“There are those who are good at cultivating life.”
Some mornings I sit in bed and write. But only after my morning routine of breakfast, meditation, spiritual readings and praying. This is one of those mornings. The line above in bold came from my reading of the Tao Te Ching, a book I read daily for profound Chinese wisdom.
What I gleaned from this particular reading (#50) was that 3 in 10 people seek longevity of life and therefore live carefully and cautiously; another 3 in 10 seek life indiscriminately and live dangerously or with self-abuse; and the final 3 in 10 live grandiosely, seeking immeasurable pleasure and worldly goods. None of these is the way of the Tao.
Only 1 in 10 is “good at cultivating life.”
What does it mean to “cultivate life”?
I think it has to do with experiencing, embracing, loving and being loved, demonstrating kindness, having friends, traveling, making art, laboring, impacting others, making them happy, thinking, writing, creating, sharing deeply about things that matter, reading and learning, discovering, and being surprised by the aha’s.
Sounds good, huh?
But the price for such a life is quite costly: time, willingness, mindfulness/presence, and a little money. The easiest of the four is money. You can always find a little money for something you really want.
Time, willingness, and mindfulness. Now we’re talking tough things. We are generally too busy to find “time,” too lazy too be “willing,” and too scattered to be “mindful.” Well, at least I am guilty of all the above. I have a feeling that many of my readers are guilty of the same sin; the sin of failing to enjoy and embrace the life we have (or can have). You have a choice: allow life to do you or proactively do the life you want. (See previous post.)
I have my moments when I actually experience The Good Life. I lose my gotta-do self and my need to complete my “action list” and actually take a moment to be fully present to enjoy my friends or book or movie or painting… or that job I do to make a few lousy bucks. Unfortunately, those moments aren’t frequent enough.
So today I plan to “practice what I preach.” I am planning a spectacularly “ordinary” day. This morning I will drive an hour south to Oceanside to visit with my sister and then have lunch with a friend. I will drive along the coast, listen to music, and fill myself up with people I love and care about. That’s it; no big deal. No airplanes or museums or Disneylands. Just friends, a car, and some music.
I can’t wait!!!
5 Habits of The Good Life
I plan to apply some of my life-learnings that might be helpful for you as well since we are on this journey of discovering The Good Life together…
- Stay Curious. I doubt there is any state of mind that makes life more exciting than CURIOSITY. It engages that awesome sense of mystery and surprise.
- Weave In and Out of Mindfulness. I don’t think it’s possible to be wholeheartedly mindful 100% of the time. Way too much effort. So much in fact that I can be so concerned with being mindful that I actually lose the “presence” I am seeking. Haha
- Listen. I have been working on this for years and I’m genuinely getting much better at it. Here are some tips:
- When the other is speaking, refrain from talking the first time you want to say something. Just stay quiet, and…
- Allow the other person to complete her thought before you say a word.
- Consider asking a question for clarification before you offer your opinion or experience or story. Doing this allows the other person to feel truly “heard.”
- Feel My Body. Okay, I know this sounds weird, but it’s a really helpful technique I have learned from meditation. For example, when driving I feel myself “sitting,” my foot on the gas pedal, and my hands on the steering wheel. This act lasts only 10-20 seconds, but it is a curiously effective way of sensing the act of being “present in the moment.” I do the same thing sitting in a dining booth or with a client or even watching TV, and especially when I paint.
- Do These Habits Every Day. You don’t have to wait for that special drive along the coast. You have opportunities every day to “be all there.” Even at work. Life is short and gets shorter after each day passes. Don’t miss a single moment because “moments” are all we have!
I think The Good Life is merely a matter of reaping the benefits of “The Awe of the Ordinary.”
And so, as always we land upon choice. What will it be?