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Apathy or Contentment?

Discussion in 'Mind, Body & Spirit' started by Mr Monkey, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. Mr Monkey

    Mr Monkey Member

    Hi :D,

    I've had something knocking about in mind recently so thought I’d post to see if anyone has any thoughts on it.

    In the past, like most people I have pushed myself to do things and have been pleased when things have worked out but also mentally punished myself when I haven’t achieved things. This approach has been both to my benefit but also and detriment as I could be a little OTT on myself with the “You weren’t good enough” stick.

    For quite some time I have taken a different tack, well its more my mentality has changed. Rather that try force myself down the paths I think I “should be” going down I just chill out and don’t always take up the challenge, in fact in quite a few instances, simply avoid it.

    It’s almost because I have lost some of my fear of having to prove to myself I am ‘good’ or ‘worthy’ by doing x,y, or z” because I am more content, but because I am more content I won’t push myself to make further improvements…. But if I am fully content I shouldn’t be even thinking of ‘improvements’… But if I stay contented, I will stay in my current life situation which I perceive as not being ideal….. But then again it’s only my mind that thinks it isn’t ideal….. :confused:

    I know that some of this is simply ‘mind games’ where I feel content but then I get the mental prods like “but you should be doing more……..”, “but what about the future…” etc. But…. this got me thinking a little more about the mental prods in general… If this is the mind just being a pain shouting out things I should be doing if I ignored all of them then it would strip a lot of goal setting out of life.

    If I get a mental prod along the lines of “you’ve been eating all the pies sunshine, your getting fat, time to lose some lb’s” :eek: – isn’t this my mind equating that I have surpassed some predefined level my mind wants to maintain or conform to? In reality there is nothing wrong with ‘me’ as such, just my physical form has expanded.

    I reflect back to hearing about Eckhart Tolle saying he was happy just sitting on a park bench, why was he happy? because the mind wasn’t prodding him to do anything, he was fine as he was – a nice place to be :). Sri Ramana Maharshi wasn’t exactly striving to achieve in life, neither Mooji etc. Thats not to say they don't do things, but what they do doesn't seem to be to reach a particular goal.

    I appreciate you can have someone who happens to stay fit because they just love running – they’re running for the pure enjoyment and the by-product is staying fit. But this isn’t the same as me thinking “I should run, because I need to lose a couple of lb’s”, because I’m doing it for the end goal not the enjoyment of it.

    In a nutshell, half of me thinks I’m being apathetic not reacting to the thoughts but then again half of me thinks I’m doing well not to get drawn into them. Maybe this post is more about what should be the driver for your goals, mental ideals and ‘should’s’ (I should get that qualification etc) or following your natural inclination (even if on occassion it’s to do nothing) and the by-products (eg a healthy body if you like running) will produce themselves.

    Any thoughts warmly welcomed :)
  2. GilesC

    GilesC Member

    I think (scuse the pun :D), in a nutshell ;), the driver for 'goals' is best when simply meeting the need of the present moment.

    We can look toward longer term future goals, with the minds thoughts and ideas about how we'll get there and what that goal will ultimately look like, but as we know from experience, it will never be how we think it will be. The only thing we can be sure of is what is her and Now.


  3. Michael David

    Michael David Member

    Hello Mr Monkey

    A wondeful question and start for weaving a thread. Apathy or contentment?

    Although they seem to at first to be about the same I have been grawing like a dog on a bone on this question since first reading it this afternoon. Something about it has sparked or uncovered a kindred emotion.

    So far this has emerged. Now as I focus on each word I have a differing response a differing felt sense. Contentment feels positive and good, light and airy. Apathy feels negative and dark, heavy and unenlightened.

    When you are in that mode of deciding to continue to just "be" or to respond to the prod of "become more" what is the felt sense? Is it heavy, light, airy, dark, etc? As Giles noted ask or respond to what is happening in that moment.

    When you noted that Eckhart Tolle is happy just sitting on a park bench what does that mean? Is he always happy and does not need anything other than siting to be happy? Or perhaps he is happy watching and not reacting to the natural desires that come up in the mind and body (whether they appear contented, apathetic, positive or negative) and that he can watch this from a park bench as well as from anywhere else.

