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ZEN - Teacherless Knowledge and the Ocean of Your Own Essence

 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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30 June 2017 16:22
 

If you look at the rest of my post, I described it further down.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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01 July 2017 12:50
 
NL. - 29 June 2017 05:06 PM
unsmoked - 29 June 2017 11:30 AM

When you’re bored, are you able to take advantage of the opportunity to look at it carefully to see what it is?  (before it goes away and you’re not bored any more).  How would you describe it?


Yeah, I know all the “be interested in the boredom” exercises. What does it feel like, where does it manifest, how does the mind move, just observe it, etc., etc. They help somewhat, but, like mindfulness for pain management, they’re not a panacea, unless you’re extremely advanced, I guess. Boredom is a bit of an impulse, when you think of it (to find stimulation,) and if you think of the tenacity of human impulses (from the very mundane and easily resisted “Should I buy that candy bar in the checkout line?” to the strongest [Having a ‘holding your breath underwater’ contest when you were a kid and eventually going “I have to breath, NOW”]), it takes a lot of ‘practice’ to quiet them. I think meditation certainly helps but it’s a years-long proposition (unless you’re doing it 24-7 in an ashram, possibly.)

I found your manifestation of boredom (been there, done that) more insightful than your definition of it as a ‘bit of an impulse.’

Could you explain what you mean by, “it takes ‘a lot of practice to quiet impulses?”

 
 
sojourner
 
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02 July 2017 14:39
 
unsmoked - 01 July 2017 12:50 PM
NL. - 29 June 2017 05:06 PM
unsmoked - 29 June 2017 11:30 AM

When you’re bored, are you able to take advantage of the opportunity to look at it carefully to see what it is?  (before it goes away and you’re not bored any more).  How would you describe it?


Yeah, I know all the “be interested in the boredom” exercises. What does it feel like, where does it manifest, how does the mind move, just observe it, etc., etc. They help somewhat, but, like mindfulness for pain management, they’re not a panacea, unless you’re extremely advanced, I guess. Boredom is a bit of an impulse, when you think of it (to find stimulation,) and if you think of the tenacity of human impulses (from the very mundane and easily resisted “Should I buy that candy bar in the checkout line?” to the strongest [Having a ‘holding your breath underwater’ contest when you were a kid and eventually going “I have to breath, NOW”]), it takes a lot of ‘practice’ to quiet them. I think meditation certainly helps but it’s a years-long proposition (unless you’re doing it 24-7 in an ashram, possibly.)

I found your manifestation of boredom (been there, done that) more insightful than your definition of it as a ‘bit of an impulse.’

Could you explain what you mean by, “it takes ‘a lot of practice to quiet impulses?”

 


When you head into a mindfulness class, all fresh faced and dewey eyed, I think there’s an expectation among beginners (me included) that you will ‘just be with’ anything. Once you get down to the point of experiencing it as just sensations, just another feeling, just a fleeting experience, etc., then you will mindfully mind it and mind off on your mindful way in a mindful manner. (At the last Buddist-tradition retreat I went to, one instructor talked about her first retreat being in a kind of hellish environment involving leeches, and how finding the honesty to go “Wow, ok, it is not the case that I am ‘just going to be with this’ right now” was actually a big step forward for her - so maybe that laid the ground for my [possible] insight here and I shouldn’t claim it as my own, ha ha!)


I think when we talk about the impulse that is ‘aversion’, I can’t really put it to words, because it’s a qualia-level experience, like the redness of red. I could tell you what things are red (roses, fire, apples, etc.) I could tell you about the emotional associations with the word red (energy, passion, anger, etc.), and I could even tell you about the physical response to ‘red’ - but seeing red itself is purely experiential at the individual level. You see it or you don’t. I think aversion is the same.


So now, apologies, but I am going to be gruesome to make my point easier to see using extreme examples. Imagine something where you know for absolute sure you would feel terrible aversion. Having your eyes slowly gouged out. Being buried to your neck in burning sand while fire ants ate your face off. Drowning in a confined space. If you believe you’re stoic enough to go “Just sensations, nothing but sensations there!” in all of those scenarios, then imagine it’s someone you love - unless you are fully enlightened or a complete and total sociopath, I trust there is some true extreme aversion in there somewhere. That is the redness of red I am talking about. If you held your hand on an open flame, and wanted desperately to move it, then that is aversion. It doesn’t completely reduce to anything other than, well, the experience of aversion.


