The dilemmas related to attentional fitness are similar to the more familiar dilemmas that make physical fitness easier to discuss than to turn into habits. A mindfulness teacher has to sell you on the possible outcomes, but also has to steer you back again and again to the slippery path that leads to them.
"D.E. is a way of doing. D.E. simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage, which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in D.E. You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting papers. Don’t fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it, like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest."
"Wisdom, the Buddha says, starts with a simple question: What actions will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?
The wisdom here lies in realizing that your happiness depends on what you do, and that the pursuit of happiness is worthwhile only if it’s long-term.
The test of how far your wisdom has matured lies in the strategic skill with which you can keep yourself from doing things that you like to do but that would cause long-term harm, and the skill with which you can talk yourself into doing things that you don’t like to do but that would lead to long-term well-being and happiness.
In other words, mature wisdom requires a mature ego."
- There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
- Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
- There is no editing stage.
- Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
- Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
- The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
- Once you're done you can throw it away.
- Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
- People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
- Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
- Destruction is a variant of done.
- If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
- Done is the engine of more.
From "Drunk on Writing: Ray Bradbury’s Gifts to Humanity," by Casey Rae, The Contrarian, June 6, 2012
Some choice Bradbury-isms:
Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.
I’m not afraid of machines. I don’t think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with toys have taken over. And if we don’t take the toys out of their hands, we’re fools.
I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.
The women in my life have all been librarians, English teachers, or booksellers… I have always longed for education, and pillow talk’s the best.
Don’t talk about it; write.
If you dream the proper dreams, and share the myths with people, they will want to grow up to be like you.
The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance — the idea that anything is possible.
There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
See also: "21 Ray Bradbury Quotes: Your Moment of Friday Writing Zen," by Zachary Petit, Writer's Digest, Feb. 17, 2012
Excerpt from The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship by David Whyte:
There are two possibilities, perhaps we can call them necessities, for keeping the marriage with work alive through the difficult years of childbearing and child rearing. The first is to reimagine the way we have named our work and defined its success. We may find that our priorities have been erased and redrawn by a birth or an adoption; that we don't care for the corporate world's priorities anymore and that mothering or indeed fathering is now our central work.
We may come to the reimagination of our work through the gladly received, genuine revelations of parenting or especially for women, with difficulty, through a rueful acceptance that the months or years with a child have taken us off the career track and that the sacrifices needed to get back on that moving stair are not worth what it would take. Even if we find that circumstances allow us both to be a good parent and to follow a brilliant career, the moral basis of the brilliant career hinges on not neglecting or abandoning our children at crucial times in their growing, and demands that we reexamine the basis of our marriage with work and many of the outer rewards of prestige we demanded up to the moment we became parents.
The second necessity is to find a rhythm, often with the help of our partner or our family or our friends that enables us to make short visits to that kingdom of silence and creativity. These short visits on a regular, rhythmical basis may not further the work very much in the early days, but they are essential to keeping it alive in the heart and mind of the struggling parent until time begins to open up as the child grows and goes off to school. As this window begins to widen and allow fresh air into the life of the besieged parent, the work also slowly begins to resuscitate itself and come back to life. Our vocation starts to pick its feet out of the mud and move onto higher, drier ground.
J.K. Rowling famously wrote large portions of the first Harry Potter book in the midst of this caked, slow-moving, mud-walking, desperate parent stage. "There was a point where I really felt I had 'penniless divorcée, lone parent' tattooed on my head," she said in one interview (Seaton, 2001). Living alone with her infant daughter, Jessica, in an unheated Edinburgh flat, she would trudge through the streets wheeling Jessica to a local café and snatch moments at her writing between feeding and comforting her child. It's a help to know that Rowling felt a general hopelessness during much of that time, and a further encouragement to know that she kept on moving through the mud, kept on writing despite her quiet, private despair.
The café in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling wrote now has a small plaque on the wall outside to explain who sat there with such private, unsung courage. Most likely the place in which we sit and struggle to bring our work back to life will have nothing to commemorate it except a little window in our own memory that opens onto the small stage on which we appeared during difficult times.
Perhaps each of us should go back with actual plaques and place them in cafés, on walls or in office cubicles with little notes of private courage for the inspiration of others. "This is where I kept my faith alive during very dark days," "This is where I found the courage to leave my marriage," or "This is where I realized that I couldn't have everything I wanted and so felt the freedom to request what I needed." Such puzzling, intriguing and inspirational signs everywhere might bring us to an understanding of the constant enacted dramas occurring around us. How every chair and every corner holds a possibility for redemption. The plaques that said things such as "This is the table where I gave up on my ideals and took the very large bribe" would be equally instructive for the reader.
