On balancing: “be here now” or “work for your future”?

I’ve been thinking lately about Effort vs. Being Present. Which is it all about anyway? Is it about being accepting and enjoying where I am? Or is it about working hard for what matters to me?

Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, says

If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich

On the other hand, there’s a Zen proverb that states

When you reach the top of a mountain, keep climbing

So which one is correct?

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Then this game changer came along: both are correct. WHAT. These are conflicting viewpoints, right? If my mindset says productivity is what matters, then doing nothing=being unproductive=laziness. Or I have the mindset that enjoying the present and letting go of the attempt to control things is where it’s at, and effort seems like fighting against the current of life.

Yet this new perspective rings true because I experience the truth of them both: there are days when “just being” feels right, and there are also days when working towards my goals feels great. I hadn’t before thought that both could co-exist in harmony because from the outside I’d heard people telling me either one way or the other. Work hard! Relax! Reach for the stars! Sit back and enjoy!

It’s like Yin and Yang. The moon and the sun. Chandra and Surya. Rest and effort. Both are needed to provide balance. Many of us have experienced too much of one or the other: the feeling of burnout when we don’t get to restore and recharge, or the feeling of stuck-ness/laziness when we’ve been inert for too long.

I’ve identified two new skills to practice based on my new perspective:

1. Discerning which action is appropriate at any given moment

This means tuning into where I am at a particular moment and then figuring out what it is I need. This applies to both the physical body (exercise and movement vs rest) and the mind (thinking/planning/analyzing vs meditating/releasing control). In terms of the spirit, that’s still being explored 🙂

2. Embracing the two distinct energies within

It’s no longer an inner conflict between two sides or a battle of right over wrong. Instead, I now practice accepting that there are two rivers that flow in opposite directions, both of which are necessary for a balanced life. Most importantly, it’s about loving whichever energy is flowing that day without the voice of the other side singing the shoulda-woulda-couldas.

 

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On rest (go ahead, take a nap)

Rest is beautiful. Refresh-renew-restart. And useful.

It lets us recharge, but also allows us to process, integrate, absorb all of the stimulus we experience in our wakeful open-eye state.  When our eyes are open, we’re chopping up and tossing ingredients into the pot. When we close our eyes and rest,  we stir up the ingredients, put on the lid, and let it simmer. The flavors on each ingredient and spice are allowed to open up, to marry, to integrate and complement each other.

Thats why savasana (corpse pose) is considered  the most important pose. After spending an hour or two stretching and strengthening your body, mind, and heart, you gotta let it simmer! You don’t have to do a thing. Just get comfy, lay back, spread out and let the magic happen.