Four Elements of Lay Life

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what the foundational elements of my life are, as a lay practitioner in the Plum Village Buddhist tradition. A while back, I watched a Dharma talk online from a monastic Sister where she spoke of the founding principles of monastic life at the monasteries in our tradition and I think, if I remember right, what I’ve landed on is similar to what she shared.

I’ve identified four elements – and to be clear, theses are ones I’ve simply recognized are true and in play for myself personally, this is not any sort of official list adopted by anyone other than myself.

Nicole’s Four Foundational Elements of Lay Practice Life

  1. Practice (includes Dharma study)
  2. Work
  3. Rest
  4. Play (includes music/art/creative expression)

For me, it’s helpful to understand clearly what my foundational elements are as a lay practitioner so that I know what my priorities are and in what direction I want to be spending my time and limited energy. Life is about balance. And for me it’s about balancing these four elements, often on a daily basis.

Last weekend, my sangha Be Here Now, enjoyed our 7th annual summer campout on the Flathead Lake (located in western Montana).

We laked
and friended
and tead.
We laughed
and campfired
and fooded
till our bellies were full
and grateful
and happy.
We field tripped
and cherry picked
and swam
and gamed.

We held silence
and we stirred up
a ruckus.

What possible more
could there be?

What possible more
could we ask for?

Oftentimes, the things I invest my time and energy into, fall into more than one category. Our sangha campout, for instance, involves all four of my foundational elements. It’s part practice, part work, part rest, and part play.

When I am able to incorporate each of these elements into my regular daily routine, regardless of what my day looks like, I actualize my own personal optimal balance. It’s an ongoing practice to keep these elements fresh and alive and vibrant in my life. And it’s an ongoing practice to stay actively engaged in what it means for myself to practice; to work; to rest; and to play.  It’s not enough to just know what my foundational elements are. They aren’t static and fixed in place. These elements are always changing and shifting and expanding/contracting. It’s important that I stay curious, self-reflective, and contemplative about these elements and how I am bringing them to life, or neglecting their development.

The practice of being a kind and skillfully engaged human in the world continues…

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