Monday, April 11, 2016

Already Monday

"Flowers in the Wilderness"

This morning I was browsing through Facebook when I came across a humorous little quip from one of my friends lamenting over the fact that the weekend he was so looking forward to is already over: “Oh no, it can’t be Monday already!”

I wonder if lots of people may be engaged in this very same lament now that the long expected weekend has come to an end and it’s already Monday.

It makes me think about something I came across a while ago in one of my Buddhist magazines:

People who work from Monday to Friday often think that they have to wait
until the weekend to be happy.
After five days of suffering through work
they try to make up for it with two days of being happy.
What kind of life is that?

I know plenty of people (even people who basically like their jobs) who just can’t wait for the weekend, and to some extent dread the thought of another work week about to begin once Monday comes along. Many people work almost incessantly during the week, from early morning until 8 in the evening and sometimes later than that, and even when they get home there are the texts and emails that need to be answered. And even if you aren’t getting up to go to work many people may find Monday somewhat depressing because it signals a time for getting back into the everyday, ordinary routine.

My guess is that lots of people live their everyday lives stuck in the rut of relative boredom,  putting up with the bad stuff and looking forward to the good stuff. Many people set the gaze of their lives upon some future prize- a weekend, a vacation, an upcoming holiday or party. But when that longed-for future event finally arrives, when the future becomes the present, many times it is a disappointment- just another opportunity for “looking forward to” something better to happen in the days ahead.

The problem with the always “looking forward mentality” is that it often robs us of the opportunity to experience the wonder of each present moment.

I am reminded of a great Zen story about a group of young novice monks in a Buddhist monastery who were really looking forward to the visit of a very famous teacher who had been scheduled to come and live among them as a mentor and teacher for a week or so.

The monks had eagerly awaited the master-teacher and they had been preparing for his visit for many weeks, but when the day finally came for the teacher’s arrival the monks were severely disappointed because he never showed up. In fact, they waited all week long and the teacher still never arrived, and the longer they waited for him, the more frustrated and angry the young monks became, feeling as if they had been “robbed” of a great opportunity to be taught by such a renowned master.

Eventually, after a week or so, the old master finally showed up at the monastery. The younger monks angrily lashed out at him – didn’t he realize he was supposed to spend the week with them as their teacher? When they asked him where he had been, the old master simply smiled and said:

First I went following the fragrant grasses.
Now I return chasing falling leaves.

In point of fact even though he wasn’t with them during the week, the old master had indeed been teaching the novice monks. He was teaching them a lesson about enjoying what the present moment has to offer. He was helping them to face the demon of “always looking forward to something better yet to come.”

The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, once advised his young student:

If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it.
Blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches

Sounds like wise advice to me now that Monday has come around once again.  

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