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Thread: Complacency or dukka

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Complacency or dukka

    Here is an area of interest for me lately that I'm going to rant on for a bit. If we practice a religion that says everything you need is right here right now, and if a huge part of our practice is embracing anything and everything that we encounter, both the mundane and beautiful as well as ugly and evil, then complacency seems a real risk. I understand acceptance without acceptance, but where do we draw the line on un-acceptance? I understand that Dogen and others were really driven individuals that created temples and schools and did all sorts of things that changed how we act as buddhists today, but what about us regular guys/gals just trying to keep up with the boss' demands and deadlines? My boss, my job does not understand the emptiness of her/its forms. To her, it is not all OK; everything she needs is not right here right now, but she wants it to be! That's her suffering, I know, but bosses have a way of spreading their suffering around. I understand that everything in life is my practice, including meeting those deadlines and dealing with the bosses of the world, yet somewhere in there also needs to be a place for self-care, which if carried too far leads to missed deadlines and upset bosses. So again, where to draw the line?

    If I blow off work because I feel that I need to take care of myself, then I may suffer the consequences of not getting necessary work done. Or, if I work too hard because of those external demands, then I suffer the consequences of not taking care of myself (this recently happened when I got sick for a week). Where is that balance? I know, I know, we each have to find it for ourselves. But this is the struggle for me lately. Work is a form of self-care for me in many ways, but so is not working. As the need to complete work increases so does the need for self-care that does not include work, which leads to a rather bouncy existence. My buddhist beliefs tell me it's all OK, it's all practice, it's all empty, just do the best you can, which I find can easily fall into complacency. But the world around me (that insists it's real) screams back at me that I've got this and this and this and this and this to do NOW, which seems in many ways the very definition of suffering, because I agree that those things do need to get done. Hell, I want to get them done, but there are limits.

    Lately, zazen is the only peace I find, and that can be fleeting. At least thanks to Ango I get to sit twice a day! Work is filled with stress and people that add to the stress, and being at home (where I tend to try and get a lot of work done) I feel torn between recovering from stress or adding to it by doing all that work I didn't get done that needs to get done. In the end, a lot of stuff does not get done, but I do get by. But is that OK? I don't need to build a temple, just meeting more of life's professional demands while remaining healthy in the process would be plenty.

    OK, rant over. I got work to do here that's been piling up, seriously.

  2. #2

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Not exactly a new topic here, but an areas of interest for me lately that I'm going to rant on for a bit. If we practice a religion that says everything you need is right here right now, and if a huge part of our practice is embracing anything and everything that we encounter, both the mundane and beautiful as well as ugly and evil, then complacency seems a real risk. I understand acceptance without acceptance, but where do we draw the line on un-acceptance? I understand that Dogen and others were really driven individuals that created temples and schools and did all sorts of things that changed how we act as buddhists today, but what about us regular guys/gals just trying to keep up with the boss' demands and deadlines? My boss, my job does not understand the emptiness of her/its forms. I understand that everything in life is my practice, including meeting those deadlines and dealing with the bosses of the world, yet somewhere in there also needs to be a place for self-care, which if carried too far leads to missed deadlines and upset bosses. So again, where to draw the line?

    If I blow off work because I feel that I need to take care of myself, then I may suffer the consequences of not getting necessary work done. Or, if I work too hard because of those external demands, then I suffer the consequences of not taking care of myself (this recently happened when I got sick for a week). Where is that balance? I know, I know, we each have to find it for ourselves. But this is the struggle for me lately. Work is a form of self-care for me in many ways, but so is not working. As the need to complete work increases so does the need for self-care that does not include work, which leads to a rather bouncy existence. My buddhist beliefs tell me it's all OK, it's all practice, it's all empty, just do the best you can, which I find can easily fall into complacency. But the world around me (that insists it's real) screams back at me that I've got this and this and this and this and this to do NOW, which seems in many ways the very definition of dukka, because I agree that those things do need to get done.

