One thing I’ve noticed about life – it rarely moves at the right speed for you.
It’s either going too slow and you’re bored, or too fast and you’re stressed out.
Recently I have been in headless chicken mode. I’ve got so much going on and I’m going as fast as I can just to keep up. (Hence the lack of blog posts of late).
Stephen Covey (who wrote ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’) has a framework for looking at how you spend your time which I’ve always found quite useful.
He divides tasks into four areas (he calls them ‘quadrants’):
1. Urgent and important
2. Important but not urgent
3. Urgent but not important
4. Neither important nor urgent
He says we tend to spend our lives in quadrants 1 and 4.
We run around trying to get all the important and urgent things done (quadrant 1), then run out of steam and end up watching soaps or drinking tequila to unwind (quadrant 4).
The ideal, however, is to live your life in quadrant 2.
If you want to be highly effective, you need to create systems that allow you to do the things that are useful for you, and plan them in advance.
What you *don’t* want is to be constantly running about trying to put out fires in an effort to one day get to retire.
How Buddhism fits in
I have found that meditation helps you understand what is genuinely beneficial for you and create the mental and emotional space required to get those things happening in your life.
Often we imagine that we are living chaotic and stressful lives. After a bit of meditation, we realise that it’s not our lives that are chaotic and stressful, it’s our minds. We realise that it’s the way we’re responding to life, rather than life itself, that creates this illusion of chaos.
Meditation helps you live in quadrant 2.
Also, Buddhist tools and practices are genuinely useful to you. They have a positive impact on your mental and emotional state. They’re a shortcut.
Instead of going out into the material world to try to acquire items, experiences and people that will give you a good feeling, you cultivate that feeling directly.
When Buddhist practice doesn’t really help
Of course, there will be times when it’s not your mind that’s chaotic and full on, it’s your life.
Buddhist practitioners (and other spiritual types) can be really hard on themselves when things aren’t going well. They think that Buddhism solves everything so if life isn’t awesome it’s because they aren’t doing something right.
But actually, things being tough sometimes is just how it is. Use Buddhism to help you understand that, and not give yourself a hard time about it.
When things *are* messed up, it doesn’t necessarily mean you *have* messed up. It may just be life being life.
It’s not necessarily your ‘karma’. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not visualising and attracting the right things into your life. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
The 12 ‘nidanas’, or links of dependent origination, are a key Buddhist concept. They show how one thing leads to another. One of the things that always struck me about this cycle is that the bad stuff in life (old age, sickness, death – that type of thing) are dependent on being born. That’s it! If you’re born (or rather, re-born), you’ll experience some bad stuff. Deal with it!
The question is, how do we not get reborn? But that’s for another post!