Monday, July 26, 2010

Get Moving You Lazy Ass!

Here are some lines from an old Pema Chodron article from the blog Awakening the Buddha in Us:

Traditionally, laziness is taught as one of the obstacles to awakening. There are different kinds of laziness. First, there’s the laziness of comfort orientation, we just try to stay comfortable and cozy. Then there’s the laziness of loss of heart, a kind of deep discouragement, a feeling of giving up on ourselves, of hopelessness. There’s also the laziness of couldn’t care less. That’s when we harden into resignation and bitterness and just close down.

You know, I have to say the hard part for me about confronting my own laziness is that I often have the idea that it means I must work harder, get my ass more in gear so to speak. However, Pema suggests in the next paragraph of her article that this attitude might actually be just another form of laziness. Instead of sitting with the muck and confusion coming up, and making whatever decisions and doing whatever work is being called for now, there's just rushing around, doing things for the sake of doing things.

It has only been over the past year or so, as I have forced myself to slow down at my job, in my volunteer efforts, and in life in general, that I have been able to see how all that running around and doing, doing, doing was both laziness and a way to avoid feelings of not being good enough.

It's tough in a speed-addicted, overworking orientated culture to slow down. Even harder to do so with balance, and not just become a sloth.

Built into the human predicament seems to be the assumption that we should eliminate our failings; as adequate and worthy people, we should be able simply to leap over our weaknesses. So perhaps the grown-up thing to do would be to blow up laziness with a bomb, or drop it into the Atlantic Ocean with a huge weight so it would never reappear, or send it off into space so that it would float out into infinity and we’d never have to relate to it again.

I have put myself into work situations that require a lot of energy, attention, and well, work. Other than a short stint as a low level postal worker, and a year or so as a museum security guard, I have had jobs that have been all about serving others. So, manifesting laziness in the workplace in any of the forms Pema mentions has often had a quick turn around - in other words, it's caught by someone pretty quickly, put back in my face, leaving me to address or avoid it.

Beyond work, I have volunteered my time over the years in positions demanding a similar kind of attention and energy, and with their own rapid laziness feedback loops.

And even as a kid, I was plugged in sometimes as a faux parent for my sister, master housekeeper, and generally laden with responsibilities earlier than most children.

So, that feedback loop has often been with me, along with the social admonishments against laziness that seem to drive people to overwork and then crash again and again. The feedback loop is probably a benefit, you know, because I have had enough opportunities to face these forms of laziness that now I can actually see them some of the time. I can even hang with them more than in the past.

However, there's still that narrative right behind my ears, saying "I'm tired. I don't want to work any harder. Enough already." And maybe there's some truth to that story, but I think it's also true that it is a story coming from believing that all effort feels the same, has the same impact on the body/mind.

Yet, when you face your laziness, or anything else coming up really, there's actually a shifting that goes on with your effort. It might be difficult for awhile, but eventually that difficulty burns away.

We join our loss of heart with honesty and kindness. Instead of pulling back from the pain of laziness, we move closer. We lean into the wave. We swim into the wave.

Somewhere in the process of staying with the moment, it might occur to us that there are a lot of unhappy brothers and sisters out there, suffering as we are suffering. In becoming intimate with our own pain, with our own laziness, we are touching in with all of them, understanding them, knowing our kinship with all of them.

In my own experience, it really has been the moments of awareness that each of us going through variations of the same things. That it isn't just my laziness, but the laziness that appears within all of us from time to time. I still am challenged at times by thinking that I'm not doing enough in life, and that I have to work harder to be a "better person." It's easy to know this is a false narrative intellectually, but not so easy to let go of when you have believed and acted out of it for a long time, and a lot of people around you also believe it and are acting out of it.

We reinforce each other, for better or worse. It's foolish to say otherwise. So, breaking free of these kinds of stories, which are pretty common in our society, means standing out and perhaps being viewed in a negative light. This is where I think having a deep sense of one's balance points, coupled with the courage to do what's necessary to maintain that balance, is so utterly important. Because it's so much harder to face laziness, or anything else, when you're out of balance.


Anonymous said...

I guess it is only the cat is talking in this post; pretending to be amused there on the couch.

I get it. It is just a ... story... Once upon a time there was...

a cat who had a case of acedia which is way beyond lazy ass and more like resignation- a kind of learned - even self taught - helplessness. How do cats catch acedia?

Learned helplessness occurs in labs when an animal is subjected to a painful stimulus in a situation in which neither fight nor flight nor freedom is possible.

They say in such cases the cat's only recourse is to become docile and sort of over-reflective.. to sit quietly on the couch and tell amusing little stories during commercial breaks about cats back in the old days who were lucid, sensitive, exposed, disciplined and still alive.

Good thing we're talking about cat distraction, eh? I wonder if cats with acedia can teach learned helplessness to other cats?


Man, can we get off these cat distraction stories anytime real soon? This is about #56 of 1001 stories? Am I right? Am I right? I'm right, right? How about you pop the popcorn next time, I'll bring the beer.

What do you think the next cat story will be about? What's the cat's name anyway? How'd you teach it to drink beer? My cats - they NEVER drank beer...they sure whizzed a lot tho; they sure were full of it!

Unknown said...

i am really loving your blog. Some really excellent insights here!

Nathan said...

Hey Anonymous,

Sorry if my efforts here aren't satisfying enough for ya. Everyone works through their muck differently. If it appears I am just complaining, then I guess I have nothing to offer but that right now.


p.s. I thought the cat was funny. It lightened me up when I saw it anyway :)

Nathan said...

Thanks Bookbird.


Jomon said...

Hi Nathan. One book that really helped me before and during my Sabbatical year is "The One Who Is Not Busy" by Darlene Cohen. She uses a koan to address this issue, which I loved. I really recommend it to my fellow workaholic-overscheduled-overachiever-in-recovery. Thank you for sharing your process.

Nathan said...

Thanks Jomon for the book suggestion.