Anyways, I realized that even aversions we think should be ‘easy’ are actually just less intense (but often more nagging, over time,) versions of this particular qualia, this particular feeling - and that in meditation it’s probably best not to be too hard on oneself for not being able to simply overcome them all immediately by ‘being with them’. That does help - but when you look at ‘macro’ examples of aversion, it’s easier to see it’s not something you can just ‘mindful away’ at will - I think in reality it requires a great deal of practice over time, it’s not a matter of having the perfect technique the first time you try.

 
 
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04 July 2017 10:37
 
NL. - 02 July 2017 02:39 PM

When you head into a mindfulness class, all fresh faced and dewey eyed, I think there’s an expectation among beginners . . .

“I am one who eats breakfast gazing at morning-glories.”  -  Basho

‘Direct Pointing to Basic Mind’

“Few people believe their inherent mind is Buddha.  Most will not take this seriously, and therefore are cramped.  They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings, resentments, and other afflictions, all because they love the cave of ignorance.”  -  Zen master Fenyang

(Fenyang quoted from the book ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)

 

 

 
 
sojourner
 
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04 July 2017 17:06
 
unsmoked - 04 July 2017 10:37 AM
NL. - 02 July 2017 02:39 PM

When you head into a mindfulness class, all fresh faced and dewey eyed, I think there’s an expectation among beginners . . .

“I am one who eats breakfast gazing at morning-glories.”  -  Basho

‘Direct Pointing to Basic Mind’

“Few people believe their inherent mind is Buddha.  Most will not take this seriously, and therefore are cramped.  They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings, resentments, and other afflictions, all because they love the cave of ignorance.”  -  Zen master Fenyang

(Fenyang quoted from the book ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)


Argh, I feel like I’m chatting with an automated version of BrainyQuote.com here, unsmoked! Unless this is something you have personal experience with, I don’t get the point of responding to conversational statements with random quotes. I could cherry pick quotes about how to build a rocket or do brain surgery, but as I have no idea how to build a rocket or do brain surgery, I doubt they’d be that instructive for you.


On the other hand, if you asked me about gardening, I would now be able to share my experience - albeit my limited experience - with you. I could empathize with the sweaty irritation of hacking your way through clay soil and long-buried weed mats, but tell you that it is indeed worth the extra effort in the long haul - no matter how much imported top soil you dump on there, it will wash away and the roots have to be in whatever dirt is native to your yard. I could tell you that in suburbia, where miles of woodland have been taken over by suburbanites who still love nature, the rabbits and deer are almost tame backyard pets and they will mow down any animal-friendly plant the second early summer arrives, and possibly take to lounging around in your yard if you have really tasty plants, so buy sturdy bushes to fill in gaps between things that will get eaten. I would know the basics on the debate about Roundup (toxic chemical or hysterical Californians?), and could tell you about natural insecticides (although I would advise you not to use them unless you garden for food you need to survive, because I think they’re cruel - soap-insecticide actually kills bugs slowly by weakening their shells over time,) and that garlic remedies will also drive away birds, so they’re not much use if you planted hummingbird plants in the first place.


If you lived in a very different place, with a very different environment, and very different plants, it’s unlikely we could talk specifics, but I could at least find common ground on the general gist of your journey. While various elements should be changed according to environment, it’s not like some plants grow from seeds and some grow from smashed granite. It’s not like some go in soil and so you hang in the air. You don’t water some and pour ketchup on others, and on and on. There’s a basic framework of understanding there. The struggles are generally similar.


Anyways. I believe in freedom of expression, so if you want to share quotes because you love them, or to you they express a concept perfectly, or they’re a beautiful manifestation of zen, and so on, that’s fine - express yourself however you want, that’s important. If you’re giving me advice, though, just an fyi that it’d be easier if you spoke in conversational tones about your own limited experience, and what truth you’ve personally seen in zen. Or, in other words:


“There is no need to have a deep understanding of Zen.” - Shunryu Suzuki


“The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” - Robert M. Pirsigl


“It’s my Zen hour. I just zone out.” - Zac Efron


“I like Googling Zen quotes. Especially ones with pictures.” - NL   (Some lighthearted fun. But seriously, I’m not getting the whole quotes only thing, unless you’re being artsy I guess.)

