Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The hard way

I biked the first 3 or 4 miles of my 8 miles bikeride to work this morning with my back tire rubbing against the frame.

For the first mile or two I just thought, wow, this is really hard, I must be really out of shape, or having extra trouble adjusting to the colder weather (at the beginning of winter I always go much slower for a bit - harder to breathe colder air, or something) but eventually I figured out my wheel was rubbing. My first instinct was to try to just go with it and fix it at work (I have an irrational aversion to stopping, even if it will make things much easier and faster in the "long run")

But eventually I stopped, and sort of wiggled things around and thought I'd fixed it. It worked for a bit, but then would get bad again. I went maybe another two miles like this, "fixing" it another 2 or 3 times.

Eventually I figured out that I actually needed to tighten the wheel. I don't know if someone had tried to steal it or what, but it was just pretty much wobbling around. oops.

It was AMAZING how easy it seemed to bike after that. Almost miraculous, and so simple, yet requiring a choice and some focused attention.

So I'm wondering what else in my life is like that - spiritually, emotionally, that I'm avoiding looking at because I don't want to slow down or stop for that long, or that I'm not paying careful attention to, but addressing in a slapdash fashion that won't hold for long. I'd love to have that sort of breakthrough - there are plenty of things that feel that hard emotionally and spiritually in my life.

But I don't seem to be able to find what's dragging me down.


Robin M. said...

This is a great metaphor. Thank you.

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Actually, it's a very ancient metaphor, highly honored in the Buddhist world.

You probably know already that the First Noble Truth of Buddhism is that "all existence is suffering". The word used for "suffering" in Buddhism's original language, Pali, is dukkha, a word that, as the Buddhist scholar Gunapala Dharmasiri explains, covers the whole range of meanings "from gross physical suffering to subtle mental restlessness".

Buddhism declares that there is a way that leads to the end of all dukkha. The whole point of Buddhism is to find this way and walk it.

Well, the opposite of dukkha in Pali — both logically and etymologically — is sukkha. Sukkha is what you would expect to get to when you arrive at the end of dukkha.

And what does sukkha literally mean? Its original, literal meaning is a well-centered hub on a wheel. And thus dukkha literally refers to a hub that is slightly off center in a wheel, so that the wheel constantly wobbles, bumps and grates.

Albert Low, a modern American Zen teacher, has described how this wobbling, bumping and grating manifests in our lives: "The job is fine, but my boss, well, he's a bit difficult; the house is just right, but there's a bus stop just outside the door; my marriage is really great, but ... the holiday is fine, except...."

It's a profound and arresting metaphor, and I'm quite moved by the knowledge that you found it independently.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

Wow Marshall, that is so cool!

Thanks for teaching me that!

Jeanne said...


What a beautiful metaphor. And what exactly did Marshall Massey teach you? Something you already discovered or that what you discovered already existed?

What awareness does any of us have that hasn't already been discovered and discussed?

Each of us is an individual who needs to discover all these things all over again. And again. And again. It's fresh for you and so it is fresh for us. If I'd read Marshall's missive, I would have skipped over it had it not been related to your very fresh and alive take on an old issue.

So thank you for sharing it. I needed to hear it, especially today.