Beyond Actions

Photo by Marco Zuppone on Unsplash

Read on Medium.

I’ve always been dreaming about a zen garden on my desk. But… not enough space, not the right tray, the usual small “obstacles” and time passed by.

I already had a small quantity of sand and also collected a few good stones in the Alps. But the sand was not much, and the tray was still missing.

The other day, while searching for something else in a store, I found a small tray. Simple, with slightly rounded corners, light-colored, with the right height of the edges. Too small for a proper dry garden or, at least, for the garden I had in mind. Still, it was there, and the sand at my disposal at the moment was the right amount for that tray. So, I bought it.

When I returned home, it was already late, and the tray remained in the shopping bag on the couch. But I couldn’t wait to put it on my desk, filled with sand and with two or three good stones on it.

The day after, in the middle of other things to do and before leaving home, I happened to have ten or fifteen spare minutes at my disposal. And, of course, I immediately took the tray in my hands, then I took the sand and stones out of where I was keeping them, also finding out that I had two small bags of different types of sand. I was about to assemble the little artifact.

But fortunately, I stopped.

I waited years for that. Why rush it? It’s a zen garden. Rush would indeed flow into it. Precisely the opposite of what it deserves and is expected to return.

So, I waited and dedicated myself to it when I returned home. It took just half an hour, but it wasn’t time-boxed. It was the time it took.

I rearranged my desk. Then choose the right sand. Then the “right” set of stones. And, finally, the zen garden found its place on my desk. But I had no tools for raking the sand, especially for such a small garden. I searched and found an old wooden pen that suited the case. And that’s all.

The zen garden finally on my desk

None of that would be “right,” if rushed. I could adjust things over time — sure — but, at least, I would have missed the moment of a peaceful birth of the garden. Which, to me, is particularly important for the whole experience around it.

Now, this may sound like an insignificant and even naïve story.

In “real” life, we don’t have time for doing things the “right” way, right?

Let’s assume that rushing things is usually appropriate in “real” life. Like a marriage, at work, in a discussion with your son, or even just driving, cooking, or talking to friends. They can certainly all benefit from a little rush, a shortcut, or a little push toward misunderstanding, discord, carelessness, danger, failure… right?

There’s a line between efficiency and rush. Rush removes awareness. Haste deprives our actions of an overall evaluation and the possibility of exploring alternatives. Not speaking about the beauty and the taste of what we do in the present moment, which happens to be the only moment we own.

But there’s more to it. It’s not just about avoiding hurrying things up, doing them unknowingly.

It’s about what flows from your mind into reality. An invisible flow usually much more real than imagined.

Actions require decisions. Decisions require knowledge and evaluation. Knowledge and evaluation require time. All that is missing or vague in this “chain” will eventually increase the randomness of your results. Your lack of awareness and commitment can only make your imperfect life more and more imperfect.

Most of the time, rushing things doesn’t show immediately. On the contrary, it looks like you saved time or energy, like you sped up things and made something happen. It makes your lazy and greedy self happy. You may not even notice that the need to save time or make things happen is just a fix for a need that would not be there if you took your time for the right decisions and actions in the past.

So, what may seem “just” a spiritual thing, like not rushing the birth of a zen garden, has actually an impact, especially over time. It’s just that we don’t notice it in our daily and immediate life. Because of that “invisibility” in the short term, or because we’re just blind to the better alternative outcomes, its value is vastly underestimated.

While most of what drives value in our life is intangible, we weirdly insist on seeing only the direct, tangible, and specific effects of our actions.

The attitude that gives birth to our actions is potently and practically transmitted into our reality, our life, our relationships, our well-being, our personal growth, and our results in anything in life.

The concept of rush flowing negatively into a zen garden seems abstract and groundless. On the contrary, it’s a real stream. It’s not about impalpable energies traveling in the ether. It’s about actual distinct paths, leading to different actions, producing different results, and having different impacts.

Also, that attitude has an effect on the following attitude, snowballing and setting a route. If it’s positive, it leads to self-growth and improvements in your life. Else, it slowly drives you into unwanted realms.

What invisibly flows into our actions is usually their most important part. A part that we — when even aware of it — often judge as excessive, useless, and unproductive. On the contrary, what matters most is connected precisely with that invisible side, with what happens in that higher layer.

What appears to be just actions actually carry the invisible energies that build or destroy beauty, happiness, and value in your life.

What appears to be sand and stones may actually be a zen garden.

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