 
 
unsmoked
 
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05 July 2017 11:00
 
NL. - 04 July 2017 05:06 PM
unsmoked - 04 July 2017 10:37 AM
NL. - 02 July 2017 02:39 PM

When you head into a mindfulness class, all fresh faced and dewey eyed, I think there’s an expectation among beginners . . .

“I am one who eats breakfast gazing at morning-glories.”  -  Basho

‘Direct Pointing to Basic Mind’

“Few people believe their inherent mind is Buddha.  Most will not take this seriously, and therefore are cramped.  They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings, resentments, and other afflictions, all because they love the cave of ignorance.”  -  Zen master Fenyang

(Fenyang quoted from the book ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)

Argh, I feel like I’m chatting with an automated version of BrainyQuote.com here, unsmoked! Unless this is something you have personal experience with, I don’t get the point of responding to conversational statements with random quotes.

On the other hand, if you asked me about gardening, I would now be able to share my experience - albeit my limited experience - with you . . . But seriously, I’m not getting the whole quotes only thing, unless you’re being artsy I guess.)

I made the mistake of adopting a 5’ X 8’ garden box that had been abandoned to wild morning glories several years ago.  Before planting, I spaded deep and pulled out the white morning glory roots.  I could tell I wasn’t getting them all.  They broke off at the point where they penetrated the deeper, harder soil, or clung tightly in the spaces between the old decaying boards of the box.  You can imagine the result now that I’ve planted tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, herbs.  Every day I pull the green leaves of morning glory sprouts, but they snap off at ground level, leaving their source intact.  Now these sprouts are hiding and twining among the vegetables, nourishing the roots - even blooming before being discovered. 

 

 

 
 
sojourner
 
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05 July 2017 16:57
 

That sucks - why don’t you try digging them out by the roots? Too close to the other plants to risk it?


I suppose I should be grateful - one benefit of having to import so much frigging mulch every year is that at least weeds are easy to pull! (The downside is that without the mulch, our yard is approximately the consistency of a half-kilned clay pot, lol.)

 
 
hannahtoo
 
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06 July 2017 07:43
 

Consider the garden and its weeds a metaphor for your soul.  Thus the term “the constant gardner.”

 
sojourner
 
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06 July 2017 16:59
 
hannahtoo - 06 July 2017 07:43 AM

Consider the garden and its weeds a metaphor for your soul.  Thus the term “the constant gardner.”


Yeah, I get it, I just want to talk in more specific terms, and unsmoked, shockingly, doesn’t want to have a long conversation about his feelings and journal online about his spiritual path. I thought all guys loved that kind of thing, lol! wink


Of course when I go on retreat and have the benefit of more involved coaches who will talk you through every step, I’m like “Bah, stop telling me what to do!!” Never satisfied. But hey, if I was, why would I be practicing.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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15 July 2017 10:18
 
unsmoked - 01 July 2017 12:50 PM
NL. - 29 June 2017 05:06 PM
unsmoked - 29 June 2017 11:30 AM

When you’re bored, are you able to take advantage of the opportunity to look at it carefully to see what it is?  (before it goes away and you’re not bored any more).  How would you describe it?

Yeah, I know all the “be interested in the boredom” exercises. What does it feel like, where does it manifest, how does the mind move, just observe it, etc., etc. They help somewhat, but, like mindfulness for pain management, they’re not a panacea, unless you’re extremely advanced, I guess. Boredom is a bit of an impulse, when you think of it (to find stimulation,) and if you think of the tenacity of human impulses (from the very mundane and easily resisted “Should I buy that candy bar in the checkout line?” to the strongest [Having a ‘holding your breath underwater’ contest when you were a kid and eventually going “I have to breath, NOW”]), it takes a lot of ‘practice’ to quiet them. I think meditation certainly helps but it’s a years-long proposition (unless you’re doing it 24-7 in an ashram, possibly.)

