March Labor


Plugging Leaks

Nature lives in constant competition. In an ongoing bid for survival, each plant strives to encroach upon any available tract of land, capture any available drop of water, and reach up to any available ray of sunlight. This indiscriminate growth and expansion is the only way to avoid extinction. The more branches a plant grows, the more flowers each branch may yield; the more flowers, the more fruit; the more fruit the more seeds; and the more seeds, the higher the likelihood that enough will propagate a new generation. Quantity is given precedence over quality, resulting in huge levels of waste. Each species scatters countless seeds in the hope that a few will survive and germinate.

Farming introduces a different intention to nature. A farmer can propagate plants reliably without concern for extinction. His more immediate priority is quality. By scaling back the indiscriminate growth of his vines in spring, he redirects the energy they would normally spend on branches and invigorates their fruits.

As part of nature, our functions also operate quite differently left to their own means or when governed by a specific need. Harnessed to a need, they function efficiently: our moving function initiates the precise sequence of actions to get us from one place to another; our thinking function considers and compares different abstract points of view to problem-solve; our emotional function reads our neighbor’s facial expressions and posture to assess their mood. In the absence of a need, however, our functions do not stop; they continue functioning with the same unchecked momentum of nature, and at the same cost of waste. We fidget, not because we need to move, but to eliminate excess energy. We daydream, not because we need to think, but to eliminate energy. We worry, not because something real is at stake, but to eliminate excess energy.

This indiscriminate functioning must now become the object of our observation. A good place to start is during the first hour of our morning. After a night’s rest, our organism wakes up at a higher energetic level. Retaining energy is always more difficult than eliminating it, so at the beginning of our day our functions will be particularly inclined to slip into various momentums. Our challenge here is not only to observe these energy leaks, but also to find ways to remember to observe them. This means that we need to arrange reminders beforehand. If successful, we will witness our moving function persuading us that we are short of time and must hurry, our thinking function bringing to mind a host of topics for daydreaming and our emotional function recalling unresolved concerns. We will observe how these momentums appear on their own and keep wasting our energy, even if we try to interrupt them. Unless we affirm and reaffirm our aim to resist them, they encroach on our inner landscape and overtake it.

Here our farming lays the ground for answering the question, ‘Who am I?’—or at least, ‘Who am I not?’ Before we began to observe ourselves methodically, we took these psychological dynamics at face value and freely called them ‘I’. “I’m late…” “I fancy…” “I fear…” Now, we realize that haste, daydreaming, and anxiety are states in search of objects. Their causes are not outside but within us. Through self-observation, we have begun to see the mechanism by which our false personality—our false ‘I’—establishes itself. When we had no aim to farm ourselves, these identity thefts and energy leaks were inconsequential. But with an aim to weaken personality and uncover essence, we are forced to bring a critical attitude to these indiscriminate manifestations and consider how to minimize them.

This is our third labor.