Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lute strings, right effort

A while back bodhipaksa blogged that Tiger Woods was the most famous Buddhist. I'd never heard much about him, and I think meditation is a key to it, you can't just have Buddhist parents (Tiger's mother is supposed to be Buddhist), you have to actually do something. Turns out, in a recent article in the NY Times, he experimented in meditation.

Trying to find the post on famous Buddhists, I came across this post about a retreat I missed. Dang. The same psychological criteria I judge other Buddhists by--what are they doing to move towards enlightenment?--I also use to judge myself so, by missing a retreat, I didn't do everything I could do to move towards enlightenment. But maybe not, I can't recall, but perhaps my family needed me. I don't want to create suffering in others by pursuing an individualistic spiritual path. I need patience in moving towards creating better condition. But who knows. I do feel I'm too engaged in the world, I could use less engagement, more meditation.

In a way, I don't really care what defines a Buddhist. If you want to call yourself a Buddhist, by all means go ahead. It puts you into a 0.7% minority in the USA. But more interesting for me is what are the efforts--how much time do you devote to meditation, study, sangha?

I feel pulled by my spiritual life, my work life and my family life (not in that order). There are three great projects in my life. I love my profession, psychotherapist, but I would give that one up first. My family is harder, I was left by my father, and it's probably psychologically impossible for me to leave my kids. That means it's not till they go off to college (gosh I hope they choose that route) that I'll be able to devote myself more to the path.

I consistent get the feedback, that I need to accept reality, to meditate, puja, study, hang out with sangha, develop spiritual friendships when I can. A key teaching is accepting reality as it is. We are like little children who don't get our way and don't accept reality. I am like a little child, I want things somehow different.

The Buddha had a nice metaphors. He suggested you make your effort the way you tune lute strings--not too tight, not too loose. Right Effort is one of the stages of the 8 Fold Path, it was that important. There were times when I have been too rigid in my insistence on meditating when I really should have slept.

I slept in this morning and I didn't like it, but I was tired. I'm a big fan of the sleep cycle--go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Doesn't happen so easily with children. Some times there are no easy solutions. I struggle to do as much as I want to do things that I think will help me on the path. In reality though, thinking about others isn't opposed to the path. Hard decisions are not opposite to the path. Trying to raise above and seeing the larger picture, non-dualistically.

When I look up non-dualistically on Google, I came across an interest site. Turns out Tim Allen has a discussion site, that discussed it.

But I digress. Right effort is part of my practice. I like to "go for it", and "put the pedal to the metal", which is from Smokey and the Bandit, where you press the accelerator all the way down to the floor in the car. It's a bit extreme. Keeping a sustained effort is also part of the journey. I've run marathons and I think I have some endurance as well. Patient is also part of my practice. I've been thinking a lot about the suggestion of my friend that that may be my practice that I can do. It's absurd to focus on what I can't do.

If you've read all this, I appreciate your interest in my meanderings. Writing about what I'm thinking helps me to clarify my thinking, reminds me of what is important. I don't know how to end this bit here, so I'll just have to end it.

1 comment:

Stephen Parks Bell said...

reading Buddhism: tools for living your life by Vajragupta, I came across the concepts of practicing in the world and practicing away from the world. Obviously I'm practicing in the world. Only in my early morning meditation is there any element of being away from the world. And on retreat I suppose.

He also talks about a life of activity versus a life of calm. Again, I live a life of activity and pine for one of calm, at the moment. There are times in my life when I did lead more of a life of calm. These were two distinctions I found helpful in reading this wonderful book, and it made me think of this post.

Thought to comment instead of write a new post.