Friday, June 10, 2011

Ramblings In My Mind Vol. IX

I often write about the idea of being “awakened”. Here’s a great quote that I found recently by one of my favorite writers.

The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, and only one in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life.
-Henry David Thoreau in “Walden”

In Buddhism, to be an “awakened one” is to be a Buddha. I don’t claim to be a Buddha yet but it is a personal goal to be an awakened one. I am not fully awake yet but I am not asleep either. After many years of attempting to be awake through spiritual awareness I think I am at a stage where I could be described as sitting up on the side of my bed, with my feet on the ground, rubbing my eyes. Sixty years into my life I am starting to wake up. I guess the next step for me is splashing cold water in my face. Of course this means I need to get from my bed to the bathroom sink and that’s a long journey. What does it mean to be awake? I think it means to see life as it really is without filters and without illusions. It’s a spiritual clarity about life and the world around you. What it is not is not a state of blissful ignorance where one sits around in the lotus position. When one is awake, one is also engaged with life.

I don’t know what it all means yet but I like the idea that our company is starting to focus on well-being. Thinking about this I was reminded of a time in my younger days. In my early 20’s I spent a year of my life living in a Trappist monastery. Trappist monasteries are like a Catholic version of Buddhist monasteries. I still remember a community discussion based on the question “What are the practical demands for the experience of God”? Even for a person living a monastic life the experience of God can be elusive. I now find myself wondering what are the practical demands for achieving a sense of well-being in the workplace. There is an obvious attempt to encourage us to improve our physical health but what can we do on a practical level to achieve an overall sense of well-being in other areas of our work lives?

Much of my life has not gone as I wanted. On the other hand much of it has gone like I needed. Along the way I have had a lot of fun, a few real adventures, some major and minor challenges, and many opportunities to do good. I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up but I believe I know how I should be. That’s fine with me because I think there is too much doing in the world and not enough being. Most of the attitudes that I encourage, like being reflective and contemplative, with a sense of wonder, are not really activities as much as they are ways of being. All of our lives are a mystery. Even though I have not completely solved the mystery of my own life, I think I have somehow landed where I am supposed to be. How about you?

In our culture youth is often glorified. Not surprisingly, young people often are amazed that most older people have no desire to be young again. My 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s were the most difficult and challenging of my life. I got married, raised two sons, and started a long career with my employer. Turning sixty this year did get my attention but it was also in many ways a relief. My life is still busy but also more relaxed now. My two sons are now men. One is the father of a granddaughter that I adore. The other will be ordained a priest in two more years. Most of the time they take care of Mom and Dad as needed. It helps that Mom sometimes slips them money. I have also found grandparenthood the highlight of my life. I think my granddaughter is a Zen Master and she is currently my best teacher about how to live in the moment.

No comments: