A Case for Nothing

Life is ruthless. I don’t mean in the way it can be trying and challenging. I mean, in the way the hardnesses compound and causes suffering. And in those ruthless moments often, the best thing to do is nothing at all.

We are all accustomed to always doing something about our situations. We are applauded for our ability to take action in the face of hardship. When a friend calls with troubles, we listen and offer solutions. When we have issues with our family, we seek understanding, process and resolution. I am like this, and this is why I know I am drawn to mediation and conflict resolution.

I read somewhere once, that we suffer and suffer, until we just can’t suffer anymore. And then, our suffering ends.

Maybe it is the way the word ‘suffer’ repeats itself, and in that repetition reflects my experience of suffering – ongoing and endless. Maybe it is the relief I felt at what sounded like a call to refrain from mental and emotional acrobatics that we are trained to think are critical to achieving an optimal state of balance. Happiness and peace are goals in life. Or, maybe it is the practicality and simplicity of the statement. Whatever it is, the idea resonated. Deeply.

Eager to make use of yet another piece of wisdom that could aid in my life-long search for solutions, I began to apply this new learning to the conflicts in my life.

During fights with my partner, I told myself that if I just have to keep pushing through – communicate, express, be open and keep on talking, that our challenges would unravel. In the struggle to be supportive to my sister – while she continued to make choices unacceptable to me, I told myself to keep being there, keep showing up, keep talking, keep trying to establish connection and conversation.

I expressed, listened, explained, reached out and nothing was working. At times, misunderstandings layered atop past hurts. At times tones were misconstrued in text message fights. At times there was sheer exhaustion! Continuing began to feel like a further call to battle, rather than an end to suffering.

Then I stopped; the talking, the reaching, and the trying. Not because this was the prescription, but because there was nothing left to do. I had no more tools in my pocket. There were no more actions to be taken.

And sometimes, that’s how it is, isn’t it? You walk along, look up and see that the slow moving clouds have collected above you, and the very next moment – downpour! This eternal falling, from the vastness of all the sky. Each moment a more certain reminder of only one thing – that there are some things you have absolutely no control over. You seek cover, and there may not be any. You run, but you still get soaked – beyond capacity – drenched.

And those are the moments we stop, resisting, trying, doing. We accept because we have to. That it is raining right now. That it rains. And maybe, it will stop raining.

However that moment manifests for each of us, what follows acceptance is a quiet, a stillness. Not the kind we are used to seeking, but the kind that we cannot help but find.

- sethu

Previously published on Planning Change.