This year we are receiving a very painful lesson about the power water – first, the tsunami in Japan and now more recently, in areas of Vermont which have experienced record-breaking flooding because of Hurricane Irene. The power of water lies in its fluidity, which allows it to go around anything it encounters. With few exceptions, like well-constructed dams, it is unstoppable. This characteristic of water can give us great insight into how we can handle our own encounters with life’s obstacles. When we run into obstacles we often try to conquer them head on. This works fine if we have the strength to do so. But if we don’t, we get stuck. Water teaches us that there is great power in simply going around the obstacle. I wrote about the Japanese idea of ocho in my book, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness. In the book, I have a wonderful quote by Hiroyuki Itsuki:
“There is an old Buddhist term, ocho, which means overcoming by going around. In confronting a problem head on, you may encounter a wall so high and thick that you cannot break through it. So you turn to one side and go around the wall. This is ocho. Instead of sitting desolately in front of the wall that is blocking your progress, you try to get around it by making a long detour, or even by digging under it . . . It is a subtle by simple movement of the mind that makes the transformation complete, but an invaluable one to learn and perfect.”
Think about how we can apply this concept to our encounters with depression or anxiety. We don’t try to overcome them directly, by attempting to make ourselves happy or calm. Instead, we just go around this wall. It doesn’t require much strength. It does require acceptance. It requires clarity of purpose. And it requires wisdom. We don’t need to tear down the wall, we just leave it standing.
We don’t need to travel in a straight line. Water doesn’t travel in a straight line. Because of its flexibility, it is impossible to contain it. Let us learn the art of ocho and live more like water.
Gregg Krech Author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (2002)| Author, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness (2004, 2011)| Author, A Finger Pointing to the Moon (2000)| Editor, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living (1993-Present)| Director, ToDo Institute (Vermont) (1992-Pr......