I finally got around to making muffins this morning, America’s Test Kitchen “Better Bran Muffins” with dried raspberries from Trader Joe’s. I meant to make them on Friday, as I’d eaten the last one for breakfast, and that’s what I eat for breakfast every day lately — a muffin, raspberries, strawberries, a few dried plums, and a glass of water. But then I got busy (took an unplanned nap) Friday afternoon when I got home to let the dogs out and forgot about the muffins. Again, I meant to on Saturday, but went to the gym instead in the morning and forgot again once I got home. This morning, I felt like I really needed them, so made sure to get them done first thing, in between doing laundry and watching this month’s theme video for the Open Heart Project Sangha.
This month’s theme was the 7 characteristics of a Dharmic person. The short version is that a dharmic person cultivates the following:
- Preventing too many activities
- Good conduct
- Awareness of the teacher
- Propagating prajna/wisdom
- An attitude of goodness
The effort for me right now lands with the first three. And it’s a sort of “which came first, the chicken or the egg” sort of thing, because I can’t really say for sure which one happens first, what triggers what, I just know that I find myself circling between the three.
To be passionless doesn’t mean to be without passion, exactly. The energy of passion isn’t a bad thing. When it gets wonky is when you get caught in grasping and rejecting, agitating for something else, wanting things to be different, “wanting another now.” To be passionless is to cultivate some kind of tolerance for discomfort — when things don’t turn out the way you want, you don’t freak out. You can stay relaxed with what is.
To be content is to stop fussing with the way things are, to be okay with what is.
To prevent too many activities is to stop trying to do so much. This involves a busyness both physical and mental. The effort here is to not rush around, speed through things, smash yourself to bits. It also means to soften the way your mind constantly gnaws on your experience, working and worrying about all the things.
I have difficulty relaxing where I am, with what is. I want more, want something else, want better. If something is “wrong,” my immediate response is to try and fix it. And I keep myself so busy. Even if I look like I’m on the couch watching TV, my mind is rushing around. Even when I seem at rest, I’m busy.
Watching the video, listening to Susan’s talk this morning, made me more carefully consider my morning, my plans for the day. As I was watching the video, I was taking notes, making plans, baking muffins, and doing laundry. I was trying to get the video done so I could make it to a yoga class. I had plans for running errands after, three different stops. A shower when I got home, clean sheets on the bed, laundry put away, place an online order for some essentials we were running low on, balance the checkbook, make some flyers for my upcoming Wild Writing Crazy Wisdom classes, write a blog post, etc. This sort of planning, the rush, trying to do all the things, triggers an underlying and constant anxiety.
So I skipped my yoga class. I decided against running my errands because there wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait. And I remembered the video I watched the other day while I was riding the bike at the gym, the one where Laurie Foley talked about transforming energy, how as she was undergoing treatment for her cancer, she had to start asking herself about any choice she had to make “is this energizing, or is this draining?”
I’m spending the rest of my day contemplating these three qualities: passionlessness, contentment, and preventing too many activities — considering what tiny shifts I might make to cultivate them in this day of rest.