An Experiment

"Your life is your practice." The masters all say it. My teacher says it, Socrates said it to Dan in Peaceful Warrior, Tolle teaches it in his books. St. Paul taught the principle (Whatever you do, do as for the Lord). The list goes on.

And yet for me, it’s been hard to resist a certain escapism in my spirituality. I think I might know the reasons for this, but it’s certainly related to the fact that in everything, my attention is almost always divided between a "here" and a "there." The emphasis on the present moment seems sometimes a hopeless ideal… I’ll be thinking about being in the present moment rather than just being in it right now. My mind creates a meta-reality that often feels more natural for me than simple Isness. And regarding my life as practice, I’ve got to say my life would not strike anyone as being marked by any degree of consciousness or mastery at all.

I procrastinate like crazy. I have huge avoidance issues when it comes to something I "have" to do, particularly if it’s "uninteresting." I’ve tried many times to get a handle on this… listening and reading the self-help masters, trying to be "more disciplined" (whatever that means), and so forth.  So many of their ideas have so much merit, yet my mind still ends up enticing me away from my life.  In the Zen ox pictures, that’s illustrated by the mind (the ox) leading the person.There’s always something more interesting to do than this, always somewhere other to be than right now.

This weekend, as I was catching up on a massive stack of overdue mail, I wondered: What would it be like if I found whatever I need to do fascinating? What if I really accepted that there’s no "escape" (and no need for one)? What if I were devoted to living my life well, with full devotion and attention? To some of you this may seem so obvious as to nearly be incomprehensible… how could anyone not actually take their life as their foundation for what they will do?  But for me, this is a radical experiment. I’m practicing being fascinated by what I need to do.

More later.

11 thoughts on “An Experiment

  1. This is a common dilemma for those on a spiritual path. Being here now is not that easy when your mind thinks in past, present and future terms in the same instant. Inner Silence is the key, and that is a really hard lesson to put into practice. God bless you and guide you on the way ๐Ÿ™‚

    Peace and Blessings!

  2. Fascinating being fascinated! This is a worthwhile practice and I’m going to do that very thing this very day. Now in fact. My typing fingers are fascinating!

    One brief aside. You said ‘trying to be “more disciplined’ (whatever that means).”

    Here’s what it means to me: Discipline is not repression/suppression of desires, but acting on my deepest (rather than superficial) desire.

  3. Take heart, Jon; at your age you are well along the way to completeness. Your quandary is archetypal. Sunday Ellie and I taught the 7th and 8th chapters of Romans: “the good that I would…”,etc. That’s something I live with all the time.

    As they use to say in the old country churches, “God bless you real good”.

  4. This reminded me of a particular passage in my favorite book, Walden, which seems to echo around my head:

    Drive a nail home and clinch it so faithfully that you can
    wake up in the night and think of your work with satisfaction — a
    work at which you would not be ashamed to invoke the Muse. So will
    help you God, and so only. Every nail driven should be as another
    rivet in the machine of the universe, you carrying on the work.

  5. It’ll be fun I think. I have a huge problem with procrastination too. Your idea is interesting because I tried something similar at an old job I had at a music store. Whenever I was really noticing I was hating doing some task (whether signing someone up for lessons or writing up a rental contract) on a regular basis, I would start to look at it again and figure out why I hated it or find something to make it more interesting. Usually there was something interesting in it. Of course then something else would be top on my list of worst favorite things, but then I could start again. I might have to try this idea of yours.

  6. Larry, God bless you real good, too!
    Neal, thanks for the Walden quote. Interesting about the Transcendentalists… the mystics of 19th-century New England. Good stuff.
    Zach, I’m finding it’s not easy, but it does help me get the most important stuff done.

  7. I’m not sure how to respond to this. The post started off seemingly in one direction then veered off in another. I’ll talk about discipline on my blog.

    And, yes, your life *is* your practice. You’re practicin’ right now!

    And yet for me, it’s been hard to resist a certain escapism in my spirituality. Could you flesh out the relationship between that and the first paragraph a bit more? It’s probably simpler than I’m making it, but you lost me. I mean, you might be practicing spiritual escapism. Or are you just finding a disconnect between walkin’ the walk and talkin’ the talk? (I suppose, she mused gravely, that could be solved by talking less.)

  8. A friend of mine is fighting stage four liver and lung cancer. It’s been an amazing journey. He should have been dead six months ago, according to the initial diagnosis. He just returned from a trip to Hawaii with his wife. His attitude, his celebration of every moment, is inspirational. Yet, though I am inspired, I find it difficult to emulate his attitude without the imminent threat of death on my horizon.

    I also practice spiritual escapism, which I think in my case is related to magical thinking in my spiritual life. I wrote about it recently on my own blog.

    I linked your blog to mine, by the way.

  9. Julie, I guess what I mean is the phantom of “hope” is usually there… things will be “better” in the future… A prime example of hope as escapism in my opinion, is the evangelical belief in “the Rapture.” In my own life, there’s still that if I become enlightened then… everything will be fine, a variation on the same theme. Being really, really here is difficult for me.

    Gary, I plan to write about the freeing effect of the awareness of death sometime, but I think I need to experience it first! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Jon,
    I recently discovered your frimmin website and have to admit it’s quite impressive. I’ve learned a lot from you already. Thanks.

    Regarding being “fascinated with the things you need to do”, you’ve reminded me of a very profound and intensely spiritual segment of my life. Without going into great detail about the initial “numinous” experience that started it all, the resulting practice I adopted was to, basically, live as though everything I did mattered. Living with a sense the “everything counts”, it increased my sense of awareness significantly. With this “awakening”, I experienced the world’s real-ness more powerfully and additionally I began experiencing a great many positive syncronicities. A lot of good character changes, self-improvement things that I needed at the time, came out of the expreience. The negative result was that I think people saw me as kind of a bore and someone who took everything seriously. Well, when I began to understand that negative side, that’s when I discovered the “real” value of escaping. Kidding around and teasing our buddies and just getting lost in a fantasy story, is as important to connecting to our spirituality as resting after a hard days work is to maintaining a healthy body. It’s okay to take a break. In fact, breaks are necessary. We just have to remember to take up where we left off afterwards.

    That’s been my experience. Part of it anyway.
    Thanks again for this site. You’re doing good here.

    Doug

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