October 3, 2021
Imagination, Day 34
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching: Transferring Suffering Into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
When my granddaughter visited us a few years ago after she had first learned to walk, I watched her explore our living space. I watched her face and her movements as she studied first one item (a chair, maybe, or a trinket) and then another. I watched with the growing understanding that she was seeing everything for the first time. Her reactions as she walked around examining things ranged from interest to wonder. Many of her reactions to newness were instinctive but many more were creative. Creative reactions.
In a short conversation with my brother Tom yesterday, we spoke of creative reactions as essential to getting by or even to surviving. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but a light flashed and I looked back at many decisions and reactions that I had made in my early life. I had to be creative because there was no rule book—I was unprepared for many situations that showed up and I had to act quickly, intuitively, and, yes, creativity.
Then Tom planted another seed. He suggested that as we grow older, so many of our reactions to repeated and similar situations also become repetitive.
And then he said, “wouldn’t it be better to work on response instead of reaction?”
I realized that as I grow older and learn from more experiences, I am able to stop, think, and respond. Not to escape a situation, but to respond with a solution or acceptance.
I speak a lot of the part of the Serenity Prayer that advises one to have,
“The serenity to accept the things I cannot change”
The serenity mentioned there must be found, and it’s elusive. My concept, though, is that finding that serenity to accept what we cannot change will, in turn, offer us much more serenity. It will give us the ability to respond instead of to react.
Tom is wise and he makes me think. I have to work at it because he speaks in pictures.