A Fine Day

Sometimes common phrases in a language can really provide insight, into the mindset of a culture. For instance, in English we often use the phrase, “It’s been a long day.” We’re all well aware that each of us is given the same twenty-four hours a day. But when I say, “It’s been a long day,” I’m trying to place what is happening with me internally, onto something that is outside of myself. It draws a clear line that it was the events of my day that made it long, not the way my mind treated them.

The reason why I’ve been thinking about this is that I’ve been trying to have a perfect day for about a month and a half. I’m amused by the idea myself, but it wasn’t a conscious choice or something that I put on my to-do list. A part of me just figured that if, that was ever going to happen, it would be now where I have the most control over my schedule (somewhat).

What is a perfect day? For me, right now a perfect day revolves around my work and spiritual practice. In short, getting things done that need to be done; perhaps even more importantly, leaving things aside that don’t add a significant value to my life or others. And of course the usual exercise, eating healthy, and so on. On most days, it’s quite a full schedule. But I don’t think that busy-ness was the biggest obstacle to my perfect day. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, being productive is actually really important to me. If I had a chance to just lay on the beach and read a book. I would probably be exhausted after the first day. It’s kind of pathetic really, but that’s just who I am at this point in my life. I actually love what I do, and often feel privileged to have an opportunity to be involved with meaningful work. 

However, the mind has its own habit patterns; the biggest blockage for me was the feeling of never having enough time. I was carrying around the mental residue of how much there is to do, which automatically sends the mind into a mode of scarcity. That overwhelming feeling instead of forcing me to work harder, actually worked against me. Instead of being regenerative, it started depleting my energy, and allowed unwholesome practices to seep in like, drinking coffee to get things done, or even worst, distractions that were more fun.

Sometimes you just have to experience the sunshine of the day, to recognize the darkness of the night. Without a hint of prior warning, I found myself stumbling onto a perfect day yesterday. I recognized that more was done in a day, than I could do in almost a week. The types of the things on the schedule were the same as always. Instead of pushing to get through the work, there was just mindfulness of one action, followed by another. There was a quiet remembrance that I want to do this, and this is exactly where I’m needed, throughout the day -- which allowed the mind to shift from scarcity to abundance. An effortless energy was just flowing through; there were no hooks for the mind to place its hat, it just kept moving along. In place of stress, there was a calm, gentle feeling of being refreshed.

As I woke up this morning, trying to figure out why yesterday was so different than other days? Why I didn’t feel like it was a “long day,” even though so much occurred? I can only infer that the underpinning cause perhaps was that there was no one there to feel tired, attached, proud -- somehow, somewhere along the way, the doer – disappeared. Even if that vanishing act was only for a day. Perhaps that sense of “I” is the foremost obstruction to having -- a fine day.


What’s Your Song?

Everyone is looking for something. We’re all running around in circles, on this great big planet, trying to find the purpose of our lives. What’s the meaning behind all of this? What is the song that I came here to sing? The inevitable question that all of us grapple with at one point or another: What am I supposed to be doing?
Albert Einstein is famously known for how he would solve an issue. If he had sixty minutes to find a solution, he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the question, and the other five minutes on finding the solution. Perhaps therein lies our problem. Maybe we need to take a long look at our question itself: “What am I supposed to be doing?” Often times that question gets reduced to, “What should I do to make a living?” It's a valid question on its own – but not what we’re talking about when we’re looking for the ultimate purpose of life. To take it even further, I think the word “doing” in the question is really what misinforms our investigation.

 When we talk about “doing,” in a spiritual context, somehow the words fall a little empty. I, for one, feel that it’s true that I should try my best to take conscious, life-enforcing actions each day. Yet, it’s also important to have one eye looking out through the window of eternity. Really, what can one person do to add to this massive place we call Earth -- a place that has gone along without us for over four billion years? In today’s world, we can change what we do as often as we change our clothes. There is a fair share of information to help us with this "doing," and that information keeps changing to guide the elusive nature of this question. However, when it comes to our inner world, this question might not be as important as we make it out to be. What, then, is a better question to ask?  If the doing is constantly changing, is there something that is with us all the time?

