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Thread: less self-centered practice?

  1. #1

    less self-centered practice?

    Hello friends,
    I have a question. What are some good ways of making your practice less self centered?

    I'm a pretty introverted and brooding person so it comes easy to me. Metta pratice helps certainly, and to some degree, working with ethics.

    All the best,
    em

  2. #2

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    I think most of us are little self centered sometimes. Depending on your practice.

    My job is a teacher, so it's a good situation to drop some of that stuff (not as easy as you would think btw) :-)
    but It does bring the tendency to think of the best for one's students, and create a good example .

    I would say, just try to do some good most of the time. For example, instead of just getting your change from the cashier, perhaps you can smile and say thanks (even if they don't notice). Just wish everyone well sometimes, but don't go overboard. As practice progresses I think we start to get more of a natural intuition towards things.

    For example:

    I'm reading this article on new gaming technology, and something just doesn't seem right. Talking about altering brainwaves, and "project images directly onto your retinas" kind of makes me raise an eyebrow a little. Not for myself really, but for the total and utter immersion and escape that these things can bring about.

    Anyway, LOL

    Just keep on trucking and give a smile now and then. Be nice. Wish people well. Laugh at yourself. And don't worry about it too much.

    That's all I have to say for now.

    Gassho

  3. #3

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Wait!! I'm not done (shut up Will).

    About a month ago I probably would have gotten really pissed off and irritated that the students partying in my building wouldn't shut up. However, I never actually listened to them. I just had some thought of who they were and how they were acting. It turns out that they were actually enjoying themselves, and that made me happy to hear that. Really it is only sound with an image projected on it, but it's better than thinking "Shut the hell up!!"

    It's all practice.

    Ok. Done.

    Gassho

  4. #4
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Well well well,

    Good point. You sit utterly undrstanding and accepting that this is pointless, useless. Shikantaza doesn't make people better, it is not something rewarding for the self.
    So as Will tells you, sit and don't try. If you notice you are selfish, this is great! Awareness of delusion is Buddha's practice.

    Taigu

  5. #5
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Thank you, em, for writing:
    I have a question. What are some good ways of making your practice less self centered?
    I have been thinking the same thing recently. I am more and more a loner. I spend all day during the week with students and colleagues, and that's all the socialization I generally want. So I often end up avoiding other activities with people, not even just calling them on the phone, or not answering the phone when they call me. I like people, a lot, but I feel no great need to be with them any more than necessary. When I am with people I am a nice, gracious, precept-observing fellow, or at least I try to be as much as I can. Yet somehow this trend toward loner-ness feels self-centered and not in accordance with a Buddhist Big Heart. Yes, to acknowledge this is a good thing, and awareness is generally the first step towards growth away from it. But in this case I seem to be going in the opposite direction, more towards solitude than community, or something like that. And yes, I am being dualistic about it. I see that, too. Just to be clear, I feel neither attached to being a loner nor aversive toward people. I recognize the middle way here and think I am somewhere in there, but where I am in this does not seem quite right somehow. But maybe it's just me...

  6. #6

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Quote Originally Posted by em
    Hello friends,
    I have a question. What are some good ways of making your practice less self centered?

    I'm a pretty introverted and brooding person so it comes easy to me. Metta pratice helps certainly, and to some degree, working with ethics.

    All the best,
    em
    Hi Em,

    On a practice note, this is a good time to mention undertaking "Samu" work practice at Treeleaf. I encourage this strongly for all folks.

    The idea of doing community volunteer work as Samu is probably a Western engaged Buddhist spin. However, many temples and monasteries in Asia run some charity programs, like hospices and the like, so it is not that unique. I have not been too insistent on people doing "Samu" work practice at Treeleaf, but I think I should remind us all from time to time. If someone will do community volunteer work, preferably, it should be hands on actually helping people in need like the sick or elderly or kids in need (not just folding envelopes) However, for those already loaded with work and family obligations, an intentional commitment to non-do some of those activities is "Samu" practice. We could have a group in which people discuss Samu and support each other.

    So, if you have time, please consider volunteering in your community. Please look here ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/samu.html

    (unfortunately, the links provided above only are for North America. I am sure that there are similar resources in other countries)

    CONSIDER IT A VITAL AND NECESSARY PART OF YOUR PRACTICE WITH OUR SANGHA.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - I will also report this post on the philosophy of Samu, for those not familiar with the practice ...

    I have done some talks about Samu in the past, all vanished. One that survives is that one that I did for the Zazenkai and talks about the attitude of Samu ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/library/zazenka ... php?page=5

    I will try to do another one in the next day or so (cause I just happen to have lots of work in the garden that has to be done around here)!! :?