    I recently read that when we get to the edger of our comfort zone the ego begins. Or said another way the ego appears as struggle appears. There is a continual response (instinct) to all sense contacts (five senses and sense thoughts in the mind) creating a respose of wanting more of it or less of it. The ego appears to be the judge and jury and self appointed protector to deal with the constantly changing groundless existence that we experience.

    One of these resposes is the desire to continually become called bhava tanha. That is to become more. So that as soon as contentment arises along with it is the desire to become more. Desire itself is part of life. The ego's response and or clinging to the desire creates the potential problem (suffering). Clinging to the desire can be let go of by recognizing the components of the desire (easier to say than to do). The two main components are energy and thought. The energy carries a felt sense along with it. It is that felt sense that the question asked above relates to. In the moment of the thought "is this contentment or apathy" what is your felt sense? That is drop the thoughts in the mind and focus on the body.

    From the Heart of Buddhist Meditation by Thera, "There is one thing monks, that cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to a deep sense of urgency...to the Supreme Peace...to mindfulness and clear comprehension... to happiness here and now...: it is mindfulness of the body."

    Not an answer to your question but a few images to add to the mix.

  4. olmate

    olmate Member

    It is an interesting issue. I often muse this within a work context with staff, in the home life with the kids (even though they are now adults) and with self.

    Upon reflection it seems part of the issue revolves around decision making and part of the issue revolves around implementing decisions. Part of the issue probably also revolves around being present to both of these dimensions.

    Some of the examples you mention like healthy lifestyle might benefit from an enquiry about whether a real decision has actually been made versus an ongoing conversation about the pro's and cons including diet, exercise, etc.

    It may well be that on issues where a definite decision is made that actions follow willingly after. Perhaps procrastination and uncertainty and waivering flow when a definite decision is yet to be made.

    I know it is a little more complex than this, but this is a discipline I try to weave into my presencing practice.

    Nothing but the best...

  5. Edwin

    Edwin Member

    There is nothing wrong with setting a goal, but apathy means that you are focusing on the future.

    What you should be doing is reminding yourself "What do I have to do NOW in order to reach my future goal ?"

    In the case of losing weight, the answer is "I should start running NOW"

    And while you are at it, try to enjoy it. Problem solved. :D
  6. Midnight

    Midnight Member

    Lots of us tend to view situations rather "black&white"-ly.

    Our minds say "if you're not afraid of the future, what will get you off the couch and try to reach your goals?".

    It's not so much that our desire for improvement or striving for goals are gone, it's the desperation to reach these things that have stopped.

    You've also got to take in mind that lots of people who act as spiritual teachers can be pretty elderly, haha. They've ran their marathons in life, so they are perfectly content with being happy on park benches all day. For a young person like me, whose still got to decide what to do for a career, how to reach it, receiving an education, etc, are all things that are important to me.

    But the truth is if all these things were to collapse on me, I wouldn't feel as if a part of me is missing, or that I am going to die now that I don't have these things.

    And at first, this sort of non attachment can be frightening. I'm not going to pretend it wasn't for me. But another possibility opens up: that the path you set yourself on is NOT the only path there is. There is a greater possibility for seeing all that you really can do with life.

    Hope this helps Mr. Monkey!
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  7. Mr Monkey

    Mr Monkey Member

    Hi all,

    Thanks for some very interesting responses :), some great stuff to reflect on over the last few days. I’ve only picked a small amount of what I found interesting to reply too, otherwise this would have been a mahooosive post :p

    I can understand that the mind will speculate about the future and offer up ways of getting to where it thinks it should be. But if the thought came up “Your getting tubby” would you put down the pork pie and beer and go for a walk/run (thus acting in the NOW to the situation) or would you think that the thought “Your getting tubby” is just the mind trying to get you to buy-in to a preconceived idea of what is “right” for you physical form?

    It’s not some much an emotional pondering or ‘need’ for me, just something I’ve been toying with in my mind. Maybe I just to ignore these ponderings and others like them and just focus on being and doing in the NOW? As you mention, I should try to listen to my body a bit more rather than the rumblings of my mind!

