Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Revisiting the Fifth Grave Precept

Proceed clearly. Do not cloud the mind.

Why practice? The answer for me is that we practice because distraction does not work. Distraction is the essence of the Fifth Grave Precept.

Everything about us encourages distraction. Give me a boring, tedious OR a very challenging task (I'm intimidated then) and I find all kinds of was to procrastinate. Rather than proceed clearly with the task, for whatever mental story I'm telling myself about it, I choose to cloud the mind, to procrastinate, to not think about the task or why I'm avoiding it. If I think about the avoiding it I'll feel guilty and then need to procrastinate some more.

Alcohol, sex, opiates, shopping, donuts, exercise, running marathons, cribbage, carousing through Wikipedia, television, trashy novels....

Whatever. They're all ways we can choose to distract ourselves when taken too far. It isn't so bad in moderation. It is perfectly alright to make the choice to watch a television show, but perhaps not so cool to alienate your friends & loved-ones because you're not taking care of yourself because you're too busy watching shows. For some people a cupcake is just a cupcake, for others it is the beginning of a weekend-long cycle of binging and purging.

Why have I avoided writing about my weight loss for Chozen? Well, because talking about it such a public forum still makes me uncomfortable. I have found months worth of distraction, some of them I even cross-reference as "Zen Practice" (e.g., sesshin, sewing rakusu, writing about precepts, etc.) as a justification for my avoiding what my teacher has told me is of great value. Yep, we're back to my number one way to cloud the mind, procrastination. I'm good at it.

What does my distraction, my intently seeking to cloud my mind from the uncomfortable feelings that arise get me? Well, yes indeed-y, more GUILT. More Inner Critic assuring me my Dharma name will mean something along the lines of "Great Clumsiness" or "Remedial Zen Student" or "Slow Learner".

Proceed clearly. Drop the distractions. Drop the noise about needing the distractions. Just move forward in clarity even when, especially when the going is tough.

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  1. Well I need to learn more about this one myself!

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