Monday, January 24, 2011

Right Effort with Open Hands

Since my illness over the holidays, I haven't been able to resume my more normal, recent sleep schedule and slipped back into my late nights and late mornings.  Part of this is because, without a job or school, I haven't had all that much a reason to get up early leading to insomnia.

With little to do and my frustrations in organizing my internship for school, this has snowballed into a mild depression.

There's nothing novel about depression for me, it's just been a while.  What's odd about this time around is I now have the tools of my practice as a lens to view it through.  In a way this makes it easier since I am aware of what's causing me to feel this way and what needs to happen for it to go away. On the other hand, I'm aware of what's causing it and what needs to happen for it to go away and the ridiculous nature of my inability to make it go away is rather frustrating.

A big part of it is, as I stated above, sleeping in.  In Being Upright, Reb Anderson Roshi relates Suzuki Roshi's answer as to what constitutes Right Effort: getting up as soon as the alarm goes off.  Now, it's just too easy to hit the snooze button and get that extra few minutes of sleep that usually turns into a few hours.  With nothing all that pressing to do, at the moment any sort of effort seems necessary.  So I fall into my old habit of making excuses.

Not getting up is causing my inability to go to sleep when I need to and staying up is making getting up at a decent time harder.  So the cycle continues with my old excuses getting in my way.  All it would take is a couple days and I could probably fix it.  So simple, but it's a hump I just can't get myself over.  The end of last week I made progress in rising early enough to cook my girlfriend breakfast to go.

I don't think that this on its own would be that much of an issue, but part of what set this off is the fact that the internship I've been chasing after the past month hasn't come together and a lot of it has been a waiting game that I just had to ride out.  As the time is running out, I'm getting myself together and exploring other options, but this will cause big problems in my life if I don't get it set up.

So Right Effort slips in again.  In true form, it's one step in the Eightfold Path that, if pursued, would help end my suffering.

In doing my best to accept this series of situations with open hands, I see that I had been getting lazy in how easygoing life had been for a while.  I knew that things were bound to get hard again sooner or later.  I was enjoying life at the top of the Wheel of Samsara, but knowing it was bound to go back down and actually riding it down are two completely different things.

I understand the concepts of purification by fire, burning off delusion or making for a stronger character.  This definitely helps me accept the situation intellectually, but in the moment there is still clinging and aversion.  Until I'm able to just relax and do what needs to be done and let go what needs to go, the best I can do is just keep trying knowing it won't happen if I don't put forth the effort.


  1. Sometimes we all feel that sheer willpower will somehow make things happen. Doesn't always work that way. I agree the effort must be made but it must be with the intent that you need and deserve it. If somewhere in the back of your mind there is doubt, that will manifest itself and bite you , you know where. At least that's been my experience.

  2. Oh, I forgot, if it doesn't work out , that's OK too-'cuz it can only be what it is.

  3. Thanks for the comments. I'm feeling good about my new option right now, but there will be severe consequences for my actions, that I can only blame on myself for putting all my eggs in one basket and not having a plan B if these things don't work out by Monday. My concern is that I may have waited too long to explore a plan B.