Myth of Progress > Doug's 10,000 hours

Myth of Progress

Posted by admin on January 3, 2013

This is taken from Zen at Work by Les Kaye, Page 61-

Modern society emphasizes progress and achievement in the day-to-day affairs of life.  But to anticipate progress in spiritual practice is a misunderstanding.  It is not necessary to be concerned about a spiritual report card.  If we feel that we need to measure spiritual progress, it is because we do not yet understand that our spirituality is already complete.  Zazen is not concerned about progress; it is simply the expression of our inherent completeness.

So no matter how we may feel, we just continue our practice.  If we feel encouraged, we notice our feeling and continue.  Or if we feel discouraged, we notice it and continue.

There is another point on Page 59; he is talking about Kobun, who took over for Suzuki Roshi at Haiku Zendo in Mountain View, CA when he passed away. 

What techniques do you use to encourage people in their meditation practice?”  With some pride, I (Les Kaye) said that we did not use special techniques, such as visualizations, enigmatic riddles, promises of spiritual attainment, or strict discipline.   Kobun then spoke up.  He said, “We use the most important technique-people’s own sincerity.”  Added- Les Kaye goes on to say: “Hearing his words, I was staggered, as if I had been struck by an icy ocean wave.  My spine tingled; I began to perspire.  He goes on to say it cut through his own analytic limitations.”

It reminds me of what the Buddha talked about, and I believe I read this from one of Suzuki Roshi’ book.  This is totally butchering it but it goes something like Buddha said people are (great) and that is why he is (great).   It is hard to see the positive in people, at least it is for me.  This has been noted in my notes talking with Don; in therapy, it is easier to see the negative in people and situations.

He goes on to say in Zen at Work on the top of Page 61,  ”If we find ourselves discouraged by lack of spiritual progress, after several weeks, months, even years, we do not need to be concerned that our practice is somehow not working.”  Bottom of page 60, “Many people who try zazen do not continue for very long, usually because they feel stuck.  They detect no change in themselves, no progress in becoming a “better” person or achieving some ideal that they have in mind.”

It reminds me of Stuckness from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, which I have written about here:

Back to Page 61, upper page: “Actually, when we become aware that we feel discouraged, we should allow ourselves to be encouraged by the stick-to-it effort we have made up to that moment.  Our continuous effort is a reflection of our sincerity and determination.  It shows that we have a deep feeling about our lives and that we have maintained our practice without turning away from uncertainty.  That continuation itself is the only real measure of progress we need.” 

But if we sense a new understanding or insight in ourselves, we have to be careful not to become proud of what we think we have attained.  Our pride will create self-satisfaction, threatening our determination.  By starting to emphasize attainment, we become less patient and more susceptible to discouragement.  So if we think that we have attained something, it is important for us not to think about it too much or try to hold on to the exciting feeling it gives us.  The best thing that we can do is just resume our attitude that is ready for anything, including the possibility of discouragement.”

It reminds me of football coaches who prepare all week for a game.  If they win, they will celebrate for an hour or so, and then prepare for the next opponent.  I remember Bill Parcell saying on 60 Minutes, I believe, he would let himself and his team savor an accomplishment briefly and now when I do something like clean the garage or rake up leaves, I like to go back and look at the accomplishment.  It feels good.  It seems Mr. Parcells didn’t want to rest on his laurels or get a big head.  Avoiding discouragement is a unique perspective and could be quite effective.  The line I have been saying the last few weeks goes like this: “ I walk it while I screw it up”.  While is the key word here since I am walking the talk while I will also screw things up.  I can still teach while I am learning, while I make mistakes.  This comes from Don Hadlock.  Never can we get it exactly right.  Nor do we have to.  It’s our attitude in the process.

(As recorded on Oct 4, 2012 and edited Jan 2nd, 2012)



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