    Lately, zazen is the only peace I find, and that can be fleeting. At least thanks to Ango I get to sit twice a day! Work is filled with stress and people that add to the stress, and being at home (where I tend to try and get a lot of work done) I feel torn between recovering from stress or adding to it by doing all that work I didn't get done that needs to get done. In the end, a lot of stuff does not get done, but I do get by. But is that OK? I don't need to build a temple, just meeting more of life's professional demands while remaining healthy in the process would be plenty.

    OK, rant over. I got work to do here that's been piling up, seriously.
    Good evening, brother Alan,

    The world screams, but where do the screams land?

    Peaceful or stressful;
    Cold or hot;
    Calm or chaotic;
    Work or home;

    What does it mean? Does it have to mean?

    The world may add to our workload, why do we have to? I find that when I let go of "I wish I were at home!" or "I dun' wanna'!" and get down to it, work is just work. When I can pry my grubby little fingers loose from the thought of making zazen peaceful, life swirls about like it always has, but I can just sit, untempted by the temptation in my head (not often, mind you!).

    But life happens--I used to have the same problems, constantly bringing work home and home to work. My solution (you're going to hate it--it's a stock response!): when working, just work. When sitting, just sit. When watching TV with your feet propped up on the table with your wife next to you...well, do just that.

    The past is gone and over with, no sense to try to bring it back.
    The future isn't here yet, and we don't even know what it is--why try to jump into it?
    The only thing to do is to dive deeply into the present.

    Always here, always now, always beautiful and empty. The crickets outside now are part of the music of life, just like my breathing, my typing, my boss yelling at me. Don't push, don't pull.

    It usually works for me. That having been said, I don't know what you're going through; this may be only partially applicable (or not at all). If that is the case, I apologize.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERbvKrH-GC4[/video]]
    Alan Watts - "Music and Life"

    My offering to you, in the hopes that it brings you as much peace as it does me.

    Much metta,

    Perry

  3. #3

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Hi Al,

    If one is only practicing Zazen 'on the cushion', then one is not practicing Zazen right. Zazen is on the cushion, behind the desk, in the kitchen, in the nursery, on the bus. Zazen daily 'on the cushion' is indispensible, but Zazen must not be left there (actually, there is no place that Zazen already is not!)

    In this Practice, we have to devote our self to many things ... sitting time, taklng it easy/play time, family time (subdivided into the various members of our family), work time, devotion to social action/volunteer/try-to-change-the-world-a-little time. All are important, although we each have to wrestle with how to divide up our time toward each of those .... assuming, of course, that the demands of life, and the limits of a 24 hour day do not make the decision for us (for the time for work may take away from even family, let alone the rest of the categories). Ideally, we need to find a life that allows time and balance among all those aspects, but it is not so easy in the real world.

    I think we must just wrestle with this, each in our own lives, as a Koan. A common complaint from monks training in monasteries is that there are so many demands, running here and there ... barely a moment to sit still and contemplate one's navel (one would think that is all they do!)

    Thus, you must find a way to bring "opportunities to practice" into all settings. The other day, you wrote something that you found the meaning of "Samu" for the first time ...

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    ... I really attended to ... the scrapings and the water pouring over and making all the sudsy scrapings go away, only to repeat the process many times. My mind ran away bunches of times, and I brought it back just like I do in zazen. And when it was almost all cleaned up, not that I was concerned about how cleaned up it was, it finally occurred to me: "Oh, this is what they mean when they talk about samu!."
    viewtopic.php?p=42498#p42498

    The scraping boss, the scraping deadlines ... you must bring the same attitude of "nothing to attain" and "letting go" and "all is Buddha" right there ... right here ... or quit this Practice, Alan. Waste of time. The screaming boss is Kannon.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    The chains that bind us are of our own making. That's why Harry Houdini was able to free himself even while under water

    "In the end, a lot of stuff does not get done, but I do get by. But is that OK? "
    Yes, it's OK.
    /Rich

  5. #5
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Complacency or dukka

    First and foremost, I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Here is where I take refuge because I feel safe enough here to vent, to make public what has been a nagging private concern for some time: balancing self-care with other demands so as to maximize both. I think this is a little more raw than its usual denial state because both work is harder lately (new boss/sheriff in town) and awareness is higher with Ango, so I boiled over here yesterday.

