I recently came across a fantastic book by Greg McKeown with lots of ‘dharmic’ themes. The book is: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
One of McKeown’s basic ideas is that it’s not just a question of decluttering, stream-lining and getting rid of stuff that’s in your way; it’s much more an issue of investing your time and energy in the very few things that really matter, leveraging the very few pursuits that deliver results and benefits.
The title of McKeown’s third chapter: Discern: The Unimportance of Practically Everything.
The unimportance of practically everything. Hmmm. Sitting with that thought, I’m confronted by the somewhat painful realization of it’s truth. What if the vast majority of my energy is mindlessly dumped into ultimately meaningless activity?
McKeown opens the chapter with a challenging quote from Richard Koch:
“Most of what exists in the universe – our actions, and all other forces, resources, and ideas – has little value and yields little result; on the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact.”
So what might be one of those few things that is really worth pursuing? Clearly, email, texting, Facebook, YouTube, even the Stanley Cup Playoffs… these don’t make the cut.
For me, and I assume for you (if you’re reading this), meditation is one of those few things.
Now consider something the Buddha said:
“Monks, I know not of any single thing that brings such woe as the mind that is untamed, uncontrolled, unguarded and unrestrained. Such a mind indeed brings great woe.
“Monks, I know not of any single thing that brings such bliss as the mind that is tamed, controlled, guarded and restrained. Such a mind indeed brings great bliss.”
It doesn’t get much more direct and blunt than that.
When I sit down to practice, I try to remember this teaching. The Buddha seems to be saying, “Here’s one thing you can do. With all the less essential stuff put to the side, you can do thisessential thing. You can train your mind in meditation. And if you can do it well, you’ll discover something truly remarkable — an abiding peace and happiness, a joy like no other.”
It’s a pep talk, of sorts. And like all good pep talks it puts the mind in a position to focus on the essential.
With the mind reminded of and motivated to pursue the essential, I’ve found concentration to just effortlessly flow. There’s just much less internal static when the mind has a clear frame of reference for what it’s meant to be doing.
So now, if you’re motivated, which I hope you are, I recommend the following 10 minute talk by Thanisarro Bhikkhu.
And to my German, French and Spanish friends, I’ve just discovered that Thanisarro’s books have been translated in all three languages, just click here.
Originally published on June 14, 2014