Friday, May 10, 2013

Empty or Spacious?

There's nothing on the City Center calendar today.   Zazen and service happen, of course, but otherwise the day is empty.  Panic.  Although our practice purports to cultivate tranquility and spaciousness, when confronted by an empty calendar, even monastics succumb to the compulsion to fill up the chasms of blank space.  Because, of course,  we measure our self-worth (and, covertly, the worth of those around us) by how much we get done and how busy we are.  We talk about sustainability, but that usually means trying to figure out clever ways to do even more.  Sitting and doing nothing is a luxury reserved for the zendo.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some support for this busy-ness in the Buddha's final words:  "All conditioned things are of a nature to decay.  Strive on untiringly."  We have taken that last sentence to heart with amazing -- and misguided -- fervor.  The sentence doesn't say, "Strive on tiredly."  It actually says the opposite: Figure out how to live in a way that isn't tiring.  Figure out the level of sustained effort you can make amid constantly changing conditions.  In short, figure out what you can stop doing so you can rest.

Sustainability isn't about having smart to-do lists (or smart devices that manage your to-do lists). Sustainability is about creating space by stopping, or allowing space without rushing to fill it. Instead of figuring out how to be sustainable, we need to figure out what makes us unsustainable -- and stop doing it.

In his Bloodstream Sermon, Bodhidharma wrote:
Motion is basically mindless.
The mind is basically motionless.
When your mind doesn't stir inside, the world doesn't stir outside.
He's saying we have a choice:  To be mindlessly busy, or to embrace spaciousness and motionlessness so that we can, in fact, have a chance to strive on untiringly.

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