Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is this really great?

Some people enjoy careful, complete work.  That impulse can be satisfied by concentrating on doing a good job, instead of wondering if the job is really a good one.  Take tying my shoe lace.  Is each section of the lacing appropriately tight?  Has each been checked?  All those sections that need adjusting tighten or loosen properly?  Is the knot tied tightly?  Those sorts of considerations differ from wondering while fingers work if I am a really great lacer? Thinking about my status in the lacing ranks detracts from doing a concentrated, full job on lacing.

The concept of "flow", being in the groove of one's smoothest, finest work and feeling it flow along - that's the sort of thing I am referring to.  So much of today's hype, folklore and common knowledge is about trying, trying hard, trying harder and then trying hardest.  At times, such a feeling and strategy may be appropriate but those times should be few.

Being loving, being approachable, being honest, being relaxed - many types of human behavior roll along best when there is no teeth being ground, no battle cries being yelled.  There seems to be a similarity between the scent and feel of striving, desperate effort and the feel of panic, of loss of concentration on the job at hand.

This reminds me of the difference between professional competence and storybook drama.  No story grips us very much if there is no loss or danger.  Sometimes, the losses pile up and the danger multiplies.  But then, heroically, our guy or our heroine or our team makes a thrilling comeback and emerges victorious in what was really a close one!  In less gripping but more professional activity, the right decisions are made, the rhythm of the work is appropriate, there is no sound track and there are no moments of near panic or even surprise.  Just sharp-eyed steady application of skill and alertness.

Often, the most important parts of a job are not exciting.  Pema Chodron says today:


When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don't magically disappear. Over the years, I've come to call resting with the discomfort "the detox period," because when you don't act on your habitual patterns, it's like giving up an addiction. You're left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that.

It's in that detox period, that the slow steady work of observing oneself not giving into the usual distraction, but instead forging part of a new self, that the competent, quiet achievement takes place.

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