    Samu is vital to Practice. In fact, Samu --IS-- "working Zazen"!

    No, the monks were assigned their different work assignments (very little in a monastery is a matter of free choice for a young trainee monk), and usually rotated through all the work in the monastery.

    I believe it is important that the work you pick for daily Samu should be something you mentally resist a little. If you are engaged in Samu around your house, yet hate washing the dishes or washing the bathroom in your house, that is excellent samu ... because a large part of our practice is, of course, learning to drop resistance and drop "likes" and "dislikes", and just to be present with how things are. Samu does not have to be something outside of our normal life though, and if you are busy with a job in the office or taking care of home, well, just pick something in those places that you mentally resist. Samu should perhaps last an half hour or hour at least, so for overworked people, you can select things within your existing duties at home and work. Excellent Samu! And if you can volunteer, it is good to pick something with a bit of resistance too.

  7. #7

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Yes.

    I care for a friend with severe migraine. Being with her in her pain tears me up. Shielding myself from it makes me distant and pretty messed up. I don't quite know how to grapple with that. It's the hardest thing I've ever done I think.

  8. #8

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Quote Originally Posted by em
    Yes.

    I care for a friend with severe migraine. Being with her in her pain tears me up. Shielding myself from it makes me distant and pretty messed up. I don't quite know how to grapple with that. It's the hardest thing I've ever done I think.
    It is a Koan, and it is life, and it is good work and it is caring for someone in need.

    We cannot shield ourselves from human pain. In the old days, human suffering was closer at hand, all around. Now, we keep it hidden. Yet we need to face it. It is the ultimate Koan ... it is what sent the Buddha on his his original search.

    Gassho, J

  9. #9

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    A few years ago I helped care for my father-in-law during his final months with terminal cancer. We kept him at home, where he wanted to be, and basically helped him see it through, doing things for him he couldn't do for himself. It was very difficult to be there, but I would do it again. There was no other place I should have been but right there.

    gassho

  10. #10

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobiah
    A few years ago I helped care for my father-in-law during his final months with terminal cancer. We kept him at home, where he wanted to be, and basically helped him see it through, doing things for him he couldn't do for himself. It was very difficult to be there, but I would do it again. There was no other place I should have been but right there.

    gassho
    I want to say that any practice on the Zafu needs the practice of caring for a dying father-in-law.

    In the history of Zen Buddhism, the great teachers never shielded themselves from death and suffering. One cannot begin to see through such things unless one looks at them eye to eye.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Quote Originally Posted by em
    Yes.

    I care for a friend with severe migraine. Being with her in her pain tears me up. Shielding myself from it makes me distant and pretty messed up. I don't quite know how to grapple with that. It's the hardest thing I've ever done I think.
    Greetings,

    There are care-givers support/advice groups out there. I will ask someone at the theatre I work at about material on care-giving (she trains hospice volunteers).

    But a little (or a lot) of mental distance might be a good thing. I think that your being unhappy does not help her, it is just one more person being unhappy.

    As for being self centered (and it being a problem), could you please expand on this and maybe give examples? My first reaction to your original post is "what is wrong with having a self-centered practice?" In fact zazen is very self centered (centered around one's self because in sitting one is right there with just the self). And one of the great benefits of sitting is to develop a self that is so solid, like a mountain. Speaking as someone (who talks a lot but) has a weak sense/strength of Self-ness, I have a goal of being very Self-centered (as a way to help the being known as rowan/Jinho). Frankly, my weak self-center has always been a burden/hassle for other people. Of course, it is only stating the obvious to say that having a strong sense/experience of self does not mean one has to be an asshole to other beings. A strong sense of Self gives one the strength needed to be of assistance to others (IMHO).

    I disagree with the idea of "feeling other people's pain". For me that means there is one more person in pain. My fantasy of someone else's pain will not make them feel less pain. I think maybe this idea is promoted to get people to get off their asses and do what needs to be done. But maybe I can jsut do what needs doing without getting the fantasy of someone else's misery. (I don't believe in empathy, I believe that I can only feel my fantasy of someone else's experience - but 25 years in as a neo-pagan has left me thinking genuine psychic experiences are very rare.)

    But if you are caring for an ill friend you don't sound very selfish self-centered to me?

    thank you for your time,
    gassho,
    jinho

  12. #12

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Well well well,

    Good point. You sit utterly undrstanding and accepting that this is pointless, useless. Shikantaza doesn't make people better, it is not something rewarding for the self.

