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Monk Notes 23 - On Balancing Being and Doing

There’s a fundamental tension in life between two internal postures: Control and surrender; agency and dependency; prudence and trust.

Some people grip too tightly. They try to maintain total control over every detail of their life, doing everything possible to make sure that everything goes according to plan. They feel anxious and uptight, afraid that their plans will fall apart if they relax for a minute too long. They may have an internal sense that the world is at odds with them, like they’re swimming up a waterfall.

Some people grip too loosely. They allow their external environment to push them from one side to the other, flowing back and forth with no anchor. They neglect their own agency and allow the opinions and desires of the people around them to dictate their decisions and actions. They’re prone to surrendering personal responsibility and often feel victim to their circumstances.

The one person may erroneously believe that they can control the process of life, while the other has a false sense that they have no control over their circumstances.

The difficult balance to strike is a collaborative stance toward the process of life. Giving and taking, leading and following, allowing each moment to offer itself to you and embracing the fitting response — either decisive action or receptive surrender. There is no one-size-fits-all posture toward every situation. But we each have a natural posture that we’re inclined to default toward; one side or the other.

So how do we strike this balance?

The best thing is to pay attention, to remain present and mindful, and push away from auto-pilot. Just like with diets where you listen to your body — how does each part of you feel as you engage with your world? Listen closely to your body, heart, and spirit to notice what is moving you toward a fuller life and what isn’t. Then adjust.

This is the path to peace and fullness; being and doing in balance.


All the best,

Steven Lawson

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”

- Immanuel Kant


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Featured Art: Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji: Fine Wind, Clear Morning, Hokusai (1832)