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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Acting Without Action: The Art of Falling

On the day of the raid from Health Canada and the College of Pharmacists, there came a point when it became hard to see through the frustration, disappointment, and  simmering anger.

Over time, I had to learn the lessons of falling. Only by  doing so. was it possible to accept the events as part of a greater unfolding. 

Acting without Action

Taking no action is anathema to the extreme sense of urgency. In an immediate crisis, the natural response is to do something; to act upon, to react. The next obvious step to take is not necessarily the best one. The next step might be to step back, allowing one to notice the subtle lay of the grass which may well be the path. But, this takes clarity, concentration and resolve. It requires a stutter: to stop and not do anything .

Take a step back, then another step back, then another. 

When everyone else is saying take action; take no action. Accept inaction as a form of action.

As the inspectors started to act on their mission , it became very hard to watch. They started emptying shelves of products, throwing them into boxes. There was no attempt  to keep jars upright, or use packing material. The bottles of tinctures clang together in protest. ( We don't want to go. Let us stay on the shelf, all in tidy rows!) 

The boxes filled and soon littered the floor of the store. Boxes all in a row, waiting for the pick up. The inspectors had to walk around them as they were too heavy to move when they tried to push them with their feet.The boxes lay there in curvy rows, like the hay bales on a Merville field.  As the inspectors completed filling one box, they then filled up the next. The strapping tape made a loud sound as the boxes were taped shut. Raackk. Raackk.  Another box finished. 

The movements of the inspectors were brisk and methodical. They were working hard. They might as well be baling hay. There were boxes filled with over $5,000 worth of inventory per box. It reminded me of moving day. 

The boxes were loaded into a u-haul truck parked outside. Sad, NPN-less, bales of hay.


I could not stay in the store and watch. It was heart-breaking. The staff and customers had immediately been asked to leave, so I was the only one in the store with the six inspectors and two RCMP officers. My throat was getting dry and my legs felt bloodless. I  decided to go home. I gave them my phone number and told them I would be returning at the end of the day.

It was nice to walk in the sunshine. I walked around the block twice and I felt better. I thought of things that I could do in the middle of the day. Normally, I would not be able to leave the store (as pharmacists are required to be in the premises as long as the store was open). Simply walking around in the sun in the middle of the day was a strange enough experience. I watched people walking down 5th Street. I could easily be one of them,  just going about my list of things to do on a sunny downtown Monday. 

What would be on my list? The first thing that I thought of was to get some guitar strings, as my favorite guitar store was closed on my regular day off. I then realized that I did not have a vehicle. 

I decided to take the bus home and caught the 12:20 No.4. I was pretty proud of myself because:
1. I knew where the bus stop was
2. I had change and I knew how much
3. I got on the right bus

Sitting on the bus, I was thankful for how it goes around and around, and back and loop-de-loop, taking its time to go through all the smaller streets.

It gave me time to fall.

Falling is an art. How to fall involves reducing the action to its basics.

Removing obstructions (you do not want to fall into sharp objects, for sure).
Removing paraphernalia (you do not want to fall with a computer laptop in your bag).
Removing distractions (you do not want to be falling worrying about your expensive linen suit).

While I was in the bus falling, I reduced myself to my very very basic being.

Remove the layer of worry. Everything will work out to its natural conclusion.
Remove the layer of responsibility. Feeling responsible for our staff, I knew that we were blessed with dedicated people who truly believe in what we do at a very deep level.
Remove the layer of doubt. What we do is important. Not only important in terms of improving health, but maybe, a new importance in uncovering the politics of health care.  The truth is healthy.
Remove the layer of pride. There will be people who will  question the events and judge, but it does not change me and it does not change what we do. The sky is still blue after the day is gone.
And when everything was removed, I was left only with my belief in myself. 
And that belief is true and it is intact.
And that belief is all I need.
In the bus, I ended up almost whispering: if I am true to that belief, then this too shall pass.

And then, the most frightening thought that ever happens to every married man:
How to explain this to my wife.

My wife apparently, knows the art of falling just fine. She will get big-upset if the kids leave a plate of lasagna in the  living room. But a raid + seizure + lock-down? She was calm and focused. She actually said these words..."You know, this might be a good thing."

The Three Treasures
The three treasures of the Tao Te Ching are restraint, compassion and love. All actions, to be effective, have to be true to these themes  at all times.

If the fight against intolerance is with anger, any victory is hollow. If our actions are driven by the wrong motives (pick any of the three: ego, greed or vanity) and not by love, then any achievement is temporary. We have to love what we do, we have to be compassionate about  each person we deal with. We have to behave with restraint. If we do, then what we do will be honest and true and lasting.

To act without action means that in the end, the obstacles put in our way makes us stronger and more committed. Water will always find its own way: It may take time, but it will find its own way and the only requirement of me is to get out of the way and be ready to see the answer when it presents itself. 

I can not see through the fog. I wait for it to lift.
I can not see through a dirty window. I wash it first.
I can not see with a headache. I sip a drink of tea.
I can not see with my eyes closed.  I open them.

I shall fall with grace.
I shall wait with restraint.

What awaits is beautiful and perfect.


They left the store at 11:30 PM. We heard movement in the lobby and cars starting. They did not say goodbye. They left through the receiving door and the store was suddenly empty. On the counter was a list of the inventory taken. It was 46 pages long.