Struggling with Motivation: Zen Insights?

Collapse
X
 
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts
  • Douglas
    Member
    • May 2017
    • 51

    Struggling with Motivation: Zen Insights?

    One of the things I struggle with, and I'm sure many struggle with, is how to motivate oneself to do something (anything) that you think you need to do.

    We can't get rid of our wants. They come and go, but we still must act. I still must choose to do something or not. I have an attachment to wanting to do the "right" thing. Does anybody have any suggestions for Koans or Zen stories which might help me look into this deeper?

    During Zazen, the choice is clear; we let our thoughts go. But during our everyday life in which we live, I must make a decision. I have to evaluate what to do and act or not.

    Thank you for your insight!

    -Sat today
  • Daiman
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Apr 2022
    • 668

    #2
    Hi Douglas,

    This is certainly something that I think we all have struggled with. Please take what I say with a grain of salt as I am just a priest in training. You are correct, that in zazen we let our thoughts go and even more so, we let our thoughts be just as they are without trying to change anything, we are just not getting lost in them or pulled around by them. During everyday life we do have to make decisions, this is true. Perhaps the same activity that happens in zazen is also taking place in making a decision. Allowing the process to unfold just as it is and through that, perhaps we can see everything more clearly and have a more accurate appraisal of what is going on in order to respond rather than react. We can also ask ourselves, "Why am I doing what I do?" "Is it for the benefit of all beings, or is it just for myself?" Sometimes our personal agendas are hidden from ourselves, and just taking a moment to observe what is happening, we have a chance of acting from a place of clarity. If we can do that, then perhaps maybe we are doing the "right thing." But sometimes even when we have been meticulous and diligent, we act in a way that in hindsight was not the best way to act. We do our best to make amends or to help the situation in the way that Jundo calls "Fixceptance,"... accepting what is and then acting when we need to act to mitigate a situation.

    As far as koans or stories to help this, I can think of nothing better than the Chinese folk tale, The Lost Horse. For me, this story highlights that we can never fully know if something is the right thing or not, sometimes we will not know until many years from now. We just do our best in each moment. If we are sincere in what we do, then perhaps what is meant to unfold from there is what is meant to be.

    The old man Sai Weng 塞翁 had a horse. One day his horse was gone. His neighbors came to see him and were very sad, “Oh poor Sai Weng, you lost your horse!” Sai Weng replied, “I don’t know if losing my horse is good or bad, I just know I lost my horse.”

    The next day the lost horse came back with a Qian Li Ma 千里馬, (a thousand-miles horse, one who can travel 1000 miles with one step). The neighbors came again, offering him their congratulations. “You must be so happy to have your horse back and now you have a famous Qian Li Ma!” The old man replied, “I don’t know if having my horse back and having a Qian Li Ma is a good thing or a bad thing, all I know is I have two horses now.”

    The next day the old man’s son wanted to ride on the Qian Li Ma. The Qian Li Ma was too fast though and the son fell off and broke his leg. The neighbors came again and offered their condolences. Sai Weng replied, “I don’t know if my son falling down and breaking his leg is a good thing or a bad thing, all I know is he fell down and broke his leg.”

    Soon the war started. Every young man had to go to war, except the son of Sai Weng, who was exempt, and whose life was spared, because of his broken his leg.
    Gassho,
    Daiman
    ST/LAH
    Last edited by Daiman; 05-16-2024, 12:23 PM.

    Comment

    • Bion
      Treeleaf Unsui
      • Aug 2020
      • 3716

      #3
      Originally posted by Douglas
      Does anybody have any suggestions for Koans or Zen stories which might help me look into this deeper?
      Hi, Doug!
      I can't say I know specific stories I can recommend, but what I can, is offer a couple of quotes on the topic, from esteemed Zen teachers, which may serve as food for thought for the coming days, if you'd allow me. They have wisdom and knowledge I lack, so better to let them speak


      Uchiyama Roshi says in How to Cook Your life, the "Throwing Your Life Into the Abode of the Buddha" chapter says:

      "A life which relies on toys for its value means nothing more than that one is being led around by those toys, thus losing sight of living with true purpose or intensity. To live the buddhadharma is to live without the necessity of having to be constantly entertained by toys. Having a passion for life means only to pour all our life forces into your true Self. Life, in terms of everything we encounter, the people with whom we come into contact, all the material things we use and handle every day―that is our life and our true Self, and it is into this that we throw our life force. "

      Sawaki Roshi, in "To You", says:

      " Be attentive to your mind in each moment, no matter how unpeaceful it might seem to be. Great peace of mind is realized only through practicing within this unpeaceful mind. It arises out of the interplay between peaceful and unpeaceful mind.

