This Wednesday is March 4th, which, of course, sounds just like March Forth.
I’m proclaiming it National March Forth Day although the day is already reserved for National Grammar Day. I’m all for good grammar, and there’s few things that excite me more than seeing a run-on sentence or a misplaced semicolon being pulled over by the Grammar Police. Nevertheless, I like my idea better and I hope it catches on.
March Forth Day isn’t really about marching, or even walking. It’s about an attitude of moving forward in spite of some resistance, self-doubt or fear. Some years ago, I heard a story that illustrates March Forth Day and I want to share it with you.
The Room of 1,000 Demons
Long ago, high in the mountains of Tibet, there was a Buddhist monastery where every 100 years young monks could undergo a ceremony in order to attain enlightenment. The head monk would begin the ceremony by saying, “This is the ceremony of the Room of 1,000 Demons. If you choose not to go through it today, you will have to wait another 100 years. To help you make this decision, we’ll tell you what the ceremony involves.”
“In order to enter the Room of 1,000 Demons you just open the door and walk in. The Room of 1,000 Demons is not very big. Once you enter, the door will close behind you. There is no doorknob on the inside of the door. In order to get out, you will have to walk all the way through the room, find the door on the other side, open the door (which is unlocked) and walk out. Then you will be enlightened.”
The Shapes of Fear
“The room is called the Room of 1,000 Demons because it is inhabited by 1,000 demons. The demons have the ability to take the shape of your worst fears. As soon as you walk into the room, those demons will show you your worst fears. If you have a fear of heights, when you walk into the room it will appear as if you are standing on a narrow ledge of a tall building. If you have a fear of spiders, you’ll be surrounded by the most terrifying eight-legged creatures imaginable. Whatever your fears are, the demons take those images from your mind and seem to make them real. In fact, they’ll seem so compelling real that it will be very difficult to remember that they are not real.”
“To enter or not enter the room is entirely your choice. But know this — we cannot come in and rescue you. If you go into the Room of 1,000 Demons, you must leave it on your own. Some people never leave. They go into the room and become paralyzed with fright. They stay trapped in the room until they die.”
Two Survival Tips
“If you choose to enter the room, we have two recommendations for you. First, as soon as you enter the Room of 1,000 Demons, remember that what they show you isn’t real. It’s all from your own mind. Don’t buy into it; it’s an illusion. Of course, most of the people who went into the room before you couldn’t remember that. The fact that the images are telling you lies is hard to keep in mind.”
“Secondly, once you go into the room, no matter what you see, no matter what you hear, no matter what you think and feel, keep your feet moving. If you keep your feet moving, you will eventually get to the other side, find the door, and come out.”
Dory’s Wisdom & Billy’s Truth
Who knew that Dory, Disney’s adorable fish, was proclaiming ancient wisdom when she repeated, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” I often tell my discouraged patients, “Keep waking up and putting one foot in front of the other. Keep showing up to life.”
Billy Sprague was remembering the despair he felt after his fiancé died when he wrote the song “Press On.” The lyrics include, “Sometimes I found faith meant just tying my shoes.”
In other words, some days it’s an accomplishment just to get out of bed. Sometimes an act of faith is just showing up for life one more day, and the next day, and the day after that. Wash, rinse, repeat. Nothing extraordinary. Just keep your feet moving, even if it’s more of a slow shuffle than a confident march.
So, my dear reader, on this March Forth Day, don’t believe the lies, and keep your feet moving forward. Name the fear and keep moving. There is a door on the other side.