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Thread: Course correction

  1. #1
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Course correction

    What do you guys all do when you find yourself drifting away from a life that centers around your values? How do you get back on track?

    Chet

  2. #2

    Re: Course correction

    Eat lots of ice cream! :wink:

    But, seriously folks, I find there's really no easy formula, and usually it depends on the specific situation. I usually begin feeling really bad and beat myself up a bit (then eat ice cream) - a remnant of my Catholic guilt. I am then reminded that that's not too productive (and sometimes self-indulgent) and try to get back on the horse. If I have caused any kinds of rifts, I try to make amends as quickly as possible, and start again. Learn from mistakes and all that. Simple, but sometimes difficult.

    Best,
    Keith

  3. #3

    Re: Course correction

    A thought, and hoping not to tangent off in another direction here:
    If all things are impermanent, doesn't this include values? Secondly, how do we discern between sincere internally held values and externally imposed 'rules' that we proceed to 'make our own'?

    I've seen shifting values in my own life like sands blowing on the beach...I was raised to see the 'other point of view' on any question and see a thousand shades of gray. So, maybe naturally, I spent years trying to find a fixed point of reference that I could cling to no matter what. And, again naturally, clinging brings suffering (or dis-satisfaction, which is my preferred english word for it).

    For now, I'm very content just to sit, and I worry less about these things then I have in a very long time.

    So, I think it's probably predictable that our course will change over time, since all things change anyway. The question then becomes a --what do you call it-- the bit about duality, and calling one direction good and the other bad--I forget the term. Gassho, Ann

  4. #4

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    What do you guys all do when you find yourself drifting away from a life that centers around your values? How do you get back on track?

    Chet
    Hi, Chet and all.

    Cognitive dissonance is a term used to describe the extremely common experience of doing things that are antithetical to our self-concept --and then the further rationalizations that result. In other words, we think we are so-and-so, but our behavior indicates otherwise. One of the things I am most attracted to in Buddhism/Zen is that we undermine our self-concept by sitting. We are not who we think we are. We are not our thoughts or ideas. We are active agents in the real world, trying our best (hopefully) to do good and trying to accept that we are less than we might like to think we are (but also better than we might think we are).

    So, maybe you just think those are your values. The more important thing, I think, is to act for the good of others and yourself. That way, your values don't matter much--they become a bunch of thoughts that we see come and go during zazen.

    I hope that's not too "just sit" an answer, but my experience has been that the more I think I am "XYZ" then the less I am engaged in the reality of what is happening. The more I let go of having to be "XYZ", the more I am an active, helpful person to those around me.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  5. #5
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    I would examine my values and see if they were my real life.

    For me personally this would have to involve dropping my values, and my life, via practicing Zazen.

    Regards & Good Luck,

    Harry.
    You sound so glib. I wonder if you'd be able to keep that attitude if you were going through a period of great loss. Something about your responses sounds so 'canned'. Maybe it's just me who's hearing it - maybe you just rub me the wrong way, but you seem have a message for yourself - not for me. I get the feeling you're not even really hearing me when I 'speak'.


    As for values - I mean that I really and truly do want something in my life and yet I don't act in the ways that would get me those things. I deceive myself, I get distracted, and I forget.

    "In spite of all of this theorizing, one finds oneself attached to the beauty of flowers and disliking weeds." Dogen

  6. #6

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    So, maybe you just think those are your values. The more important thing, I think, is to act for the good of others and yourself. That way, your values don't matter much--they become a bunch of thoughts that we see come and go during zazen.
    Hey Bill,

    Not to be difficult, because I like what you have said, but isn't "acting for the good of others and yourself" a value?

    Best,
    Keith

  7. #7

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    So, maybe you just think those are your values. The more important thing, I think, is to act for the good of others and yourself. That way, your values don't matter much--they become a bunch of thoughts that we see come and go during zazen.
    Hey Bill,

    Not to be difficult, because I like what you have said, but isn't "acting for the good of others and yourself" a value?

    Best,
    Keith
    Great point, and I don't have a good answer. The only thing I can think of is that an intent to act in a particular way is subtly different from saying "I am a good person" and then having discomfort later by having to ask "why did I just do a bad thing?"

    shrug,
    Bill

  8. #8

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    I would examine my values and see if they were my real life.
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    You sound so glib. I wonder if you'd be able to keep that attitude if you were going through a period of great loss. Something about your responses sounds so 'canned'.
    ...
    As for values - I mean that I really and truly do want something in my life and yet I don't act in the ways that would get me those things. I deceive myself, I get distracted, and I forget.
    Hi Chet,

    I understand the frustration of getting answers that don't feel they're aimed in any way at what you've asked. That happens to me all the time. At the same time, let's try to give each other the benefit of the doubt -- someone else's answer to your question, even if it doesn't speak to you at all, really might be their personal answer to that question.

