It has been a little while, I know, and I will write soon about the details of the first few weeks of January, but I wanted to share a thought while I’m waiting for my train to work.
It is so easy to put off doing the thing one really wants to do by doing all of the things that are closely related to it, but still not quite The Thing. Let me explain.
Have you ever wanted to read a book so much, had it resting there on the couch beside you, unopened, and for some reason spent the entire evening listening to reviews or commentaries about it online rather than digging in to the actual text?
Or perhaps you have been desperate to do some exercise, but frittered away the hour watching motivational exercise videos on YouTube? It’s a strange thing, but I would suspect that many of us do this from time to time–I certainly do.
Sometimes I think it comes from the fear of starting. For example, writing that book you have always wanted to write is a scary process, it requires courage. What if it’s not as good as I thought it would be? What if I get ten pages in and get stuck? So we content ourselves by thinking about writing, reading about writing, dreaming about writing, getting motivated to write, without ever actually putting pen to paper.
It is easy to spend our whole lives this way. Always meaning to do something. Getting ready to do something.
It is the same with spiritual practice. It can be very easy to get caught in listening to spiritual teachings and question and answer sessions, but never really getting around to meditating, praying or just sitting with our thoughts. Again, it takes courage to invite stillness and, whilst these videos and teachings are wonderful, inspiring and often very helpful to listen to, there comes a point when one has to stop, turn off the computer and just begin the practice individually. Just sit. Just breathe. Observe the thoughts that come and go like clouds in the spacious sky.
At some point, it becomes vital to do the thing we have been wanting to do. Often, just indulging the thought of it makes us feel better, in the same way that drawing up a to-do list or a weekly plan helps us to feel temporarily more organised and productive. But these things can only have impact if we actually follow through.
Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do, find five minutes today and do even the smallest part of it. Write the first five lines of your novel. Read the first three pages of that book. Sit for five minutes in silence and stillness when you arrive home. Or even for thirty seconds when you first get into your car on the way to work. Whatever works for you, just do it.
Don’t fall into the trap, especially with spiritual practice, of listening to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle for example, which is all about the present moment, and thinking “Yes! This sounds so great. I’m going to try it just as soon as I get rid of all of these people from my room and I can actually breathe a sigh of relief and be still!”
Of course, those moments of solitude are important and beautiful, but all you are essentially doing with that previous statement is waiting for the next moment, when ‘everything will be wonderful once I meditate.’ That is the trap we, as human beings, regularly fall into in our lives and the very thing Eckhart is warning against. Don’t wait for the external conditions to be right before you begin. Whatever is around you right now, observe it, listen to it, without judgement, just with pure interest, and be present.
Presence is not something that should, nor can, be put off. You will never arrive at presence at a future point–you can only find it in the Now.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this. I wish you all a wonderful day!