I found your manifestation of boredom (been there, done that) more insightful than your definition of it as a ‘bit of an impulse.’

 

Although they didn’t call it ‘boredom’, philosophers and Zen masters have known for thousands of years that a quiet, attentive mind was in a creative state.  Although boredom may not manifest itself as quiet attention, it seems that a bored person could, with the flip of a mental switch, enter such a state.  Now scientists are noticing the benefits of giving the mind a break from its usual chattering and repetitive loops.  If the answer to a problem was somewhere in our mind we would solve the problem; if it isn’t there, endless rummaging isn’t going to find it.

If there’s a lull in the chattering, repetitive loops, and mental effort . . . https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/make-time-for-boredom/524514/

https://www.fastcompany.com/3042046/the-science-behind-how-boredom-benefits-creative-thought

http://99u.com/articles/7188/why-boredom-is-good-for-your-creativity

quoted from this 99u article:

“Whether it is poetry or prose, I experienced the same familiar pattern: once it’s just me and the blank screen/page, a wave of boredom rises up to meet me. I feel the urge to go somewhere – anywhere – to get away. And I let the wave wash over me. I accept I am bored, that boredom is part of the process – and I trust that if I sit here long enough, it will subside, and reveal a flicker of curiosity. That flicker is like the tiny flame a match sparks in kindling – easily snuffed out, but if you are patient, it will start to grow and burn brightly. Curiosity becomes interest, becomes fascination… and soon I’m lost in my writing, the words are flowing and I wouldn’t be anywhere or doing anything else in the whole world.

You see, the part that Resistance forgets to tell us is that on the other side of boredom is the most exciting experience you can have as a creator – the state of being fired up and discovering new possibilities beyond anything you could have imagined before you sat down to work.

So how can you remind yourself of that, long enough to break through the boredom and out the other side?”

[ Edited: 15 July 2017 10:34 by unsmoked]
 
 
sojourner
 
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22 July 2017 20:32
 
unsmoked - 15 July 2017 10:18 AM

Although they didn’t call it ‘boredom’, philosophers and Zen masters have known for thousands of years that a quiet, attentive mind was in a creative state.  Although boredom may not manifest itself as quiet attention, it seems that a bored person could, with the flip of a mental switch, enter such a state.  Now scientists are noticing the benefits of giving the mind a break from its usual chattering and repetitive loops.  If the answer to a problem was somewhere in our mind we would solve the problem; if it isn’t there, endless rummaging isn’t going to find it.

If there’s a lull in the chattering, repetitive loops, and mental effort . . . https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/make-time-for-boredom/524514/

https://www.fastcompany.com/3042046/the-science-behind-how-boredom-benefits-creative-thought

http://99u.com/articles/7188/why-boredom-is-good-for-your-creativity

quoted from this 99u article:

“Whether it is poetry or prose, I experienced the same familiar pattern: once it’s just me and the blank screen/page, a wave of boredom rises up to meet me. I feel the urge to go somewhere – anywhere – to get away. And I let the wave wash over me. I accept I am bored, that boredom is part of the process – and I trust that if I sit here long enough, it will subside, and reveal a flicker of curiosity. That flicker is like the tiny flame a match sparks in kindling – easily snuffed out, but if you are patient, it will start to grow and burn brightly. Curiosity becomes interest, becomes fascination… and soon I’m lost in my writing, the words are flowing and I wouldn’t be anywhere or doing anything else in the whole world.

You see, the part that Resistance forgets to tell us is that on the other side of boredom is the most exciting experience you can have as a creator – the state of being fired up and discovering new possibilities beyond anything you could have imagined before you sat down to work.

So how can you remind yourself of that, long enough to break through the boredom and out the other side?”


Interesting articles, although funnily, I have a sort of mirror image boredom. My problem in meditation is generally not that my mind gets stuck in “chattering and repetitive loops”, it’s that the contents of my mind are often exponentially more interesting to me than engaging in the concrete observation that meditation calls for. I’m not distressed about being left alone with my thoughts, I’m distressed about being kept away from them. 


