I once heard a senior teacher admonish an audience for not using as much time as possible to read sacred texts and study philosophy. This guilt producing declaration worked under the assumption that all time not dedicated to self-improvement and the road to liberation is a bit of a waste of time. As if when we’re not reading the Bhagavad Gita we’re watching Jeremy Kyle with a bag of crisps – and there are no other options available. He squarely set value on historical lineage, tradition, guru-transmission, and the serious work of living.
To be honest, I spent most of my childhood and adolescence planted in front of my stereo, obsessively following along with the lyrics or score of some Broadway musical. If it wasn’t that, I was playing piano, or in the theatre or on the stage. Failing that, I had my head in some novel.
Now to think suddenly as a very serious yogi I’m now going to find inspiration and wisdom from different types of sources (not to discount them) and really enjoy them – and not…umm…read two pages, declare how brilliant it is to my partner, suddenly feel sleepy and take a nap…is a bit of a stretch. Wouldn’t it be a more efficient and effective exercise to look at the sources I always loved…music, theatre, story, art…and wonder what there is to them that moves me so…what wisdom…what pain…what transcendence and liberation is contained therein?
This week I went to the Fashion and Textile museum and saw how British textile designers brought colour and movement to a drab post-war Britain. I could meditate on this for ages:
I just devoured the new Toni Morrison novella I got yesterday at the library. Carefully venturing into her gorgeous prose I certainly had an exercise in mindfulness, not to mention healthy doses of compassion and self-reflection.
And there was that random hour I spent in the Dickens exhibition in the Museum of London, beginning to understand the passion, fascination, and frustration of a man and his city.
Now of course I’m being slightly flippant as it would be foolish to disregard the wealth of spiritual texts and new information we could seek out to help us better understand and live our lives. But we needn’t draw a line in the sand and think of the secular world as just a place for light diversion, distraction and entertainment.
I believe the art we create, the stories we tell, the songs we sing, have as much to offer us as any profoundly serious text. So go out there and dig deeper into whatever you love. What is underneath it? How does it connect you to something bigger (I’m sure you’re thinking, oh what about footy…but I’ll counter with the President of NYU’s course “Baseball as a Road to God”)
And have some fun with it. I promise you won’t waste your time. (Oh, and if you hadn’t noticed, the title of the pose comes from a Broadway song- one which I never tire of playing on the piano. )