September 20, 2010

The Blog I Didn’t Want to Write ~Shy Sayar

DHARMA MONDAYS is Shy Sayar’s blog on Elephant Journal, published (hopefully?…) every Monday

So, it’s about 6pm on Monday evening, and I’m sitting down to write my weekly Monday Dharma blog. Usually I have it ready by Sunday and have to hold back on it, but today I almost said “the hell with it, I really don’t feel like writing a blog.” I mean, honestly, I’m in no shape to do this right now – I’m in the process of moving, living in a transitional place with my cats – one of whom got out today and has yet to come back – all my (very few) possessions are in boxes, I have Comcast and PG&E to contend with – and it is so nice out, I would really rather be swimming; but when I told my girlfriend how I felt, she suggested I write about the importance of following through on your commitments, and pointed out how I always say that, even though transitions are the hardest time to practice, they are also the most important time to practice. So here's to grinding your teeth and doing it anyway.

One of my teachers at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute in Berkeley once shared a metaphor with me about transitions. He likened life to a bird sitting on a branch. Most of the time, everything is OK because there's a perfectly fine branch under our feet, and we can devote our time to contemplation, reflection, and taking joy in whatever it is in which humans and treebirds take pleasure. Yet, every once in a while, circumstances will inevitably dictate that we leave our arborial comfort zone, spread our wings and take flight – heading Shiva knows where. Now, chances are that we will ultimately land on another branch – thicker or thinner, more or less shaded and fragrant – but another branch that will do just fine nonetheless. And we know that when we – in all likelihood – do land on this next branch, we will again have time to focus on those matters and practices that are important to us. In all likelihood.

However, no matter how much we might try to suppress it, somewhere deep within the psyche we know that we can never know what's coming up – my next breath or my death. Granted, that is equally true when there is ground (or, to follow the metaphor, a tree-branch) under our feet, but it is so much more unsettling when there is not.

So here we are, taking flight between branch and potential future branch, hovering between Heaven and Earth, hanging for a moment between life and death. And who has time to do the things that bring us joy and stability (like yoga, meditation or, say, writing your weekly blog) when you have to figure out where you're going to land, watch for hawks and eagles on the way, and wonder what you might have to eat when (if?…) you get there? And yet, somehow, if it is genuinely important to us, we can find time to keep some semblance of our practice even in the In Between. Perhaps making sure of it can even make us better at plodding paths, dodging predators and spotting dinner.

There's a classical Hebrew proverb that goes: do not say 'when I have leisure I will devote myself to my practice – lest you don't have leisure. Simply but radically put, this adage is trying to tell us that life is not about getting your ducks in order. If you know what's important to you, you can do it now, no matter how disorderly that bloody bunch of flat-beaked birds is being.

So there you have it, I wrote it. Maybe it won't win any blogging awards, but I am pleased to have followed through – and, to be honest, I kind of enjoyed it once I actually got going. Now to just relax my proverbial jaw from all the metaphorical teeth grinding.

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