We have reached the half way mark of the 101 Things I wish My Dad Taught Me. This is Episodes 48,49,50. “Why are you here?” Bought to you by all the five universal laws of nature.
after the Second World War my dad came back like most soldiers, somewhat messed up. Again like most heat experienced malaria, dinky fever and whatever else New Guinea had to dish up. He witnessed death both of those he fought against and those he loved. When he arrived back from the war work started immediately. He and my mum already had my sister, it was time to build a house, start a business, and a family. Within a few short years he finished the house, mostly by his own hands, started a business and had my brother and I. Six months later his wife died.
his immediate reaction is understandable. My brother and I were adopted out. My brother was six months old. I was three. I guess, and I can only guess, that the question why am I here, sat front and centre for my dad during this terrible time for him.
as a man bought up in a small Australian community, religion played a significant backdrop to his answer. I guess he would’ve considered the events of his life some form of fate dictated by a God. I’m not sure I agree with that, but, in those small Australian communities the cultures were very tight and thinking outside that box would’ve caused an individual to be ostracised and alone.
for this very reason my father moved us, after retrieving us from our adopted parents, to a remote Australian outback location. I think, in retrospect he didn’t want to be identified as the man who lost his wife for the rest of his life. But the choice he made to go bush where there was no community, no friends and no support was a brave one. I can’t imagine, with little money, and no support, moving to such a desolate and remote location and starting a business in order to pay the bills.
yesterday, while playing with my two newly adopted children, the children of my partner, I fell over. I stood on the back of my flip-flop shoes and dived across the floor and landed on my rib cage on the arm of the chair. It certainly knocked the wind out of me, cracked a few ribs, and in spite of it all I kept a big smile on my face so as not to traumatise the kids. Immediately I regained my composure I said and thought to myself what is the benefit of this? Or in another language “why am I here.?”
I had been dancing with the kids, after breakfast, and about to go down and watch them mum finish the city to surf. We were all playing and laughing. I thought to myself what am I doing here? Why am I here? Not in a negative way but in a gifting way. And it made me think about my dad and how he was, in spite of all that happened to him, a joyful clown. He used humour to live. He used humour to overcome hardship. My dad would not be a welcome individual in Bondi where everybody is politically correct and his humour was always punch in the guts for political correctness. In thinking about this you get to know the spirit of your father. His physical body is gone, all his work is history, his fights, kisses and arguments with his four wives is nothing, but his spirit is still here.
if dad was here now and I asked him the question why am I here he would definitely answer with “to mow the lawn.” Such deep philosophical questions would always get answered with humour. But dad did have an answer otherwise he would not have lived into his 90s struggling with dementia and kept making jokes.
dad used jokes to politely say “none of your business.” That was not to say he did not have an answer.
when I am running retreats and I ask people to think about their answer to this question I think many people also say “none of your business.” But there’s a difference between not knowing the answer and not wanting to share the answer. There is a very big difference between surviving stress, dealing with anxiety, struggling through pain and the answer to the question “why am I here.” In answering the question it is really important not to be confused by anything that you do that you could rent somebody else to do. Entertaining my partners children is not why I am here but it makes it good to be here. Falling over and cracking my ribs is not why I am here but it makes it interesting to be here. Sweating on the bike turbo is not why I’m here but it makes it engaging and interesting to be here with my healthy body and lots of energy.
it is in the mastery of silence that we get past the things we do in order to make life wonderful in answering the question about why are we here. There are four quintessential questions that we are always asking ourselves and sometimes we avoid the silence in order to answer those questions in a none of your business fashion. Those four questions are:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- Where do I come from?
- Where am I going?
In the silence, alone, undistracted the answer to these four questions does not leap forward automatically. This process of finding these answers requires the courage to sit alone, unstimulated. That is one of the most difficult things a human being can be asked to do. Because in that silence there is the darkness. Many people do not like the darkness, just as many people do not like the dark of night. But it is in the darkness that the soul exists. A person experiencing depression and a person experiencing the deep powerful spiritual awakening of the darkness is experiencing the same thing. One volunteers the other doesn’t. One feels as if the darkness is punishment and suffers from it in depression, medicated to avoid it, the other does all he can to immerse themselves in it as much as possible. One person knows the way out the other doesn’t. But it is definitely the same place.
it is wise not to always try to find answers to every question. Sometimes it’s better to admit we don’t know. However, that does not mean abstaining from the search for the answer. In order to search for the answer for the four quintessential questions, one must learn the art of silence and stillness. In other words, to sit in the unknown. We call this the process of catching a feather. When we reach for answers to questions such as these for we push the answers away. That reaching is the most common process for people in our western society and we do it for everything. We google it, we read about it, we ask about it and we search for it desperately. That is fantastic. But, with these quintessential questions it won’t work. The answer to these questions must come to you instead of you going to it.
trusting power greater than yourself is a spooky process for those who have been brought up in some form of stoic philosophy. We see people failed by different philosophies and religions. And so sitting silently asking with your hands open for a power other than your mind to deliver the answer to a question would seem the complete opposite for most people who have decided that religion is not there go to for wisdom. And this is where Zen really takes a great place in the world. Because really Zen has very little philosophy. It just simply says sitdown shut up and wait.
when I lived in India studying yoga, I spent many hours reading books trying to understand the philosophy of the mind body connection, the role of yoga in that process and the other eight limbs of yoga that are very rarely spoken about other than Asana. Sometimes I would go to the yoga teacher and ask a question. His answers were always the same. Just do the practice and all will be coming.
he, like Zen, was teaching his students to trust something bigger than their mind. It was a really difficult situation when I wanted to know things and he said you have to wait until you are ready to know. I guess it goes to the core of thinking that we think rather than thinking. Maybe today I could leave this midpoint episode incomplete, just as my yoga teacher and my Zen teachers taught me on my journey.
that’s the end of episode 50 and the midpoint of our 100.