The sweetness of Being


IMG_1287Do you ever have one of those days… or a few hours at least, where you feel like doing absolutely nothing? And I don’t mean the nothing that’s a rebellious or exhausted desire to avoid doing what you know you must (though I suspect that we all have those days sometimes). The nothing I’m talking about is a much rarer variety, that comes from a pretty precious place or state of true being.

By grace, or good management, or a combination of the two, we find ourselves just sitting, looking out at the trees or the ocean maybe, or the steam that’s rising from the teacup in our hand. There’s a stillness inside that sees things clearly, without commentary or comparison or anything else. Things just are but we see them better – the nuances, the changes, the details, the light.

While it’s our nature to move, and share and create, at times I feel like a slave to mind’s tyrannical tendency or need to do. There’s an energy to all the doing that’s exciting and addictive but that feels like it’s separating ‘me’ from my Self. Little me feels quite important and special amidst the busyness… “I better go now, I’ve got sooo much to do”, but I sense mind’s got the reins as I’m dragged along behind.

As usual life is a paradox and it’s not so much about how things appear but the motivation underneath. It’s not so much about what we do but how we do it. When I have these precious ‘being’ days, things usually still get done. It’s not as though I’m pinned to the couch (although that’d be OK too if I needed it). It just feels like things move more slowly inside. As Ramana Maharishi says in one of my favourite quotes, “…what is to be done will be done at the proper time. Don’t worry.” It feels just like that. No agenda, no tension, no habitual need of activity. Just one foot after the other…

It’s amazing how much does get done actually, with very little excess mental energy and a whole lot of the sweetness that presence brings.

There’s a real art to balancing activity and rest, amidst the inevitable extremes and fluctuations that make life interesting, and potentially stressful at times. Rest can be an inner state that accompanies action, so that the action gives us energy instead of wearing us out. Most of us need to cultivate this capacity though through mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga, which ask that we take regular time out for practice. At the other extreme is too much rest, which is not necessarily the best thing for us either – “an idle mind is the devil’s playground”.

Rather than see balance as some fixed or perfect state that we might arrive at one day in the far distant future, I prefer to see it as a fluid state of being that’s responsive to change, moment by moment, here and now. As things change, we adjust. When we’re tired, we rest (if even for just 10 minutes). When we’re juicy and inspired, we go forth and create.

It’s five days now since ‘Devotion by the Ocean’, our Yoga & Kirtan Retreat here in Bali. I absolutely LOVE running retreats, and this last one has really fanned the fire of that passion. For all of the reasons mentioned above, it’s just so precious to collectively stop. To come together in a beautiful natural setting, free from work and domestic obligations, to slow ourselves down, to feel, and listen… for whatever it is that our heart’s need to say, or have been trying to say as we pushed on through.

Although there was still quite a lot of activity – asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting, kirtan, puja, swimming, and walking… it was all designed to draw our minds inward, giving the space and support for our naturally compassionate and infinitely wise Hearts to remember themselves. To come on home to freedom, peace and love.

I find that when we take some time out to rest, then we enjoy even more the energy and activity that naturally follow… the inspiration that is so often the fruit of slowing things down and getting quiet inside. And the opposite is also very true – after a period of intense work, or creativity, or travel, we so appreciate some time to do whatever we want, when we want. To just read a book or watch the clouds pass by, satisfied.

Every person’s dharma and bio-rhythms are different, and it’s up to each of us to find what balance looks like. We can’t always get away for a week’s retreat (although I highly recommend it if you can), but most of us have some simple everyday tools that can help to bring back our shanti. The simple awareness of the breath you’re breathing now is a very good place to start.

What are the things that you know steal your shanti? And what kinds of things bring you ‘home’ again to peace?

“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it.”
“Oh I see,” said Pooh.
“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.
“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not bothering.”

~ from ‘The Tao of Pooh’ by Benjamin Hoff

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Om Namo Narayani