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Concentration and Distraction

by Todd Green (@tsondo)
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Many of us live in an apparent dichotomy of practice vs non-practice. Wouldn't it be grand if we could practice continuously, to utilize every second of this precious human existence to move towards enlightenment? It sounds like an optimal experience of life! It would be wonderful if everything that called to our attention was greeted with discernment and positive intention, and every choice about where to place our attention, and what actions to take, was made with wisdom and compassion. It seems like a dream, and beyond reach.

But is it? Sure, it might be a long road, but I strongly suspect that working towards such a goal beats the alternative! I recognize that my idea of perfection isn't very likely to be actually perfect. I recognize that I don't have the wisdom and compassion to correctly choose where my attention goes, or what action to take in every situation. And I also realize that holding on to a perfect idea of what “should be” can get in the way of realizing what is. But at the same time, I think it's quite reasonable to have clear, positive spiritual aspirations to guide our practice and help us recognize what we need to work on. Not enough wisdom? Cultivate it. There are practices for that! Not aware of compassion in your mind stream? There's a practice to help with that! Buddha Dharma is rich with teachings on what qualities to develop to help us wake up, and has a great variety of teachings on how to cultivate those qualities.

It is a source of profound relief to me that we live in a time and have the kind of life where we can learn about, and practice cultivation of these qualities and work towards such goals. At the end of the day, I don't know what my limits are. I can only keep walking the path, and inquire. I don't see any benefit from saying “it's impossible” or “I am not good enough.” I am not going to assume that it's impossible especially when Buddha taught that it is! But to accomplish this goal, I need to, gradually, or quickly, or however I can, focus on the right things. I need to learn how to not let the wrong things distract me. Getting a handle on distraction is necessary for success in any endeavor

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