighborhood tracking down a thief, planning my revenge.
Does this punk have any idea what that bike means to that little girl? I thought. Just wait till I catch him…
During Project Conversion, I fully immersed myself in the beliefs and practices of several faiths. That immersion extended to philosophies regarding life’s various scenarios, and I often came into conflict with these new vistas on the world. As a Buddhist, I struggled with my feelings toward the death of Osama bin Laden. While practicing as a Jain monk, I was so immersed in the concept of ahimsa (non-injury) that I suffered an emotional breakdown over accidentally crushing an ant.
All of us, regardless of path/tradition, encounter moments that test our faith and conviction in the teachings of that path. It is in these moments that our faith and character develop.
So here is the question: now that I am a new student of my own developing tradition, what does this mean for how I treat life’s challenging situations, such as, bike theft?
My first thought was well, I’m an Immersian, so why not immerse my fist into his face?
Let’s review the third “Hinge” of the Path of Immersion which lead to the Fluid Life.
Fluidity is lost with the accumulation of the Seven Sediments: prejudice, selfishness, craving, apathy, anger, ignorance, and pride.”
The Seven Sediments impede our ability to flow freely. Just as an accumulation of soil and debris clouds and muddies water, the Sediments obscure our view, mire our flow, and stagnate our hearts and minds.
In that moment, I allowed anger, craving, and ignorance to cloud the waters.
I had failed in my own tradition.
I did not see that my craving for justice metastasized into anger, and that anger stirred the waters of my heart and mind, kicking up sediment and shrouding me in ignorance.
What drove this person to steal? Was he not suffering from craving, selfishness, apathy, and even ignorance? As an Immersian, my life is about flowing into and nourishing others, while in turn allowing them to flow through me.
In hunting this person down with the intent to harm, I had already failed him and my own path.
You see, water is the supreme exemplar of my path, because water does not try, it simple flows. Water is not forceful, not even in the storms and floods, but forced upon. Water nourishes without prejudice and opens passages with the greatest patience. Just as raindrops do not leap from the clouds, one who follows the Path of Immersion toward the Fluid Life simply allows themselves to fall, like rain.
Suffering ends only once we give it permission, my friends, and so we must purge ourselves of the sediments choking our natural flow.
That, is Fluidity.
And so the journey and growth continues. In presenting these reflections and teachings, I do not presume the status of a guru, saint, avatar, prophet, master, or the alike. I have simply discovered the mouth of a mighty river which leads to the Fluid Life, and I have pledged my life to navigating its current. I am only a student, because in my tradition, a master is nothing more than a perfected student. I invite you to use my findings to whatever end best suits you.
As a good friend recently observed,
…Yes, you’re challenging because you invite us in, but don’t ask us to convert: you ask us to go deeper with one another and in our own traditions. It’s oddly radical.”
Why not do something “oddly radical” today? Be that nourishing water in the life of another and allow them to in turn flow into and nourish you. Together, we will discover and become a greater sea.
So I’ve allowed my anger and craving for vengeance to fall. As for my Shaylie and Toby, I think they’re plotting on their own…