“Create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently” (Martha Postlewaite)
We are a very doing, doing, doing culture. Hard at work, hard at play, hard at our electronic devices. We tend not to cultivate sitting back and enjoying a sunset, a cup of tea, or just gazing. However, neuroscience now demonstrates for us that there are benefits of cultivating a less stressed approach to our lives. Some stress is great. But a constant fire hose of it floods us with chemicals that can be damaging to our health and well being.
I know I have been under the spell of feeling like I must constantly be on the go: multitasking a bazillion tasks, working, school, parenting, texting, cooking, cleaning the house, texting, mowing the lawn, Facebook, maybe over doing my load of physical exercise, and texting! It is exhausting. And, it has not necessarily served my health. To my surprise, I was diagnosed with full-on osteoporosis at age 54.
So! I am learning with you in finding the optimum balance. The question to ask is this: is this way I am living, working, and being serving my health?
In Chinese medicine it is said that our life force is a precious resource to use wisely over the course of our lives. If we do this, then we are able to maximize our well being on earth however long that might be. The trick is to accomplish our endeavors in such a way as to draw upon a continuously replenished source of energy which comes from good nutrition, plenty of rest, restorative exercise and low stress. In other words, we should conserve the principle (which is limited and which we use up more or less slowly over our lifetime) and instead live on the interest!
Martha Postlwaite below captures a beautiful more gentle cadence in her poem the Clearing.
Clearing by Martha Postlewaite
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worth of rescue.
Practice for the Week—Wu Wei: Doing with out Doing
Over this week as you engage in your doing, notice---- how are you feeling in your mind and body? Are you energized? Or are you exhausted? Do you heed your exhaustion and take a break or just push through anyway? What ways can you find over this week engage with your activities with less effort and less stress? How can you allow for more space in a moment? When might you choose to not go to a party or take on an extra activity and maybe instead stay home and take it easy? Sometimes there is grace and beauty in the waiting and mysteriously everything will seem to align. The trick is to realize what is truly of necessity and what is just our reflexive reaction
So experiment. How can you “do” without straining as suggested in this beautiful verse from the revered Dao De Jing by Lao Tzu. In Chinese this concept is called "wu-wei" or literally "non-action."
From Chapter 63 Dao De Jing by Lao Tzu
Practice non-action. [wu wei]
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Magnify the small, increase the few.
Reward bitterness with care.
See simplicity in the complicated. Achieve greatness in little things.
In the universe the difficult things are done as if they are easy.
In the universe great acts are made up of small deeds.
The sage does not attempt anything very big,
And thus achieves greatness.
Easy promises make for little trust.
Taking things lightly results in great difficulty.
Because the sage always confronts difficulties,
He never experiences them.
Look for all the ways you can let go of a few things in this week.