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Thread: New year...old questions

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  1. #1

    New year...old questions

    I have not posted any threads in a long time and, admittedly, have not been very consistent in my practice. However, I have been reading quite a bit about Zen, Meditation, philosophy and so on (I enjoy reading; it is like mental opium) and am still so very attracted by the Zen world and this site in particular Anyway, here I am trying, once again, to gain some momentum and consistency in my daily practice (I just sat for 20 min...yey!) That said, it is probably no surprise that almost one year after my first post on this forum I am still dealing with the same (or very similar) uncertainties. For example, while I am more and more aware that random thoughts fill my brain constantly, I still cannot get how to differentiate between a spontaneous thought (that then leads to "right" action) and redundant usless brain fart thinking. Maybe there is nothing to get...not sure...don't know.

    Thank you!

    A.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Andrea,
    There's no need to differentiate. They are what they are...and that is: imaginary. Nothing real in the lot. I struggle with consistency too at times. Nothing wrong with that...I begin again....and again. I also get the reading addiction...my brain loves to chase after Zen. It's generally more interesting than sitting. But reading about something isn't what you are reading about (does that make sense?). Sitting isn't in a book, so I return to the cushion...see the thoughts and let them dance, drift, whatever...sometimes they leave, sometimes they stay. Either way, there's nothing to do about them. My wish for you is that you don't give up. That you sit new each time, always a beginner.

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

  3. #3
    Thanks for your reply....I very much appreciate it.

    >There's no need to differentiate. They are what they are...and that is: imaginary.
    But how can we put them at the same level? Let's consider two scenarios:
    1) I am at work and out of nowhere I think "I would love to buy a red Ferrari"; 2) I see an old person having troubles crossing the intersection and I think "maybe she needs some help; I should do something about it". Clearly, while the first thought is the result of some random brain activity (maybe I saw a red Ferrari a week earlier) and should be discarded (or maybe it shouldn't I'd love a Ferraris! ), the second thought is somehow more important and compels me to act on it.

    >But reading about something isn't what you are reading about (does that make sense?).
    Yes, and I agree. After all, one would not learn to play basketball by reading Michael Jordan's biography.

    >Either way, there's nothing to do about them [thoughts].
    This is the part I do not agree with....wait, maybe that is too strong of a statement....that is the part I struggle with. Some thoughts require actions while other should be just let go. So...how do you differentiate between the two and....even worse....who is the one differentiating? I have troubles answering the first question, and I truly struggle when attempting to answer the second one.

    >My wish for you is that you don't give up. That you sit new each time, always a beginner.
    I do not think I can give up.....and maybe that is one of the problems

    Thank you again! Even exchanging ideas is a relief.

    A.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea1974 View Post
    1) I am at work and out of nowhere I think "I would love to buy a red Ferrari"; 2) I see an old person having troubles crossing the intersection and I think "maybe she needs some help; I should do something about it". Clearly, while the first thought is the result of some random brain activity (maybe I saw a red Ferrari a week earlier) and should be discarded (or maybe it shouldn't I'd love a Ferraris! ), the second thought is somehow more important and compels me to act on it.
    Hello, again, Andrea,

    Both of those thoughts are made of the same stuff. The only difference is that one is more compassionate than the other, but there is really no need to draw comparison. You instinctively know which one to act on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea1974 View Post
    So...how do you differentiate between the two and....even worse....who is the one differentiating?
    I don't know who calls the shots. There seems to be a me in charge, but I can't find it, and asking it questions results in endless inquiry and imagery. I can't just be a bump on a log and try to analyze every thought for its merit and useability. I must act in this life. All I can do is trust my instincts and learn from choices that don't pan out well.
    迎 Geika

  5. #5
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    You may be over-thinking it a bit. You don't have to make these distinctions for every thought. Just notice when you are attaching or running with a thought, and allow it to go. Act when you need to act. To use your example, "Ooh, that lady needs help crossing the street, but wait, did you see that Ferarri that almost hit her? What a jerk. But, damn, I'd look good in that car. Can't afford it, but still...maybe if I had a better job, I mean, this one sucks...etc" vs, "Ooh, that lady needs help, she nearly got hit. What can I do to help her?" The first is just kind of spinning. The second is more like problem-solving a situation you came across". You might notice more judgments being made in the first...often a sign of attachment. When you sit Zazen, you often see how your mind works. The way you spin off in different directions, the way you might have a thought then get angry, etc. You may notice that you spend half of your sitting time planning for the next day, practicing conversations that haven't happened yet, re-running ones that have, etc.. Let them go on the cushion. Then when you see the Ferarri, you might notice which direction your mind goes.

    That's my take, anyway. Hope it helps and that I'm not steering you wrong.

    Gassho,
    Entai

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

  6. #6
    MOODY BLUES LYRICS
    "Late Lament"


    Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
    Watch lights fade from every room.
    Bedsitter people look back and lament,
    Another day's useless energy spent.
    Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
    Lonely man cries for love and has none.
    New mother picks up and suckles her son,
    Senior citizens wish they were young.
    Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
    Removes the colours from our sight.
    Red is grey and yellow white.
    But we decide which is right.
    And which is an illusion"

    The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita. Kind of like wisdom. If you let go of your Ferrari thinking you create a space where you know intuitively how to help a situation like helping someone cross the street. However, we are not perfect and delusions are endless so we keep practicing.



    Kind regards. /\
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  7. #7
    >"Ooh, that lady needs help crossing the street, but wait, did you see that Ferarri that almost hit her? What a jerk. But, damn, I'd look good in that car. Can't afford it, but still...maybe if I had a better job, I mean, this one sucks..."

