How to Balance Practice and Mundane Life?
November 6, 2013
Realisation of impermanence is an important part of building the motivation to practice. However, lay persons are mostly still caught up with work and family, and the time left for dharma study, inner reflection and meditation becomes little.
Should we consciously try to limit the time spent on work by getting a less hectic job and try not to get married – which will increase family commitments – just so we have time to practice? Practice I feel is very important, but if we continue to live on beyond our next breath, bread and butter, family and friends are also important. The current day and age does not allow us to be like Milarepa and be so extreme as to survive on nettles alone. What is your advice to us lay persons as to how to balance practice and our mundane lives?
First of all, we have to be aware of the value of practice. I think the person who asks this question seems to understand the value of it.
For other people, in order to decide how to balance such things, and also to understand the answers, I think it is important to know the value of Buddha dharma.
Knowing the value of Buddha dharma is deeply connected with knowing the value of other people, and the connection with them. Now in this case, the person asks about family – which is directly related to Buddha dharma. So in some ways, the idea of separating family time and time to practice is a little bit more complicated than it first seems.
So first of all one has to really understand the value and meaning of the Buddha dharma. The next step is to ask the following question: ‘What can I do, according to where I am right now, according to my own circumstances, and my own time?’
This question is all about managing time, so again we may ask ourselves ‘What can I manage?’ Of course, we have to look at it quite realistically in terms of what is manageable, and also in terms of what is necessary and what is unnecessary. There may be a lot of things that we spend our time on which are quite unnecessary, and I think we then have to find the courage to be able to somehow slowly, slowly let go of these unnecessary activities.
These could vary from one individual to another. For some, maybe painting is beneficial; maybe it is a way to somehow benefit oneself and others. For others, it might be a complete distraction, so accordingly we have to see. What is required is an honest exploration into what can be done, what can be managed, and what is necessary and beneficial.
So I think if we cover these areas, then we are able to challenge this idea that there isn’t enough time. Indeed, just by going through these questions, we are actually making time – we are already making progress. At the very least, we develop a deeper understanding of our situation.
Once we have covered these questions, then I think we are left with the last step. This is to plan our life so that we are able to do everything that is necessary and beneficial. In this case, we have to make time to practice; we have to make time for others; we have to do everything, and somehow make it quite balanced, equal. It is difficult to find this balance, but it is important to plan in this way. It is also important to remember that the Buddha dharma reaches into all aspects of our life and experiences, and our connections with others, so in some ways every moment is also an opportunity to practice and to find balance.