    That last paragraph resonated with me, whilst thinking about it I notice that when I am committed to something I can be very single minded, but it can take me a long time to get committed. Unless I have that inner/background commitment/alignment with what I am trying to achieve it doesn’t get done and the mind is left floundering – so this was an interesting insight indeed.

    When I read this I had an image of that thought hitting my head and me having some sort of Forest Gump reaction to it, with my legs starting to run and run with my facial expression looking like “What the……:eek::D. I can see what your getting at though, if you have a problem work to resolve it NOW – don’t dwell on past/future. But…..

    …. as with my response to Giles’s comments, I can see some of what you’re saying but I’m still stuck on the fact that if you drop desire/need, then isn’t all that’s left just the mind trying to improve the self-image? “Getting fitter, get a bigger car, get a nicer xyz….”.

    Absolutely, all the comments here have as ever, been fruitful reflection for me – I just hope I haven’t missed things in the posts. Hope the integration/differentiation isn’t proving too troublesome, but I have a feeling that even if it is you won’t be too stressed about it ;) :).

    Be well people, and thanks again :)
  8. Karmoh

    Karmoh Member

    Hi Paul,

    As I read the post and the subsequent posts it brings a smile. The traps of the mind are powerful but once we begin to notice life, we also notice the traps. It is a bit like falling in love with experiences or experiencing itself, seeing that our present experience is perfect just as it is, no matter where we are or what is happening.
    This does not mean that we escape pain or challenging work & social situations, nor illness, or weight gain. To see perfection in every experience is to realise that our nature is experience itself. When we come to realise that presence is what we are, we fall in love over and over again with life, in each moment.
    We see that everything that happens, the good and the bad (too many pies :)), is equally soaked in this love. This is freedom right in the midst of every single happening in our lives.
    The main trap is believing we escape life and metaphorical strive to sit on a mountain top, whereas in our true experiences we live in cities, town, suburbs and villages, we work and play.
    On this journey we may experience a stage in which life feels like a void. The mind quiets. Silence feels like this deep well of freedom that we want to sink into, so to speak, more and more. Personal motivation drops away because the ego is seen through. Everything that once motivated us personally no longer works to motivate us.
    We come to see that a lot of our motives in the past were very selfcentered. This stage is fine. Let it be as it is. But be careful! The body knows more than the mind, if tying your laces makes your face red, feel the pressure :mad:, get up and move. :D

    peace :)
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  9. olmate

    olmate Member

    Hi Karmoh,

    It is a special priviledge and humbling to be able to swim in your wisdom. Thank you (bro).

  10. brozen

    brozen Member

    hi monkey,

    (note: i had a tough time writing this and keeping my mind on topic, it might be a little bit everywhere, if its confusing just ignore it lol, my mind is just swimming around trying think of a way to address this issue which just has SOO MANY levels to it haha) excellent topic PS. If u can't follow it, treat my last paragraph as my response.

    i was trying to type this same question out earlier today but didnt know how to phrase it.
    Firstly i think the main 'problem' is having a mind full of thoughts and questions, constantly questioning our questioning, never being satisfied with any answer but taking joy in the thought processes, maybe even encouraging yourself to think more and more about things, since non-thinking seems to be such an ugly unreal way of living.

    i cant say for sure this applies to you but from what i gather i assume it may be something along those lines.

    anyway i have found since starting meditation i have asked the same questions about reasons for doing things.

    it can seem like apathy but id say its more contentment mixed with hectic western living.
    They just don't seem to fit together,

    Imagine self sustained living on a farm, where every action you do is for ur own survival. It would be pointless to question ur actions unless you are considering starving/freezing to death. Fitness and exercise would be a non issue since the actions you take to survive provide you with the healthy activity you require. There is never a time you have to act to prove your worth so also not an issue. Anyway you get the idea.
    In that kind of life you could be content with everything you do, as every action is necessary to survival and nothing more.

    But since you live (i assume) in a western society where things don't work like that it becomes easy to think you need to DO MORE and acheive more and may be the reason your mind does not consider your content life as ideal. Maybe becuase in western life there appears to be SO many more options to consider than just working day to day to self sustain. Busy surroundings = busy mind.

    im 21 and at a point where i have to CHOOSE how i am going to sustain myself for the rest of my life. (choosing a job etc). it sounds like you are at a point where that has all already been chosen.
    maybe do a mind exercise of pretending you are back in the past, choosing what u want to achieve in life and where you want to be. it may not be NECCESSARY for you now but just imagine it was.

