In Conflict, Return To The “I”

In this video, Justin Epstein discusses staying centered in the midst of conflict.

Full Video Text: (transcript by Victoria Barkley)

In feudal China, many, many years ago, there was a Zen master, Manindra, who was well known in the area. He would welcome people; entertain people…sages and monks and other visiting people. He was known for having an unfathomable courage…this Zen master, Manindra.

At one point, the village got the news that a ferocious Khan of the Mongols was making his way across the countryside, killing anybody who would resist him. They knew the Khan’s hatred of clergy and so, they were trying to encourage Manindra to leave and to go and hide. Manindra said, “No, I am not going to do that.”

So, eventually, the Khan had made his way to the village. He stormed the gates and was shocked to see that all the people were gone. They got word and they were gone, but not Manindra. He was there in the town square, sitting motionless in the sun.

The Khan saw this sight. He got off his horse; he pulled out that sword and he went right over to

Manindra and put it right on his chest. And he said, “Old man, don’t you know that I can run you through without batting an eye?” And Manindra said, “Sir, don’t you know that I could be run through without batting an eye?”

Courage, fearless, centered, able to choose his response, now that was right for him…me, I would…I don’t know…I might have…(laughter) I’d say, “Where are you all staying? I want to go there too. Where is the hiding spot?” You know, it’s different for everybody. That was his choice. That was his guidance. That was his knowing. And that’s what we need to choose. What is our guidance?

Here is your homework, your own work: When there is a conflict, how do you respond? Be aware, be aware, do you want to fight…do you want to flee…do you freeze up? Notice that in yourself. And try to remember to take a nice deep breath, to pause, rather than reacting out of conditioned mind, because that’s what we want to do. We want to react out of habit. We want to react out of what we’ve learned, or been conditioned. And we just react. And then you know what happens? The primitive brain takes over. That’s what happens. The lizard part of the brain and all the blood goes to that part of the brain. So, we become stupid as lizards. That’s when we start saying things, and doing things that we later regret perhaps.

Instead, we can take a deep breath, gain some calmness, maybe even walk away, and get centered. Return to the “I” of the storm, your wholeness, your peace, that presence…and that shifts the whole energy. Can you see that your life and my life might be different if we could remember more often, in the midst of the winds and the storm, to just take a breath, return to the “I,” the center…then, respond from there? Take action from that place. That’s not weakness, that’s strength…