    Harry's answer does work for me, and it works for me in times of great difficulty. The reason is because for me, it's one way of cutting through self-deception. You say that you want something, and you don't act in ways that would get it, because you deceive yourself. I've got this problem too, I face it a lot. I've determined that I want something or I want to be a person who acts in certain ways, and suddenly I find that for weeks I haven't been acting the way I tell myself I want to, or I haven't been acting in ways to get what I've determined to get.

    So, sometimes I find it productive to ask myself: "Do you really want what you've told yourself you want? If so, why are you acting the way you're acting? Maybe what you really want is to act the way you've been acting for the last couple weeks. Or maybe, part of you wants what you tell yourself you want, and part of you wants to act the way you've actually been acting. Maybe you don't want something as much as you'd like to think you do, maybe you're deceiving yourself."

    Zazen can be a less wordy way of asking this question, because when I'm sitting, there's nowhere to hide -- it becomes much easier to spot self-deception when I'm sitting regularly.

    Thus, I don't think Harry's answer is easy, I think he's suggesting something very difficult, which can (at least for me) help avoid self-deception.

    --Charles

  9. #9

    Re: Course correction

    "really and truly want something" and don't act in a way to get or be that thing.

    Reminds me of a couple of things, but first, I wonder whether, Chet, your BPD factors into this, acting as a wall of sorts between the want and the do. After you mentioned that in the intro I tried to read a little about it, and admittedly got lost, but still wondered if that could be part of the barrier or perceived barrier to transformation.

    I remember growing up, and even now, my Mom would respond at any time I said I didn't get what I wanted that "I must not have wanted it badly enough or prepared sufficiently to get it". This always seemed immensely unsympathetic to me, and caused me frustration to where I started to limit that kind of sharing with her. At the same time, however, I've begun to see that there is a kernel of truth in the matter.

    Our wants are automatically ordered in some type of priority. The items at the top of the priority list get taken care of. If there is a want that is not happening, then the next step is to see what issues or things are actually happening, to get a feel for where on the priority list the perceived, non-happening want lies.

    For years I had an idea of a person I wanted to be, and projected that in what I said and the values I held. My husband, picked up on different statements and actions on my part which were in direct opposition to what I said, and were completely unconcious on my part. After this conflict of values for me became an external conflict between us, I was forced to see the truth of what I wanted, based on my behaviour (internal value), rather than the rules-based value (external value) that my mind defined as 'me'. Once I tore apart what and who I was, to a degree, and tried living in a more consistent manner with the internal 'me', tranquility returned and joy abounds. Not to be trite, but it really did happen.

    I wonder what the things you want--what effect they have on your life and those around you, vs what you actually do. If you were to, as I did, let go of what you think you want, and accept the 'wants' that are buried in the actions you do, what would happen; what would change? You seem to speak in negative, sometimes harsh terms, but underlying that there must be a great passion. Passion is useful at times, but it is also another version of 'attachment' to something.

    When Harry says to let go of your values, rather than being glib, he's just saying in a different way to 'unattach' as we learn on the path to reduce the unsatisfactory-ness.
    Sorry this got so long--disregard anything that may not be relevant. G, Ann

  10. #10

    Re: Course correction

    Okay, one last thought, I promise! I re-read the original question--If I'm drifting, how do I change course?

    Some answers spoke to actual change in course. Others spoke to change of mind. That is, rather than fight the drift, examine it and maybe come to an understanding and perhaps an acceptance of the drift itself. Isn't that part of the Zen experience, to accept what is?

    The actual mechanics to force a change of course (in mind or behavior) seem to me to always come from the external, and be both difficult and temporary. The drift was internal, and any change, which may be an acceptance rather than a change, would have to be internal.

    Any lasting change comes from developing new habits, and there is lots of material out there outside the Zen realm about habit-forming, if you want that approach to stem the drift.

    Okay, I'm done...for now, anyway Ann

  11. #11

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    As for values - I mean that I really and truly do want something in my life and yet I don't act in the ways that would get me those things. I deceive myself, I get distracted, and I forget.
    That reminds me so much of a passage from the Bible (in Romans 7):

    "21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
    I struggled with this quite a lot when I was a Christian, but I never got anywhere with it. I find Zen more helpful because, through practicing present moment awareness, I can see what I'm doing wrong more quickly and correct it, rather than living my life in an unconscious, sensory desire-led, deluded haze, and then regretting what I've done afterwards. As others have said, awareness, seeing fully what you are doing in any given moment, is the key. But since I didn't discover Zen until after the age of 60, I don't expect my old conditioned habits to disappear overnight. It's like practicing zazen, I think. You have to practice the precepts by keeping bringing yourself back to a better form of behaviour, 'as best you can', over and over again, no matter how many times you slip, and try not to be too harsh with yourself when you fail,

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Course correction

    One of the habits I'm having a hard time re-instilling is sitting regular zazen. Most of my issues stem from that.

