Today’s advice from the heart:
Since there is never a time when worldly activities come to an end, limit your activities.
This item is picked up at an opportune time. I have recently undertaken to try and be more social; dating, getting out of the house, trying to pull together some semblance of social activity to offset what increasingly seems a rather empty landscape when it comes to having other humans in proximity (outside of work, that is). It proves to be downright difficult to manage, for all intents and purposes, practically impossible. And just when I begin to feel morose about it, I turn to tonight’s effort and find this. Heh.
So, thoughts about this piece of Advice from the heart…
First, I spend a good deal of time alone. When I say ‘alone’, I don’t mean it as most people seem to — they say ‘alone’ and they mean ‘at home’ or ‘with a small group of friends’ – their entire construct of ‘alone’ is based in a network of others who are so close that they seem to think of them as part of themselves. Me? I do not have such a network or, if I do, it exists here, in emails and long distance friendships that either never transitioned into ‘the real’ or have only done so on rare occasion and for very fleeting hours.
Of course, we’re all alone in our heads and ultimately, regardless what we do in life or whom we do it with, there is no crossing the barrier that the sense of ‘self’ imposes. Fortunately, this is not a thing I am compelled to attempt, else I suspect I would be far more lonely than I am. All this said, I spend my evenings in solitude, even when I ‘go out’, and it seems the more I try to connect with others, the more I try to establish some basis from which regular closeness may be savored, the more distant and unresponsive the world at large seems to become.
It is, of course, a gift, though I only rarely find the way to see it as such.
The monastics of Buddhist tradition often take themselves to the wilds and forsake people and interaction to hone their awareness and force themselves to deal with and move through the various impediments rolling around in their minds. It is a time honored method by which one battles ego and fear and a host of other things that flit and flutter in the head. The advice of many a lama and spiritual friend alike is consistently pointed on the matter — limit your activities and focus upon yourself and the things you need to do and be and give to yourself to become.
As with the previous piece of advice, this one deals with the idea that distraction is the means by which we avoid and avert the work we are here to accomplish. The simplicity of this piece of advice is profound — what part of the world is going to disappear if one is not compelled to immediately engage with it? Will there be less titillation? Less suffering? Less excitement or fewer reasons to swim in the ocean of it all?
Will everything we find interesting or engrossing shrivel up and drift away unless we grab and hold it?
I am, of course, studying and practicing right here, right now, real time, as I write this. Here is contemplation and the immediate nature of what it is to practice. It is sure to be messy, filled with my own ego and frustrations, for I am utterly frustrated and annoyed at the reality, the fact that yet another weekend is here and once more, every thought to a plan for more than staring at my walls and being unable to distract myself is stymied.
And yet, I know it is not a ‘bad thing’. In the midst of it all, I know this. I just don’t feel it. It is not part of me.
I think this is what Atisha means by limiting activities, though… how else would one ever come face to face (mind to mind?) with THIS but to do so?
Suddenly, I am laughing. It is so silly! Do you know what thought occurs right, smack in the middle of this morose little screed of self-pity?
That I can be happy any time I want to be. Even here. Even now. I step outside of myself for a moment and look at that silly woman, just about to cry as she hammers that poor keyboard, and I laugh. I LAUGH. And as soon as I do so, I realize that the only reason the thought of being lonely or alone feels like it is smothering me is because I’m cradling it and stroking it and fluffing it up and coaxing it to be bigger and more for me, to become… distraction.
It’s like sticking a needle into a balloon. The loud pop and the startle and the sense of relief that it was ‘just a thought’ and it has passed. For now, anyway.
I suppose limiting activities is helpful to the degree that I have no choice but to ‘get over myself’ and laugh at the notion of letting loneliness or angst swallow me whole.
Gee, you know, maybe this Atisha fellow was onto something.