Fall is in the air, as is the energy of getting back to school and work. Yet I still linger in this space of uncertainty, waiting, waiting for my call to work or school or otherwise.
What are my circumstances asking me to do?
Is the phrase I mentioned in my previous post that is often asked by those pursuing a Summoned Life. Yet what if those circumstances aren’t asking me anything? Maybe I’m not listening well enough? I find myself struggling on days like this – a Monday morning with a blank week ahead. Yes a few coffees and hikes with friends, but outside of this and my morning meditation practice I have very little structure. Even when one has a job they don’t like, the job still fills the role of providing the individual purpose and a frame to work in. But what if ones work is self-discovery? Why can’t self-discovery be the framework that one’s day evolves from? This is a constant area of wonder for me – of how a sometimes meaningless (depending on your line of work – of course this isn’t true for everyone!), time consuming activity used to extract money from society can be such a form of stability, while a spiritual process is often not? I guess answering to a time-clock is easier than answering to yourself. I wonder if this is why Buddhism has been so fulfilling for me as of late – it provides a rational process and tools for spiritual development and my soteriological process. A quote from the aforementioned article:
Business is about making choices that maximize utility. But the most important features of the human landscape are commitments that precede choice — commitments to family, nation, faith or some cause. These commitments defy the logic of cost and benefit, investment and return.
Defying the logic of cost and benefit, investment and return…. why would you proceed to do anything in this manner? Only after you have discovered through contemplation that rational thought, deductive reasoning and the scientific method are all limited in their soteriological qualities. I find it interesting today that many people consider themselves atheists or agnostics and yet fully accept the reductionist/scientific view of life as a doctrine. Many people in modern society use science AS something to explain the world without self-examination. This is the definition of belief and at a fundamental level is not any different than a belief in God, Allah, or Jesus. Its just called Science, not Religion. But I digress.
If I am to committed to relinquishing a modern, materialistic and reductionist worldview, rather choosing to approach a life of contemplation and seeking (aka the examined life), should I feel guilty when I crack a beer and watch a couple episodes of The Daily Show? How do we reconcile the differences between enjoyment and recreation and attachment? There are no concrete answers as there are no absolute rights and wrongs. For one person a chocolate bar may open the door to all manners of craving, attachment and delusion where for another it may be the catalyst to liberation. Following this logic, each person needs to carefully examine the subtle workings of their consciousness. Many call this the subconscious, but in yogic teachings the subconscious is never seen as something different than consciousness, it is just an area of your consciousness that you do not currently have the ability to be directly aware of (dreaming mind). Powerful Yogis and practitioners have transcended this and have the ability to remain aware in their dreams and even deep sleep.
So what exactly does an examined life in modern society look like? If one is not careful, he will be perceived as selfish, overly-holy and egotistical. Yet such is the risk of such an existence. We can never truly judge someone else’s position with 100% accuracy. Recently I had someone close to me attempt define me in this way – I was told that my pursuit of Buddhism was an academic one, preventing me from maturing as an individual and allowing me not to commit (citing Buddhist non-attachment) to anyone or anything in my life. This really bothered me, because it is true that while I am not diving 100% into any activity, I feel so much more fulfilled by all activities. And everything even means the traditionally burdensome ones. I will continue to wrestle with my perception in the world…. understanding there will always be at least 3 viewpoints (my perception of my self, others perceptions of me (many multiples of these!), and of course just Self).
Often I feel a sense of guilt around my lifestyle – and am not always comfortable admitting that I am no longer a good capitalist, my future no longer indebted to my past and not filling any clearly defined role. In cultures like India a Summoned Life is acceptable and even expected from at least one member of the family whereas in the West, the Summoned Life is often viewed as mysterious as it does not follow the framework of business plan life and remains oddly on the sideline for others to point at as different.
I am incredibly fortunate at this point in my life. To have gotten out of the cycle of working and debt and to have this opportunity to remain comfortably unemployed. However now we arrive at the Crux of the Summoned life – getting over the ego’s need to prove that you are DOING something with this alternate approach, the pressure to SHOW something from it. That’s all I have for today… Off I go…