A Zen master had to choose his successor.
He drew a small black dot on a white board, called all his disciples together, and asked them to tell him what they saw. All but one of them said that they saw the black dot.
One disciple alone told him “I see a huge expanse of white in which there is a small black dot.” He was chosen as the successor.
I heard this story for the first time two weeks ago when Lori Saltzman shared it with us at her workshop, 2Feet 2Freedom, to demonstrate how our attention tends to be drawn to the small bits of our lives that we arent happy or content with, and which to a great degree blinds and inures us to the vast amounts of grace that our lives mainly consist of. Does this truth strike a chord for you, beloved reader? Where does your attention tend to go? When on the dance floor, when in life, what black dots grab your attention away from the joy of simply being alive?
Since hearing Lori’s parable, I started applying a basic meditation technique – whenever I noticed my attention had narrowed onto a black dot, a problem, an irritation, a limitation, I simply brought it (my attention) back to the greater field. Soon I began to experience a freedom of choice, and a greater sense of expansiveness. Once I realized I have a choice, I started choosing the greater field (over the little dot) more often- and this has become a beautiful and enlivening practice for me.
But there is another level to this story, deeper and more subtle, that Lori was pointing to. Instead of just re-focusing away from our black dots, Lori showed us how can open our hearts to them, dance with them, find the beauty and the lessons they offer. We paired up. One partner would dance and the other would restrain (control) the dancer by the wrist- thus simulating the limitations (we perceive are) created by our black dots. At first I found myself limited and in opposition to the restraint, but soon I noticed the restraint resulted in a completely new dynamic. That’s when I started to get creative and have fun. Working with, playing with, opening my heart to the black dot, resulted in whole new ways to move and be in motion. Instead of feeling restricted by something beyond my control I felt a renewed sense of freedom and expansion.
Unbelievably, I found myself feeling grateful for the black dot I’d been given. Yes, I said grateful. I honestly cant remember the last time, if ever, I felt authentically grateful for a “problem.” How apropos, as we come up to a whole weekend of working with Gratitude, to recognize that there is something to be grateful for even in the things we don’t want or don’t like.
Yes our lives contain challenges. There are countless injustices that need to be righted, and a planet to be saved from deprivation and pollution, but those needs do not require us to live disconnected from the greater field. In fact the opposite is true. The more connected we are to the greater field, the more energy we have to recognize and address that which needs to be changed.