    I wonder though, if some of you would offer the same advice to, say, an alcoholic. Clearly, you can be VERY aware that what you are doing is harmful - devastating in fact - and yet not be able to stop yourself.

  13. #13

    Re: Course correction

    I have the same trouble. In times of happiness, I can sit Zazen no problem. But when things start to go wrong in my life - relationships, work, apathy - I just can't get myself to sit longer than a minute before doing anything but Zazen.
    I don't think there's a way though. Other than - just reading what Harry wrote - sorting out the other stuff in my (your) life so that I (you) reach a certain balance outside of Zazen. After all you need a certain amount of balance to do Zazen, methinks...

    So, yeah, that's what I need to do!

  14. #14
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    If a person really couldn't stop him/her self doing something that was harmful to him/her self and/or others then I'd recommend that they go to a respected health professional who was trained to help with that specific thing.

    Zen very likely wouldn't help that in the short term, and maybe even the long term.

    Regards,

    Harry.
    But aren't we just talking about a matter of degree? Isn't all delusion harmful to self and others?

    I wonder though, if I'm in a transition stage. That is, I'm feeling discouraged because I'm seeing the harmfulness of my actions in a way I did not see before and have not yet stopped those actions completely. Maybe this feeling is the natural response to seeing the harmfulness of one's actions that causes change?

    LOL, perhaps I'm jumping the gun.

  15. #15

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    For me personally this would have to involve dropping my values, and my life, via practicing Zazen.
    Yes, but then we must come off the Zafu, back into a world where we must have values, make choices, lead our lives.

    (Of course, all while maintaining the perspective free of values tasted on the Zafu. We can learn to live both views at once, not two, no "on" or "off" the Zafu)

    Quote Originally Posted by chessie
    If all things are impermanent, doesn't this include values?
    Yes. As we are dealing with a taste free of small human values in Zazen, the amoral or something nearly so, the Precepts serve to keep us on a non-destructive course. We should determine our values, as we can, to avoid harm to ourselves and others (not two) ... and to act in ways healthful and beneficial as we can.

    The details, however, need to be figured out by us case by case, in a complex world. I believe. We will study and talk about this more in just a week or so, as we start our "Precepts Study" for the Jukai.

    Now, we may loose our direction from time to time ... but the Precepts are a pretty reliable compass to get us back in a sound direction. I have always found the Precepts to be so. Very good arrows to follow.

    I think our Zazen Practice makes us more and more aware of when we are harming ourselves and others ... and we need to use the compass to comeback to a good path, away from the reefs, again and again.

    Quote Originally Posted by undeceivable
    I have the same trouble. In times of happiness, I can sit Zazen no problem. But when things start to go wrong in my life - relationships, work, apathy - I just can't get myself to sit longer than a minute before doing anything but Zazen.
    And when things are going "wrong" in our lives it is, perhaps, one of the most vital times to sit ... dropping "right" and "wrong" ...

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by chessie
    "really and truly want something" and don't act in a way to get or be that thing.

    Our wants are automatically ordered in some type of priority. The items at the top of the priority list get taken care of. If there is a want that is not happening, then the next step is to see what issues or things are actually happening, to get a feel for where on the priority list the perceived, non-happening want lies.

    Passion is useful at times, but it is also another version of 'attachment' to something.
    G, Ann
    Hi Ann,

    I loved your writing in this post and your previous post on this topic. And I can absolutely relate to the "priority list" you mention.

    But I am concerned about your comment about passion since I have encountered an attitude that having any opinion or emotion gets demonized (or pejoratized) as "attachment". I think buddhist "attachment" involves delusion, the delusion that because I want something or care about something I HAVE to have it, or things MUST be a certain way in my life. And I believe that singleminded passion can be a wonderful thing - it has resulted in great art, music, great changes in life (I am sure that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King lived lives of great passion).

    And I suppose I am concerned that you apologize about your posts (or how many of them there are). Perhaps I am projecting my own instinct to apologize for my existence and for everything I do.

    thank you for your time,
    rowan

  17. #17

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    What do you guys all do when you find yourself drifting away from a life that centers around your values? How do you get back on track?

