Here, there is plenty of time for me to be inward and also to ponder. Plus, I am immersed in this beautiful culture of India, so far away from America and its special ways. Only from a distance do I even hear of happenings back home. It gives perspective. We get so involved in the external: the people and actions of our world. It is easy for our focus to be always engaged in thoughts and feelings about these transitory externals. Of course, we must not escape our responsibilities of life, either. The balance is to be not emotional about work, world, or family but to do that which is ours to do without attachment.
It amounts to doing life like a video game. We use all of our focus and skill, and we sincerely try to succeed, but we know actually that it is ultimately just a game, temporary, unreal. The Reality is ongoing while we are playing, and when the game subsides, the reality, of course, still stays, so then we can really focus on that which remains, that which is Real. In deep meditation, the game is gone, we put aside the unreal, everything that is truly “not me” fades, the gunas (qualities of nature) stop playing, and we can be wholly aware of the Real shining forth, the Self who we really are. So we must hold both things simultaneously: play the unreal as if it were real but without deep investment, and know that the all-pervading, never-changing Real is what really matters, and that it is our true, ever present, core Self.
We are responsible for our own realization of the Truth, not for the salvation of another or of the world. Engagement is good. We must have a project, or the mind can get dull or disturbed. So engaging in work is helpful, and not just for making our lives more secure and stable, which is a necessity. We can’t just pray and play. There should also be some sense of project, of purpose. (Not that we are obligated to use our free time in service or “giving back”). Right work makes the mind skilled in the joy of concentration. The focused mind learns discernment, insight, and flow. In flow, distractions fall away and endorphins soothe the mind. If our only project is family and the greater world arena, both of which tend to have complex problems and neither of which is in our control, then the mind is more likely to become identified, involved, and disturbed. Work helps us have a meaningful project in which we can have some good results, or at least a project in which we can apply our skill. Of course, we also need meditation and contemplation. In some life phases, our work is spiritual study and practice and tending to the physical body and dwelling place. That’s actually a great way to spend one day a week or month.
It is good to keep that moderate balance of internal and external and not give ourselves away to the external. So, we do our duties, but we keep a big reserve of time and energy for the Self, for the liberation project. We must try to create enough of our own time and space for that. It requires setting priorities and boundaries. The mind wants to stay involved in its ingrained desires and defenses, it wants to distract us, frittering away hours that never return. We are accountable for what we get done toward our own liberation. But, again, that is not to be to the exclusion of building a stable practical foundation in the world, for without such a foundation, the mind is likely to focus on anxiety and fear and have trouble settling down to a sattvic (quiet) state for deep meditation.