The Balancing Act

I choose to close the door today on hate, and violence. On deliberate “misunderstandings”, and on a closed mind. These things tempt me at times to retreat Into an enclosed fortress where I am right and others are excluded. So I close one door in order to open another…Yet I wonder…Do I have the right to close any doors at all? – Sally Coleman

The door has always been symbolic, a metaphoric and literal threshold between safety and danger, light and dark, separation and connection, public and private, limitations and new beginnings. In Roman mythology the god Janus, who presided over beginnings, endings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and choices, is depicted as having two faces looking in opposite ways, one towards the past and the other towards the future. He is actually representative of the middle ground, what Buddhists call the middle way, floating somewhere between opposites. Even after so many centuries, doors still speak to us.

Doors are more than wood, metal or glass, more than common points of entry or departure. From massive wooden barriers to the famous “gate-less gates” in Zen literature, doors can mark turning points—either you pass through them, or they block your path. Opening a door can be a sign of entering the sacred, while closing one can be a blessing in disguise.

Suzuki Roshi, the Zen monk who founded the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia, often stressed that we should move back and forth throughout the swinging doors of our lives, both wholly independent and completely connected to all things. He viewed the very process of breathing as entering and exiting a doorway into our own life.

Sometimes I Imagine one hand closing a door that is behind me, and the other hand simultaneously opening another in front of me. Sometimes what I find most challenging is to linger in between those two doors, not tethered to either entering or leaving, held aloft by two seemingly incompatible forces of nature where something ends and begins at the same time.

In the bewildering complexity of our world the true art of living lies in finding balance. If our lives are not balanced, we fail to focus on what matters most.


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