One of my favorite children’s books is called Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day by Judith Virost.
It is a great book about how sometimes everything goes wrong and you just have to make your way through it, one foot in front of the other, with some degree of humor.
The hexagram Ming I / Darkening of the Light in the I Ching provides the best advice for a situation that is more serious than things just not going right.
K’un above – the receptive earth and Li below – the clinging fire, together indicate that the sun has sunk below the earth and is therefore darkened – its name literally means the wounding of the bright and indicates the opposite of progress; this hexagram indicates a dark nature in authority and it has a negative connotation. The proper action under these circumstances is:
“One must not unresistingly let himself be swept along by unfavorable circumstances, nor permit his steadfastness to be shaken, He can avoid this by maintaining his inner light, while remaining outwardly yielding and tractable. With this attitude he can overcome even the greatest adversities. In some situations indeed a man must hide his light, in order to make his will prevail in spite of his difficulties in his immediate environment. Perseverance must dwell in inmost consciousness and should not be discernible without. …One should let things pass, without being duped.” pg 140, Wilhelm, I Ching, 36 “…he veils his light, yet still shines.”
Recently, I have had an experience where no matter how I applied mindfulness, staying in the present, paradigm shifting, to the situation, I could not push through to a success or get the group to where I thought it needed to go. Ultimately, it came down to just getting out, completing the task at hand, and reviewing where the disconnects in expectation and what was requested occurred, and what had gone wrong.
I was pleased to observe that I was not taking inappropriate responsibility for the badness. I did not lose my center or my connection to the light. I could see how a number of different people, and main stakeholders had helped to create the difficulty in front of me.
I could see the conflict in the group and where the problem was, but could not get the stakeholders to work toward the required change. Furthermore, I assessed as the day went on that I was not going to be able to change the wave of the energy toward the good.
The key to remaining strong through a difficult situation is to know what belongs where, and to whom, in terms of ownership and being able to flexibly respond to the situation. It is also important to know when to exert a degree of personal effort to control the situation and when to allow it to flow to its negative outcome.
Sometimes, certain negative outcomes are needed to force the change required.
Being a change agent is generally considered an active role however sometimes the role requires being a target for others to work through their problems. This latter role occurs more in therapy or consulting, but can present itself in other situations.
In certain structures, organizations, and family systems a kind of cataclysmic experience is the only way to move toward change. It’s as if the internal conflict has to get so great or obvious that anyone passing by might be able to point out the issues.
This is because people tenaciously hold on to what is familiar; as a result they do not allow themselves to be open to inevitable and important change.
So if you practice mindfulness, paradigm shifting, staying in the present moment and you still can’t get to a place of understanding you may be in the middle of such a situation.
The best thing to do is to use questioning to increase your and the other person(s) perspective and expectations.
Identifying, describing, and focusing the group on what you see happening is a good beginning place to start. And if you cannot assist the light being shown on the situation then it is best to hold to inner clarity and let the situation flow to its natural conclusion, without losing a connection to your own center.
It’s important to remain mindful, and in your center. Do not let the darkness overtake you.
Maintaining your light and awaiting a change in circumstances so that you can shine that light to effect the required change is the best action.
From a parenting perspective this is akin to picking your battles to achieve success.
Patience and good humor are important elements in all of these circumstances.
See you tomorrow.