One of the most motivating things I read on this topic, btw, was written by (I think) the Dalai Lama, who said that in Buddhist psychology, frequent fatigue can be a sign that the mind is turned too far inward. I have actually found this to be true, so knowing that turning the mind outward helps a lot with my energy level gives me some concrete motivation to work on it, even if it’s, well, boring. If I have to go through withdrawal symptoms from thought-addiction, I kinda want to know there’s a prize at the end of the tunnel, ha ha!

 
 
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23 July 2017 11:18
 
NL. - 22 July 2017 08:32 PM

If I have to go through withdrawal symptoms from thought-addiction, I kinda want to know there’s a prize at the end of the tunnel, ha ha!

What kind of prize do you have in mind?

 

 
 
sojourner
 
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23 July 2017 13:40
 
unsmoked - 23 July 2017 11:18 AM
NL. - 22 July 2017 08:32 PM

If I have to go through withdrawal symptoms from thought-addiction, I kinda want to know there’s a prize at the end of the tunnel, ha ha!

What kind of prize do you have in mind?


Like I said in my post, energy. For extreme introverts and the sensory-sensitive, what look like unremarkable tasks of daily living to others can be extremely energy sapping.


Btw, I’m not saying that I never have repetitive or anxious thoughts, I think everyone does when they’re upset about something. What I was saying in general, though, is that many people seem to have trouble with retreats because they really want to “do something” - I actually find it mildly aversive because I feel like I’m “doing too much” on retreat. My default mode network is not happy about all the task oriented behavior.


Granted, because I lack precise vocabulary here, my views probably sound contradictory - I recently told another poster that I think people in the West seek out meditation as relief from task-oriented behavior, and now I’m saying the problem with retreat is that it’s rife with task orientation, ha ha! But that’s why I enjoy these threads, to see where the contradictions are and to understand where semantics and my vocabulary are failing me. There are a few different things I probably mean when I say “goal” or “task” or “attention”, and they are subtly different…


- There is something like “buzzing bee” task-oriented behavior that I usually enjoy and feel quite energized by - running errands, doing dishes, power walking, cooking, planning, checking ‘easy’ tasks off the to do list, and so on. Sometimes even working long hours goes on this list. So long as I am not physically sick, I have a lot of energy for these types of things and can find them almost addictive, or find ceasing them a bit uncomfortable, so there’s an undertone of agitation there. I find my pattern is that I can do this pointlessly until I get run down and sick, so for me, yeah, it’s good to have specific training in “Just sit the hell down and chill for a few minutes. Pondering the destiny of mankind or working through philosophical problems or trying to meditate yourself into a good reincarnation for your next life or planning your family’s Dream Christmas or next vacation doesn’t count, that’s more buzzing. Just chill.”


- There is ‘mentally intensive’ task oriented behavior that involves a different kind of attention. It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what I mean by this, but I know there’s a difference. This can have the same fun feel to it as ‘buzzing bee’ goal behavior, if it is something that is sufficiently enjoyable to put me into a ‘flow state’. If it’s something I’m not interested in, though, it feels like pure drudgery - but either way, there’s a different quality to it. This is often what I encounter when I feel bored on retreat. Paying attention in this way can be a lot of work, if it’s paired with resistance.


- There is something like ‘meditative attention’ where the externalities of whether one is mindlessly busy or truly productive or taking time to relax don’t matter quite so much, as in this state you feel as if you are in the ocean, peaceful as the waves of whatever is happening, well, happen. I think this is deep attention and yet it doesn’t have the ‘work-like’ feeling of exerting oneself, like “I’m attending!”. This is probably the most peaceful state of attention but I have a hard time integrating it with certain kinds of mental tasks. I’ve said before, when I come off a long retreat, I find tasks like reading and writing a bit hazy and difficult for the first day or so, and many people reference the ‘walking around underwater’ feeling that people get after coming off a retreat. Perhaps this eventually goes away if you are sufficiently experienced, though.


