Saturday, December 4, 2010

Life in the tank

The Book of Awakening
Life in the tank
By Mark Nepo

Love, and do what thou wilt
St. Augustine

It was a curious thing. Robert had filled the bathtub and put the fish in the tub, so he could clean the tank. After he’d scrubbed the film from the small walls of their make believe deep, he went to retrieve them.

He was astonished to find that, though they had the entire tub to swim in, they were huddled in a small area the size of their tank. There was nothing containing them, nothing holding them back. Why wouldn’t they dart about freely? What had life in the tank done to their natural ability to swim?

This quiet yet stark moment stayed with us both for a long time. We couldn’t help but see those little fish going nowhere but into themselves. We now had a life-in-the-tank lens on the world and wondered daily, in what ways are we like them? In what ways do we go nowhere but into ourselves? In what ways do we shrink our world so as not to feel the press of our own self-imposed captivity?

Life in the tank made me think of how we are raised at home and in school. It made me think of being told that certain jobs are not acceptable and that certain jobs are out of reach, of being schooled to live a certain way, of being trained to think that only practical things are possible, of being warned over and over that life outside the tank of our values is risky and dangerous.

I began to see just how much we were taught as children to fear life outside the tank. As a father, Robert began to question if he was preparing his children for life in the tank or life in the uncontainable world.

It makes me wonder now, in middle age, if being spontaneous and kind and curious are all part of our natural ability to swim. Each time I hesitate to do the unplanned or unexpected, or hesitate to reach and help another, or to inquire into something I know nothing about; each time I ignore the impulse to run in the rain or to call you up just to say I love you - I wonder, am I turning on myself, swimming safely in the middle of the tub?

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From BAM,
Spend some time with how this life in the tank concept relates to you.
What feeilings or thoughts does it bring up?
What areas of your life are contained by what you learned from parents and teachers?
How can you expand?
Develop a plan, chunk it down so it is not overwhelming.
Life is lived in the moments that make up an hour, day, month and year.
Take time to discover what these moments are creating for you and those you love.