When I was about ten, I had a joke book and in the book was this:
‘How do I get down from an elephant?
And the answer was:
‘You don’t. You get down from a duck’.
Bloody hell. That joke mystified me. I could not work it out. I asked my sister. It mystified her too. We read it over and over again, shaking our heads in bemusement. Neither of us had a clue. How could a question beginning ‘How do I…? be answered with ‘You don’t…’ . How could a question about an elephant, be answered in relation to a duck. The question and the answer seemed completely unrelated. It just didn’t make sense.
We asked our Mum. She gave a shrug to say ‘I get it but it’s not that funny’ and replied as she always did, ‘You’ll work it out’. (Between you and me Sydney Banks actually had his enlightenment moment after asking her for help with his welding homework).
We couldn’t work it out though.
And gradually it slipped from our mind. Although obviously it was lurking there because…. About eight years later, my sister and I were in a department store in Cardiff buying stuff for my first year at university. She came up to me with wide eyes and a pillow and pointed in reverent silence to the label.
The label said ‘100% duck down’.
We looked at each other like the two protagonists at the end of an epic film as the credits roll up. The quest was over. We were free. Finally. What had eluded us, for almost a decade, was now ours.
You don’t. You get down from a duck.
This joke has much in common with my coaching. (Not because my coaching is a joke, you understand. Well maybe it is but that’s not the point.) But because every question we ever ask ourselves can only ever be answered with something that seems as though it is answering something else.
Essentially, every question is a ‘How do I….?’.
How do I lose weight?
How do I have more motivation?
How do I earn more money?
How do I have more friends?
How do I find a partner?
How do I feel less angry / scared / insecure?
How do I become a better parent?
How do I get more clients?
How do I stop smoking?
How do I get down from an elephant?
There is no end to how we think we should change or what we think we need to be happy, successful, worthy, valuable. There is no end of elephants to get down from. There is no end to how much we can beat ourselves up for being stuck on top of an elephant with no idea how to get down.
And the magic answer to all of it…? The answer to all the ‘How do I’s…?’
We could contemplate this ‘you don’t’ for eternity and still not get close to seeing the magnitude of it. Here is where I am starting with it.
‘You don’t’ because it is never you doing the doing.
It is not you doing the doing. The doing comes through you. None of that is in your control.
Just as we are being breathed, we are being eating, being drinking, being exercising. We don’t have any say in any of that. If we are doing it we are doing it. So we can move beyond wanting to change our behaviours, obsessing over better morning routines, stressing about being richer or more successful. We can just fully notice and accept and love exactly what it is we are doing. Because that is our most perfect expression of life right now. That is what we have.
Why waste a second of this precious time on earth in the desire to change a single thing? Any idea of what we are doing, any judgement of our action, is created out of thought in the moment. Are we exercising enough? Eating correctly? Earning the right amount? Talking to enough people? There’s literally no answer to that which doesn’t change in a heart beat. It is impossible to put a value on how we are doing, no judgement will ever have any meaning.
We are being. All we can do is notice what is being done through us and love it. It’s all we’ve got and it is magnificent.
‘You don’t’ because there is no ‘you’ to do anything.
Who is this you anyway? Who is this you that needs to improve or to stop doing stuff or do more of better stuff? Try and find it. What is it? Your personality? Your past? Your body? Your beliefs? Your behaviour? Your identity? It can’t be any of this. All of this changes all of the time.
Are we rich or poor? Doing well or doing terribly? Popular or lonely? Angry or calm? Depressed or happy? All of the above. None of the above. We are all of it and none of it.
There is absolutely no possibility whatsoever that we are who we think we are.
So who is the one that wants to get down from the elephant?
There’s no one there. There is an awareness of a wanting to get down. But there is no one wanting.
‘You don’t’ because there is nothing to do
Everything that we see around us is the creation of our thought in the moment. There is nothing out there other than what appears through us. Anything that we think we have to do, is just thought creating an idea of a lack or a need or a should. As we see through this we realise there is simply experience of a body and a life.
There is nothing therefore to ‘do’.
The closer we get to the ‘you don’t’, the closer we get to the truth of our lives.
There is nothing to do and there is no one to do it.
So now what? We turn into a little beam of light?
No, we turn into what we are, what we have been all along, a loving intelligence experiencing the sensational (in the literal and dramatic sense of the word) world of form.
With nothing to do and no one to do it, it is truly amazing what happens. We soften into the being done. Simply watching the loving force that moves the body, makes the speech, writes the words, kicks the ball, cooks the meal, drives the car, kisses the child, leads the meeting, takes the stand.
Suffering disappears. With no pride or identity there is nothing to protect. There is no reason not to allow it all.
We are awareness of what is.
There is simply being. There is simply love, loving itself.