What do you yearn for, and where does it direct you?
As we savor the last sweet days of summer, and many prepare for school, I have been thinking about this. And about the nature of the scholar and inner learning.
What is it we really want? What are we studying and learning and trying to achieve in this life?
We live in both our inner and our outer experiences, and the emphasis on one or the other ebbs and flows, and perhaps the balance shifts over time. But the outer distractions have a way of taking over. It is important to find ways and means of attending to our inner growth and awareness even as we are present and tending to our physical, intellectual, and emotional development.
Lao Zi, a 6th century B.C. Chinese philosopher, put it this way:
“In pursuit of earthly learning, as more knowledge is acquired, something is added to your mind; however, in pursuit of spiritual learning, as more is learned, something is subtracted.”
It is important to make time and space for contemplation and reflection, as these are the gateways to inner awareness. But how do we do this? By taking time for solitude, by isolating yourself, even for a few minutes at a time, from the pressures and distractions of the outer world—your job, your family, your community, as well as your computer, phone, and other gadgets and the constant incoming assault of all forms of media and opinion.
Take time and turn away from these outer engagements in order to find quietness and stillness in yourself. This is the way to rediscover you: your original you, your true expression of your Self, you as an aspect of creation and as a co-creator.
As you experience more “subtracting” from your mind, you will give yourself a clean slate, a new screen—and the freedom to pursue something new. To discover something. To create something.
I recently visited the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Vancouver. A Chinese Scholar’s Garden is designed as a way to free the mind and it is not quite the same as other Japanese or Chinese garden landscaping. It is a carefully constructed (as opposed to planted) environment, designed for serenity and to shut out the demands, and even the views, of the outer world, with the specific intention to support the turn inward to matters of philosophy, spirit, and truth. All of the elements of nature are represented, from mountaintop to valley, rivers to ocean, lakes, trees, rocks, carefully chosen plantings; and these are brought together in a very small space to concentrate the life force (Qi) that animates.
If you find yourself near Vancouver, don’t miss a chance to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. You may find more information at http://vancouverchinesegarden.com.
In the meantime, build yourself a virtual Scholar’s Garden. One feature of the Chinese classical garden is the “leak windows”: open air portals that allow light in, but have obscured views outward, usually by artful placement of walls behind the windows. In this spirit, find a place to settle and free your mind, a place where the light comes in, but where you are not distracted by looking out.
Enjoy these last lingering days of summer. Take some time for your Self.