Friday, June 18, 2010

The work of a lifetime

By nature I am not particularly achievement oriented. I'm more contemplative than active, more a thinker than a doer, more idealistic than materialistic. On the whole, I've always been more inclined towards simply being, taking each moment, each day as it comes and living it fully. My most immensely satisfying moments are those in which I am wholly engaged in the present moment. Most of the time, I finding meaning life in simply enjoying life.

Yet there's also the sense that I have something to do, something to accomplish in this world before I go. And this can, at times, create an incredible sense of pressure within me: I fear that I'm not doing enough, not accomplishing enough, not making enough of an impact upon the world, commensurate to my talents and intelligence.

At times like this I need to stop and breathe.

Does it really fall upon my shoulders to solve all of the world's problems in the space of, say, eighty years?

What do I have to accomplish? Who do I have to impress? What bar must I be able to jump in order to say, I am worthy, my life is worthy, I have not lived in vain?

Is it not enough simply to have lived?

In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke:

But to have been this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.

I don't have to fix everything before I go. All I have to do is contribute to the solutions.

Continuing to contribute, present moment by present moment...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exploring the inner life: the quest of a lifetime

When I was twenty years old, I remember how desperately and voraciously I read books, explored ideas, all in a quest to figure out what, exactly, I believed. Religion, spirituality, philosophy, ethics, values, visions, ideals: My ambition was to determine, once and for all, exactly what was true and what was not, so I could believe what was true, settle the matter once and for all, and get on with living my life.

Over the course of the first half of my lifetime, I gradually came to see: This is my life.

This process of exploration is how I live my life, what I most passionately enjoy doing with my time. It is, on the whole, an immensely gratifying way to live my life. When I am not haunted by the cultural demon of measuring life by external achievements and externally-measured status, when I measure my life by my own internal satisfaction and experience of life, I am content.

When I read, think, discuss, ponder, and explore ideas, I am living my life. The focus on inner process, rather than on outer achievement, is a worthy path to follow. Just ask the mystics and philosophers throughout the ages, some of whom had a wide circle of influence, some of whom remain unknown to those who did not live with them, all of whom enjoyed fruitful and fulfilling lives of probing and pondering every corner, shadowed and bright, of the human spirit.

Exploring religion, spirituality, philosophy, ethics, values, visions, ideals: This is, for me, the journey, and the destination.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The world of people is first and always the world of people

This old monk meditates and
Rests in the empty mountains
In loneliness and stillness
Through the days and nights.

When I leave the pure cliffs,
I am distracted by callers.
The world of people is first
And always the world of people.

- Seigan Soi, 1588-1661 (Daily Zen 8-15-08)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Computer-free days

Turn off the computer and keep it turned off for a full day. Or for several days.

In a time of social networking and obligatory online presence, how refreshing it is to withdraw from it all, in an act of cyber hermitude.

Solitude. Space. Silence.


Imagine reading a book--a real book. Sitting in a comfortable chair, rather than at a desk. Eyes resting on printed words on an opaque page, rather than staring at a glowing screen.

Imagine the freedom from the compulsion to check e-mail, check social sites, check discussion boards.

Imagine letting go of keeping up.

Let it go. Just BE.

Look around the room. Look around your home. Look around your neighborhood.

What's waiting for you, waiting to be done, in the rest of your life?

Shut off the computer. Get up. Move. Walk. Discover life away from the screen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clearing space, making room for TODAY

Clearing our physical space unclutters our psychological space.

Do we really need to hang on to every article we've ever read, every book we've ever owned?

Words, words, words, flowing in an endless stream in an age of endless infomercialism...

And all the STUFF:

Kitchen stuff: Gizmos and gadgets, duplicate dishes, pots and pans we never use, baking supplies when really the last thing we need to be eating in quantity is baked goods, and how many cookbooks does one person really need to own, anyway? How many recipes will I really use this week, this month, this year? Can I streamline my kitchen, streamline my diet, streamline my life?

Hobbies, recreation, procrastination--the stuff that buffers me from the feeling of naked space.

Why do I have it? Why do I keep it? Do I really need it? Do I really love it? Does it serve a useful purpose in my life as I live it today?

Am I cluttering my present with too many "mementoes" of the past?

What is helping me to live in my TODAY?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Inquire within...

Because nobody "out there" can give you YOUR answers.

Because your inner life affects your outer experience of life.

Because the inner work is the only thing you take with you.