That’s where I see an answer staring right back at me, quietly gliding in and out through my entire day, mostly unaffected by what I am doing. It’s a shift from, the “what” to the “how.” From “What am I supposed to be doing?” to “How am I living?” What is the state of mind that I’m carrying around with me all day? It’s that BE-ing which we carry ourselves with, live deeply with when no one else is looking – that’s what we’re doing with our lives.

What is the song that I came to sing? Maybe I’ve been a part of the symphony all along, and everyone around me has heard every word – except me. The purpose of a river is just to flow. It doesn’t stop to ask for directions or sets out to find its song. Or look for the name of the ocean it will eventually merge with. She just keeps on flowing. She trusts that whatever brought her here in the first place will take her where she needs to go.  Its secret, which she whispers if you listen closely: Stop your searching and start your living.  You’re already half-way down the road. There is no purpose to life. Life is the purpose. 

(Post inspired by last Wednesdays meditation circle)



As he gave us a tour of his beautiful home, he picked up a book from a desk with an image of a Buddhist monk on the cover. “This is my teacher,” he explained. Oh wow! “You have a Buddhist teacher.” Always humbled when someone introduces another as his spiritual teacher. A sleuth of questions came out, “how did you determine he was your teacher?” The mind eagerly tried to understand. “Oh, I’ve never met him. He passed away many years ago unfortunately. His current reincarnation is around twenty.”  “I’ve never met him either. Perhaps someday.”  My inquiring mind interrupts again, “But how did you KNOW he was your teacher?” He smiled with a twinkle in his eyes and said one word that ended my barrage of questions: “surrender”.

"Surrender -- Of course," I thought to myself. The heart understood. Although I didn’t need an explanation after that, I learned that he had read a book many years ago which shifted everything for him -- and he just knew. He studied a lot of paths and teachers but this Rinpoche in the maroon robes IS his teacher - all because he surrendered. He was able to whole-heartedly put aside his ego and trust someone else's words to guide him, someone he had never even met in person.

Surrender is such a beautiful word that ceases all the activity, stops the mind in its tracks, and gently places it in its right place.


Watering the Weeds

The weeds have grown from being the size of my hand to now flowing past my waist in just three weeks. While the grass is showing very little progress in spite of my watering it almost every day. Few patches of green are finally surfacing around the sandy brown straws in this warm climate. The birds have a daily morning meeting scheduled in the lemon tree just outside of my window. Most mornings I wake up smiling to their chitter-chatter. Unlike today, when I woke up later than usual, there was a loud tck-tck sound against the wood as if an alarm was on repeat. For a moment, I thought I must be late to a meeting. By the time, I came out with a cup of tea, these birds -- the time Nazi’s had moved on with their day’s business.                                                                           

Sunrise is the most joyous part of the day, it's like a warm hug from a friend, and an expansive feeling that the whole day is stretched out right in front me, with endless possibilities. I have to admit that the second most favorite is the sun setting and soaking in the few rays left for the day. Although there’s a quiet sadness to it, there’s also a calmness -- as the birds start to quiet down and snuggle up for the night. And a great joy in knowing that it will start all over again tomorrow morning. Regardless of how I feel and what melodrama my mind is entangled up in -- this cycle continues. There’s a great comfort in knowing this. There's a humility in seeing that I’m just a very tiny part of the whole. And nothing I do or leave undone is going to have the same effect as the sun deciding to take a day off. The simple joy of surrendering to a grander scheme of things. As my grandfather often use to say, “not even a leaf moves without His will.” 

In the month here in Arizona, I’m learning the real difference between solitude and being alone. Between fear and the unknown. The vastness of my heart along with where the fault-lines have positioned themselves. The many lessons that nature has to teach me if I stay close to it. Perhaps more significant than anything else I’m learning is, the importance of taking out the weeds when they are small. Because otherwise, it's impossible to water the grass without watering the weeds along with it.