Is there anyone out there familiar with the problem of procrastination? I find it to be a problem in my life, and I write this article as a way of reminding myself of the gravity of this problem, and of it’s antidote. Who knows others could benefit from this reminder too. It can be snoozing or postponing to mail or call someone back, or leaving daily chores for later, are some innocent acts of procrastinating that could start to make one’s life a bit messy. But from there the step to procrastinating more important things in life is not so big anymore. Many people know they have to stop an addiction, or make other lifestyle changes to live a healthy life, but keep pushing forward the day they will really step into their strength again, being very creative in inventing excuses why right now is not yet the moment, and thus stay stuck in the same old behavioral patterns that keep them down forever.
Meditation practice is also something that easily gets postponed. Even though we clearly understand that it will bring great benefits in life, and in fact is essential to do if we want to end our suffering and that of others, even if we have been thought by the greatest meditation masters, and even if we faced the deepest crises to make us understand that there really is no other way out of this shit, excuzes le mot, than to sit down, calm the mind and do the practices that could make our life bearable and meaningful, still it is possible to think: there is time for it later, but right now the priority goes to the most trivial things; a cup of coffee, Facebook, any of the countless distractions modern life has to offer. I’m guessing there might be a few readers out there that can recognize something in this, and maybe reading articles like these is one of the ways of distracting yourself. But please read on, because I want to bring to mind an antidote to procrastination; namely the contemplation of the precious human body, one of the four mind-changings.
The tendency to take life for granted is an obstacle not only for spiritual practice, but actually stands in the way of being happy in our situation right now. We think life is no big deal, we do it everyday, and everybody is doing it, and the fact that we will surely die is taboo, we don’t think about, we don’t talk about it. But our life actually is a big deal, it could end any moment. Our life is precious. When we look at the great miracle of creation; the wonders of the earth, our own human body and the sacred mystery of the universe around us and within us, we can not help but being inspired and feeling blessed to be part of it. However, we spend most of our time not recognizing how wonderful this is, and instead overwhelm our mindstream and actions with distractions and other illusions we pretend are very important.
We’re either busy with our daily necessities, making a living, caring for our homes and families, and once we have a bit of spare time, we immediately fill it with other distractions, and by the end of the day we have been so occupied by this endless chain of distractions, that we haven’t even taken one moment to see what kind of an amazing miracle we are actually part of, let alone to use the precious opportunity of our life to progress spiritually. Days, weeks, years, a whole life time can easily pass by, being absorbed with distractions that spiral us further down in the endless cycle of suffering called samsara.
Those of us who have connected to a spiritual tradition such as the Buddhadharma have an even more precious situation, we actually have access to the teachings, guides and tools to make our life meaningful beyond the mundane. How sad would it be to squander such a rare and valuable chance away! The habit of taking these precious opportunities for granted is very strong. We are lazy, forgetful, and indulge in all the excuses we can come up with to procrastinate, doing the spiritual work we deep down know we have to do in favor of silly and self-destructive activities.
We are not going to get a better opportunity than this one. Our human body and mind enables us like no other vessel to evolve spiritually. We can think, talk, inquire, question, observe, we can travel, read, we can work with the energies within us and around us like no other being in this universe can. Teachers and teachings are available, and accessible, we have the freedom to connect to and explore anything we want, our brains are well equipped to study, reflect and be inspired.
The Buddha used an analogy to illustrate how rare it is to be reborn in a human body. He said the chance to have a human rebirth is as rare as the chance that a blind turtle, living on the bottom of the sea as big as the cosmos, who would only swim to the surface every 100 years, would accidently stick his head through the one piece of wood with a hole in it floating randomly around on the the waves of that sea. In other words: extremely rare. It takes aeons and aeons to create the karma to actually have this kind of rebirth. More likely you will be reborn as some insect or one of the countless other kinds of beings in this universe. Who knows what our rebirth will be in our next life. If we believe what the Buddha said, chances are rather small to have an opportunity like this again.
How would we feel at the end of our life to look back and realize we’ve wasted it? Like the sailors in the story, that discovered an island filled with precious gems and gold and jewels, they spent their time just partying and sleeping instead of filling their pockets with a fortune, and when the storm or flood came they had to leave the island in a hurry, empty handed. They felt foolish and filled with regret for sure! The attitude of taking life for granted, and failing to understand the value of each moment of our life, living it as if it never ends, is a very deep sickness that paralyzes most people.
In our times distractions are more overwhelming than ever before. Our economic and social system is based on distraction, technology is mainly designed to keep us distracted in a very effective way. It takes a courageous and inspired attitude to resist that, but if we don’t our life is surely wasted. So let’s bring to mind how precious this life is first. You can always procrastinate later!
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