I suppose it was inevitable as I made an attempt to get more serious about meditaton this year that I would get exposed to some Buddhist ideas. I haven’t sought them out (if anything I have tried to find a purly secular meditation approach), but as I said was probably impossible to avoid them entirely. I don’t have anything against Buddhism per se – it just wasn’t my goal to learn about it as part of my developing meditation practice.
That being said, one of the ideas that came to me over the last year which has had a profound impact on my overall outlook, the lens through which I perceive my own actions and how to make them better is the idea of striving without clinging. The basic concept seems to be that to acheive enlightnement (which I understand to be some combination of peace, happiness and knowledge of the way the universe works) you have to take active steps in that direction (i.e. striving) but you can’t get attached to the actual goal you are trying to reach (i.e. no clinging).
While the idea of striving without clinging is given as a persecription to acheive enlightment, I find it a good recipe to get almost anything done. As I read The War of Art, I would say Pressfield’s message is all about learning to strive without attachment. You have to want to accomplish something, but not want it so much that your ideas about how it should be when you are done keep you from ever getting started. That is one of the secrets to breaking through what he calls “resistance”.
In what is becoming my standard practice, I am reading a few books right now and I came across a few quotes that shed some further light on this idea of striving without clinging. Both are philosophy books, but otherwise they are quite different. While striving without clinging is just a few words, its a pretty difficult concept to grasp, so anytime I see something that helps me understand it a little better, I think its worth noting and sharing.
The first quote comes from Erst Cassirer, in the The Myth of the State, in a chapter discussing the contributions of Machiavelli to modern political thought:
In the twenty-fifth chapter of The Prince Machiavelli explains the tactical rules for this great and continual battle against the power of Fortune. These rules are very involved and its not easy to use them in the right way. For they contain two elements that exclude each other. The man who wishes to stand his ground in combat must combine in his character two opposing qualities. He must be timid and courageous; reserved and impetuous. Only by such a paradoxical mixture can he hope to win the victory. There is no uniform method to be followed at all times. At this moment we must be on our guard, again we must dare everything. We must be a sort of Proteus who, from one moment to another, can change his shape. Such a talent is very rare in men.
The second quote comes from Frederic Gros in A Philosophy of Walking in a chapter on Slowness:
The illusion of speed is the belief that it saves time. It looks simple at first sight: finish something in two hours instead of three, gain an hour. It’s an abstract calculation, though, done as if each hour of the day were like an hour on the clock, absolutely equal.
But haste and speed accelerate time, which passes more quickly, and two hours of hurry shorten a day. Every minute is torn apart by being segmented, stuffed to bursting. You can pile a mountain of things into an hour. Days of slow walking are very long: they make you live longer because you have allowed every hour, every minute, every second to breath, to deepen, instead of filling them up by straining the joints. Huttying means doing several things at once, and quickly: this, then that; and then even something else. When you hurry, time is filled to bursting, like a badly arranged drawer in which you have stuffed thingswith not attempt at order.
Slowness means cleaving perfectly to time, so closely that the seconds fall one by one, drop by drop like the steady dripping of a tap on stone. This strectching of time deepens space. It is one of the secrets of walking: a slow approach to landscapes that gradually renders them familiar. Like the regular encounters that deepend a friendship. Thus a mountain skyline that stays with you all day, which you observe in different lights, defines and articulates itself. When you ae walking, nothing moves: only imperceptibly do the hills draw closer, the surroundings change.
I still struggle to fully grasp the idea of striving without clinging since it seems such a contradiction. I struggle even more to practice it. But I think Cassierer and Gros, each in their own way, have helped illuminate it for me just a bit more.