The sweet week between Christmas and New Years is drawing to an end. I didn’t expect to recuperate from nine months of stress in seven days, but it was a start.

When we finally get some down time after a very busy stretch, there’s always a pull between the need to do nothing and the need to catch up.  Yes, we know we need badly to rest, but there are other things besides our bodies that have been neglected during our busy spell. It’s good to have time to clean off our desks, remove the rotting vegetables from the fridge, and touch base with a few friends. It helps us resume our lives after the break with a clearer spirit.

This goes to an issue I’ve been pondering and writing about for a long time – the seeming conflict between doing and stillness.  No question my predisposition is towards doing, and sometimes I wreck myself in the process, getting tangled up in anxiety, exhaustion, and insomnia.  One of the reasons I engage in Zen practice is to find a better balance.

I’ve been reading a book this week called Awake at Work by Michael Carroll, which offers ways of creating “clarity and balance in the midst of work’s chaos” through the study of classical Tibetan Buddhist teaching phrases. One of these phrases is Balance the two efforts:

Our effort to get somewhere, whether in our career or our life, depends on first being somewhere, letting go of our fears, desires, habits, and routines and trusting ourselves fully in the present moment. …In turn, we discover balance in simply being present, and an alertness that is resourceful, flexible, and relaxed.

We know that of course – that doing and being, action and stillness are not really opposites but attributes that can and do exist in each moment simultaneously. And we can cultivate the ability to act from that place so there is less effort, tension, and anxiety in everything we do.

But of course, as my friend Deborah so succinctly put it, this isn’t about insight, it’s about practice. So we practice. Moment by moment.