    Secondly, that venting really felt good! To just let loose emotionally and feel that it was OK to do so here because I take refuge here felt really good. The content of that rant was momentarily emotionally right on target. When upset for the moment, be upset for the moment. And then the moment passes and life changes again.

    Third, let's get down to some substance. Here is my problem with "when working work, and when watching TV watch TV." Plainly said like that is it too easy to just watch TV, and thus the complacency I warned of. Better is what Bernie Glassman calls the One Body where we act out of non-separation with whatever is going on with our lives, doing whatever needs to be done in any given situation. So watching TV while the house is burning (to be overly dramatic) is not the time to watch TV. Put more directly relating to my experience, watching TV when there is work to be done (and I am capable of doing it) is not the time to watch TV. Uchiyama talks about the same thing in his story about a bird keeping its eggs warm, always knowing when the right time to turn them so they stay evenly warm and can hatch safely. But all the bird is doing is acting as One Body and cooling her stomach when it gets too warm because her eggs are getting too warm. It's prajna wisdom in action.

    Here's a quote from Bernie Glassman's The Infinite Circle:
    Realizing the One Body simply means that you no longer sit around trying to figure out how to deal with the problem. You act; you do something! There are no utopias, When we are enlightened, we accept samsara as it is and function directly in samsara. This is nirvana. There is no nirvana other than this.
    BG's timing is amazing, because I read that last night after my rant here. Later on in my reading last night he said:
    No separation does not mean no suffering; it does mean no complaining. And in fact, isn't most of what we mean by suffering nothing more than complaining, or taking things personally or egocentrically?
    I am guilty as charged!
    One more Bernie quote:
    Problems and crises create anger and frustration; get rid of the self and they are seen as challenges. Determination emerges and you meet the challenges as best you can.
    So I am left with the challenge to do the best I can from a place of non-separation with my work and self-care tasks. Do I turn my eggs or keep my stomach cool? Do I watch TV or get my work done? Yes to all in the appropriate time and place. Figuring all that out is my practice, as Jundo said, my zazen off the cushion. I accept that I need to dig in to this challenge with determination instead of complaining about it, that I need to surf it to the best of my ability, recognizing that my ability to surf will increase with practice.

    Finally, Rich your assurance that it was OK was wonderful. Thank you very much for that.
    Jundo, your comment that the screaming boss was Kannon really hit hard. Thank you for that.
    Atomic Spud, I picked on your comments above but I know the spirit in which they were given, so thank you for that.

  6. #6

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Atomic Spud, I picked on your comments above but I know the spirit in which they were given, so thank you for that.
    Hi,

    No worries--I hope the venting helped.

    Metta and karuna and all the others I can't spell!

    Perry

  7. #7

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    As the late great John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

    Gassho

    Joe (fab four fan) :mrgreen:

  8. #8

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeTurner
    As the late great John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

    Gassho

    Joe (fab four fan) :mrgreen:
    ...and someone named Hubbard proclaimed, "Life is just one damned thing after another".
    Gassho,
    Don

  9. #9

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Man do I know how you feel. I've felt like I've been in the shit for the past few months. I work in software development, and stuff was not working, but that is the life of a software developer.

    In any case, I've been really, really stressing out about it. And me stressing out about it is my fault. I'm not accepting where I'm at. Before I can do something I have to really face where I'm at now without being so emotionally invested into it. I mean by not having preferences I guess. Not preferences like I'm a zombie I prefer nothing. I mean preferences by saying ok my code is messed up. What am I going to do, put my head in the sand or do something to fix it?

