So this week, I am writing from my bed. Incapacitated from a back injury that may take months to heal. I am left of course to reflect upon many things. Not least upon just how easy it is to take life for granted. My whole life, as no doubt most of ours is, is set upon the assumption that we will be well, fit and able enough to perform the functions we chose to perform, and do the things we enjoy.
My initial response was, “But what about the next retreats I have planned and all the people who will have booked flights and trains and time off work?”.
It took a few days on my back to start to reflect a little more positively and ask myself, what is this trying to teach me and what are the opportunities that this injury presents.
My initial response to the first question was simply.’ Well it’s telling you to slow down and do less.” But as I reflected deeply I realised that it was actually asking me to do something different for a while and to see what I might now be able to do that when I was fit and able I was not doing. And so I looked at all the things I hadn’t been able to find the time to do while so busy travelling around teaching and managing our organisation. I realised how busy my life had become, even as one who is trying to teach the virtues of a simple uncluttered life. I realised that I was often only really breathing out when I was teaching meditation, and that the rest of my life had gradually become an exercise in organising and managing my life! How ridiculous is that?
I realised that I had four books written but that I hadn’t taken out the time to edit and polish and get to print. I realised that I had over 500 hours of audio material that has sat on hard drives since it was delivered and never been listened to by the people it was recorded for. I realised that it had taken a significant set back to my health to stop for long enough to catch up with all the things that were important to me.
In the last week, lying in my bed unable to stand, sit or walk for more than a few minutes at a time, I realise that I have managed to complete a number of the projects that have been hanging over me for months, some of them for more than a year!
So I learned a number of things already, simply by asking “What is this trying to teach me.” I learned that it is really easy to get smothered by life even in our best efforts to keep it simple.
I learned that having too much to do compromises our ability to do anything well.
I reflected that there is a fine line between being able to do anything we want, and not being able to do much at all. And that this is not always defined by our physical capacity. But for those who have little choice over what they can and cannot do the only path to happiness lies in finding a joy and commitment to the things that actually are in front of us, and not worrying about the things that aren’t.
I spent sometime thinking, “What if you were never able to get out of this bed and move around freely again?” I sat with that thought and thought of those who really face such a predicament until my mind turned away from the things I would not be able to do and turned instead to the things I could. I looked at how I might see the challenge in front of me as an invitation rather that a setback.
I think that is something we all could learn to do from time to time. Because as the Buddha said, life is short and brief, it is delicate and uncertain. We should not lose time wishing we could do something else, or not doing anything because we are waiting for something that hasn’t happened. It is all too easy to let time and life slip by without embracing every moment. Even in our moments of deepest despair there is an opportunity to find something positive within us, be it simple patience, forbearance, and the willingness to get on regardless.
I am taking this time on my back to slow down and ask myself, what am I missing that is already right here in front of me.
Perhaps try that for yourselves this week. Print it out and stick it in places where you will see it often. Stick it in places where you find yourself just seeking distraction or letting the moment pass you by. Ask yourself everyday “What am I missing that is already in front of me?”
I have shared an audio that might give you a nudge. I hope you enjoy.
Have a beautiful week,