Shantideva said, “Have a Break.”
Recently, I have the good fortune to attend His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Melbourne on Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. It is a wonderful and inspiring experience, but, as usual for me, I tend to forget the contents of the teaching just as quickly.
However, a few things do stick around a bit longer. One of which is this verse that His Holiness quoted from the seventh chapter on enthuasiasm. I think it is the only verse from this chapter that he has read out:
When my strength declines, I should leave whatever I am doing
In order to be able to continue with it later.
Having done something well, I should put it aside
With the wish (to accomplish) what will follow. (verse 67)
Its main theme is about taking a well-deserved rest at the appropriate time. You can see why I manage to hold onto this piece of advice.
It takes awareness and wisdom to detect the changes within, especially when our mental and physical strengths decline. Just as everything that is impermanent is subjected to change, likewise, our attention and effort also go through up’s and down’s. Noticing that they are showing signs of weakening, we need to let go of some idealised image in our mind of how much we can do and respect the current states of our body-mind. Skilfully setting aside the tasks for the moment, we allow our body and mind to have a good rest.
Taking a break involves its own set of skills. Knowing what our individual body requires, we strive to provide the necessary balance of nutrients, rest and exercise. Understanding how our mind is doing, we can lovingly provide the needed space, time, and alternative stimuli to help it to unwind and rest.
Resting is also a part of the change process that leads to the formation of new habits and the diminishing of old, unskilful habits. The time and space we find ourselves in while resting is an opportunity for integration and assimilation of new understandings and learnings. So, when you catch yourself thinking, “Life is short and I have to use every moment of it to do something, preferably something spiritual,” why not stop for a while and rethink the whole thing? Have you allocated some time and resources for a good break?
Sometimes, breakthroughs on the spiritual path comes to us during the break.
Published on June 23, 2011.
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