    And although the software just is as it is... it wasn't working.

    Anyway, now I'm talking about myself, which wasn't my intention at all... sorry But I meant to show you that I completely understand. Sometimes I fantasize that my life would be "easier" if I were a monk somewhere. Then I laugh at myself, because my small self is imagining a place where life will be easy. At the same time this is my ego bs.... When it comes down to it, I'm damned fortunate to even have a job to be stressed about.

    Stress sucks, I always try to find ways out of it, but I think the key is to be at peace amid suffering (i.e stress, etc), and I'm no good at it yet.

  10. #10

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Quote Originally Posted by cyril
    ....Sometimes I fantasize that my life would be "easier" if I were a monk somewhere. Then I laugh at myself, because my small self is imagining a place where life will be easy. At the same time this is my ego bs.... When it comes down to it, I'm damned fortunate to even have a job to be stressed about.

    Stress sucks, I always try to find ways out of it, but I think the key is to be at peace amid suffering (i.e stress, etc), and I'm no good at it yet.
    YET.

    Yes, peace amid and allowing stress (which is not really the same as wishing for "always no stress") ... although tending somehow to make the "stress" and "suffering" fundamentally not stressful and insufferable when we embrace, and are embraced by, them too! Weird how that works!. :wink:

    So long as we have these bodies of flesh and bone ... and deadlines, fender benders, ants at life's picnic, medical tests next Tuesday, screaming bosses and kids ... there will be "stress". So long as life takes us "north" although we really really really wanted and hoped to go "south", there will be "suffering".

    Thus, as in a moment of Zazen, find the "let fender benders bend" moment ... the "no north or south" place ... and one may begin to live ...

    ... peace even amid and allowing and fully expressing and dancing with stress and life's ups and downs.

    It won't get that crazy boss off your back, or straighten your mangled bumper, or save your picnic or your job, cure your kidneys, put money in the bank (although providing untold other riches, more intangible) ...

    ... it may not even keep you from crying some days, or feeling overwrought some days, or getting up on the wrong side of the bed some mornings (that is what "flesh and bone" does when the alarm clock goes off) ...

    ... but it will allow each to be encountered in a very fresh and quiet way. There are no "sides" of the bed in order to get out of ... "nothing to achieve" or "deadlines" even with so much pressing down on us ... nothing in need of cure, even as we take our prescribed medicines ... blue days just blue, happy days happy ...

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    First and foremost, I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Here is where I take refuge because I feel safe enough here to vent, to make public what has been a nagging private concern for some time: balancing self-care with other demands so as to maximize both. I think this is a little more raw than its usual denial state because both work is harder lately (new boss/sheriff in town) and awareness is higher with Ango, so I boiled over here yesterday.

    Secondly, that venting really felt good! To just let loose emotionally and feel that it was OK to do so here because I take refuge here felt really good. The content of that rant was momentarily emotionally right on target. When upset for the moment, be upset for the moment. And then the moment passes and life changes again.

    Third, let's get down to some substance. Here is my problem with "when working work, and when watching TV watch TV." Plainly said like that is it too easy to just watch TV, and thus the complacency I warned of. Better is what Bernie Glassman calls the One Body where we act out of non-separation with whatever is going on with our lives, doing whatever needs to be done in any given situation. So watching TV while the house is burning (to be overly dramatic) is not the time to watch TV. Put more directly relating to my experience, watching TV when there is work to be done (and I am capable of doing it) is not the time to watch TV. Uchiyama talks about the same thing in his story about a bird keeping its eggs warm, always knowing when the right time to turn them so they stay evenly warm and can hatch safely. But all the bird is doing is acting as One Body and cooling her stomach when it gets too warm because her eggs are getting too warm. It's prajna wisdom in action.

