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"RIBBIT!" Let it rip! Children love to imitate a frog's cry. It emerges from a deep place in the gullet, and is at once serious and joyful. Nothing superficial about that statement: The frog's whole being seems to condense in that sound. Yet until that moment the frog has long sat silent, conserving its energy.

The frog doesn't engage in idle chatter. He doesn't chirp on like certain birds who trill the whole day through. His silence is silence, his speech is speech. Much of the principle of "Right Speech," a part of the Buddha's Eightfold Path to enlightenment, has to do with what is not said: harsh words, lies, useless blabber. Engage in speech, the Buddha declared, only when it improves on silence. In our culture we are inundated by words— a single magazine might contain some 50,000— but how many meet that test?  


Yet the frog's croak does. His is "right speech," resonant and full.

What the frog does with silence and sound it duplicates in movement and stillness. Whether on the banks of a stream, or poised on a lily pad, the frog impassively sits. It bides its time, waiting for a bug to approach, then – whoosh – tongue darts out and snatches the prey. No wonder the frog is celebrated in Zen painting and poetry. It is a symbol of the enlightened being who knows how to be still. How to await the proper moment, then seize opportunity with decisive action. No wasted motion. No agonies of anticipation or regret. Just sit. Wait. Then act.

But how often we are anti-frogs. We rush about restlessly creating havoc, propelled by worries and a desire to control. We would rather be in the know than in the Now – knowing what is to come and how it will turn out. As a result we live clumsily in an imagined future, rather than gracing the present with our presence. As an anti-frog we then miss the fly. The opportune moment to act comes and departs, as we consider, reconsider, then regret.

Not so the frog. Its very cry cuts through all that nonsense: "RIBBIT!" Yes, let us emulate this noble example. In fairy-tales a maiden's kiss turns a yucky frog back to a prince. But maybe we've got it all wrong. Wouldn't it be better if the princes of our world could speak and act a bit more like frogs?

With a troublesome situation, are you doing the frog-thing?: waiting still, and silent, until the appropriate moment, then acting decisively? Is there a particular situation to which this lesson might be applied?

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