“Drop the Rock!”

rockTHUS I HAVE HEARD ….There is a story I’ve heard, which I will embellish slightly – because what’s the point of being a story-teller if you can’t tweak it a bit to serve your purpose – about a girl who got a rock for Christmas from her parents, instead of the Barbie Doll she wanted. She was hurt, disappointed, angry. But she decided to keep it, as a reminder of all the things she never got as a child, and how dysfunctional her family had been. Then, as she grew up, she discovered that it was actually a magic rock. Every time she had a disappointment, or got hurt, or rejected, the rock grew larger. It grew when she was frightened, it even grew when she found workarounds to deal with her fears. It grew with her successes too. She became fascinated by the rock, which carried with it the story of her life. It was cumbersome to carry around, and sometimes she was ashamed or embarrassed about how big it was, but she was also secretly proud of it, because it represented all that she’d been through. She felt it defined her so accurately that when she went on a date, or met with a therapist, she felt all she really needed to do was show them the rock, and they’d know all there was to know about her.

One day she had been invited by friends to go on a picnic. It was to be on a beautiful island, and they were going to the island by boat. But she missed the boat when it took off. (She was late, because it was difficult to carry that rock around.) They sailed without her – (the rock got a bit bigger) – and she stood on the dock watching as they sailed away. She decided to catch up with them, and she jumped into the water to swim to meet the boat. But the rock was weighing her down, and as hard as she tried to swim, she was drowning instead. Her friends on the boat called to her, “Drop the rock!” But she couldn’t. She loved that rock so. But she was drowning. “DROP THE ROCK!” they kept calling. “But it’s MY rock” she thought. “DROP THE ROCK!!!” they shouted. Finally, something caught her attention, and without meaning to, she dropped the rock. The rock quickly sank, but she found that she herself was buoyant. She swam easily to the boat, climbed in, joined her friends, and had a wonderful time at the picnic.

So often we cling to the very things that are making us unhappy – our fears, our resentments, our projections and conclusions, as if they define us, as if they are our birthright. And even though the very things we cling to are causing our suffering, we are very reluctant to “drop the rock.” As if, if we gave them up, who would we be?

Our meditation practice gives us the opportunity to answer that question. As we sit in silence, we get a chance to see our thoughts as they arise, – and pass away. Eventually, we can see the space between the thoughts. To hang out in the silence from which the thoughts arise, and to which they pass away. We see that, as compelling as our thoughts may be, and as much as we cherish and identify with them, we are more than our thoughts. We see that the “rock” that we have been carrying around with us, is actually an amalgam of streams of ever changing phenomena, a succession sensory experiences, feelings, perceptions, thoughts and emotions. Continuously arising, and continuously passing away.  What is there to hold on to, when everything is constantly changing?  We are better able to “drop the rock” – or better yet, watch it dissolve.