by Terry Plotkin
I observe many things that people do – jobs they have, ways they spend their time, their habits and hobbies, how they conduct themselves – and sometimes I have this knee-jerk reaction that reminds me of what I knew when I left college: What I didn’t want to do. That list will come in another post, but first I will tackle the much harder task: What is worth doing. I spent years contemplating this after college, and it was intense and difficult. Like most things, the process is never done. Time for some introspection, which is one of the few good things the month of March is good for.
Maintenance: This is job one for any living thing and it takes up the majority of our time. Let’s break it down.
Sleep – not too much, not too little. What is the right amount? Listen to your body. Sleep needs vary from season to season, your age, your physiology, and many other things. Some people are better off sleeping in 4 to 5 hour segments, waking up, doing something, and going back to sleep – something that used to be commonplace before the industrial revolution decided that would make you late for work, and created the 8-hour model. This edict came from the doctors and experts to help factory life, not people.
Taking care of the body: Definitely seems worth it to me. Exercise in all manner of ways: Train yourself to be strong, flexible, well balanced, coordinated, with endurance. Doing these things takes time, so it is best if you can do it in ways that bring some joy. This will pay immediate dividends, and, if you happen to live a long life, it is bound to make old age way more pleasant.
Eating: Although for many people eating seems more like recreation, that should be secondary. Most everyone knows what foods are best and how much they should consume. The trick is in the discipline and discerning what really matters: Health.
Drinking: Same as eating.
Procreating: I don’t feel like writing about sex right now.
Having enough income to not worry about survival seems worth doing. If you can get it while doing something meaningful, that gives back to yourself and the community, and that you enjoy, then so much the better. Work that feels to you like it makes a difference, whether you are getting paid for it or not.
Securing a shelter: A basic need for protection and creature comfort. It is worth it to secure a home, but it’s not worth it to get more space than one could ever want or need. Too much maintenance, too much time, too many resources devoted to it spoils the inner life.
Speaking of the inner life, time to move beyond maintenance. What I have found worth doing is to contemplate soulful matters. (Time for this includes the middle of the night when the experts think I should be asleep), Questions like: What is a positive livelihood? How am I conducting myself? How do I feel about my relationships?
What is the purpose of life? Where do we come from? Where do we go? What is my karma? Where did it come from? How do I deal with it? Is my life moving in the right direction? Do I appreciate what I have been given? Am I gracious in the way I treat others? You know, the basics, as in the meaning of life, the kinds of things that our society, strangely, has so little interest in.
Cultivating good relationships. Friends who can help you answer some of the questions above are precious. Regardless, positive relationships increase happiness.
A spiritual practice: I need it. Got to have it. There are lots of ways to go about this. Part of our job is to seek it out.
That’s all I got for now. Got any ideas?