Got a very interesting email from a friend today. This gets a little spiritual, so fair warning to you guys.

“Mark,

I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s book on The Power of Now and It has got me thinking about Zen philosophy again. I heard that you used to practice meditation quite a bit and I wanted to ask you about it.

Zen is contradictory to most of the philosophy I invest in but, its unclear whether or not it has to be exclusive. One struggle I have is the idea that ruminating in the past or future is detrimental to one’s overall consciousness-even when it is positive. Tolle says, the idea of a future heaven creates a present hell. Does attachment need to be taken to this extreme? Can my finding meditation boring be explained as unenlightenment?

hmmm-I’m still very skeptical,”

– Cross

I’ve been meditating regularly since I was 16. I was VERY into it and reading a lot about spirituality and eastern philosophy in college, so this isn’t another, “LET GO OF YOUR EGO, BRO!” type of posts. I honestly believe that spirituality is something that can hardly be conveyed with words, but only lived or experienced, so I usually shut my mouth about it.

With that said, this is a pretty common dilemma for people who are exposed to zen and eastern philosophy… that the idea of “unattachment” isn’t exactly practical or even applicable in modern life. You have to remember that a lot of these philosophies were developed 4,000 years ago when their were far fewer demands and complexities to life. So the idea of going and sitting in a cave for nine years and staring at a wall wasn’t exactly giving up a whole lot.

With that said, the common sticking point for everyone is, “if I’m supposed to be attached to nothing and desire nothing, how the hell do I get anything done?” Hell, how did Tolle write mutliple 300-page books if he was completely unattached to the future? Wouldn’t he just stare and smile at the typewriter?

The problem comes with the explanation of attachment. Many people take it as wanting or desiring ANYTHING. This is where you get people living on communes, giving up their possessions, moving to Tibet and whatnot. It’s also the main reason I don’t associate with the spiritual community, because I think they commit the same foul, just in the opposite direction.

The catch is that actively being unattached to things is being attached to something. You’re attached to being unattached. Actively desiring to be desireless is still a desire. Letting go of a thought is still a thought. Surrendering to a feeling is still a feeling. Read this paragraph again until it makes sense. I think most (smart) people who are turned off by Eastern Philosophy intuitively recognize this. And rightly so…

By that definition of desire and attachment, you’re screwed if you do or you don’t.

A more proper explanation would be that it refers to not just things that you want or desire, but things that you are AFRAID OF LOSING. For instance, a guy can enjoy and appreciate his job… but if he lost it, would shit hit the fan and would try to hang himself? If so, then he’s attached to it. But if he accepts it as just another wave of manifestation and permutation of life, the all-pervading consciousness and accepts that his path is taking a new route… well, he’s probably not very attached. :)

You know that saying, “You can’t truly have something until you’re willing to lose it?” It’s like that.

And in the end, that’s not what Zen (or eastern spirituality in general) is about — the doing or not doing. It’s all about how much of your sense of Self is attached to the outcome of what you do or don’t do. This is why the “don’t get attached to the past or the future” is common, because most people have their egos and ideas of themselves invested very heavily in either something they’re going to do one day or have done in their past. And in the end, it tortures them in the present.

“Being present” isn’t ignoring the past or the future… because the act of thinking about a past or a future is actually taking place in the present. It’s impossible to NOT be present, what changes is your perspective.

And in the end, that’s what it’s about, widening your perspective. Recognizing that you have such little control and little knowledge of… well, ANYTHING in the world, that you might as well let go and be humble about it. Have your career goals, thoughts and ideas, your hopes and dreams, but don’t attach the Self to it in such a way that you’ll suffer if you don’t achieve them. Remember what’s happened to you and enjoy your memories, but don’t base your identity on it.

Obviously this is all easier said than done.

The way I explain it is recognizing that it’s all just a game that we’re playing, the game is called life — and I don’t mean in the business, climb-the-ladder analogy — but in the fact that ultimately, everything that we are and do is just a cosmic interplay between seemingly separate manifestations of consciousness. Most people never realize it’s a game. And as a result, they are slaves to the ebbs and flows of what’s played.

But there are people who slowly realize that it’s just a game. Some of these people find out by refusing to play. Some find out by simply stopping and paying attention. Some find out by almost being removed from the game. Some realize it by watching others being removed before their eyes. But in the end, for whatever reason, they realize it’s just a game, and because it’s just a game, they have no reason to be worried or afraid… ever, because it’s just a game, and whoever wins or loses doesn’t matter… because it’s just going to start all over again. :)

I hope something made sense to somebody from this. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to fucking and sucking this weekend.

P.S. – Tolle is nice, but it’s Pop-Spirituality. It’s like the airport book of Eastern Philosophy. Let me know if you want some recommendations.

P.P.S. – What does this have to do with gaming women? I have no fucking idea. Some of the most completely neurotic headcases I’ve ever met were amazing with women. Some of the most spiritual and serene guys weren’t. Anybody who says you have to enlighten yourself to become good with the opposite sex is insane.

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12 Responses to The Zen Dilemma

  1. Eros says:

    Would absolutely love some recommendations if you can put a few up. I read both The Power of Now and A New Earth, and definitely felt it changed my perspective alot. I recognise the inter-connectedness of all things and all people, which I think is a really huge thing, because it helps me stop competing with others in a negative frame, and helps to focus me on just being who I want to be, and pointing me in the direction I want to go. I think this is how enlightenment can help; when you recognize that what everyone else thinks is by and large irrelevant, and that it only matters insofar as you are staying true to your own moral compass and for giving the occasional guidance as to how you should move through the world (obviously it’s probably in your best interests to adhere to some social norms, and to obey the law most of the time), then you can just focus on getting down to what fulfills you. When you see that no path is inherently better than any other, but that one path is better for YOU, then self-deception, social anxiety, etc, begins to fade.

