In the Irish seanfhocail tradition you often find the best advice wrapped in wonderful imagery – it sinks the lesson in that bit deeper. One of my favourites is Ná bris do loirgín ar stól nach bhfuil i do shlí – Do not break your shin on a stool that is not in your way.
It is often cited as advice to not go looking for trouble or complication. What it says is that there is no need to go out of your way to complicate your life – not any more than it already is. You don’t have to make life so hard for yourself, it’s hard enough as is. It is probably the best advice ever and if you follow it, your shins and your peace of mind will thank you.
The thing is that too often we set up hurdles that we don’t need; I will learn to speak a language in the New Year after I get fit. Worse – I will get fit after I learn a new language, move to that country and join a gym there. Worse again – I will become a compassionate person when the world respects me.
The proverb reminds us there really is no need for all this obstacle setting. No need to veer into distress and anguish. No need to set yourself up for failure. The reminder is to be present in your life and make the right choice, be alert to your path, be awake to yourself. Be in the moment, conscious of reality. Know where the furniture is in the room.
In a way this applies to unnecessary stress, which we too often bring upon ourselves – checking the emails before breakfast then getting caught up in it all. Do not break you shin on a stool that not in your way means not answering the phone when your late, not agreeing to extra when you are already busy – it’s about control, it’s about being conscious, it’s about being judicious about your own wellbeing..
This seanfhocal reminds me of an old Zen saying – ‘when walking, walk, when sitting, sit, above all don’t wobble’. It’s about getting on with it. It’s about being in control of your doing. It is the essence of mindfulness and of practical advice to safely navigate the vicissitudes of life.
So walk a straight path, it’s so much easier. Walk a straight path, don’t fear success. Walk a straight path, don’t slow progress. Stop diverting your full potential. Don’t wobble. Don’t clash with stools on the other side of the room. Be focused. If you are truly present you will not be banging about the place breaking shins.