    That is it!!! LOL...spot on!!! + a whole lot of hand movements cause I am Italian )

    Amelia and Rich used two slightly different words (instinct and intuition) to describe, I believe, similar situations. Hard to tell when instinct should be followed (e.g. I feel like punching my boss in the face cause he acted like a jerk vs it is midnight, I am in a dark alley and I should get out of here) but I believe that the intuitions of a calm, balanced mind generally lead to good decisions. Thank you all for your input!

    A.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Heion's Avatar
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    In addition to all the wonderful things said above, I would like to add on to how to keep a practice more consistent. To practice regularly is not about being motivated as much as it is being disciplined. In my opinion, discipline is freedom. If you know you should do something, with discipline you can do it without being at the whim of your capricious mind.

    Additionally, to get energy you must spend it. What I mean is that in order to get more 'motivation' to practice, do a session of sitting will give you that motivation to do so. This gets rid of energy that builds up slowly.

    All the best,
    Alex

  9. #9
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    I don't know, but I think it's totally impossible to know what the best way to act in a given situation is. You can have a statistically and well thought of solution or course of action, but none of them can be perfect or work out precisely how you planned it in your head all the time. In my case, overthinking has caused me to miss out on so many wonderful opportunities to help myself become a better person and end up helping others, but fears and too much thinking get in the way... paralysis by analysis. Sigh

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Hi Andrea,

    A thought is a thought and our mind has evolved to produce them all the time. That's it's job because that's how we relate with the universe.

    I zen we learn how let go of those thoughts without judging them so we can be at peace with what there is now.

    If I see a woman who seems to need help crossing the street, and at the same time my mind decides I want a Ferrari, we can see that both events are constructs of my mind.

    Why? Because in both cases you are deciding what to think. You don't really know if the woman actually needs help. You are thinking though compassion. If a Ferrari appears in your mind and you want it, you are thinking with desire. Both thoughts are the same. Your mind is one and the same.

    It seems you are thinking too much. Reading thousands of books and asking questions can only get you so far.

    Sit more and be diligent and disciplined about it. Zazen is sacred.

    In time your questions will get an answer.

    But then again, this are my novice priest thought and I could be wrong

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Shuso and Ango leader for September 2014.

    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea1974 View Post
    For example, while I am more and more aware that random thoughts fill my brain constantly, I still cannot get how to differentiate between a spontaneous thought (that then leads to "right" action) and redundant usless brain fart thinking. Maybe there is nothing to get...not sure...don't know.
    Hi Andrea,

    I am not sure what you mean by "spontaneous thought that leads to "right" action". There were some Zen books, mostly written early on in the 50s and 60s, that gave the impression that (1) Zen is about always acting spontaneously and (2) spontaneous action is bound to lead to a wise result. I think that was way overblown.

    There are times to be spontaneous ... when a Karate master reacting to an opponent, a calligrapher writing with an ink brush. These are important "Zen skills" for certain situations when spontaneous "no thought" behavior is called for. But at other times, the Karate master gives serious thought and planning to whether he is going to open up a new Karate school, the calligrapher looks over brochures planning his next vacation. Another "Zen skill" is just to think, worry, plan.

    It is also a mistake to think that honest "spontaneous" thinking always is right thinking. In fact, it is how lemmings just jump off the cliff. Being spontaneous during much of one's day is an invitation to wrong decisions and disaster.

    I agree that you are overthinking these questions. Please sit more. Then you will know that you probably do not need a red Ferrari, but it is nice to help an elderly lady cross the street. Why? The heart just knows. Please sit more. Simplify the mind. You will learn to get a sense for which thoughts are "wise and compassionate" (helping the old lady) and which are based on greed and need and attachments (probably the Ferrari). You will know better which emotions are about tolerance and equanimity, and which (probably hitting your boss in the nose) are coming from anger and frustration. It is not too hard to know. Keep sitting.

    By the way, even then we may never truly know what was the right thing to do. As was said, maybe the woman did not want help (or in a famous philosophical example, maybe the baby you save from being hit by a car turns into some horrible dicatator). One must just try to do one's best, and hope for the best as a result.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Myosha
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  13. #13
    Thank you Jundo et al. Agree with the fact that there is a time to be spontaneous and a time to think things through.
    After all, most things in life are a constant attempt to keep a balance between (apparently) opposite "forces".

    >I agree that you are overthinking these questions. Please sit more.
    I am often aware of this tendency of mine, but the right solution always seems to be right around the corner...and never is...grrrrr
    Well...time to sit more and more consistently then.

    Thanks again!

    Andrea

  14. #14
    Hi Andrea

    The others are right that all thoughts are comprised of the same stuff. Look at a thought and it has no substance. However, practically speaking, if you are, for example, just starting college the thoughts 'I am going to spend half of my student loan on designer shoes' and 'I am going to budget carefully to make sure I have enough for what I need and all my course books' are clearly not equal. We pretty much have the intellectual apparatus for knowing what is good logic and not, though.

    The more you sit the more you tend to become aware when you are following a thought that grasps at something, like a Ferrari, and just allow it to fall away. I have heard that 80-90% of the thoughts we have are not new and is like mental chatter. By not grasping at any of the thoughts, action tends to become clearer in the moment. Thinking about this in advance, in how to distinguish good or bad thoughts, is not greatly helpful. The practice is to live from the heart. Sitting regularly greatly helps with that.

    Gassho
    Andy

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