Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Balancing Act

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
-          Gautama Buddha

We have all heard and read a lot about living in the Now. Each of us, undoubtedly, interprets it in our own way. Yet, living in the present is not something one achieves and is done with! It is an on-going and everlasting exercise one engages in, and a rather challenging one at that. One of the reasons for this is the fact that at any given point in time, we are either busy doing something, or thinking something. Come to think of it, Human Life is all about swinging between either Thinking or Acting.
Needless to say, any task in life calls for some amount of thought and some amount of action. Finding the right balance between the two becomes a key determinant of your efficiency. At one end of the continuum are situations that require 100% action, thought comes later. This may be true when someone is getting a heart attack, and you simply need to call the ambulance NOW. There is no time for thought; you simply have to DO IT. Here, instant action is paramount. At the other end of the continuum are situations where 100% of thought may be applied, with no or negligible action. Take for instance the philosopher who spends years thinking about a theory and working it out in his mind. All his ‘action’ happens only on the fertile grounds of his mind; no ‘real’ measurable action takes place. Most situations, however, fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. There may be some tasks that call for more action and less thought, and vice versa. For a person to be efficient and effective in any task, he needs to be able to strike the right balance between the two.

Temperamentally though, we tend to have a preference for one over the other. Some of us are thought oriented, we prefer to mull and ponder, gaze and wonder, think and ruminate over the way things are. Thinkers are often seen as dreamers, star gazers, philosophers, or even as lazy good-for-nothings. It is the thinkers who make us see the world from a new light, who question age old customs, who ask Why? What? How? How come?

On the other hand, some of us are more action oriented, who believe in getting out there and taking charge. These are the actors, the ones who can move mountains, who can get things done, who compel the rest of us to move out of our comfort zones. These are the ones who lead by their example, who believe that actions speak the loudest.

Having a perfect balance between these two frequencies, arriving and remaining at the center of this spectrum, is probably what meditation is all about……

The Buddha is the one who mastered this to perfection. Think of the Buddha and what comes to your mind is his serene expression, his equanimity, his meditative posture.  The Buddha achieved the peak of the thinking frequency; he questioned established patterns, he came up with a whole new philosophy of Life. Yet, the Buddha is also the epitome of the actor, the do-er. While he practiced renunciation and detachment, he did so in the midst of people. He acted, every minute of the day, to communicate his thoughts, his views and his philosophy to people, he was seen constantly engaged in some service to humanity or other. He was a tireless worker, a do-er to the core. Thus, he mastered both these seemingly disparate frequencies to achieve perfect equanimity.

This, then, is what each of us needs to aspire for. No, not all of us can become a Buddha. Yet, it is equally true that the potential to be a Buddha lies between each of us. Life, then, needs to be a sincere attempt at always remaining in harmony with our thoughts and our actions, always ensuring that one feeds into the other, and, most of all, that they are both helping us reach the same destination. Knowing our natural temperamental inclination, and then working consciously toward also inculcating the other, is what will help us achieve this goal.

Article first published in the Inaugral Issue of 'Just Let Go' in September 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Balance - How difficult is it to find the right balance? I often find myself struggling to do so. There are times when everyone thinks of me as a workaholic. If I'm driven to do a task, I can be quite fearsome. I remember the time I had to write my thesis - I actually went without food and sleep for 2 days straight because I did not want to interrupt or slow down my thought process! Later, once it was over, I gave the best imitation of laziness possible.

    I think I am more of a thinker than a doer. But what is nice is that I can switch modes as and when necessary!