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Thread: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

  1. #1

    Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    So, something became clearer to me this week. Distraction, craving, lack of mindfulness, etc, all have resistance as a source (notice I didn't say THE source . . . I'm not prepared to go on record with that). The previous thread re: mindfulness and its various interpretations and applications had me stumped a bit. I thought that mindfulness was important, but I must admit that until this week the concept of mindfulness always added a level of complexity to my actions when I thought about it. So, instead of getting closer to the present, trying to be mindful pulled me away from the moment and added another conceptual or idealistic level to my thinking. I assume that was part of Nishijima Roshi's objection to the concept. But now I see that resistance is the issue (at least for my particular neurological hardware/software combination). My resistance to most activities is a habit from childhood. Never wanting to miss anything. Always looking for the next flashy thing to entertain me. OK as a child--that's how we learn. Not so helpful in adulthood.
    I see now that my habitual cycle is this:
    • Resistance to the current action arises in me because I enable thoughts such as. . .
    • I might be missing something better
    • I have too much work to do and I should be doing it
    • It creates physical discomfort

      Because I resist, my mind moves on to discussion about why I need to stop what I'm doing and get back to something that is better.

      If I fan the flames of those thoughts, the resistance increases, removing my attention further from the present.

    I've found that the trick for me is not to try to be mindful. That doesn't work. What works is to simply stop enabling those thoughts. Cut off the fuel-supply. When drying my daughter's hair this evening (always lots of whining because of tangles and things), I changed my attitude to "there is no better place than this to be right now/there is nothing else that needs to be done right now/I'm not missing anything that is happening anywhere else because there is nowhere else." BAM! Everything else went away and there I was with hands in her hair helping her get ready to go to bed clean, dry and happy. Profoundly ordinary but profound nonetheless. Mindfulness doesn't require thinking, it requires the opposite of that . . . the thing we practice on the zafu: opening the clutching hand of the mind that squeezes these thoughts into hot little boils that make our lives uncomfortable. When your Mom said, "Don't squeeze that bump, it'll make it worse" she was right. Grabbing these thoughts takes us away from our lives into distraction and confusion.

    Enough from me, I suppose.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  2. #2

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    When drying my daughter's hair this evening (always lots of whining because of tangles and things), I changed my attitude to "there is no better place than this to be right now/there is nothing else that needs to be done right now/I'm not missing anything that is happening anywhere else because there is nowhere else." BAM! Everything else went away and there I was with hands in her hair helping her get ready to go to bed clean, dry and happy. Profoundly ordinary but profound nonetheless.

    Bill
    Thank you for those beautiful lyrics, Bill.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- You really have the makings of a song there.

  3. #3

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Thanks Bill.

    Going somewhere with nowhere in mind.

    Gassho

  4. #4

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Something that ocurred to me today (call it a "realization" or whatever you want) relates to your discussion of "no resistance."

    I found that instead of trying to "not think," which I see as something that could be similar to "resistance," and I try to "not think about thinking" then I am left in a state that I feel is best described as "pure observation." Not thinking about my surroundings, but also not thinking about the things running through my head.

    This has given me perspective on Jundo's talks related to "blurring boudaries" and other discussion relating zen to "going beyond the conceptual realm" as well as perspective on the phrase "knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment." And, this also ties in nicely with products of my martial training (Aikido) related to "letting" things happen and not getting caught up in thoughts, which is extremely relevant to "no resistance."

    The funny thing is (and Jundo please chime in here if you want, because I am having difficulty relating this to your talk on "seeing the world through two different eyes simultaneously"), that when I am in this "pure observation" and "letting" my actions happen, this isn't really some sort of "mindless" state (for lack of a better word) where you can't function properly in the daily world. Rather, it is the oppossite. In these states, I become "super aware" of what is going on in the world and strangely (likely related to the "going beyond the conceptual realm") appear to function better in the world.

  5. #5

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Hey Bill,

    Great post. Glenn Wallis (an author I've been really grooving on lately) translates "mindfullness" as "the application of present-moment." This resonates with me.

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    When drying my daughter's hair this evening (always lots of whining because of tangles and things), I changed my attitude to "there is no better place than this to be right now/there is nothing else that needs to be done right now/I'm not missing anything that is happening anywhere else because there is nowhere else." BAM! Everything else went away and there I was with hands in her hair helping her get ready to go to bed clean, dry and happy. Profoundly ordinary but profound nonetheless.
    Man, can I relate to this! I did exactly the same thing recently while brushing my son's teeth. Usually, I think, "Let's just get this over with. We have to be _____." But when I dropped that nonsense, it was just as you described. Very liberating. Children, like everything else, can certainly be our teachers (if we let them).

    Gassho,
    Keith

  6. #6

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    So true with me too Bill

    Gassho, Kev

  7. #7

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Thanks for that one Bill it is a good reminder for me too.
    I have a young boy and younger puppy at the moment and have been exasperated at times, I always try and ask myself in a very honest way "what are you doing?", this seems to bring things back home for me too. It also works with my son when he starts throwing toys out of his pram.

    Here's to drying hair, clearing up poo and fetching water

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Recently I was reading a friend's blog and she referred to having to change her children's diapers as incovenient. My immediate reaction was, "That isn't an inconvenience...that's my job." Of course I know what she's saying, but I don't think of it that way and never have.

  9. #9

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin

    I found that instead of trying to "not think," which I see as something that could be similar to "resistance," and I try to "not think about thinking" then I am left in a state that I feel is best described as "pure observation." Not thinking about my surroundings, but also not thinking about the things running through my head.

