Tuesday on Open Air I heard some great guidance regarding that age-old spiritual question, “Who’s calling the shots?” What follows is my version of what was said, possibly having little to do with what was actually said.
The situation was one familiar to all of us practicing awareness: I want to have the morning for practicing practices: meditate, R/L, read some email class responses—all or some of which may involve leaving the bed. But if I do that, I won’t have enough time in the day to do what needs to get done, namely work and chores. If I “waste” too much time in the morning I’ll pay a price later in the day when the “you should, you have to, you better” voices kick in. How can I create and keep a schedule that allows me to practice as I want and not get beaten up later?
Enter the brilliant guidance: On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday take the time you want to luxuriate in Awareness Practice. On Tuesday and Thursday set your alarm, do the minimum to start your day on the right foot, and hit it. Nothing in that for any voices to complain about. Everything that needs to happen happens and you get to enjoy a spacious, peaceful practice.
“But,” came the concern, “what if I don’t have time on Monday to finish all I want and I want to finish the next day?” Response? “Don’t.”
Now, doesn’t that seem a bit rigid? Shouldn’t Awareness Practice free us from ego’s cans/cannots rather than lock us in tighter?
It gets better. Don’t make a schedule you have to keep forever. This week do the Monday, Wednesday, Friday thing. Next week reverse it. The week after decide the night before what you will do in the morning by drawing a schedule out of a bowl.
At this point there was a comparison to sitting practice. I say I intend to sit for 20 minutes. I sit for 20 minutes. Not nineteen. Not twenty-one. Twenty. Why is that such a big deal? Because that’s what I said I would do. That’s how I learn to trust myself. That’s how I learn not to look to the “you should, you have to, you better” yammering of ego and instead look to the deep, quiet steadiness of the Heart for how I am and how I will be.
We’re conditioned to believe (because it works so well for ego and not at all for us) that if we can just get the externals, the content, right everything will fall into place. Get the right schedule and I will slide happily from activity to activity followed by cheery voices whispering, “great job.”
We’ve been around long enough to know that’s never going to happen. The reason is not due to our flawed selves; the reason it will never happen is that the premise is flawed. We believe that if we fix the content (schedule), the process (stress free, organized, productive days) will follow. What is true is that when we let go the process (stress over timing/schedule), the content (too busy, too much to do, not enough time) will fall away.
Let go the process and the content will fall away. What makes this supremely brilliant is that it works with all content. Let go urgency, spaciousness is what we have. Let go worry, peace is what we have. Let go fear, happiness is what we have. We can spend a lifetime attempting to get all the content lined up in order to get the “result” we want. But that will never happen because what we think of as a result is actually a process, and all we, always and ever, will “get” is what we’re giving attention to. Turns out all that content is irrelevant.