    Here's a quote from Bernie Glassman's The Infinite Circle:
    Realizing the One Body simply means that you no longer sit around trying to figure out how to deal with the problem. You act; you do something! There are no utopias, When we are enlightened, we accept samsara as it is and function directly in samsara. This is nirvana. There is no nirvana other than this.
    BG's timing is amazing, because I read that last night after my rant here. Later on in my reading last night he said:
    No separation does not mean no suffering; it does mean no complaining. And in fact, isn't most of what we mean by suffering nothing more than complaining, or taking things personally or egocentrically?
    I am guilty as charged!
    One more Bernie quote:
    Problems and crises create anger and frustration; get rid of the self and they are seen as challenges. Determination emerges and you meet the challenges as best you can.
    So I am left with the challenge to do the best I can from a place of non-separation with my work and self-care tasks. Do I turn my eggs or keep my stomach cool? Do I watch TV or get my work done? Yes to all in the appropriate time and place. Figuring all that out is my practice, as Jundo said, my zazen off the cushion. I accept that I need to dig in to this challenge with determination instead of complaining about it, that I need to surf it to the best of my ability, recognizing that my ability to surf will increase with practice.

    Finally, Rich your assurance that it was OK was wonderful. Thank you very much for that.
    Jundo, your comment that the screaming boss was Kannon really hit hard. Thank you for that.
    Atomic Spud, I picked on your comments above but I know the spirit in which they were given, so thank you for that.
    Alan,
    It sure was fun witnessing your journey full circle and landing in the very footprints you left. Just one difference you left a lot of baggage somewhere. Good! gassho zak

  12. #12
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Complacency or dukka

    I learned a long time ago working for agencies that there is always more work than there is of you/me. But there it was all located in an office, so I just had to learn those boundaries of office/home. Now my work involves research and writing, which I can't get done in an office, so I do it at home, and those boundaries are blurred, but there is still more work than there is of me. So now I am learning, have been learning, will keep on learning new boundaries even as my practice tells me to let go of all boundaries. Quite the journey I am.

  13. #13

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    One of my first reactions to Zen was "well, if everybody believed that, nothing would get done." I no longer believe that is true. Sure, we can believe that "work" is not that important in the big scheme of things, and we don't "desire" to meet that deadline, or get that next promotion, etc. OTOH, we don't prefer watching tv to working. So, as it was so eloquently put in an earlier thread, all time is "me time". If you're job requires you to work 12 hours a day to keep up - so what? Work 12 hours a day. Work/play/relaxation - it's all the same. It's only our expectations that make them different.

    No, I don't always live this. But I do live this more and more often as time goes by.

  14. #14
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Craig, if your point is we do what we need to do, then I agree. I've been working my way through How To Cook Your Life and chapter 8, Direction and Goal, basically says, as I interpret it, that planning and preparation for the future are as much a part of Zen as the whole being in the now moment. The Middle Way is neither living for now nor living for the future, but reconciling the two by preparing and working now for a future that may or may not come. This is how, I now realize, that Dogen and others were able to make temples. This, I am now finding, is the recipe for a non-complacent zen that I was struggling with in my first post.

  15. #15

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Craig, if your point is we do what we need to do, then I agree.
    Yes, that is partially my point. But more important (to me anyway) is that the difference between work and play is just something we've made up in our mind (something Mark Twain commented on when he had Tom Sawyer say "work is what we are obliged to do, play is what we choose to do" - regardless of the actual activity). When I have to work a lot, my mind (used to, sometimes still does) bombard me with thoughts like "this isn't what I planned to do tonight", or "why do I have to work when everybody else has already gone home?" Blah, blah, blah. It's really all the same -working, reading, watching tv. Only (small) mind finds differences.

    IMHO.

