This morning I was supposed to be giving a talk on how to relax. I had the flowchart of the talk I had prepared earlier in the week in one hand (‘flowchart’ is the grand name I gave my few scribbles on a page) and a cup of tea in the other. I watched as the clock ticked towards ten, and waited for people to arrive.
No-one turned up.
I might have been disappointed (Why on earth wouldn’t people want to come and hear me speak?) but in fact it felt like a gift.
Satya and I have just been given a tentative moving date. In four week’s time (or perhaps five) we’ll be given the keys to our new home: Bredon House. It has been a guest house since the 1820s and is about to become a Pureland Buddhist Temple.
One of the things keeping me from relaxing recently has been the ever expanding to-do list of jobs that we need to complete before moving, and the anticipation of a continually growing to-do list when we move.
Years ago when I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance one of the few parts of the book that made sense to me was the advice that if worry about an outstanding job keeps interrupting your meditation, getting up from your cushion and completing the job might be the best course of action.
This morning, instead of giving a talk on how to relax, I decided to tackle some of the jobs on the to-do list that had been keeping me from actually feeling relaxed.
A few hours later and the garden is now ready to handover to whoever inherits this house from us, the contents of the shed are packed and ready to move, and I’ve started collecting assorted books from the corners of rooms and packing those away too.
As I closed the shed door at lunchtime one layer of worry evaporated and I relaxed a little.
So thank you to whoever arranged the gift of a free morning.
In the talk I had planned to say how it’s taking refuge in impermanent things that keeps us from truly relaxing, and there was something of that going on in my worry about getting things ready. I had become attached to the idea of specific outcomes like keeping people happy, creating a beautiful looking space, and having a smooth transition from one place to the next without ruffling anyone’s feathers. With those expectations I was bound to become disappointed at some point, and part of me knew that – hence the worry.
If I can remember the spirit of the move instead, the compassionate impulse and the act of love, then all of those specific outcomes suddenly become less important.
The more I take refuge in what is not impermanent, the more I can step out of the cycle of attachment and disappointment.
Nonetheless, here’s to a smooth move and no ruffled feathers 😉
There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished unevolving, without. This, just this, is the end of stress
The Buddha, Udana 80 Tr. Thanissaro Bhikkhu