Scheduling Your Life
Written by David Nichtern
When asked how we could possibly find time for our meditation practice in the midst of our oh-so-busy lives, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche used to respond (in his best Tibetan/Oxonian English accent), “Shed-you-ling”.
These days, time is, arguably, many people’s most precious commodity. How we choose to “spend” our time is one of the most powerful decisions we can make. Learning how to master time, rather than letting time master us, is truly one of the key elements for living a good life.
When we decide to develop our spiritual practice (whatever it is), making time for it actually overcomes one of the most powerful and fundamental obstacles we will face. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (Trungpa’s son and current head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage) has whittled down the public recommendation for beginning meditators to 10 minutes a day. Even then, many people will have a hard time finding that time.
There are so many time-stealers these days. Here in New York, people are moving so fast that they are almost flying through the streets. But where are we really going? Sitting meditation practice can be a powerful antidote to the anxiety-provoking pace of modern life. In this practice, we can come to a full stop, allowing our mind to settle and develop natural ease and insight. Then we re-enter the fray.
These days, Tibetan lamas and western scientists, together and apart, are promoting the benefits of meditation. It is now clear that all kinds of positive results are attributable to cultivating mindfulness and awareness, and some traditional practices have been imported into medical and psychological disciplines, pain management, stress reduction, team-building, corporate strategic planning — you name it.
Meditation practice, as presented in Buddhism, is perhaps primarily intended to help us attain enlightenment, which means many things, but mainly liberation from all kinds of suffering and confusion. Along the way, there are various benefits, ranging from becoming more peaceful, centered, kinder, more efficient and more compassionate and skillful in working with others.
But none of those benefits can be realized if we can’t make time to do our practice, and “shed-you-ling” can be the key to finding that time.
So, for anybody who wants to explore this topic further, for the benefit of your practice or whatever other activities you want to make time for in your life, here are a few questions to contemplate:
• Do I even have a schedule, or am I just bouncing from activity to activity, with some degree of random intensity and an underlying feeling of long lists accumulating and a slight edge of panic about getting it all done?
• Do I prioritize my activities, or are they all equal in value, meaning sometimes the trivial tasks get done, while the most important ones remain unaccomplished? Have I seriously contemplated the relative value of all the aspects of my life, to place them into some kind of proper hierarchy?
• Have I looked at my physical environment, at home, and at work, to see what kind of structures I have created to support my schedule for living and working? What is reflected there when I do look?
• Do I schedule in time for play, fun, new pursuits, loving and sharing, along with my seemingly endless lists of obligatory functions?
•Do I have a long list of excuses why I never get to practice? Do I really believe that insufficient time is the true nature of my obstacle, as opposed to, maybe, laziness, fear, doubt, emotional blockages, and rationalization?
In my life, studying the dharma and practicing meditation are absolutely key to finding balance and harmony amongst the rest of my activities. If my practice falls away, I can literally watch my little life boat start to rock and tip in the water.
In this sense, practice just means whatever is our way of leaving some time and space to achieve balance and harmony in our lives. Without “shed-you-ling” it in, our practice might remain on our list of the things we’ll do when we get to them, some sweet day.