Planning to Live
We walk through half our life as if it were a fever dream, barely touching the ground, our eyes half open, our heart half closed... until the fever breaks, and the heart can not abide a moment longer, as the rest of us awakens, summoned from the dream, not half caring for anything but love. -- Stephen Levine
This morning during my sitting meditation, I planned whether I would do walking meditation after sitting. I decided to do it. During my walking meditation, I thought about how, if I finished quickly, I would be able to do a long walk in Rock Creek with my dog, Gus. Then I got to Rock Creek, and I was immediately planning my route through the park. Once I decided which way to go, I started planning my day, what I needed to get done, and then started thinking about this e-news and what I might write.
On the path meandering near Beach Drive, I woke up. I noticed that I had been in planning mode pretty much since I woke up. I had been awake for hours and had missed most of my life so far that day. And I heard the voice of my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, in my head saying:
We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living.... Only this moment is life.
So for the rest of my walk, I practiced letting go of my planning mind, and simply living. And so many seemingly mundane things came beautifully alive for me. The rocks massaging my arches as I walked, the sound of the rain on the trees and the gentle feeling of that rain on my head, gratitude for the trail work that had been done by volunteers to support us hikers, and my old dog lagging behind me, teaching me how to slow down. With awareness of so many conditions for my happiness, how could I help but smile?
At our Monday Night Mindfulness sangha this week, a friend shared a Sports Illustrated article with us about a baseball pitcher who has a certain stillness when he is on the mound. According to the article, "Once on the game mound, [Mariano] Rivera banishes all thoughts of mechanics. The reminder of waiting for his arm has no place here. Even something that simple is mental clutter. With the task at hand, Rivera is confident that he has prepared himself properly. Now there is the absence of thought. Now there is only doing." Read more.
And I started to think about how we might live like that. To practice or plan when it is time to practice or plan, and then to let go of planning when we are doing what we planned. For me, that means I need to set aside time to plan for the things I want to accomplish, and when I am planning, just plan. And then stop planning, and just do it.
Many years ago, I heard one of the Buddhist monks living at Plum Village talk about how the monastics plan mindfulness retreats for thousands of people. He said that they have a planning session, and, during that time, they plan for hours. And then they go outside and play soccer.
So I am going to try to give myself time every day to plan. And let myself plan to my heart's content. Take notes, make lists, diagrams, whatever. And enjoy the process of planning as something to be savored for its own sake. And then when I step onto the mound, I will try to play like Rivera: 100% present, breathing, smiling, and enjoying the game.
If you are a compulsive planner too, I would love for you to join me in this experiment to create more joy and ease in our lives. Let me know how it goes.
with much love,