In part one of this post, I described how we can use swordmaking as a metaphor for life. The extremes that a blade is placed under is necessary for it to be forged into the completed vision of a sword.
There is another angle that I can look at this relationship of Swordsmith to sword from. It tells a story of worry. It is a story of patience. It is a story of surrender and Mastery of self.
There is a legend within Japanese swordmaking that a truly worthy blade will have an edge that is so sharp and keen that under it own weight it will cut through a bamboo wall.
A blade worthy of a Swordsmiths’s name will cut through a bamboo wall.
Apparently the blade to be tested will be thrust into a bamboo wall in the evening and by morning if it has not reached the ground under its own weight then it is unworthy of the Swordsmith’s name. Such a blade will have to be discarded and with it, many days of effort.
This offers us a beautiful opportunity to consider the internal space of the Swordsmith during this long night of the sword’s testing. Perhaps in the comparison of our own internal processes to this very simple principle we may find a cure for our worrying.
The great question here is what happens in the mind of the Swordsmith during this long night?
We must appreciate that this night of testing comes after many days or even weeks of determined effort in forging the blade. The night is the testing ground for both the blade and for the Swordsmith.
During the long night of the swords test, how well does the Swordsmith sleep?
I imagine that the Master Swordsmith will sleep restfully during this night whereas the novice will be listless and, will toss and turn in worry.
The novice Swordsmith has not yet refined his skill enough to trust that the blade will reach the floor. If the blade does reach the floor it will be a great sense of success and relief to the novice and he will believe he has attained the sate of Master. For surely the evidence is in the blade reaching the floor, right?
It doesn’t matter if the blade reaches or not.
If the blade does not reach the floor, the novice will feel defeated and small. His skill was clearly insufficient to create a worthy blade and he will grudgingly return to his workshop to begin a new blade. His work will be difficult and tiresome.
The difference between the novice and the Master is not in the blade reaching the floor. It is in what he does with the information of the blade reaching the floor or not that will determine his state of Mastery.
The Master trusts in his effort, not in the outcome.
The Master Swordsmith will trust that he has done his best to create a perfect blade. When he awakes in the morning it will not concern him whether the blade has reached the ground or not. If the blade has reached the ground it is a blade worthy of his name. If it has not, it is a blade that is unworthy of his name. Either way, the Master will return to his workshop in contentment that he has done his best and will continue to do so. He will continue the endless process of perfecting his art.
I believe that we can use this story to help us claim our own space of Mastery. For it is not in the results, or destinations that we reach that determine whether we have attained mastery of life. It is in bringing our fullness to each moment. Whether we succeed or fail in our endeavors, we will learn valuable information about how to proceed. Yet, it is in the way in which we proceed that is our indicator of mastery.
Mastery is yours for claiming, right now if you choose.
To proceed as the Master Swordsmith does with acceptance, patience and equanimity allows us to experience life’s richness of the ups and downs, the challenges and the ease, with Grace.