April 11, 2011

Weekly editor’s letter: “Summertime, & the Living is Speedy.”

This is my weekly editor’s letter, an introduction to our Top 10 blogs of the week email newsletter—a great way to follow elephant without getting overwhelmed (as opposed to, say, twitter or Facebook, where we’re verrrrry active). ~ ed.


Slow Summer.

Sit down, relax, shut up…wake up.

elephant’s Lindsey Block and I are going over our schedule for this summer.

There’s an event elephant is covering or involved in just about every weekend. Yoga, music, travel, environmental heroes giving talks, community. It should all sound…fun.

But, instead, I’m trying to ex stuff out. Clear up a few weekends. All I want to do this summer is meditate, hang with my dog, work 12-15 hour days, and get to the pool on my bike a few times. Boring?

I’m not so sure. Remember when summers of yore seemed infinitely long? Life revolved not around your shedule but your lack of schedule? Maybe I’ll eat a peanut butter sandwich. Maybe I’ll go to the swimming hole. Ah, it’s hot.

Slow food? Slow summer. All about friends, space, doing as little as possible, enjoying nature and friends. That sounds about right to me. Of course, it’s beyond my grasp—I’m now running a web site with a vibrant community and urgent, fun mission that’s topped 412,000 unique visitors this month, according to Google Analytics.

But, still, the message for all of us is to protect our lives and hours from too much entertainment. Entertainment does not equal joy.

From trailblazing Buddhist teacher Trungpa Rinpoche, who taught my parents:

One characteristic of a dharmic person—someone who practices meditation and the teachings of the Buddha—is to prevent too many activities.

Reduce too many activities.

According to tradition, that actually boils down to cutting nonfunctional talking, cutting the baby-sitter mentality, the entertainment mentality.

You can get yourself into all kinds of projects, all kinds of engagements. You can become chummy with the world so that you don’t have to hold your discipline or your mindfulness properly. If you don’t like tea, you can have coffee. If you don’t like coffee, you could switch to Coca-Cola. If you don’t like Coca-Cola, you can drink scotch or vodka.

You involve yourself in constant, constant activity. Sometimes you don’t even know what you are doing; you just come up with the idea that you need to be occupied with something, but you can’t put your finger on anything: “Do I need sex or do I need money or do I need clothes? What do I need?”

You could think about anything; the possibilities are infinite. Getting chummy with the situation involves lots of activity.

According to the basic principles of Buddhism, you have to cut that down. When you become too chummy with your world, too familiar with your world, it becomes endless.

Chögyam Trungpa, from “Seven Characteristics of a Dharmic Person.”

Yours in getting a few glimpses of a long lazy Norman Rockwell summer,
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