Gorgeous beach in Molokai. Photo by Jen
There was a drought in a village in China. They sent for a rainmaker who was known to live in the farthest corner of the country, far away. Of course that would be so, because we never trust a prophet who lives in our region; he has to come from far away. So he arrived, and he found the village in a miserable state. The cattle were dying, the vegetation was dying, the people were affected. The people crowded around him and were very curious what he would do. He said, ‘Well, just give me a little hut and leave me alone for a few days.’ So he went into this little hut and people were wondering and wondering, the first day, the second day. On the third day it started pouring rain and he came out. They asked him, ‘What did you do?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘that is very simple. I didn’t do anything.’ ‘But look,’ they said, ‘now it rains. What happened?’ And he explained, ‘I come from an area that is in Tao, in balance. We have rain, we have sunshine. Nothing is out of order. I come into your area and find that it is chaotic. The rhythm of life is disturbed, so when I come into it I, too, am disturbed. The whole thing affects me and I am immediately out of order. So what can I do? I want a little hut to be by myself, to meditate, to set myself straight. And then, when I am able to get myself in order, everything around is set right. We are now in Tao, and since the rain was missing, now it rains.’ — C. G. Jung in Jung on Active Imagination (Encountering Jung) (pp. 19-20). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
Apparently Jung found this tale to be so important that he suggested telling it whenever giving a seminar on active imagination, his most treasured method of healing and transformation. At this point our world seems to be in such disarray that we might need more than a few days in a hut on our own in order to bring it all back into balance! It’s becoming clear to many of us, however, that it is precisely this inner work which will affect the massive changes needed.
Although this story has a certain hyperbolic or fictional quality to it that many of us would not tend to believe at face value, we should not underestimate the power of our own practices to recenter, heal, and revolutionize. Surely we have all recognized how our state of overall well-being affects our immediate family, friend circle and professional milieu, and how this influence thereby spreads to the unseen multitudes.
Our work-a-holic culture would lead us to believe that we must work incessantly to survive and be personally available to every other being we have ever met in our entire lives (and with whom we are now in touch over social media) with no end in sight. It is a colossal accomplishment to find even a couple of minutes for ourselves in any given day to regroup.
However, when we show up rested, rejuvenated and inspired, we first demonstrate that this feat is possible and second, give others permission to take time for themselves. We need to rewrite the popular discourse so that it’s normal to take space to breathe and care for our needs, whether “mundane” or “transcendent.” The state of our world clearly reflects our tendency just to slop through, get by and numb out, hoping somebody else will save us, or counting on our own impending death to end this cycle of rat-racing. More is possible!