“There is more to life than increasing its speed” (Gandhi & Desai, 1957)
Life can be likened to a deep forest and on occasion we get lost in creating our path through it. If we are determined to find our way, it is necessary to face the fears and doubts that are always lurking, keeping us stuck when we do not face them. We cannot wait until the day arrives when there is an absence of fears and doubts, as it does not happen. If the forest is a metaphor for life, why do so many of us stay close to the entry not venturing in?
There are many shrubs (smoke screens) at the mouth of the forest beckoning to us, distracting us, keeping us so busy that we are protected from facing the fact that we are denying ourselves life as it was meant to be lived. We spend our energy watering, pruning, weeding and shaping the shrubs. The shrubs (distractions) take so much of our life’s juices that we delay starting our journey. We say we want to get into the forest of life however there are no guarantees and we are afraid, so we stay busy at the periphery. Consequently our behaviors are not integrous with our words. A first step might be to stop the busyness, reflect on the truth of what we are really doing. In stopping and turning around to face our fears, we may disarm them enough to give us a starting point which is essential to being able to have a full and passionate life. Your path does not need to look like another’s because it is speaking to your essence.
I ask my clients what has to happen to step out of the incessant busyness. Being more productive or busy will not by itself bring peace and happiness. What will it take for you to reflect? Will it take a crisis or a loss of health or a marriage?
If you find yourself excessively busy, you know that it does not feed your heart or fill your well with happiness. Being driven about work and other activities is used frequently to deny emptiness, an attempt to fill the inner voids. Will you change one thing? Hopefully you will get a nudge to know yourself at a deeper level, not to judge or demean, but to accept yourself where you are now in order to use your energy for the first step of change. There is an Irish Prayer that blesses the first step because it is the most difficult one to take, with the understanding that once you do the hardest part; other steps will fall into place.
When we succumb to a way of life that is fragmented, we often have trouble turning off the ‘think tank’ at night, when our body needs sleep to restore our energy. This busyness gives us an illusion that we are achieving, however we are tossed and turned by externals. We may see some results, but if we are deliberate in our search for answers and in our reflections, it may be necessary to face the fact that we are not doing much of anything well.
There is nothing mindful going on here when we are driven primarily by external activities, even though it may seem that we are achieving and making progress. If one looks at the underpinnings of this frenzied activity, one sees it is anxiety driven by strong compelling forces, therefore not being freely chosen. It is not true directed activity and we become passive victims of external forces. For example, an anxious man who greedily amasses money, looks active but is really passive in that he is so driven, he is not free to make other perhaps wiser choices.
Our society tends to condone this way of engaging in life and is actually supportive of the numbing activity. Are you going to say, ‘wait a minute and stop this merry go round,’ or are you going to wait until choices are out of your hands.
‘Mindful Living’ day to day, as well as meditation is a relatively new concept in our Western society. When we practice, and I do mean practice, ‘Mindful Living,’ just as the music student practices the piano, we honor reflection by making it a part of our lives. When a man on a repetitive cycle of destructive behavior asked the Buddha why it continued to be such a struggle for him, but not for the Buddha, the Buddha replied, “I have stopped, and you have not.” When we practice the stopping and the reflecting, we will be privy to a powerful inner energy and a core calmness as well as clarity, allowing us to create a full abundant life. It is not a to-do list. This practice will open you and your life to something larger than you ever dreamed of. Some people, who do not understand, will call your life miraculous.
So often we have lost our sense of purpose, and have forgotten how to live. What I have learned and experienced is that the inner journey is quite an adventure. The inner landscape is always changing, new as well as mysterious and never boring. When we start on this path, we are entering the forest of life, our value system shifts, and our life has an opportunity to take on more meaning. Each step creates an opening for more expansion within, and more meaning within and without.