    Craig

  16. #16

    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Craig, if your point is we do what we need to do, then I agree. I've been working my way through How To Cook Your Life and chapter 8, Direction and Goal, basically says, as I interpret it, that planning and preparation for the future are as much a part of Zen as the whole being in the now moment. The Middle Way is neither living for now nor living for the future, but reconciling the two by preparing and working now for a future that may or may not come. This is how, I now realize, that Dogen and others were able to make temples. This, I am now finding, is the recipe for a non-complacent zen that I was struggling with in my first post.
    It's funny how my planning and preparation was so fixed and rigid it couldn't help but bring more disappointment. Now while it's still a little obsessive my plans seem more open to change and a little complacency is not so bad either.

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Craig, if your point is we do what we need to do, then I agree.
    Yes, that is partially my point. But more important (to me anyway) is that the difference between work and play is just something we've made up in our mind (something Mark Twain commented on when he had Tom Sawyer say "work is what we are obliged to do, play is what we choose to do" - regardless of the actual activity). When I have to work a lot, my mind (used to, sometimes still does) bombard me with thoughts like "this isn't what I planned to do tonight", or "why do I have to work when everybody else has already gone home?" Blah, blah, blah. It's really all the same -working, reading, watching tv. Only (small) mind finds differences.

    IMHO.

    Craig
    I have felt like that 'the difference between work and play is just something we've made up in our mind' but at any given time I still have likes and dislikes and hopefully they align with what I am obliged to do much of the time. Another balancing act :?:

  17. #17
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Complacency or dukka

    Woke up early and came up with a theory. Here goes....
    Consider a graph where on the X axis we have Great Meaning at the top and Little Meaning on the bottom. On the Y axis we have Little Enjoyment on the left and Great Enjoyment on the right (I tried to draw such a graph here but it wont' work, so you have to use your imagination a bit or draw your own). Now, think of the graph as being divided into four quadrants.

    For me, an example of an activity in the upper right quadrant of Great Meaning & Great Enjoyment would be teaching. An example in the upper left quadrant of Great Meaning & Little Enjoyment would be writing research articles. An example in the lower right quadrant of Great Enjoyment & Little Meaning would be watching TV. And an example of Little Enjoyment & Little Meaning would be cleaning house. I am sure you can come up with your own examples for each quadrant.

    For me, anything with significant levels of meaning AND enjoyment are things I am most likely to do, and conversely, things with low levels of enjoyment OR meaning I am least likely to do. In other words, as long as the activity has some meaning and I get some joy out of it, then I tend to do it; but as soon as the activity loses meaning or joy, then I become less likely to do it. And if the activity has neither meaning nor joy it probably does not get done much at all. My guess is this is the same for you.

    So where do complacency and dukka come in? We need to add a third dimension to this two dimensional graph and label it Pressure -- be it time pressure or external pressure from others or internal pressure from your "self," or whatever. This gives us the following combinations:
    * When Pressure, Meaning, and Enjoyment are all high, we almost certainly act.
    * When Pressure and Meaning are high but Enjoyment is low, we become less likely to act and thus complacency can set in.
    * When Pressure is high but Meaning and Enjoyment are low, that's complacency and dukka.
    * When Pressure is low, then we act according to Meaning and Enjoyment levels as described above.

    Yeah, I know. I need to go sit. But I am feeling some internal pressure from external sources to get some work done that is professionally meaningful and my brain is in such a place that I might actually enjoy doing it today, so I will sit later for sure. But for right now I think I need to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak, or else I'll suffer :mrgreen:

  18. #18
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Complacency or dukka

    OK, after a day filled with a lot of work followed by a lot of zazenkai sitting, I have one thing to add to my theory. Dropping meaning and enjoyment and pressure equals samu, and that's the jewel in the lotus. So take those three dimensions down to the one point where all the axes (axis plural) join. That's zazen, that's samu. In the world of delusion, however, I think the above also gives some insight; but in the end, ultimately, it's about dropping resistance. I think it's fair to say that the theory in my first post and my additions in this post are not one, not two.

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