    I agree that you don’t have to be enlightened to achieve success with women, but it’s still potentially helpful. If what makes you happiest in life (or as some might say ‘is on your true path’) includes success with women, then awakening to this truth will probably help you achieve it, and help you enjoy it. It’s important for the same reason as Inner Game is important in general; what’s the point of achieving success if you can’t enjoy it? Even if you’re a pick-up guru with some of the top game in the world (Mystery), your talent is almost wasted by being unable to properly enjoy the fruits of it (refer to a million blogposts and The Game). You’d be better off being a slightly talented guy who thoroughly enjoys his love life, and is able to enjoy himself in fulfulling relationships. Mystery may have all the success in the world, be admired be millions of aspiring puas worldwide, but to me his success seems pretty useless. He’s negatively competitive with many other PUAs, has gone through depression many times, and seems generally unfulfilled by his success. Someone like Zan Perrion, who doesn’t get much of a mention in the community but is still successful with women, seems like a better role model to me. I don’t think his material is the best out there, and I don’t learn from him myself, but from the impression you get from The Game, and other well-known PUAs, is that he is successful and fulfilled by that success.
    To quote David DeAngelo or David Deida (not sure which): “It’s not about being better than the other person, it’s about being mature, confident, and secure in yourself”. I think this is a big part of what enlightenment can reveal.

  2. Entropy says:

    If you really dug Tolle’s stuff and want to get into it, I’d recommend the following:

    “Introduction to Zen Buddhism” by D. T. Suzuki
    “Three Pillars of Zen” by Philip Kapleau Roshi

    Zen is great because, like Tolle, there’s no religious practice aspect, no mythology or ritual.

    As for keeping spiritual practice in perspective or “integrating” it with every-day life, by far the best author I’ve ever found is Ken WIlber. “No Boundary” is great for this topic, as well as “Integral Psychology” where he kind of plays around with the idea of psychological development and spiritual development being connected.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work has always been more spiritually inspiring for me than 99% of religious texts. He really knew what was up.

    Beyond that, you start to run the risk of running into populist pulp… or god forbid, new age drivel. Like I said, after a certain point. spirituality is something that is LIVED, not talked about. So the next step beyond there is to find a local Buddhist group or Zen center that you can regularly practice in, meet Zen masters, go on retreats, etc.

    Vipassana retreats are also known for being supremely life-changing. They’re free and available in a lot of places.

  3. Phil says:

    I think certain techniques help a lot in PU, e.g. breathing exercises seem to remove some approach anxiety for many beginners.

  4. ENC says:

    Great post! Much food for thought. and thanks for the book recommendations.

  5. Wow, I feel so blown away, Mark. In six months of almost daily contact, I don’t think we ever talked about this even once … which is weird because meditation is a huge part of my life. It’s fun hearing about sucking and fucking, but honestly this feels like a way deeper window into you.

    The attachment issue is one of life’s great challenges. How is it that I can have all kinds of wonderful things in my life, and not really be attached to any of them, and then for whatever reason, something touches a nerve in me and pulls up all kinds of weird karma?

    I dunno. I see what you mean of surrendering to a feeling still being a feeling, but surrender feels peaceful to me. For me, it has been all the blocks in the way of surrendering that have been my challenge.

    I’m so intrigued to see if you end up being inspired to write more along these lines … speaking for myself, I find much more fulfillment in writing about this sort of thing than just sucking and fucking.

    And when spirit meets fucking and sucking, well, then that DOES feel like Heaven 😉

  6. Brett says:

    “Some of the most completely neurotic headcases I’ve ever met were amazing with women”…hmmm

    “What does this have to do with gaming women? I have no fucking idea”. – I’ve found that practicing non-attachment can help get rid of neediness. If you’re willing to lose the girl and just look at it as part of the ebb and flow and don’t get too concerned, you’ll probably do better with women. Any thoughts?

    Brett

  7. ENCY-10 says:

    powerful stuff, have read this a few times over the last 3 or so months!

    the real money is this paragraph

    ” And in the end, that’s what it’s about, widening your perspective. Recognizing that you have such little control and little knowledge of… well, ANYTHING in the world, that you might as well let go and be humble about it. Have your career goals, thoughts and ideas, your hopes and dreams, but don’t attach the Self to it in such a way that you’ll suffer if you don’t achieve them. Remember what’s happened to you and enjoy your memories, but don’t base your identity on it.”

  8. o k says:

    Loved this post.

    “they have no reason to be worried or afraid… ever, because it’s just a game, and whoever wins or loses doesn’t matter… because it’s just going to start all over again. ”

    So does it follow that you believe in reincarnation?
    ^.-

    • Mark says:

      Not in the typical sense, no.

      I think saying I don’t believe in death (from a spiritual point of view) is more accurate.

  9. Rhinolution says:

    Very good post, truly!! :p

    But what’s “the self”??
    Because if you think about the question “Who are you??”.
    The answer is “You’re nothing, you’re just your past experiences, the created neuro-pathways in your brain.”
    So, a little more explanation about it would be great!! Thanks

  10. Mike says:

    “But there are people who slowly realize that it’s just a game. Some of these people find out by refusing to play. Some find out by simply stopping and paying attention. Some find out by almost being removed from the game. Some realize it by watching others being removed before their eyes. But in the end, for whatever reason, they realize it’s just a game, and because it’s just a game, they have no reason to be worried or afraid… ever, because it’s just a game, and whoever wins or loses doesn’t matter… because it’s just going to start all over again. ”

    Reminds me of Bill Hicks.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7criyE09uy0

  11. Craig says:

    It reminds me of a post the best goal is no goal. The keywords used and explanations are different but your mindset are the same. Anyway, it helps me indeed.

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