March 15, 2014

How I am Learning to Live According to a Zen Proverb. ~ Suzanne Poldon


One summer when I was about seven, my Dad decided that I would learn to water ski.

The naivety and trust that comes with being a child of that age caused me to accept my father’s assertion without so much as a question. I dutifully strapped on my child-sized water skis, and bobbed around in the lake behind the boat as my father started the motor. I remember feeling weary of the task I was about to be faced with.

Could I gracefully ski atop the water just like everyone else could?

The answer, it turns out, was no I could not.

That very moment, my seven-year-old self learned that sometimes the universe conspires against you in so many ways that you must concede control. First, we had failed to un-package the skis properly and they were still tied together. Our second error was assuming that our 40 year-old 9.9 horsepower boat engine had enough oomph  to pull me up from the water. My lack of water skiing knowledge and confidence was the final blow to our not-so-well thought out plan of action.

Our attempts to get me skiing progressed as follows: Dad started the engine, I gave Dad the ‘thumbs up’, Dad shifted the motor into the proper gear, and I swallowed mouthfulls of water as I was dragged several hundred meters at a time, still holding onto the ski rope.

We both gave a valiant effort that day, but the most suitable advice only came when we were both at our wits end: ‘’let go of the rope!”


This chalkboard was recently featured in the changing room at my favourite yoga studio.

The moment I read it, I brought me back to that summer day fourteen years ago. The more I pondered the proverb, the more I began to realize how it come in handy in everyday life. That tiny chalkboard has empowered me and become my mantra.

When I am being revisited by disordered thoughts, compulsions, and patterns: let go.

When I am upset over a friend who disappoints me: let go.

When I am feeling ‘fat’, ‘ugly’, ‘stupid’ or ‘worthless’: let go.

When I become engulfed by the fear of my uncertain future: let go.

I am learning that whenever I feel like I did learning to water ski, I have a choice of two options: to let go or to get dragged.

Know that a few years later, when we upgraded to a more powerful boat and I had developed a bit more confidence, I did indeed learn how to water ski.


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     Assistant Editor: Sue Adair/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

     Photos: elephant archives and courtesy of author

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