Darlene Cohen

‘Because we have been educated to put so much importance on our ability to formulate thoughts and concepts, we tend to live out lives dominated by personal opinion. It’s actually much easier to live this way. It takes less effort to have a simple reactive response to something rather than to attend to our inevitably complex, confusing immediate experience. We can sleepwalk through our lives if we want to do that. The heavy downside of accepting our unthinking opinions about things, however, is that they lock us into fixed ideas that limit what we are able to do or say. They limit our liveliness, our enjoyment of our encounters, and our activities. Worse, the possibility of some new behavior gets less and less the more we rely on our habitual reactions. Preconceptions are how we separate ourselves from actual experience and thereby how we make our lives monotonous and insensible.
We slip out from under our preconceptions when we become absorbed in our immediate activity. Putting aside our huge warehouse of opinions is the act of just doing a task with awareness of the body sensations involved in the task, the swinging door of breath-in, breath-out, the thoughts necessary to organize and project the next steps in the task, the sense impressions of out immediate environment. The great thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen said, “Realization … is effort without desire.” When we understand that we are happiest giving everything our full attention – without concern for the outcome – we have had a great insight into the nature of the human heart.’ (The One Who Is Not Busy)

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