Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dancing with dragons

Equanimity -- the fourth of the Brahma Viharas or Divine Abodes -- doesn't mean only the ability to keep your balance as the worldly winds of samsara swirl around you. It also means being able to create a balanced life, one that has time for work, play, and idleness.

Maybe you've seen this New York Times article on how busyness plagues our lives. Maybe you're one of the dozen or so of my Facebook friends who linked to it. Busyness, it seems, is rampant.

Author and cartoonist Tim Kreider writes:
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
This is something I've been thinking about lately. I tend to be busy. My job is busy -- the work I do used to be done by 2.5 people, and some new obligations have been invented. I rarely stop working on my keyboard to talk to people with my full attention, and I work in a large room with a lot of other people talking to one another or on the phone or to themselves. I teach meditation. I meditate. I study and teach Buddhism. And I don't even live in New York, where people constantly announce that New Yorkers are SO busy (this is a pet peeve of mine as it makes it seem as if the rest of the world lazes around).

At one retreat I went to this year, a teacher talked about the importance of leading a balanced life, using the Four Dignities of Shambhala. The tiger, which is grounded and observant, represents work. The snow lion represents hobbies and activities, those things that are not part of making a living but that require discipline. Garuda, which flies and never lands, is our artistic endeavors, things where we create (similar to hobbies but looser). And the turquoise dragon is free time, idle time, time to dance in space with all possibilities.

On the flag that's displayed at my Shambhala center, the dignities occupy equal portions. In my life, not so much. I am heavy on the tiger-lion portion, with some garuda and a sliver of dragon. Energetically it's even more imbalanced, I fear.

So I'm declaring July to be Dragon Time. I have few obligations this month, and I'm trying not to add to them. Do I have plans this weekend? Yes, I plan to do nothing.

Back to Mr. Krieger:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.
I've got plans already for two weekends in August, so I can't get lost in space. But if you're looking for me this month, I'll be dancing with dragons.

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