which comes first? Do you look for the important practical things that need doing? Or do you look for the joy of life and existence? Do you try to get all of the stresses out of the way and then have some space for relaxation and celebration? Or do you start with finding your peace and joy, and then take action.
It should be pretty obvious to anyone that knows me which one I would choose (joy first for those who don’t know me). But what may not be clear is why that is so important. Of course there are times when you simple must act and there is no time for reflection and peace – emergency situations, and yes in emergency situations one must respond appropriately and quickly, but most of life should not be an emergency. The rest of the time we have at least a little bit of space to decide what are our priorities, and how we are going to approach the challenges of the day, and how we put our priorities makes enormous differences in the outcome.
If we start with the action and stress then everything we do will be a poor attempt at solving an overwhelming problem at the end of the day we will have tackled most of what needs to be tackled, but our solutions will not be wise or well thought out. We will have built a small part of our lives in the image of that stress. If we start with the experience of peace and joy and connection then each response will be somewhat inspired and creative, and by the end of the day we will have tackled the same challenges, but what we have built will be so much more beautiful, and we will be building a much more future and life for ourselves.
Why is this so important? Because all of the major problems facing our society could be seen as sprouting from this one issue. The issue of action without wisdom, focus without peace. Why is it that we have created roads and businesses and factories, and economies that are now in danger of destroying the very environment that we depend on for survival? Because we put the big picture out of our minds, forget about the connection with the environment and just get down to work on the individual issues facing us. It is a well meaning focus on solving those problems, but as soon as the big picture is lost, the small steps that are made create as many problems as they solve.
Why do we have poverty and injustice throughout the world? Is it not the same? That we are so busy solving problems for ourselves and the few people around us that we lose track of the bigger picture – how this affects all around us.
If it is not clear the connection between joy, and a more united, big picture, wise approach to life let me try to spell it out. Our minds are naturally open and compassionate – when you take away the stress they reach out in connection. We care about others. When the stress and overwhelm and emotion is removed people’s sense of connection to others is improved, their creativity grows, and their ability to see clearly expands. It is like the fog being removed from your glasses. Human beings do not need to actively expand their viewpoint (thought that can help) they just need to take away the parts of themselves that are preventing that expansion – the emotion and the stress etc.
This is why meditation is so important (and by meditation i mean it in the broadest sense – sitting still, or taichi, or a peaceful cup of tea) It is this that sets aside the stresses and emotions that cloud our vision, and allow us to see clearly. There is a saying that everyone should meditate half an hour every day unless they are very busy – in which case they should meditate one hour. Now I don’t think you need to take this literally. One hour meditation is difficult for many, but the idea that it is under our greatest stress and challenge that we should put the most effort into our inner peace and centring is very important.
Start the day with connection – a meditation of sorts. And come back to it again at the end. If you can do this then life will become a much more beautiful thing, and the effect you have on the world will similarly be so much deeper, more profound and more beautiful.