    ... And, this also ties in nicely with products of my martial training (Aikido) related to "letting" things happen and not getting caught up in thoughts, which is extremely relevant to "no resistance."

    The funny thing is (and Jundo please chime in here if you want, because I am having difficulty relating this to your talk on "seeing the world through two different eyes simultaneously"), that when I am in this "pure observation" and "letting" my actions happen, this isn't really some sort of "mindless" state (for lack of a better word) where you can't function properly in the daily world. Rather, it is the oppossite. In these states, I become "super aware" of what is going on in the world and strangely (likely related to the "going beyond the conceptual realm") appear to function better in the world.
    Hi Mushin,

    I really think that the point of our Practice is to come back to being totally ordinary, functioning in the world of Samsara as nothing special, just mundane life with all its bumps, just being a regular human being ... but yet, but yet ... seeing the world (through one of our eyes) in a very special way, no longer reacting to things (the "ji" of "buji") in many of the same ways we did before our Zen practice.

    We don't quite function in the world in the same manner as before our Zen practice. Neither is it a matter of every single moment being "beyond conception" 24/7 (sometimes we are, sometimes we are not ... some folks think that once they "get enlightened", they stay in some special, timeless state 24/7, and many old Buddhist and Zen writings sure give that impression). But in any case, if you "can't function properly in the daily world" as a result of your Zen practice, than it is off balance Zen practice, I believe.

    I am going to point you again to the posting on the other thread about "Buji" Zen. It is not so often that I can kill so many birds with a single posting! :wink:

    viewtopic.php?p=13857#p13857

    Maybe Ai-ki-do, when non-done "right" is the "buji martial art"?

    Gassho, Jundo

  10. #10
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Hello all,

    Beautiful post Bill. I found it very poetic and profound. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    I sometimes feel I have extreme beginner's mind...like I am fumbling in the dark, trying to find some spark to light the way. But every day I come here and read the experiences of you and other treeleafers and realize that I too have some of these same experiences; these glimpses or "mini-enlightenments", that make me continue my zazen, my studying and learning every day. I guess this is what makes the practice so important and so necessary...so thank you again.

    I recently found myself in a very resistive state - my 7 year old boy wanted to play football for the first time this year. Boy did I resist, all the various judgements of a mother came out. He's too young, he's too small, football is such a committment (practice every day for 2 hours), it is too violent of a sport, yada, yada, yada. I made myself so upset before he even started practicing. Well, during zazen the other night it hit me...
    It's not about me. These judgements my mind had filled with, were empty. Just let him play and let it be...

    So I did. Monday was our first practice. I decided there was no other place I'd rather be or needed to be at that very moment. I dropped all judgement and resistance and gave my son and his practice my full attention. It was the happiest I've ever seen my son; which in turn made me very happy. Now, as you, I commit those two hours entirely to what they are...football practice, and watching my son learn and grow. I'm finding it is so much easier to let things be as they are with no resistance...which makes Kelly a very stress-free and calm individual.

    I hope I'm not too far off base here :wink:

    Respectfully yours,
    Kelly Rok

  11. #11

    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    thank you so much everyone, i enjoyed reading this thread very much.

    i too feel the same way sometimes.
    i dont try to not think but rather let me sit and think or not think. whatever arises comes and goes, thoughts come i see them and they go away.
    everything is happening, i hear everything and see everything. i think some more, i dont think, i think, i notice something, i fix my posture, remember some movie i've seen, or a book i read, or something i have to do... and i just sit without clinging to any of it. those things exist and i dont try to resist them or fight them. i just let it be. it is like jundo said the sky is not always blue but the clouds are as much a part of the sky as the blue thingy

    but that is on the cushion. off the cushion i sometimes have a very profound feeling. i could be riding on the train and look outside the window and see the trees, cars, people, pretty much anything going by and feel, not even think that all things are connected to each other. it is like seeing deep in to all things and realizing that they are all one big thing, it is very humbling. i sometimes feel like i am so close to understanding everything but it is only a little beyond my grasp, yet i know it does not matter. i just let things be and it feels nice.

    no think or not think, just be.

    once again i feel words could not convey what really was said.

    Gassho
    Daniel, who is wandering why speak at all?

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Hey Kelly,

    I really liked the message of your post and hope that's the attitude I take as the parent of a 3 year old. My parents never let me play sports fearing I would get hurt, which made it about them and not about me. There's nothing wrong with some apprehension, but I think if I had been allowed to play and even if I had gotten hurt, I'd be a much stronger person now. Not that I'm wishing away what I have experienced and wanting something new just for its own sake; I just think I would have come to certain realizations a lot sooner and been a happier kid all around.

    Thanks for your post.

    Gassho,
    Scott

  13. #13
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Resistance/Distraction/Attention

    Hello Scott,

    Thank you for your reply. I too came from a home that did not encourage sports. I did play basketball for one year, but after hearing my parents complain (continuosly) about driving me to practices and the cost of basketball shoes, etc., I decided it would be better if I quit. I loved the sport and still do, but I just didn't have the support I had longed for. I regretted quitting for a long time - I have recently let that go, BTW .
    But now that I have two boys who are interested in everything, I try to remember my past and not repeat the behaviors (of my parents) that made me so upset. When it comes time for your child to play sports or be involved in other activities; don't worry you will remember how you felt and you will handle your child and their interests with a newfound enthusiasm. Your child is gorgeous, by the way!

    It's amazing what our kids can teach us isn't it? They are my little Boddhisatvas. I'm going to do my best as a parent not to "mess" them up; and teach them to hold on to their beginner's mind for as long as possible.

    I appreciate your reply!
    Gassho,
    Kelly Rok

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