This week’s reading is officially called Tribes. Lots of warring and strife, and the slaughter of both enemies and innocents. It starts out saying: A vow’s a vow. If you said you were going to do (or not do) a certain thing, if you swore an oath, then (ahem) you’re actually supposed to follow through. As in, not break your vow.
There’s a caveat about vow annulment. Not surprisingly, just abandoning or ignoring vows isn’t kosher (excuse Jewish pun). In specific circumstances certain people can be released. But before you spring for the crack of light in the doorframe, remember that vows honored are generally successful, and those abandoned are usually not.
Are you ready to demonstrate obedience and discipline to something you think still matters, something that might change your life?
Vows are made in times of crisis (no atheists in foxholes, they say). Also in deep moments when we hope to motivate ourselves for betterment.
We make lots of promises along the way, to self and to others. Some are absolute, but many take that “if, then” form of “after X, I’ll be good about Y-ing.” A carrot on the end of life’s stick; a reward to aim for.
We often make things complicated with conditions and rules, when the secret is much simpler, hidden in clear sight like Poe’s purloined letter: Live exactly the life and healing you want to achieve. Wanna be less angry, then stop shouting. Thinner, eat less. Kinder, do more for others.
There’s a famous illustrated Zen story about finding the bull. (Google for the pictures.) It’s a metaphor about the steps on the path to enlightenment. Which boil down to vowing only one vow, and then keeping it: I will keep my vows.
What if consciousness were that simple, if everything followed from that one act?
Not complicated. Not lots of rules and measuring, trying to remember when, what, or how X and Y were. What if you simply lived the way you say you want to live? In your open heart, with clarity and consciousness, as though you were already at goal. Being both receptive and active in equal measure, at the right times and places. Worrying less about your house, your car, or your job. Not fretting about what your partner said, why you don’t have one, or what would make things better in your relationships.
What if you lived in goodness and joy and gratitude? With greater awareness and intention?
What if there was only one vow: to let go of all the old stories and live the you that you’ve hoped to become, the one you wish you already were and secretly bemoan you might never meet. What if you embraced that you, the one who keeps your vows? What if all your inner tribes stopped fighting one another? No more arguments, failure, or recriminations. No more waiting to find enlightenment. Instead, a successful you. Innocence regained, with the fresh wisdom and insights that come with it.
Sit with this one. Take a few minutes every day to let it roll around you and breathe you in and out. What if you vowed your deepest wish? And kept your vow.