Toward a More Mindful Mantra (or, Mission Possible?)

Wow! That’s a lot to process! I hope you’re not too overwhelmed!

A friend just emailed me the above, after I shared some of what’s on my mind these days. Let me offer you a quick glimpse of the circus in my head:

  • About four days a week, I bike past a Brazilian waxing spa. I’ve wanted to post about this for weeks, what seeing this place does to my peace of mind, what I believe it indicates about the state of our culture.
  • When I see this spa, I typically think of Peter Singer’s marvelous book The Life You Can Save, whose premise is that the 24,000 children who die every single day from poverty-related causes could be saved at a cost we in the developed world would scarcely notice.
  • Three days a week I go running, often listening to a podcast called “Best of the Left.” In addition to informing myself from non-mainstream sources, I suspect this boosts my speed, as the indifference and cruelty evidenced in the news fuels my sense of injustice, sometimes to the point of outrage.
  • I’m pretty much constantly asking myself if I should have moved, if I should have moved here, and if I’m too busy with too many things, all of which are fulfilling yet none of which provide an income stream. Where should I be, and what should I be doing? How can I find an appropriate balance of work and play, being out in the world and taking care of my introverted self?

Amid all this, I spend a good deal of time in front of a computer screen—or visiting the nearby Zen center, where I sit facing a wall, meditating and chanting—wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life. I’m busy helping build a small Sudbury school, trying to get my own Sudbury support nonprofit off the ground, singing, blogging, and generally wondering how to make a living.

Busy, yes, but how much am I actually accomplishing? Given that we’re killing each other and poisoning our habitat—while for many of us, our biggest concerns are who will win today’s big game or the unsightly hair on our legs—I have to ask: Am I doing enough, am I doing all I can?

Six months ago I took a big leap, deliberately uprooting myself from a life that was relatively stable and comfortable (relative to how I’m living now, at least). I let go of some very good things in search of something even better, and I do on the basis of a mantra which a good friend helped me formulate: money, mission, mate and home.

Yesterday I posted about the wisdom of skipping ahead mentally to the life you wish to lead, then working backward until you’re in sight of your current situation. In an attempt to follow my own advice, I decided to start by expanding the above four-part mantra. This represents a stab at mission, which I initially characterized in the following terms:

Most people, I think, long to be part of something larger than themselves, to know that their life has some purpose and that their legacy will outlast them.

Mission is also clearly related to the Buddhist precept of Right Livelihood, which has been defined as work that does not harm living beings, even indirectly. Conducted ethically, right livelihoods are meaningful and fulfilling, deepening awareness and kindness.

It’s so hard to corral all the wild horses in my mind, much less get them to stand still long enough for me to convey them in writing. There is too much in my head, too many possibilities floating about and bumping up against each other. My life is so much in flux, I’m in danger of losing sight of the tabula rasa of openness, possessed instead by the terror of the blank page.

And meanwhile, as I spew words onto a screen, my bank balance dwindles and the people and causes I could be serving are waiting for someone who will actually do something, not just talk.

This post feels a bit too raw and out of control, so I’ll pause here, continuing later (but soon, I hope) this elaboration of my vision of the life I want to lead, what that might look like and how I might get there from here. I recognize that the guilt and fear of not doing enough, or having too much to do, serve no one. Also, sometimes we simply need to be present in a way that words cannot grasp.

For now, namaste, everyone.

1 Comment

Filed under My Quest

One response to “Toward a More Mindful Mantra (or, Mission Possible?)

  1. Pingback: Homing In | Write Learning

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