Monday, February 13, 2012

Pulling the Chosen Thread

[I started to write a response to a comment to the last post, but thought it might better serve as a new post. You be the judge.]

In a larger sense, I think it's more important to see that choice is in play.

It's cold here this morning. When cold air hits me, the thought arises, "It's cold!" I can think about putting on a sweater or I can just get up and do it; I can think about moving someplace warm, or I can just start walking south. In the former cases, someone could assert that I'm attached to the thinking; in the later cases, someone could assert that I have an aversion to the physical sensation.

A martial artist might see the problems with both. If the thought becomes overwhelming, I may become incapacitated trying to find your strategy, unable to act. If the physical sensation becomes overwhelming, I might be cowering in the corner trying to avoid being struck. We can't reasonably say that either case is other than correct functioning given the circumstances, but we can say that neither case is a good example of a skilled martial artist's response.

... but the benchmark of "skilled martial artist" is just another objective mode of functioning--a chosen view of the situation, with emphasis on the choice, no?

When possible, it may make for a more "internally" peaceful existence to not be driven by either the thought or the sensation. This is to say that for any frame of reference, there may well be things outside our control that will generate thoughts and sensations as we encounter them. Does it make sense to always have an automatic or a fixed response to the circumstances? Does it make sense to hold only one perspective?

Consider this situation: I am sitting at my desk, and I am cold. I know I can pause and put on warmer clothes. In the back of my mind, I also know I should be getting ready to go to work. I haven't put on the coffee, I haven't taken out the dog, and I know that I'll have to stay at the office later than anticipated sometime this week as a result of missing the opportunity to go in earlier today. These thoughts and sensations might not have arisen if I had different work, it wasn't Monday morning, if I lived somewhere warmer or had the heat turned up higher, or if I hadn't seen Rick's reply to my last post.

That I am typing this message at 8 A.M. shows you something about me if for no other reason than this: Given whatever you are holding in your mind, even subconsciously, it is simply impossible to do other than what is most important to you. I am not getting ready for work right now because writing this is more important. An hour later or a few degrees colder and the balance may change, but the truth that I am doing what is most important does not change.

[You can claim that's not true and set out to prove it, but you can only do that if you are blind to the fact that it's most important to you to prove me wrong... and here is where we often get stuck: We're sometimes blind to what drives us, we're sometimes ignorant to our choices, and we're sometimes attached to the form that a solution will take. We can save those for another post.]

The last excursion aside, let's look at this situation again. Making the point is more important than being cold or being late. That allows me to use "my being cold" and "my being late" as tools to relay some understanding. In a different frame of mind, I might bitch about "my being cold" and "my being late" to generate sympathy, to convey irritation, to excuse myself from conversation, or anything else--but the expression is still a reflection of the mind and we're still doing what is most important right now. This is key: When my intention is focused is to make this point, everything in my field of awareness within my experience and within the entire universe is here to support that objective. My ability to flex time a bit at the office, the internet access and computer, this desk and keyboard, my being cold and my being late, and even my heartbeat and my breathing are supporting this effort. "Make the point" is sufficient for the spirit; I can trust my mind and body to do the rest with what they have available given the circumstances.

Now, whether taking the time to read this was the most important thing or a distraction is entirely up to you.


Rick Matz said...

I read something a long time back that I try to live up to (and usually fall far short).

It begins with the old saying about doing what it is you love to do. If you do only what you love to do however, that leaves a lot of important stuff undone (like the dishes or cleaning up after the dog).

What's the antidote? To learn to love whatever it is you find yourself doing.

It's a game changer.

Unknown said...

For me, being free of disliking doing the dishes does not mean denying the dislike; rather, it means that the dislike need not dominate my action and that I need not carry that disklike forward into what I do next. Nothing is left undone may mean that I need not do the dishes if that is my choice, but my wife may choose to find a new husband who will--simple enough.

Of course, if I can convince her that she should find happiness in doing the dishes, then that would be a win for her and me both, no? I can own the plantation and she can work on it! :-p

In practice, though, I try to keep pointed toward doing what is best for the family and I trust everyone else is doing the same. If we all share that goal, then we do what we can do, including the dishes, accepting that there will be sacrifices along the way and that we will not resent one another for them. If I slip from that one point because of a bad day at the office and want to indulge myself, to take care of the family my wife may accomodate me--and vice versa if she has a bad day. It doesn't take too long to see if someone's one point has drifted to a more selfish place; if it happens, we correct and move along.

In the end, it's choice--and one choice is not necessarily better than another for any individual... at least that's my experience.