There's a funny scene in Winnie the Pooh when Rabbit and Pooh are in a hole together. Piglet comes up to the edge of the hole and looks down at them. There follows an exchange between Rabbit and Piglet. A hopeful Rabbit queries, "Can you tie a knot?" Piglet says, "No, I cannot knot." [Gosh, Piglet, you so cute.] Perplexed, Rabbit cringes, "Not knot?" and Pooh innocently asks, "Who's there?" [Hilarious!] Rabbit's face contorts and he sputters, "Pooh!" Rabbit's intensity doesn't faze Mr. Pooh Bear. He smiles and calmly asks, "Pooh who?" [I love it!]
Cannot connotes. Somewhere in my brain rests an original memory of cannot. At least one of my neural pathways points to a first association between me and the word. Right now, my first memory of cannot relates to "can't express it." As in, I was five years old. I was trying to tell my dad something, and I couldn't express what I wanted to say, what I was feeling, why it mattered, why he should listen to me. I remember that I stared into his eyes. I wanted him to guess at what I wanted to tell him. I wanted him to ask me questions about it. I needed his help to deduce my ill.
I feel a little scared when I remember that feeling of "can't express." It's part of why I write. I like to know that I can accurately define a point in time. That five-year-old can't-express point in time isolated me. It's my first cognizant memory of particular feelings associated with my dad. When I realized that my dad couldn't help me in some of the ways in which I needed his help, I felt confused and hopeless. Except that I was five, so I didn't think about it in those terms. Instead, I thought:
Today, confused and hopeless are in my vernacular. I understand how five-year-old me felt. I can see how I was trying to squeeze water from a rock as I sat there -- pleading into my dad's eyes to analyze me. These days, I don't plead with my eyes. [I mean, maybe other people perceive that from my looks. What I mean is that I express what I'm feeling now. I don't look into someone's eyes and hope they understand my emotion without me defining it.] I regularly practice qigong, meditation, and EFT. I like to create art. I enjoy long stares into the distance.
As I practiced a qigong exercise yesterday, I visualized and perceived energy moving through my body. I could sense that a part of me wanted to cry. I let myself cry, and my body didn't cry. Instead, I felt this other part of me breathe in and out and be a part of that energy moving in and out of my body. [Does that sound too out there to believe, or can you relate?] I later described this to my partner. I used the words "child self" and "adult self" to define the two parts of me. I said, "One way to say it is that my child self wanted to cry and my adult self was like, 'Let's practice qigong.'" Another way to say it is that I felt sad about a childhood experience and then I focused on an activity in my present moment.
My current first memory of cannot connotes hopeless, confused. Cannot is a verb, an action word. It expresses incapacity or inability (Dictionary.com), or rather -- inaction. It's neither good nor bad. Right now, I think of cannot and I don't want to say it, I don't want to admit it. Why is that? It's because somewhere in my brain, an association exists between cannot and hopeless, confused. I don't want to feel hopeless, confused, so I don't want to say I cannot do something. Also, cannot appears to display weakness. I don't want to appear weak. A simple inaction -- cannot -- inspires feelings of hopelessness and confusion, and thoughts of weakness.
Inaction and nonaction describe varieties of action, varieties of expression. My qigong instructor mentioned the concept of wuwei last week. Key Sun explains wuwei in How to Overcome without Fighting: An Introduction to the Taoist Approach to Conflict, published online in Into Mountains, Over Streams on September 20, 2012.
as a key connotation of te, the nonaction (wu-wei) elucidated in various taoist literature does not imply passiveness or acquiescence. according to lao tzu, tao abides in nonaction, yet nothing is left undone (chap. 37). when nothing is done, nothing is left undone (chap. 48). in contrast with the concept of action, which refers to goal-directed initiatives by an actor, nonaction refers to the intentional lack of action in the natural and social worlds. nonaction differs from omission, which refers to the failure to do or a neglect of something that is required.
Nonaction is a stance. It's breathing in and out and awareness of breath. Cannot can also be a stance. Breathing in and out, appreciating the inaction of cannot. The idea of cannot doesn't have to have bad ideas associated with it. I don't have to feel shame about how I can't do something. I don't have to feel weird or out-of-place because I can't do something or because someone can't understand me. It's what my brain is used to doing with thoughts of cannot. It doesn't have to be what my brain continues to do with cannot. I can choose to breathe in and out through the emotion of cannot. I can allow thoughts to pass as I breathe through the emotion of cannot and focus on my breath.
Well hello there.