George Clark, 22 July 2008
I am presently between jobs and therefore underemployed, temporarily retired and not making best use of my entrepreneurial potential. The good news is that (a) I am free from the alien agenda of a boss and work situation and (b) my to-do-list is not automatically filled for me. I am therefore free to be whatever my personal agenda wants me to be. But, I have been so long out of touch with my true nature, that I have difficulty hearing its voice.
Part of the problem is that I have been sold on the idea that the opposite of work is leisure. And these days the leisure industry is packaged round a set of commodities designed to feature on your to-buy-and-do-list. There are leisure products to mould the desires of increasingly niche-targeted consumers. All the way from daily drip feeds of distraction from the media, through designer sports wear for the youth to grand world tours for the silver tops. To many people this can seem like moving from one treadmill to another. Are there no alternatives?
There are! If work involves 'doing' then its opposite can be thought of as 'being'. It is possible to adjust your mind so that you enjoy the simple things in life: the warmth of your bed in winter; the taste of cool orange juice in summer; the way the sun shines through the window at different times of year. When you slow down and pay attention to what is 'really' going on then everything changes. The poet William Blake reckoned you can see "infinity in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour"; the Bible reckons that you can know the "peace that passes all understanding". Neat stuff. And all you have to do is adjust your mind. How might this be done?
Classic quotations point the way: "just sit"; and "be still and know". What this means in practice is that you should set aside 20 minutes at least once a day for stillness. Sit comfortably with your back straight and try not to move your body. When you begin this practice you will notice how busy your mind is with thoughts and emotions that stir up your mental mud. You will also notice yourself noticing what is going on. By keeping attention with this 'witness' the mental mud will settle and your mind will clarify and become still.
This peaceful stillness is your natural state. Once you get a little taste you will recognise it and seek more of it. Your 'practice' will lengthen and deepen and spread into non-sitting times. You will then be mentally free to enjoy the simple things in life on a regular basis. You will be well on the way to uncovering the real 'Self' as the benign force of nature and not of man.
Or so they say. I have been experimenting with stillness. The early stages have gone according to expectations and there have been glimpses of the inner voice. It is too early to give a 100% thumbs up but it is looking good with regular periods out of space, time and ego. Perhaps I should package 'Being' as a new leisure commodity with its own to-be-list!