Confronting Laziness

The antidote for laziness is a combination of definite intention and will.

It is through meditation that one discovers how to discern between a definite intention and that which is hazy or blurry: it is learned by association (ah, my perception is quite distinct, this must be "definite") and more-or-less impossible to accurately describe. Let's just say that it is a feeling of immersion in the subject, a lack of distraction, and an unspoken certainty that there is, in fact, no distraction.

If one learns to recognize the difference between hazy and distinct intention, one can then monitor oneself for distinctness. If one's actions become hazy and indistinct, it is important to shore up one's efforts and refocus. There are many ways to do this, but all methods are founded on the principle that it is always possible to focus on something at some level. One simply picks an object that is more amenable to focus. This is usually a smaller, more clearly delinated object than the one which is giving you trouble. For example, one is having trouble focusing on a complex project, so one takes a moment to focus on breathing.

I like photography, so I will use a photography analogy. If you are having trouble focusing on a moving target, say in sports photography, it often helps to stop and focus on a stationary target. Once focus is dialed in you can reframe your moving subject in that location and be assured of a well focused shot.

There is no reason why every action in your day should not be indiviudally distinct. Everything from washing dishes to creating a blog post can be sharp, distinct, and purposeful. I am sharing an observation with the world with my blog. I am washing dishes. It's not terribly important for the purpose of definiteness to believe that what one is doing is the *right* thing to do, but it helps if at some level you believe this is the best possible action you could be taking in this moment.

An important impediment to focus is not knowing what to focus on. This is troublesome because of the wide array of options we have in any instant. Many people solve the problem by merely reacting to their environment in an instinctive way. This strategy works as long as your luck holds out, but environements have a way of changing into something that doesn't match instinct! At that point one needs a more thoughtful, adaptable way to select a subject.

This "subject" correction is much more difficult than a "focus" correction because it requires a much more general awareness than merely that of "my state of focus". Indeed, my own understanding of this sort of correction is still undergoing change (and may never settle into some fixed set of rules). However, for the moment, there is a combination of "stepping back" and looking at the world and my place in it objectively, and "stepping in" and observing my own mind: this cooresponds to examination of long-held beliefs and momentary mood, respectively. I am essentially asking the questions "where am I itching?", "how can I scratch?", and "should I scratch". That first question ("where are the itches") cooresponds to simple open-minded awareness of one's own mental state. The second ("how can I scratch") implies a learned, practical understanding of what it will take in terms of time resoures to scratch. The third question ("should I scratch?") is both a practical and moral question: some scratches are easier to itch than others, and common sense must drive prioritization. Morally, some itches should not be scratched (a burning desire for crack cocaine, for example). (This raises the interesting, but ancillary, question of how we choose our moral code. I believe that a rational person decides between systems of belief based on how well that system minimizes the absolute number of itches on experiences.)

In this way, living one's life can be seen as a kind of programming loop whereby one 1. focuses on goals, 2.corrects that focus when it waivers, 3.examines all possible goals for worthiness, 4. picks a new one if necessary, and 5.goto step 1.

This is a healthy process. The unhealthy process is one in which the person remains ignorant of the importance to focus, and never considers the choices one has in terms of picking their goals. Meditation is a simple, mechanical activity that will yield awareness of one's own current state of definiteness. One uses this definiteness to probe deeper into the situations that make one happy or unhappy and gains knowledge about why one state or the other arises. One sees the fruit of remaining sharp, and being sharp becomes a primary "meta-goal" in life, and the positive, self-correcting process outlined above is started.

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