Tibetan monks over many generations have identified lack of control over the mind and its wanderings as one of the greatest obstacles to their devotion. To offset this hampering reality, they will spends day creating intricate and colorful mandala sand paintings — works of art that demand intense concentration. Once the paintings are completed, the monks sweep away their meticulous work and glorious creations with a broom. There’s a method to their madness: It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. It’s the process of creating their fleeting works of art that counts – and the opportunity it gives them to practice awareness, focus, discipline, and control.
How fortunate we are! As writers, we’re not sweeping our entire creations away once they’re down on paper – although there are surely many times when we feel compelled to toss away work that isn’t working despite the huge amounts of time we may have spent creating it. Not easy, is it?
Still, the Tibetan monks’ may have something to teach us here about focusing on our destination and on right effort — and not on results. When we bring focus and right effort to our work – on doing the best we can from moment to moment without worrying about the outcome — magical things happen:
We free ourselves to bring awareness to our work: to stay in the present.
We find our rhythm – that inner sense of ebb and flow that guides us when we let it.
We leave behind all the worries about what people will think about what we’re doing.
We give ourselves the opportunity to find joy in our work as it unfolds before us.
We escape the trap of judging our output while we’re producing it – and let it flow.
There are many things that keep us from focusing on our work as intently as the Tibetan monks must to create their amazing mandalas. We have time pressures, family pressures, life pressures. Yet, to do the work we want to do, to give it the chance to ripen and grow, we need to move being constricting pressures into an open space – the space where creativity happens. Enjoying our journey without worry about our destination can help free us to find that space. Write on!
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