The art of control is to give up control.
In the fable of Chuang Tzu, a disciple of Confucius meets a master boatman. The disciple asks curiously, “Can anyone learn how to handle a boat like you do?”
“Certainly,” said the boatman, “But remember! If you want to be a good boatman, don’t worry about controlling the boat.”
“But if you don’t control the boat, how can you handle it?”
“Don’t worry about the boat, just make sure you can swim!”, smiled the boatman.
Unable to make any sense of the boatman’s teaching, the disciple went to seek Confucius’ advice.
“But of course!”, the sage exclaimed, “A good swimmer will in no time get the knack of boating. If a man can swim under water, he may never have seen a boat before and still know how to handle it. To him, water is the same as dry land. The capsizing of a boat is the same as a cart overturning on land.”
“Ten thousand things may be capsizing and backsliding in the water at the same time right before him. But nothing can affect him. He will be at ease, because the water is flowing inside him as well!” added the sage.
This is how the best performer renders his best.
He has laid the ground for the performance. When it’s time for him to put in his best, he doesn’t have to worry about putting in his best.
He’s like the swimmer who worries not about the water when boating.
When he’s performing, he’s not in the art of performing. He’s in the art of wu wei as taught by Lao Tzu.
He is directed not by his desire, but by the flow of Tao. By letting go of his attachment, he performs without performing. He is at his best by being effortless.
But what if he turns his focus on performing?
It turns his performance into execution, taking the ease and excellence out of the rendition. Alas, he can no longer perform because he’s performing!
Which is the reason a Taoist master could give no reason when a young disciple asked: “What should I be thinking about during meditation? Should I think about my place in the universe, the way I meditate, or not thinking about anything at all?”
Shaking his head, the master said, “I do not know. I’ve never thought about it.”
The master was right, that was how he got the best from his meditation.
How do we think about not thinking? The more we think about not thinking, the more we are thinking!
One way to counter this is to see any thought that comes as simply another thought. Allow the thoughts to come. Do not analyze, do not accept, do not reject.
Let them be simply an unceasing movement, like waves coming in at the shore.
When we see thoughts as movement, preceding thoughts flow away, taking with them our fear. This allows us to savor the world without the burden of analyzing every moment of our experience.
When we do this, we jump out of the endless loop of thinking.
Our mind begins to relax. Radiant thoughts are ready to call on us.
We begin to speak to the universe…
— the harbinger