Sunday, July 12, 2009


There has been an awful lot of restlessness in this body and mind lately. The desire to be "moving on" to something else, combined with a fear of stagnation and a sense of being very, very tired of old story lines and patterns.

Some of the restlessness is job-related. A deep sense of being called somewhere else, but without the clarity or a direction connected to it to follow.

And some of it may have to do with the recent breakup I had, and this longing for a partnership wherein both members grow and evolve "in tandem," as Stephen Levine puts it.

There are other things I could point to that are contributing to this restlessness, but at the end of the day, it's all just that: pointing.

What is clear is that I have a hell of a hard time staying with, riding the waves we call restlessness. Katagiri Roshi used to warn his students not to get "tossed away" by events and emotions in your life, and this is definitely one place where getting tossed away easily occurs.

I keep asking: how much of this restlessness is simply the failure to fully accept what is occuring in my life right now? And how much of that failure to do so is tied to the view that if I do so, nothing in my life will ever change?

It's all very funny, you know, seeing how easily you can fall into fatalistic thinking. It's so easy to conflate acceptance with resignation, to believe that if you let go of the resistance you have to the things you really don't like about your life, that those things will take over like thistles and quack grass in an abandoned field. And maybe this is just what is needed, to become an abandoned field available to be taken over - but only temporarily. It reminds me of how organic farmers use cover crops to replenish the soil. For a season or two, the whole place is taken over by a weedy legume, which in turns makes it possible for a future of abundance.

When looking deeper at the two issues pointed at above as contributers to the restlessness, it's easy to see how both of them are compounded by fears and fatalisms. With the job situation, there's a strong fear that I don't have enough and/or won't have enough in the future. Tied to this is the more vain belief that my education level and experience have earned me the "right" to have a well paying job that supports my talents and desire to better benefit others.

In the relationship situation, it's very clear that not only is there an attachment to the story I have about what I "need," but also a fear that because I won't just "settle," that it may mean being alone for the rest of my life.

What's interesting is that I already have a job where my work does benefit others. It's very true that my pay covers just the bills and a little extra, and leaves me almost no wiggle room if some emergency spending issue arose. However, it's also true that we in the U.S. have grown up with the idea that success is tied to moving up the ladder, and having enough material wealth to be able to blow some of it on entertainment, travel, and other leisure activities. And, even more importantly, moving up the ladder economically provides us with a level of security that those who are poor do not have. While there is some truth to this, it's also a false sense of security - no one is really safe in this world if you think about it. Zen Master Seung Sahn said "If we look at this life ... we see that nobody guarantees it. Everything in our life is very dangerous: it doesn't exist, it is illusion." Now, all of this doesn't mean I have to stay at my current job, but it does point to the fact that what I think I need and what I really need may be two very different things.

What is this restlessness anyway? Is it just a lack of patience, or does it also contain a calling?

Maybe if I become an abandoned field, I'll find out.


ZenDotStudio said...

I love the analogy of the abandoned field. It speaks from a very deep level, saying that you do know what to do. That you know your work right now is to have patience. You have planted the seeds or maybe if it's an abandoned field, the seeds have planted themselves. So I agree with you that you just need to have patience which can be so hard to do. If we go tugging on those little seedlings before they have established themselves, you know how that story ends. Ah the joy of getting to know our slippery little selves.

Robyn said...

Hi Nathan,

Since I don't really know you other than what you have shared with us on this blog, obviously it is hard to say but even a quick reading of your posts would indicate that you are probably not an impetuous person, so I wouldn't worry too much over it.

The best piece of advice I have ever received is this: just point yourself in the direction you want to go and see what happens.

That's really all you have to do. It is really all you can do.

Warmly, Robyn

Kyle said...

"What is this restlessness anyway?"

I think we all get this sometimes, this feeling we need to be doing something, moving in some goal oriented direction, or at least feeling like our lives aren't wasted time.

You are not alone riding these restless waves of Samsara. :-)

Nathan said...

Thank you all for your kind, wise comments!


Mystic Meandering said...

I was moved by your post today, as I have often found myself in the same place. What jumped out at me in your blog, was the question - does it contain a calling? And, the statement, "what I think I need and what I really need may be two different things..." I relate to both. I do see anything that happens to us to cause this sense of restlessness, or any other unsettlng feeling as a "calling" in a sense...a symptom of a deeper calling in a way. What does *it* want, why is it calling to you? You have such wonderful insights with this already that I'm sure you'll *see* what needs to be seen with it - in time. :) Christine

Jennifer Campaniolo said...

I love the analogy of the field being left to overgrow with weeds for a while. I think the hard times get us to thinking more clearly and effectively than the good times do. Small comfort, maybe, but you will come out of this stronger. I too have had jobs I hated and breakups that left me staggering with loss, but then I've also had great jobs and a good relationship. Ride this wave and I know you won't drown!