Friday, 3 August 2012

What should my life do with me?

I find that I am really lost in my future at the moment. There are two tendencies which are fighting it out: one is the "do nothing" view, that of being grateful for what is present now and not striving for bigger and better all the time. The other view is that of chasing one's dreams, of fulfilling one's potential in this world. I can spend literally hours planning and scheming, lost in a world of potential. When I have a good idea, a good scheme for a killer novel or a new martial arts training paradigm say, I'm elated: all I want to do is clear my schedule and get to work. But, just as quickly as the super brainwave comes, out it rolls again. The idea loses its lustre, it'll never work, I haven't got the skills, the know-how or whatever. Thus, a whole cycle of creativity,excitement and despondency can take a turn without anything real actually happening. I think I live at least fifty-percent of my life in that world. 
Sometimes though, like this morning, as I wake I know it's not going to be one of those days. It's going to be a day where my relationship with the thoughts in my head, the schemes, the desires, the plans, is like that of the sky to the clouds. Just like that, coming and going. The merest play of light on a brick wall,the sight of a co-worker strolling the corridors, or the hot charms of a cup of tea, is fascinating and satisfying enough for me, without the need to extract anything else from the experience.
I have to say that, on occasion, I feel somewhat guilty for not striving more. I think, even amongst Zen practitioners, there is a tendency to be a little slavish in our work ethic and to imagine that we should be doing good works, especially if we admire the proponents of "Engaged Buddhism" as I do. My mistake is to think that the universe can't be trusted. We have in our tradition great espousers of faith in the world such as Rinzai who said "The principle is: not to try to be anyone special; and to have nothing to do", or Bankei who preached the uselessness of striving with our minds. The famous Zen poem says, "The Spring comes, the grass grows by itself", but that seems pretty subversive in these needful days of eco-plight and humanitarian suffering. As Alan Watts said, sermons on the Bible verse about "having no fear for tomorrow" were thin on the ground even in his hippyish day.
I'm not sure what I can do to help all that. But on these rare days, I can certainly fulfil my job as appreciator-extraordinaire of this life, and perhaps that is the only place to start.

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