      When dissatisfaction is finally accepted as dissatisfaction, peace of mind reigns.

      How could a human being ever have peace of mind? The real question is what you’re doing with this human life. What you’re doing with this stinking sack of flesh—that’s the issue.

      Practice means to practice an approach to life with zazen as the measure. Wherever this practice is found, peace of mind is fully actualized. The practice is our comportment in every aspect of our lives.
      "
      Our ancestor Hongzhi, in his "Practice Instructions" offers some nice insights into how we are to function in the world, moved, or motivated by our Practice:

      "Passing through the world responding to situations, illumination is without striving and functions without leaving traces. From the beginning the clouds leisurely release their rain, drifting past obstacles. The direct teaching is very pure and steady. Nothing can budge it. Immediately, without allowing past conditions to turn you, genuinely enact it. "

      "Straightfotwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation, if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself. "

      "People who sincerely meditate and authentically arrive trust that the field [enlightenement] has always been with them. Their conduct and practice accord with the standard. From this field our life arises; from this field it is fulfilled. "

      "People of the Way journey through the world responding to conditions, carefree and without restraint. They act without mind, they respond with certainty. This is how perfected people behave."


      I hope you find something useful here. My apologies for running this long!

      gassho
      sat and lah
      Last edited by Bion; 05-16-2024, 04:06 PM.
      "Stepping back with open hands, is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world." - Hongzhi

      Comment

      • Hōzan
        Member
        • Dec 2022
        • 411

        #4
        Isn’t struggling with struggling to motivate yourself to do the right thing exactly just the issue (maybe)? When you write “right things” I get a sense that you might be demanding too much from yourself? I mean, sometimes the wrong thing is the perfectly right thing to do.

        Gassho, Hōzan
        satlah
        Last edited by Hōzan; 05-16-2024, 06:48 PM.

        Comment

        • Tom A.
          Member
          • May 2020
          • 237

          #5
          I think (and don't quote me, but I think there is at least a grain of truth to it) when you feel overall balance and are not struggling to avoid or get rid of painful thoughts and feelings (distractions are fine most of the time), nor obeying every negative thought or painful feeling, then is when I personally, feel on the right track. Being absorbed (in a video game, exercise, dishes, work... Etc...) is encouraged, obeying the greedy, angry, selfish thoughts and feelings is not encouraged in Zen I think.
          (Easier said than done)
          Gassho,

          Tom

          Sat/Lah
          Last edited by Tom A.; 05-16-2024, 10:33 PM.
          “Do what’s hard to do when it is the right thing to do.”- Robert Sopalsky

          Comment

          • Dainin
            Member
            • Sep 2007
            • 370

            #6
            Hi Douglas,

            While not a Zen story or koan per se, your question reminded me of something I recently read in Nishijima Roshi's book A Talk on Pursuing the Way. A questioner asks similar questions and is berating him/herself about not doing "enough." Roshi responds:

            "I usually think that to do my best is the best I can do. All human beings can only do their best. It is impossible for us to do something more than our best. Even though you have some dissatisfaction in your daily life, including that dissatisfaction, you are doing your best. So I think you can be very optimistic in your daily life, because you are doing your best. I think that what is important for each person is to do their best. Even though our best may not be very high, we should be satisfied with that situation of our best in our day-to-day life. Because, even though it is low, the low situation is our best at that time. I think that to live our daily lives sincerely is our best. That is Buddhist life. We don't have to think about situations that are more ideal than our real everyday lives" (p. 38).

            Nishijima Roshi had a unique way of cutting through to the essence. As I have struggled with similar issues and questions, reading this was a breath of fresh air for me. Perhaps it will be for you also.

            Gassho, Dainin

            stlah
            Last edited by Dainin; 05-18-2024, 03:46 AM.

            Comment


            • Hōzan
              Hōzan commented
              Editing a comment
              I remember reading this and feeling my shoulders drop down. The vows are our vision, unattainable yet setting the direction, and our karma decides our starting point and how far we can get. So we journey on while realizing that “peace is in every step”.

