I’ve been reading a couple of interesting books. One, which I’ve read a couple of times before, is called The Diamond Cutter, which elaborates a Buddhist view on business and life management. I’m not done with it, yet, but it is subtly shifting my consciousness in a new direction. Actually, it is more accurate to say that it is continuing a shift in consciousness that has been underway for years.
As I allow (force) myself to do less “work” and more “life,” new insights are coming to me.
Those of you who do not know me well won’t know that I have a tendency to work entirely too much, in a way that does damage to everything I care about, including my body and mind. Despite the fact that I know this, I sometimes get lost in fiddling with business systems, researching new ways of marketing and creating content, planning the logistics of classes and otherwise filling myself up completely with work, work, work.
When I allow this to happen, which is most of the time, life starts to feel dead. Symptoms crop up all over my body. My business starts to weaken. Finances become tighter. I become more stressed. This starts a negative cycle.
My ego and rational mind believe that the more I work on work, the more I invest in systems, procedures, brainstorming and the like, the more my business will thrive, and thus, the fewer stresses I will experience, and thus, the better energy/more happiness I will experience.
From a rational perspective, this actually makes some sense.
It’s also validated by the fact that when I do this – when I work on my business so intensely – it actually feels good in the moment. It feels like I’m doing something, going somewhere. I can even sometimes convince myself that these decisions and this journey comes from my heart or spirit, that I’m following the flow of energy, doing good work, fighting the good fight.
But again, I’m realizing the deep lie in all of it.
The systems, the strategy, the focused work of achievement are vacuous and unimportant. The truth of my life and my business comes from my heart, and my spirit, and all the aspects of my physical reality resonate to the tune of THOSE THINGS, not the other way around.
This is so hard for me to say out loud – because part of my brain is screaming that this is woo-woo silliness. But, I have to accept its truth as has been manifested in my life and the lives of the people I have coached in business.
I used to think about all of this a lot in terms of yin and yang. The furious activity and planning and tweaking is more yang, and all the other stuff is more yin. So, I was always in a balancing act, being aware of the yang tendencies I have, and trying to cool them down with yin. But, now I see it differently. Instead, I feel that a better model is the five phase model of wood, fire, earth, metal and water.
These five interpenetrate each other and keep one another in control.
In resonance with the macrocosm they bear qualities of the “five planets” in Chinese astronomy (jupiter, mars, saturn, venus and mercury – respectively) and resonate with larger movements in the cosmos. In the microcosmic reality of our bodies, they resonate with the five yin organ systems (liver, heart, spleen, lung and kidney) and all the qualities associated with them, among other things.
The essential energies, along the lines of what I’m discussing, are:
- Wood / Newness, movement, initiation
- Fire / Development, interaction, culmination
- Earth / Rest, nourishment, stabilization
- Metal / Descent, discernment, decline
- Water / Preparation, vision, gestation
Instead of just balancing two factors, with all the over-simplification that human minds often bring with that, there are five intricate energies to be aware of and nurture.
At times, it may be necessary for one to be predominant, but never so much that the others are neglected. Not ever. Not once. Not even for a moment. In other words, at the beginning of a business venture, there is a whole lot of wood. Things need to be purchased and discovered, documents are being signed, resources are being rapidly generated and reallocated, everything is movement and spring and always, ever upward.
There can be a tendency, at least in me, to neglect everything else. To pour it all in, to hold nothing back, to ignore risk and concern and myself, and just GROW.
Rationally, that makes some sense. Put all your momentum behind the swing and go for the bleachers. The idea is – when this is all over – I can sit back and relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor (fire) and then later just sink into the regular workflow (earth) and so on.
But that’s not how it works best, at least not for most of us.
Instead, in that furious activity, in that neglect for our being (and sometimes everything else) we break something. We create an imbalance in the system. To extend the analogy overlong, our wood overcomes our earth – we stop trusting, we stop resting, we stop finding stability. Earth weakens.
This begins the spread of the dysfunction throughout the system, and is hard to pull back.
So, instead, my personal goal is to be aware of these factors and keep them as balanced as possible.
This doesn’t require obsession, it doesn’t require anxiety, it doesn’t require some kind of intense focus on balancing. Haha – exactly the opposite! It requires relaxing into the reality of the need for this balance. Recognizing that it is a fundamental principle of the universe, and not something that is possible to violate without serious consequences.
And then gently, simply, making room for this reality to blossom in my life and work.
It’s not just about rest, it’s not just about exercise, it’s not just about relationship, it’s not just about spirituality, it’s not just about “taking care of myself,” it’s not just about the importance of all the business systems.
It’s about realizing that the biggest complexity in business is keeping a light touch on all of these factors and keeping them as a happy, mutually supportive, family.
It’s about realizing that life is work and work is life – there is no separation.
This doesn’t just save me, it saves those around me, and makes my business more successful. That’s not just a pipe dream – it’s a truth I’ve learned a hundred times. This makes the hundred and first learning experience.
I’m looking forward to seeing if I can retain the insight and let it enliven every part of my existence. Will you help me to remember? Maybe hearing your stories along these lines would help – share your thoughts in the comments.
[This post has been updated during the 2020 site updates. My goal during post updates was to keep the character of the original post, but update for corrections and clarity, as well as to remove broken links.]