There is a Japanese proverb that goes something like this: “The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.”
The proverb reflects the view that there are times when we need to bend and adapt to changing conditions. The pliant bamboo grass may bow and arch in high winds, but it does not break. The analogy is that we too can accommodate the tough circumstances that may come at us, but we need not break under any pressure – social, economic, political, physical, personal.
Many people like this saying because they see it as embodying an elevated level of Eastern philosophical wisdom. In some ways, they are right; but that is just the beginning stage.
For those of us who train in Zen, this could be the stage during which we focus on learning to be centered and calm amid the chaos of changing circumstances surrounding us. Further, when we are centered this way, we can help those around us feel that way as well.
The problem arises when we think that this stage is “it,” and that we have gone deeply enough.
With more training, though, we see there is a state of being that transcends that of bending bamboo: We can become like a kite in a hurricane – not like a kite tethered to the ground by a string. High hurricane force winds would batter and tear that kite to pieces in no time at all.
No, we must become the kite flying freely in those strong winds. With no separation between the kite and the hurricane, there is no danger of destruction: No matter where and how the wind blows, the kite goes freely. The hurricane and the kite are one; there is no other.
If we see the hurricane as chaos and the kite as ourselves, then the image becomes clear: There is no separation between us and chaos. There is no chaos, and there is no one set apart from the chaos. We are in synchronicity with the movement of all that is. We flow moment by moment, now-now-now, not attached to the past, present or future.
How do we go from the bending bamboo to the free-flying kite? It only happens when we finally see deeply inside ourselves that our True Nature is the Universe itself.