    Chet
    Hi Chet (or do you prefer "Mouse", I forget),

    I can SOOOOOOOOOO relate to this problem. For me, I remind myself that it is all about choice, every (well, many) moments are about choice - I choose to do one thing and therefore not do something else. So if I want to make art, I must choose to get my butt on the stool at my art table. I must make time for it, even though my first inclination is to run off to clean someone's house or go shopping. So I guess that is my best advice to you, bite the bullet and get your butt on the zafu, (or whatever it is that you have decided is probably the most constructive thing for you to do). And the experience is NOT one of following one's innermost instincts since, many times my instincts are not in my best interest (make that MOST times). And making the action is not easy, I don't know that there are any words to make it easy, it takes great courage and great determination, but it can be done, moment by moment. And just living in this moment, just for today, just for this half-hour, I will sit zazen, or whatever it is that you need to do for your life. There is only this moment.

    thank you for your time,
    rowan
    who really must make more effort to live the above advice

  18. #18
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by ros
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    What do you guys all do when you find yourself drifting away from a life that centers around your values? How do you get back on track?

    Chet
    Hi Chet (or do you prefer "Mouse", I forget),

    I can SOOOOOOOOOO relate to this problem. For me, I remind myself that it is all about choice, every (well, many) moments are about choice - I choose to do one thing and therefore not do something else. So if I want to make art, I must choose to get my butt on the stool at my art table. I must make time for it, even though my first inclination is to run off to clean someone's house or go shopping. So I guess that is my best advice to you, bite the bullet and get your butt on the zafu, (or whatever it is that you have decided is probably the most constructive thing for you to do). And the experience is NOT one of following one's innermost instincts since, many times my instincts are not in my best interest (make that MOST times). And making the action is not easy, I don't know that there are any words to make it easy, it takes great courage and great determination, but it can be done, moment by moment. And just living in this moment, just for today, just for this half-hour, I will sit zazen, or whatever it is that you need to do for your life. There is only this moment.

    thank you for your time,
    rowan
    who really must make more effort to live the above advice
    Thank you! Yes, that helps.

  19. #19

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB

    Yes, but then we must come off the Zafu, back into a world where we must have values, make choices, lead our lives.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Hi Jundo,

    Thank you soooooooo much for saying this. A reminder that we HAVE to do something, since we are always doing Something. And it is important for me to remember that making a conscious decision, for me, is usually the best decision, since my subconscious tends to not necessarily make the best choices.

    gassho,
    rowan
    who hopes to get well soon so grammar comes a little easier......

  20. #20

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by ros

    But I am concerned about your comment about passion since I have encountered an attitude that having any opinion or emotion gets demonized (or pejoratized) as "attachment". I think buddhist "attachment" involves delusion, the delusion that because I want something or care about something I HAVE to have it, or things MUST be a certain way in my life. And I believe that singleminded passion can be a wonderful thing - it has resulted in great art, music, great changes in life (I am sure that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King lived lives of great passion).
    Hi Rowan,

    I agree. Buddhism, through a Mahayana Zen Buddhist lens, is not opposed to desires, emotions and passions in and of themselves (some schools of Buddhism of the Theravada are). In our view, only harmful desires/emotions/passions, in excess, are the problem ... greed, anger and the like. Even a simple "passion for ice cream" is a problem in excess ... if one gourges oneself, for example.

    Folks like Dogen Zenji (and Jundo Cohen!!) were/are very passionate folks about subjects that trip their trigger! Many Zen teachers are, and can be very emotional too ... filled with joy and tears. It is only when we become trapped by our passions and emotions, attached to these or unable to retain our balance when we wish, that there is a problem ... or when the emotions result in harm (as hate and anger almost always do. See Harry's blog about that!).

    Gassho, Jundo

  21. #21

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Even a simple "passion for ice cream" is a problem in excess ... if one gouges themself.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Now Jundo! You know I warned you about those stainless steel sugar cones!

    g,
    r

  22. #22

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Good quote, John (...for a proddy Budhhist! :P )
    Yeah - I'm a bible thumper from way back

    John

  23. #23

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    The only thing I can think of is that an intent to act in a particular way is subtly different from saying "I am a good person" and then having discomfort later by having to ask "why did I just do a bad thing?"
    Hey Bill,

    Thank you. Yes, I agree. It reminds me of the Romans quote that John posted. Thanks for that John. I was actually thinking of that exact passage when I wrote my first post.

    There's a lot of "meat" in this thread and I appreciate everyone's perspectives. Thanks all.

    Best,
    Keith

  24. #24

    Re: Course correction

    Hey Chet,

    I seriously struggle with this one too. Overall, I thinks its okay. At least we are not oblivious to what our values are but reconciling them with our actions is a tough nut to crack at times.

    Personally, I get a great deal of comfort and encouragement from the old zen proverb that goes, "Fall down seven times, get up eight."

    Just keep plugging away at it -- Right Effort!! Nothing is automatic about this life and walking the Eightfold Path surely requires some work.

    Gassho,

    Greg

  25. #25

    Re: Course correction

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    Thank you! Yes, that helps.
    So maybe we can get off our butts to get on our butts together !

    I will be thinking of you from slightly to the south, slightly to the east (Hayward).

    Enjoy some fog for me!

    rowan

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