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❝ How you do anything is how you do everything.❞

I first heard this quote in a Rich Roll podcast with Buddhist monk Wu De (#RRP 151). The underlying teaching is that if one is sloppy or living without integrity in one area of life it bleeds over into how one is in the rest of life. I’ll provide the context below and then muse on it.

❝ You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat their shoes.

Whatever you think defines you, the fact of the matter is that at the end of your life much more of your time will have been spent chopping vegetables, tying shoes, putting on clothes, and doing all these things than doing that thing that you say defines you. …A person says, “I’m a really careful person. I’m a good student and do all my homework very carefully.” But he wakes up, takes a shower, gets dressed, eats breakfast, and does thirty things, then he goes to school and does his homework. And of those thirty things, the homework is the only thing he does carefully. The other twenty-nine were done in a sloppy way. So, actually, he’s not a careful person. More accurately, he does those things that he considers to be of value in a careful way, and he does other things carelessly. And these are related because how he cooks and eats his breakfast is going to influence how he does his homework. ❞

Does this mean that I need to be ‘hard on myself’ or ‘rigid’ in my structure in order to avoid lapses? Do I live in fear of not being ‘perfect’? Can’t I just relax a little? These are questions my mind immediately throws up in rebellion. Is it looking for outs or justification for shortcomings? Or is it ‘just being realistic’ about the human experience?

In addiction recovery, it’s taught that we don’t need to worry about all those things. The important thing is what happens and the choices that are made right now. This reframe relieves some of my angst because I’m not wrestling with an illusory future. But as much as I try to be in the current moment, observing the internal chaos, it all still ‘gets the better of me’ at times and I find myself doing, or having done, things that I know will have painful repercussions. Why can’t I learn, once and for all, that when something causes me or others discomfort it’s to be avoided?

Perhaps you’re familiar with this type of internal war. What I’ve found is that peace only comes via stepping out of the war entirely and approaching the struggle with compassion. I try to bring more awareness to each moment. I aim to get clearer about what I want and don’t want. (Have I been down that road before? Do I really want to go there again?) I feel into it all, noticing indications of discord or harmony. These further inform awareness. It’s a process of stepping back, creating space and separation from the contents of the mind. I become less attached to preconceived notions.

By becoming increasingly aware of what’s happening inside, being observant of the sensations in the body, while chopping vegetables, tying shoes, putting on clothes, and doing homework, I create an underlying pattern for how every other aspect of life unfolds.

❝ The purpose of effort is to get rid of all efforts.❞
~Sri Ramana Maharshi

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