Blending spiritual awareness with everyday action is intelligent living.
The other morning Vaani and I sat in our balcony reading the newspapers. Suddenly Vaani pointed out that her favorite cuckoo, that normally sat on a specific branch on the tree in the neighbor’s backyard, was missing. Then, in a few seconds, she heaved a sigh of relief and declared: “There’s the cuckoo…seems to have shifted from one branch to another!” I love Vaani for this ability of hers to pause and drink in Life from around her. She manages to see magic and beauty in small things, in unexpected places – a bird here, a flower there, in a puddle of rain water, in a cloud formation… When Vaani was at Rishi Valley, where her parents taught for 25 years, she had the privilege to learn the art of just being from J.Krishnamurti (JK), who founded the school. JK would take the children in the school for long walks and teach them to observe Life. ““See Life as it happens, observe keenly, there’s great value in stopping the doing and simply watching….” JK would tell us,” said Vaani, even the other day, after she found her friendly neighborhood cuckoo.
This morning a manager told me that when I am addressing her team, I must not talk about spirituality. I found this request rather strange. And I asked her why the embargo. Pat came her reply: “Oh, spirituality champions doing nothing! I don’t want my people to turn non-performers!”
I laughed heartily. I know people often get confused between spirituality and religion. But this is the first time I was hearing someone say that spirituality was anti-performance. Let me clarify and reiterate that all Life is spiritual. And if there is one way to make your Life deeply meaningful and valuable, it is to embrace spirituality and learn the art of high-performance by just being.
Is it possible to do nothing? Doesn’t doing nothing amount to inaction? So, when you don’t act, when you don’t do what you must, aren’t you failing in your duty? And if there’s nothing to do, nothing to achieve, what’s the purpose of Life?
Any seeker will encounter these questions. They are perfectly normal, logical questions. The answers to these have to be understood at two levels: at the spiritual, inner awareness, level and at the everyday action, practical, level.
First, let’s view it from an inner awareness angle. Rinzai, the famous Chinese mystic, considered a Master in Zen Buddhism, has said famously: “Sit silently, doing nothing, and the grass grows by itself.” By this Rinzai does not mean you should do nothing forever. He calls for a deeper level of observation, of just being – every day; the level of observation that Vaani learnt from JK, that forced her to look up from the newspaper and search for her cuckoo friend. Everyone’s in a tearing hurry to get things done. There are the dishes to be done, groceries to be fetched, the kids to be dropped and picked up, meetings to go to, deadlines to be met, targets to be achieved, bills to be paid, mortgage dues to be settled….and on and on…you go. From one commitment to another. From one small crisis to another. Hours, days, weeks and often months have gone by rushing until you realize that you need a break. Phew! But a break has come to remind you again you must accomplish a set of things you always wanted done. Go to the spa, change the upholstery, get the air-conditioners serviced or have the whole house re-painted! And just in case you managed a vacation, it is always about “seeing” whatever you can in the “limited” time that you have. Again it’s a rushing of a different kind. Rinzai says, drop everything, and sit silently. Just observe. See how Life goes on. Be silent. Thoughts will come and go. Let them. Bring your attention back to your present – to the now. You can sit in your balcony and see the crowded street below or the clear blue sky above or you can go to the park or you can go to the beach or even to the mall. Go somewhere. But you be silent. You be only a witness. You just be. Then, says Rinzai, you will see the beauty of how nature, how Life, works on its own.
This is what just being and doing nothing can help you with. It will help you experience the magic and beauty of Life. It is through being silent that you realize what inner peace is. It is through inner peace that you become aware of the true nature of Life. That Life goes on not because of you, but in spite of you. When you have realized this, then everyday living becomes stress-free and, in fact, meaningful!
Next, at a practical level, you must never abdicate your responsibilities. You have to continue doing what you are doing. You may have a job, you may have a business, you may just be a home-maker, you may be a student – whoever you are and whatever you have to do, keep doing it. If you don’t like what you are doing, change it. Do something else. Philosophy and spirituality surely cannot pay your bills. You have to earn an income. But don’t earn to pay your bills. Earn from what gives you joy. Then you won’t think of your Life as a drudgery. And if someone’s earning for you, do something with your time that makes you joyful. Don’t sit and complain about Life and say you are bored. So, from an everyday action point of view, keep doing whatever you must do. Just don’t complain. Don’t hanker for results. This is what sitting silently, observing Life, for a while each day can help you understand.
When you combine spiritual awareness and everyday action, you learn to live intelligently. Completely at peace with yourself and your immediate world. Because your rhythm’s in harmony with the Universe’s, whatever you need, the Universe always provides you with. In this zone, you become the most productive and whatever you do works out just great. This is how you become a high-performer by just being!
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