So, apologies, I’m not doubt using these terms interchangeably when they are subtly different states. I do find that working on outward mental concentration - whether I can get into a flow state and enjoy it, or whether it just sucks and feels like a tedious exercise - does help me keep my energy level up in daily life. I think I can get so sucked into that kind of ‘buzzy’ state of attention that my mental muscles for the other kinds atrophy if I’m not careful, ha ha! But I do think there is semantic confusion when we simultaneously talk about how the West is so “achievement oriented” but then say being able to carefully attend to a task and see it through is more associated with Eastern philosophy. Those would seem like totally contradictory statements unless you really parse what is meant by ‘goal’, ‘task’, ‘achievement’, ‘attention’, and so on. Fascinating stuff! smile

 
 
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24 July 2017 11:07
 
NL. - 23 July 2017 01:40 PM
unsmoked - 23 July 2017 11:18 AM
NL. - 22 July 2017 08:32 PM

If I have to go through withdrawal symptoms from thought-addiction, I kinda want to know there’s a prize at the end of the tunnel, ha ha!

What kind of prize do you have in mind?


Like I said in my post, energy.  smile

As you know, when you heat water, once it gets to a certain temperature you can’t make it any hotter by turning up the heat.  We’re not talking about a pressure cooker are we?  (Some people like to turn their mind into a pressure cooker).

 
 
sojourner
 
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24 July 2017 18:09
 
unsmoked - 24 July 2017 11:07 AM
NL. - 23 July 2017 01:40 PM
unsmoked - 23 July 2017 11:18 AM
NL. - 22 July 2017 08:32 PM

If I have to go through withdrawal symptoms from thought-addiction, I kinda want to know there’s a prize at the end of the tunnel, ha ha!

What kind of prize do you have in mind?


Like I said in my post, energy.  smile

As you know, when you heat water, once it gets to a certain temperature you can’t make it any hotter by turning up the heat.  We’re not talking about a pressure cooker are we?  (Some people like to turn their mind into a pressure cooker).


I dunno, I’ve certainly always had a bit of an obsession with self-improvement, going back to when I was a kid, even. But since I don’t know what it’s like in other people’s heads, I don’t know how much pressure, relatively speaking, I put on myself compared to the average person.


That said, I think you must have a very different mindset and are not quite grokking what I’m talking about when I reference a need for energy. I’m not talking about reaching manic levels of productivity a la a veins popping at the neck day trader or something. I’m talking about not being so overstimulated at the end of the day that I can barely understand what people are saying. And again, I realize this probably looks contradictory because I can seem very high energy in certain areas. When I get home from work, instead of crashing, I can barely sit still - I buy groceries, I do laundry, I cook, I clean, I garden, I event plan for whatever special occasion is coming up next, and so on. And I have probably described my feelings on this in contradictory ways (It’s fun! No, it sucks, I need a break from it!) as well, because it’s a blend of feelings. Were you ever one of those people who played 800 games of Tetris as a kid (or now, I guess it would be Candy Crush)? There is something simultaneously satisfying and agitating about it, with an overall feeling that whether it’s fun or not, one could hardly stop if they wanted to, which seems problematic.


Anyways, these types of tasks are important to me in some proportion. Chores need to be done, of course. But where I struggle more is with tasks that are mentally intensive in a different way. Not, funnily enough, topics like reading about philosophy - I could happily do that when dead tired. That’s why I said it’s hard to put my finger on the exact quality of attention or goal orientation I’m talking about. I could tell you that there are certain tasks that I really can’t do at the end of the day, or that I have a lot of mental resistance to because they are ‘hard work’, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what the parameters there are. I’m just fairly confident that they exist - and that they feature a lot in mindfulness practice (I think that things like going on retreat encompass many skills and areas, so I’m not saying this is their exclusive focal point, just that this skill features heavily.) It’s like exercise - you may find it fun, you may find it grueling, but ultimately you do it for the end result, which is the ‘prize’ I was referencing, that you asked about (I think few people would exercise if it did absolutely nothing one way or the other, after all.)


An aside - I should note here that we may be speaking two different languages, as some traditions like Zen and Dzogchen put more of an emphasis on ‘ultimate realization’ or whatever you want to call it, others put more of an emphasis on personal balance of the mind outside of such ‘higher truths’. I am certainly interested in both, but just to clarify, you may be thinking of one when I am thinking of the other.

 
 
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