    Can you be content with your life when u know you could be out helping/changing the world for the millions of others who suffer from poverty/corruption all that bad stuff, or even just spreading the positivity you have gained from meditation? (not to suggest that you don't consider these things) There may be good reason to allow your mind to feel discontent with your contentedness.
    Or else don't do things for one reason or another, Do things because you enjoy the process of doing, just as you may think because you enjoy the process of thought.

    good luck with your thoughts
  11. Mr Monkey

    Mr Monkey Member

    Thanks Karmoh, an insightful and enjoyable post :).

    I find it interesting that when some of you guys/gals write/explain things it can have quite a poetic quality to it, in that it seems to paint a picture and draws you into the words. In some ways I enjoy just being absorbed into the words; it feels like a nice place to be if that makes sense…….

    Hi Brozen,

    For me your post was fine and easy to read and I can see we share a fairly similar outlook on this topic.

    I found this thought provoking in you post and had me juggling a few things in my mind, but I guess it’s as good old Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the World”.

    Cheers, Paul
  12. Michael David

    Michael David Member

    Do and enjoy along with think and enjoy; the enjoyment coming in both cases from the process. A profound and quite stimulating assesment of a way to be on the path. But what is enjoyment and what is process? And how does this relate to apathy and contentment?

    First on doing and thinking.

    Both revolve around mindfulness. Mindfulness is the deep awareness, knowing and present sensation of the five senses and thought. Actually thought is also a sensation. Sensation is the contact of the senses and thought to the consciousness of the mind. The contact of light waves is collected by the retina and touches the mind. Sound sensation is air vibration contacting the ear drum and touching the mind. Touch, smell, taste and thought in the same manner touches the mind. Mindfulness is the consciousness of all of these.

    We tend to focus primarily on refined thought and a tendency to discount the other five. Mindfulness allows more of a balance to be observed. With more balance and mindfulness the pushes and pulls of the ego (which by using thought acts as the play by play commentator, critic and judge) are diminished and the natural state of enjoyment comes to the surface. So enjoyment is the natural sensation that we become conscious of when it is not overshadowed by the whims of the ego.

    Process is the actual moment by moment actions that we are doing. In writing part of the process is to press down on each key and watch the letters appear on the screen forming into words and hopefully coherent sentences. The process of creating thoughts and analogies and words with differing shades of meaning involves mindfulness and attention to each detail. In making my breakfast the process involves placing steel cut oats in a pan with water and heating it. To do either mindfully, creatively, with attention as if for the first time with attention to the process of the doing, contains natural enjoyment. Hence the process of what we do, and the process of what we think, contains enjoyment.

    You might compare this to refined sugar. Although most natural fruits and vegetables contain sugar we have a tendency to take the sugar out of these foods and refine it into a "purer" form. We are trying to extract the sweetness and take it in all at one time. We do get a quick jolt of "sweetness" but it disipates as rapidly. Included in this rapid loss of "sweetness" is a gap, a void in which we lose contact with mindfulness and sometimes opens up into apathy. We become disconnected from the natural sweetness of enjoyment and enthusiasm. Allowing the natural sweetness to be found and enjoyed in each food has a longer lasting benefit without the rocky road (no pun intended) and detour of apathy.

    In art there is a tendency to do the same thing. We tend to look for the best of the best in pictures, movies, books etc and overlook the natural beauty that exists in many or all other places.

    As more mindfulness ensues a greater ability develops to see and feel the "sweetness" or beauty in more and more of the things we do or the thoughts we have or those of others. Like riding a carosel that revolves around a central axis it does not matter how far out you are standing you are always connected to that central core. In addition with more mindfulness you may move closer to the core and help create a wider path that others may be able to follow along.

    By staying within the guidelines of the precepts of not harming anyone or anything while holding the intention of enjoyment the road of contentment or apathy can be steered through. A lofty goal to have along with an enjoyable path to be traveling on.

    Michael :)

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