Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Karma Yoga Dialogue

-- What do the Zen masters and the yogis, etc., mean when they talk about transcending attachment?

That nothing matters. You absolutely don't need it to matter!

-- So, total nihilism. Just drop out, make no effort, and stop giving a crap....?

No, quite the contrary. Dive in, try hard, and do everything like your life depends on it!

-- You do realize you've contradicted yourself, right?

Well, it's a little bit paradoxical. Try it this way: care mightily about the thing you're doing right now - whatever it is! - but don't care in the least about the result, the reception, how it affects you, how you look, what it means, etc. Do the thing, but don’t make it A Thing.

-- How can you care about what you're doing without caring about the result? Don't they go together?

Not at all. There's a difference between caring about the Doing and caring about being the person who Does. Most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing. That's why most singers are so awful.

-- Separating those parts sounds like it would take a lot of practice. Plenty of meditation, learning to "stop the mind" or whatever?

Nope. Actually, you yourself were a master of it once. You just forgot.

-- You mean in a past life?

No, as a child. When you played, say, cowboys and indians, you did so intensely, immersing all the way. And yet you always knew you were playing. You never lost track of that. You were deeply involved in the pretending...yet you knew it didn't matter. And you never paused to consider whether you were a convincing cowboy.

Then you came to consider that perspective juvenile. Under the guise of "growing up" and "getting serious", you locked yourself into the pretending and threw away the key - by deliberately forgetting that you're playing. Suddenly everything seemed to matter a great deal. It became a much more adult-seeming game.

Your priorities flipped, so you barely immerse anymore, but you're endlessly obsessed with how you come off. That's backwards to how you used to do it! And your perspective has frozen so tenaciously that when I remind you of your old way, it sounds like paradoxical nonsense!

-- So why is that way better?

Well, young children learn languages (even hard ones!), and assimilate a huge chunk of human knowledge and culture, in just a few years. Adults, by contrast, are considered pretty much unteachable. Young children have much less stress, and they're relatively lithe and energetic, not rigid and sluggish. And they can reframe easily at will, while adults nearly always wind up stuck in some frozen perspective or other.

You had to grow up. It was inevitable. But you made the mistake of assuming you needed to push this change - to play the role and pretend to be the changed person you saw each morning in the mirror - rather than be pulled to new obligations, remaining comfortably as you were. You could have grown up without blotting out your childhood self. But even now, if you simply let go (e.g. via meditation) of the reigns you‘ve pretended to grab, you'll find that the original, fundamental you has remained alive and well and eager to play. The only obstacle is your crusty super-reinforced sense of identity.

I've created a new tag/label for entrees in dialogue form - there are five such entries so far.


Display Name said...

Thanks again for a wonderful post Jim. Dunno who to attribute this quote to but: "there was a time oh tender elf when you were poetry itself.

Jim Leff said...

The greatest poem ever known
Is one all poets have outgrown:
The poetry, innate, untold,
Of being only four years old.

Still young enough to be a part
Of Nature's great impulsive heart,
Born comrade of bird, beast, and tree
And unselfconscious as the bee-

And yet with lovely reason skilled
Each day new paradise to build;
Elate explorer of each sense,
Without dismay, without pretense!

In your unstained transparent eyes
There is no conscience, no surprise:
Life's queer conundrums you accept,
Your strange divinity still kept.

Being, that now absorbs you, all
Harmonious, unit, integral,
Will shred into perplexing bits,-
Oh, contradictions of the wits!

And Life, that sets all things in rhyme,
may make you poet, too, in time-
But there were days, O tender elf,
When you were Poetry itself!

-- Christopher Morley

Anonymous coward said...

My dance teacher talked about a woman who was dancing and she was unaware she was watched. The dancing woman was doing a great job, until she realized a small crowd was watching and suddenly she danced much worse. The dance teacher then said that children just do, if you tell them to crawl like a snake they just get on the ground and crawl like a snake.

The creative dance teacher wanted us to be more like children and just do. I think this is very similar to your original post and reinforces the hypothesis.

Display Name said...

Hoarder/pack rat here. This means I can hack. I have a tall free standing lamp from my childhood in my living room. I remember standing underneath it when I was very small. It towered over me. I know I don't necessarily need these beloved things, though those madellines helped Proust. Some people recoil from their childhood and dislike being reminded of when they were small. Or even crazy teenagers. I found a note that my best friend in high school had written me about our after school plans. I read it with delight. The next time I saw her when she was middle aged I handed it tenderly, with awe. She read it, frowned and said dismissively "I was silly back then." She tried to throw the note away, even crumpled it. I lunged for it and said sheepishly that I would get rid of it later. Of course I still have it.

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