February 26, 2014

What is Enough?

At a recent meditation retreat, the dharma teachers were asked: "How can I align my inner and outer lives? How did you know when to make the career leap?" Having just taken this plunge, I listened attentively to the answers. David Haskin said his journey was guided by two questions: What is most important? What is enough?

These questions boil down life. And they've stayed with me. Rarely do these enter our cultural conversation. Our culture pleads that doing is most important and there's never enough. It's a challenge to ponder these questions and live by our own answers.

Years before my resignation, I sat with the what's-most-important question. To me, people are most important. My relationships--connections with others, myself, and nature--are most important. 

In this transition year, I better understand the what-is-enough query. I've simplified my schedule and reduced my spending. I can better discern my wants from needs. And I know what it feels like to have extra capacity; to not be exhausted at the end of a day. 

For years I thought I had to be an academic my whole life. With that barrier broken, I more openly view the system of work. If I put in fewer hours, make less money, yet I'm content--if I have energy to pursue the things I love and spend quality time with the people I love--then that's sustainable. I might work longer into my life, but that's okay if I'm happy. I don't have to labor long, tiring hours in order to enjoy myself later--to put off contentment until retirement. That's not the only available path.

These are interesting questions that apply broadly and can be revisited. How do I live a meaningful, contented life? Decide what's most important and how much is enough. And let my daily actions align with my answers.

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