Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Boldly Going Nowhere

Remember the intro to the Star Trek series? Their mission was “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Yesterday I pulled up behind a car at a stop light and laughed out loud at their bumper sticker – “boldly going nowhere.” 

We always think we are or ought to be going somewhere, don’t we? We might say about a young, talented person, “Mark my words, that young person is going places!” Or we might bemoan our current position. “I am stuck here. I’m not getting anywhere.” Our language reflects a belief that staying where we are is not a good thing, that what we want is “just around the corner.” 

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy sings about a place that she dreams of “over the rainbow.” But do you remember how the movie ends? When she clicks her heels together and repeats the magic words, “There’s no place like home,” she finds herself back on the farm and realizes that everything she really wanted had been there all along. 

In tai chi class the other day, the teacher, who has a third degree black belt in kung fu, reflected that for years he sought to increase his martial arts skills through outer movement – learning more techniques, gaining strength, kicking faster, punching harder, jumping higher. Then he reached a point where the outer activity began to lessen while the inner activity increased. Now, he says, his most powerful martial arts practice is standing meditation. 

The renowned Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says that one of her favorite sayings is “Sit! Stay! Heal!” I get that. Well, first, I’m a dog person, so I think that’s funny. But I also get it because I’ve found in recent years that when I’m distressed or agitated, when what I most want to do is escape in some way, the best thing for me to do is sit down on my meditation cushion and just breathe. 

A few days ago I was very upset about something someone had done. I was quickly hooked by the situation. I fed my anger with judgments, and rehearsed how I was going to let this person “have a piece of my mind.” Interesting saying, that. Why would I give someone some of my mind? Can I afford to lose any more of it? And if I just change the saying slightly, I am giving someone my peace of mind. Hmm…

With a harrumph and a snort I plopped down on my cushion and started to breathe into my belly. Grumble grumble breathe. Grumble grumble breathe. Gradually, I began to detach from the situation. And before long, I was, if not peaceful, at least calm. And I was able to wait until I could discern what an appropriate response might be, if any.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to go to many wonderful places, and to do many exciting things, but sometimes the wisest course is to go nowhere and do nothing. And that is indeed bold.

Without going outside, you may know the whole world
Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven
The farther you go, the less you know
Thus the sage knows without traveling
He sees without looking
He succeeds without doing
   ~Tao Te Ching

12 thoughts on “Boldly Going Nowhere”

  1. Your experience a few days ago sounds a lot like me yesterday. If you lurk my blog, you know the situation I had. I spent the remainder of that walk focused on what I was going to do in response, how loudly I would do it, and which curse words would be appropriate. Then I told myself, "Let it go. This is only making you miserable to no purpose. Forget it and enjoy the day." And I'm glad I did, because it helped me have a really great time helping my son adopt a kitten.

    And when I was completely content, THEN let them have it!

  2. Wise words, Galen. Also notice how our external worlds clears up when we inwardly go nowhere? I'm hardly at this place of doing nothing but I am working on surrendering and letting go more. If we have to go somewhere – let's go to the place closest to us -within.

    You suggest going boldly – should we also go quickly 🙂 ?

  3. CW, it's hard to stay upset when you are adopting a kitten! In fact, if we all had kittens, or puppies, we probably wouldn't need any of this other wisdom stuff! Thanks for your comment.

  4. Vishnu, what a great observation–that the place closest to us is within. I love that. Hmm, quickly? I think the answer to that is yes, at least as quickly as possible. The longer we feed our distress, the more deeply it becomes entrenched and the more we suffer. If I can see that I'm getting hooked and quickly go to the cushion, literally or figuratively, the distress can be diverted and transformed before it gets too out of control. Good question!

  5. You always give me something to ponder about. I like the idea of meditating when you are experience distress. I need to learn how to do that.
    As always I learn something new from your posts. Thanks for this one. Blessings and hugs!

  6. "Grumble, grumble, breathe."
    Love this image, Galen, as I picture my own self trying to get a grip on a frustrating situation. It is so important to do what is calming and centering when things seem to be flying out of control or off the handle. It's just a matter of actually remembering to do it! 🙂
    Blessings to you!

  7. Your post reminds me of sage advice given to me when I was a newly graduated nurse and I wasn't sure what to do in a situation that arose. A colleague suggested that when you don't know what to do, stop and do nothing. Think. There are only so many things to do; then do them. And from Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book, Women Who Run With the Wolves – there's a time for the wolf to just sit and pant. And another wise friend who responded to my tale of woe – Good. Sit with it for awhile and see where it takes you. Yes – sit; stay; heal.

  8. LeAnn, I bet you already practice what some would call contemplative prayer, that is, listening for God rather than speaking to God. That is a form of meditation. If you try doing that when you are upset rather than trying to sort things out for yourself, then you boldly going exactly where you will find the most help! Thanks for your comment.

  9. True that! I've gotten better at it, but sometimes I indulge in righteous (always–ha!) anger first. I would save myself a lot of suffering if I would just sit and breathe first. Thanks, Martha, for your comment.

  10. What great advice, Mona! And often that is the last thing we think to do. Our instinct when confused or distressed is to act. It takes some practice to pause and wait for clarity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And since I am a wolf lover, I especially appreciate that image.

Comments are closed.