I remember being in the first month of working; I was so tired. My shoes didn’t fit the next day because my feet were so swollen from working on the concrete. It was a very hard several years. And even in that first month, I remember thinking, ‘I’m done.’ It was midnight, I wanted to go home because I’d have to be back here at seven in the morning and there would be dishes waiting for me. And I was like, ‘I’ll wash them when I get in tomorrow morning or I’ll have one of the girls do it.’ It was more convenient. And I turned around and my sign was there with my name on it. It was hilarious, it was a flapping piece of paper printed at Kinkos with these clips from the hardware store hanging up and the air conditioning was running and it was flowing in the wind, and I saw ‘Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ right on it. I was like, ‘You know, nobody else is going to do it if I don’t do it. This is my company. My name is on every single thing we do and it better be what I expect it to be, to the best that I can.’ So I stayed and did dishes, and that’s exactly what’s happened ever since. Taking that seriously is the best thing you can do. It’s not the most interesting thing in the world, but it’s the best thing you can do because, in the end, I’m the one who sets that tone.
Excerpts from "The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami," by Sam Anderson, The New York Times Magazine, October 23, 2011:
Murakami sold his jazz club in order to devote himself, full time, to writing.
“Full time,” for Murakami, means something different from what it does for most people. For 30 years now, he has lived a monkishly regimented life, each facet of which has been precisely engineered to help him produce his work. He runs or swims long distances almost every day, eats a healthful diet, goes to bed around 9 p.m. and wakes up, without an alarm, around 4 a.m. — at which point he goes straight to his desk for five to six hours of concentrated writing. (Sometimes he wakes up as early as 2.) He thinks of his office, he told me, as a place of confinement — “but voluntary confinement, happy confinement.”
“Concentration is one of the happiest things in my life,” he said. “If you cannot concentrate, you are not so happy. I’m not a fast thinker, but once I am interested in something, I am doing it for many years. I don’t get bored. I’m kind of a big kettle. It takes time to get boiled, but then I’m always hot.”
“Mindfulness, then, is not about ecstatic states, as if the marks of success are oceanic experiences or yogic flying. It's mostly pretty humdrum. Moreover, it is not a fast track to blissful happiness. It can, in fact, be quite unsettling, as it works with painful experiences, to understand them better and thereby get to the root of problems.
Research into the benefits of mindfulness seems to support its claims. People prone to depression, say, are less likely to have depressive episodes if they practice meditation. Stress goes down. But it's more like going on a journey than taking a pill. Though meditation techniques can be learned quickly, it's no instant remedy and requires discipline. That said, many who attend lessons or go on retreats find immediate benefits—which is not so surprising, given that in a world of no stillness, even a little calm goes a long way.”
- How to Meditate in 10 Easy Steps
- Three Parts of Meditation
- Potential Pitfalls
- Free iPhone app
Thanks to Jonathan Carroll.
Excerpt from Think Little by Wendell Berry from A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural & Agricultural (1972):
For most of the history of this country our motto, implied or spoken, has been Think Big. I have come to believe that a better motto, and an essential one now, is Think Little. That implies the necessary change of thinking and feeling, and suggests the necessary work. Thinking Big has led us to the two biggest and cheapest political dodges of our time: plan-making and law-making. The lotus-eaters of this era are in Washington, D.C., Thinking Big. Somebody comes up with a problem, and somebody in the government comes up with a plan or a law. The result, mostly, has been the persistence of the problem, and the enlargement and enrichment of the government.
But the discipline of thought is not generalization; it is detail, and it is personal behavior. While the government is "studying" and funding and organizing its Big Thought, nothing is being done. But the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it — he is doing that work. A couple who make a good marriage, and raise healthy, morally competent children, are serving the world's future more directly and surely than any political leader, though they never utter a public word. A good farmer who is dealing with the problem of soil erosion on an acre of ground has a sounder grasp of that problem and cares more about it and is probably doing more to solve it than any bureaucrat who is talking about it in general. A man who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.
Samar Jarrah of Port Charlotte, Florida describes the benefits she sees in experiencing Ramadan in the United States:
I just got back from Jordan…and my family was telling me, Why can’t you just stay a bit longer and spend a week of Ramadan in Jordan or in Egypt? And I said, You will never understand this, but the best Ramadan I ever spend in my life is always in America. Because I feel sometimes that I am the only person fasting, it’s more strenuous, I feel like every day is a jihad for me – a struggle to maintain my faith, to maintain my fast despite the amazing food around me and the smells. If I go shopping or if I go to the mall, there is food everywhere. Everybody’s eating except myself and this brings me amazing strength. And I wake up very early in the morning. I can be lecturing. I can be driving to my class – a hundred miles each way. I can be feeding the homeless. I can be doing amazing stuff that I would not be doing if I were living in a Muslim country, because the whole country would be fasting and I would be one of many.