    Taigu
    But it does make people better (at least it has for all the people I know). Sitting hasn't been useless for me. Taigu, If your sitting has been useless and has not caused you to have increased understanding, maybe I can help?

    gassho,
    rowan

  13. #13

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    I couldn't pm you em.

    If you feel that your a little brooding, introverted and don't connect with others often and whatnot. Start a blog. Blogs are great, and most of the time people don't read them anyway. They're usual just lame thoughts and what's happening around you and stuff (take mine for example). Great way to just speak and be honest sometimes. Get out of our hole.

    But practice is most important, whether you speak or not.

    W

  14. #14

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    re: the Taigu quote

    What I think he's getting at Rowan/Jinho, is that Shikintaza is Shikintaza. Nothing more. It's neither a remedy, nor chicken soup for the soul.

    Whatever you are like in this moment, is Zazen. There is nothing to add or take away, only recognition (and even that can be put aside for a while).

    Gassho

  15. #15

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinho

    As for being self centered (and it being a problem), could you please expand on this and maybe give examples? My first reaction to your original post is "what is wrong with having a self-centered practice?" In fact zazen is very self centered (centered around one's self because in sitting one is right there with just the self). And one of the great benefits of sitting is to develop a self that is so solid, like a mountain. Speaking as someone (who talks a lot but) has a weak sense/strength of Self-ness, I have a goal of being very Self-centered (as a way to help the being known as rowan/Jinho). Frankly, my weak self-center has always been a burden/hassle for other people. Of course, it is only stating the obvious to say that having a strong sense/experience of self does not mean one has to be an asshole to other beings. A strong sense of Self gives one the strength needed to be of assistance to others (IMHO).
    Hi,
    On many points I agree with you/Jinho concerning having a strong sense of self, or perhaps rather not questioning yourself incessantly. My insecurity does get in the way more often than not. To make things clearer I suggest we make a distinction between being self centered and being centered or grounded.

    I'll try to explain what I mean with self centered in this context. It's not that I'm completely wound up in myself and can't see other people. It's just that I'm used to working with myself and my issues and taking care of myself.

    I suggest my practice easily slips into these well rehearsed patterns. Reflections on ethics become reflections about myself. Caring for my friend become reflections on how I can possibly cope with the stressful situation. I'm looking for pointers to shift that focus.

    And saying that, I don't suggest that there are easy ways going about that, but that there are things you can do to slowly shift focus. Like samu, like caring, like metta. Yesterday I tried to give metta when I helped her. Perhaps that works, I don't know.

    I intend to just sit, to just bow, to just practice metta and to try to give care, but if anyone else has thought about or grappled with this in the past, I'm curious as to how you thought about it.

    All the best,
    em

  16. #16

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Hi,

    Well, I pretty much have a naive and simple interpretation of the Bodhisattva Vow central to our practice ... To Save All Sentient Beings.

    I agree that we sit with our self, and should lose our self and find our Self ... all to make our self-Self strong ...

    ... But then we should work to help our other self ... the others that are our self-Self too.

    We cannot save the world, don't get me wrong (except, of course, by that perspective by which the world was never in need of saving). But we can help a little here and there.

    I will confess that I put myself in the same boat this week: This conversation inspired me to volunteer for a bit of work (I do not want to go into the details) in my neighborhood here in Tsukuba ... I will just say that it can have some "bodily fluids yucky" aspects. I had been putting it off through the winter, but now I went into the office today ... and I start FRIDAY! I am scared a bit, not about the "yucky" so much (although I will have to drop ideas of "clean" and "dirty") ... but about whether I can do the job without causing them problems ... and I am sitting with it. I will be there Friday. And I know that I will receive much more than I ever can give there.

    So, we don't need to be supermen and women, or put ourselves in situations that are extreme. But it is good to give, and it is good to deal with what we resist a bit. Learning to overcome mental resistance is an important part of the "mind mastery" training that is included in Zen Practice.

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17

    Re: less self-centered practice?

    Quote Originally Posted by em
    And saying that, I don't suggest that there are easy ways going about that, but that there are things you can do to slowly shift focus. Like samu, like caring, like metta. Yesterday I tried to give metta when I helped her. Perhaps that works, I don't know.

    I intend to just sit, to just bow, to just practice metta and to try to give care, but if anyone else has thought about or grappled with this in the past, I'm curious as to how you thought about it.

    All the best,
    em
    Hi Em,

    Thanks, I think I am a little clearer. (there are reasons why I was unclear but they are very boring).

    Your post made me think of "the best gift one can give is to sincerely ask someone what they want".

    gassho,
    rowan

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