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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly SPRING 2 0 09 24 Organizing Your Time I’m not a planner by nature, but some years back I realized that if I didn’t take charge of my schedule, it would take charge of me. So now I fill my schedule with as much dharma practice and activity as I can. I fill the pages of my calendar— one year in advance—with my mind’s intention, then I follow and meet it. I know how many hours of practice I want to do each day, and I organize my time to complete that. I figure, this is my life, and if I don’t take charge no one else will. I find myself thinking a lot about time, how much I have, and what I want to do with it. Practically speaking, there are only twenty-four hours in a day. How do we want to spend them? Some of that time we need to sleep. But how much sleep do we actually need? More than seven or eight hours usually doesn’t support us, unless of course we are a teenager. Most of us have jobs. We may work nine hours a day—that seems standard. This still leaves us with seven or eight hours of spare time. Then there are family obligations, and we need to tend to those with care. With our remaining hours, how can we fit practice time into our lives? I am a night person, so I practice late at night. Some people prefer to start before dawn. These are quiet hours—guaranteed practice periods—because everyone else is asleep, or maybe practicing too. Sometimes at night I get sleepy, but when I stay with it for a bit, I find a whole new reserve of energy that sustains me throughout my session. Anything that brings our actions together with our intentions energizes us and brings deep meaning to our lives. I used to have trouble sleeping, but now that I have a regular practice schedule, I have a restful unbroken sleep. Making a Clear Decision If we have an aspiration to practice, we should make a clear decision to do so. It won’t help to have a “split mind.” In Tibetan there is a term: yi nyi te tsom. Yi nyi means that we have two minds, or in other words, conflicting interests. Te tsom means that we have doubts concerning which way we want to go. We may want to practice, yet somehow we fail to bring our aspirations together with our actions. I see a lot of people wanting to practice yet not finding the time. It affects their self-esteem. We need to ask ourselves what prevents us from meeting our aspirations in life. Are we using our life well, or are we simply working to maintain it? How are we using our time? Are we considering what’s at stake? Are we tending to our desire for a meaningful life, or are we simply avoiding it? If so, why? How we spend our time depends on how we organize our time, and how we organize our time depends on how we envision our lives. Once we have sorted out these questions and have made a clear decision to make room in our lives for practice, we have to exert ourselves rather than let the mind become too loose and unorganized, and just wait for something to happen. Beware of Distraction Distractions come in all sorts of disguises. Sometimes we feel we need to manage everyone else’s problems. If we have this tendency, there will always be someone who wants to pull us in, in some way. They want to consult, but they don’t neces- sarily want to hear what we have to say. They just want to vent. They feel stressed, and then we get stressed and no one profits in the end. Or, if in our work we are too meticulous and fixate on perfecting everything, we may never get any- thing done and run out of time for practice. We may also feel that we are the only ones who know how to do anything, so we end up doing everything. Some people can never say no. These kinds of distractions don’t even include the constant need for entertainment and fun, and all the foreign, high- maintenance elements we invite into our lives, such as pup- pies, personal-entertainment systems, and fancy computers. Even in retreat, people can find all kinds of ways to occupy themselves and avoid practice, like spending hours each day pondering over their shopping lists. In India they say, “All you need are two chapattis a day.” I don’t think this means we need to subsist on two pieces of Indian bread a day, become a sadhu [an ascetic who renounces his body and all worldly things], or rough it. I think this is a metaphor for doing with- out. How much do we actually need? How often do we get distracted by wanting something, then trying to figure out how we can get it? Can we free ourselves from this kind of distraction through simply doing without? Whatever our ten- dency, it won’t do much good to blame anyone else for our distractions. Kunchyen Longchenpa said, “Distractions are limitless; only when you quit them will they leave.” I know how many hours of practice I want to do each day, and I organize my time to complete that. I find myself thinking a lot about time, how much I have, and what I want to do with it. SaSHaMeYerOwitz