              Gassho, Hōzan
              Satlah
          • Douglas
            Member
            • May 2017
            • 51

            #7
            Originally posted by Dainin
            Hi Douglas,

            While not a Zen story or koan per se, your question reminded me of something I recently read in Nishijima Roshi's book A Talk on Pursuing the Way. A questioner asks similar questions and is berating him/herself about not doing "enough." Roshi responds:

            "I usually think that to do my best is the best I can do. All human beings can only do their best. It is impossible for us to do something more than our best. Even though you have some dissatisfaction in your daily life, including that dissatisfaction, you are doing your best. So I think you can be very optimistic in your daily life, because you are doing your best. I think that what is important for each person is to do their best. Even though our best may not be very high, we should be satisfied with that situation of our best in our day-to-day life. Because, even though it is low, the low situation is our best at that time. I think that to live our daily lives sincerely is our best. That is Buddhist life. We don't have to think about situations that are more ideal than our real everyday lives" (p. 38).

            Nishijima Roshi had a unique way of cutting through to the essence. As I have struggled with similar issues and questions, reading this was a breath of fresh air for me. Perhaps it will be for you also.

            Gassho, Dainin

            stlah
            Thank you!

            Comment

            • Douglas
              Member
              • May 2017
              • 51

              #8
              Thanks to everyone for your responses! It’s been helpful!

              - sat today

              Comment

              • Jundo
                Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                • Apr 2006
                • 39205

                #9
                I like to remind folks of this from time to time ...

                Jundo: WHAT's NEXT!?!
                Almost each week someone asks me, "What comes next in my practice? How do I deepen it? What should I do now? What book should I read with all the secrets? I feel like something is still missing and that I must do more."

                But how can I respond to such a question when the very heart of this Path is learning to live and be this life radically FREE OF THE NEED FOR 'WHAT'S NEXT', LIBERATED OF 'SOMETHING MORE THAT NEED BE DONE', FULFILLED OF 'ANYTHING MISSING'!
                Almost each week someone asks me, "What comes next in my practice? How do I deepen it? What should I do now? What book should I read with all the secrets? I feel like something is still missing and that I must do more." But how can I respond to such a question when the very heart of this Path is learning to live and


                Gassho, J
                STLAH
                ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                Comment

                • Douglas
                  Member
                  • May 2017
                  • 51

                  #10
                  Originally posted by Jundo
                  I like to remind folks of this from time to time ...

                  Jundo: WHAT's NEXT!?!


                  Almost each week someone asks me, "What comes next in my practice? How do I deepen it? What should I do now? What book should I read with all the secrets? I feel like something is still missing and that I must do more." But how can I respond to such a question when the very heart of this Path is learning to live and


                  Gassho, J
                  STLAH
                  Thank you Jundo. Your talk reminds myself that reading books, listening to podcasts and studying Buddhist texts is all fine and good, but in the end the only real way to practice is to live your life. In fact, it seems I have no choice in the matter! Of course that includes sitting, reading books, listening and doing whatever is exactly that and that may be the "next" that you do, or not.

                  Of late when at work (or wherever) and feel that dissatisfaction of not knowing what to do next, I stop for a moment, be mindful and watch it.

                  - Sat today

                  Comment

                  • Tai Do
                    Member
                    • Jan 2019
                    • 1356

                    #11
                    I don't know if this will be useful for you, Douglas, but I was just reading the Pali Canon's Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta where Shakyamuni Buddha gives advices to his son Rahila, and I thought I should share it with the Sangha:

                    "What do you think, Rahula: What is a mirror for?"
                    "For reflection, sir."

                    "In the same way, Rahula, bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.

                    "Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do."

                    Tai Do
                    Satlah
                    怠努 (Tai Do) - Lazy Effort
                    (also known as Mateus )

                    禅戒一如 (Zen Kai Ichi Nyo) - Zazen and the Precepts are One!

                    Comment

                    • Douglas
                      Member
                      • May 2017
                      • 51

                      #12
                      Originally posted by Tai Do
                      I don't know if this will be useful for you, Douglas, but I was just reading the Pali Canon's Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta where Shakyamuni Buddha gives advices to his son Rahila, and I thought I should share it with the Sangha:




                      Tai Do
                      Satlah
                      thank you!

                      Comment

                      • Rich
                        Member
                        • Apr 2009
                        • 2595

                        #13
                        If it was just me I would probably just eat when hungry and drink when thirsty and sleep when tired and clean up the messes I make lol. But i try to help the people around me so i do a lot more and that takes some evaluating and planning. My main motivation is just sitting, just being present as much as i can

                        sat/lah
                        _/_
                        Rich
                        MUHYO
                        無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                        https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                        Comment

                        • michaelw
                          Member
                          • Feb 2022
                          • 196

                          #14
                          image.png
                          Gassho
                          MichaelW

                          satlah

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39205

                            #15
                            Originally posted by michaelw
                            image.png
                            Gassho
                            MichaelW

                            satlah
                            Even as EVERYTHING happens next too!

                            Gassho, J

                            stlah
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            Working...