Don't Practice... Play!

...BUT, I did read somewhere that some old-school Taoists do condemn homosexuals... But this just seems opposite of what I think Taoism seems to say.
...this could be one of those there-is-no-right-or-wrong type of things... which many things in life seem to be. I always say "Who are you to say what kind of sexuality is wrong and what kind is right?" But then who am I to do the same? And on that note, why would I condemn someone who wants to make love to a goat or a tree? How do I know I'm not wrong? And of course "right" and "wrong" change with time and society... hmmmmmmm...

Some people like making rules for other people, but making rules for other people is not finding harmony with the Tao.


  • edited December 1969
    Practice is an utter waste of time… unless we are enjoying ourselves in some way. But then I'd say we are not 'practicing' but rather playing. Splitting hairs am I?

    Not from an enjoyment point of view, I think. We are often encouraged to practice to become perfect, or at least better. Yet, this is simply wishful thinking. The only way we really learn anything is either through feeling pleasure or pain. Grinding practice, with simply the goal of becoming better, is a pain and soon teaches us to stop struggling and just turn on the radio, TV, or something. Something? Hmm...

    Sure, some intrepid souls continue on to eventually find 'joy' (of sorts) and become 'better' (in a way). Or they are masochists and simply find 'joy' in self torture. But, what a waste for the multitude who would truly love to play music, for example, but 'learn' not to. Learning the 'right way' is [chref=70]very easy[/chref]. On the other hand, the easy way is not usually the 'right way'. i.e., [chref=53]the great way is easy[/chref], not the easy way is great. The easy way is often the by-path we prefer. [chref=78]Straightforward words seem paradoxical[/chref], I suppose.

    By turning 'practice' into play, not pain, and we will always surprise ourselves by how much, how quickly, and how easily we learn. All we need do is determine where short term pain, long term pleasure balances short term pleasure, long term pain. To do this, all we need do is struggle and grind away at life for awhile, i.e., [chref=36]if you would have a thing weakened, you must first strengthen it[/chref]. Isn't it lovely how it all works itself out [chref=17]naturally[/chref]! It is only a matter of time.

    Note: For a little more on this 'short term pain, long term pleasure; short term pleasure, long term pain' point of view see "Mind only", Buddha Once Said.
  • edited December 1969
    The only way we really learn anything is either through feeling pleasure or pain.

    I disagree. I remember learning how to type, in typing class. It was neither pleasurable nor painful. It was just boring. The way it works is that you do something over and over and over until you wear a groove in your brain and can do that without "thinking" about it. It becomes automatic. You see a "D" and your left middle finger presses down. I'm sure it's more that you are creating pathways of neurons that ignite when you see a "D", rather than wearing a groove, but it feels more like a groove.

    That's pretty much how you learn how to play an instrument, isn't it?

    The only motivation I had to keep doing the boring typing practice was to get a passing grade and get the hell out of high school.

    Of course, there is a lot more to learning to make music than learning to type (having a "good ear", a sense of rhythm, a creative ability to string notes together), but mechanically it's kind of the same, don't you think?

    I believe you have to have some kind of small success to keep trying, even if you are just trying to get out of high school . When I was learning to paint with watercolor, and I was pretty bad to start, I could be content if I liked 1/4 of an inch of the finished product...."This stinks, but look at how this brush stroke makes a perfect leaf" or "I like how the feet came out." This was enough to keep me trying.

    But now after all that, I understand what you are saying. You are saying that as we go through the process of learning, if we like what we did we feel pleasure and so we do more of that but if we don't like what we did we do less of that or try something else.

    So I take it all back...I agree. 8)
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Lynn Cornish:[/cite]... I disagree.

    ... it's more that you are creating pathways of neurons that ignite when you see a "D", rather than wearing a groove, but it feels more like a groove.

    ... That's pretty much how you learn how to play an instrument, isn't it?

    ... So I take it all back...I agree.

    ... Now that's what I like to hear. A little grist for my mind's mill.

    ... Pleasure and pain create the pathways - the groove. Or we could say, pleasure and pain are the pathways that lead to the 'emergent pathways' of that which we learn.

    ... Just the opposite. 'Trying to learn' prevented me from playing. My sons are excellent examples of how pleasure and pain are the guiding force in learning. This goes for music and everything else I 'taught' them during home schooling. Simply put, they 'taught' themselves (perhaps I was their coach). The rest is just afterthought and illusion. Of course, the whole 'teaching - learning' myth is a cornerstone of our cultural paradigm, making what I say rather "disagreeable".

    ... Now, that sounds good too! :lol:
  • JoeJoe
    edited December 1969
    I don't know how well it fits this discussion, but I've been thinking about my bicycle riding. Kind of in the context of learning and motivation. I've been riding a bike for more than forty years. I've been riding more regularly the last few months.

    I think about how bicycling can be a very effortless endeavor, a little bit like the effortless flow in tai chi. What strikes me the most is how cycling is more doing me, than I'm doing cycling. I can't identify how I was "taught" in the beginning. I can't nail down the process of cycling becoming more effortless. Just like with tai chi. Both activities "progress" for me, not from practice, but from mindfulness. The more present I am in the moment of doing either activity, the more mysteriously profound they become.

    I hope that makes some sense. I remember when Carl first mentioned to me the idea that with yoga, rather than "learning" lots of postures, and "working" hard to do it right, if I could just do one posture fully, totally present, I would probably get more out of it. The same with cycling. I have very little interest in going to various places that have great riding trails, etc. Or of doing 100 mile rides, or whatever. I do about the same route each time, and be mindful as I can, and voila, we have a real world opportunity for mindfulness. And I so love it when I pay attention and the "mystery" comes through as I ride.

    The pleasure and pain ties in for me with wanting to take better care of myself. I think most of us have all sorts of thoughts about eating better and getting more exercise. There are umpteen diets and exercise programs out there. But the biking really happens, not because I've got these illusions/fantasies about being a healthy kind of person, but because my need for the "pleasure" of more balance in my life is stronger than the short-term "pain" I might feel from getting up early, or having to sweat and exert myself to get up a hill. (Yes, Iowa does have some hills. If you ever discover a mountain in Iowa, though, let me know.)
  • edited December 1969
    Speaking of pleasure, pain and neural pathways...
    [cite] Lynn Cornish:[/cite]... I'm sure it's more that you are creating pathways of neurons that ignite ...
    Talent may just be the neural pathway that finds pleasure in a particular area making that area the area of one's 'talent'. At its core, talent narrows perspective just as following any pleasure does. The more we 'dedicate' ourselves to a particular pleasure, the more narrow we become. Geniuses, experts and idiot savants will all know what I'm talking about, I'm sure. :lol: To be fair, pleasure also accounts for all the ways we find to be obsessive and self involved. Pain is part of the dynamic, so I should have written 'pleasure-pain' but then that would just sound awkward.

    Speaking of talent, I find that life's deepest adventure lies not so much in expressing my 'talent', but rather in discovering pleasure through that which I have previously failed to notice... really notice! So, you could say 'noticing' and 'pleasure' are really the same thing. The beautiful Vedic statement, 'That Thou Art' (Tat Tvam Asi) point in that direction, in my view.

    Speaking of 'That Thou Art', I am struck by how we humans tend to differentiate ourselves from the rest of Nature, i.e., from rocks, plants and ants on up. Nothing wrong with that per se, except that... [chref=71]not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty[/chref]. In this case such 'thinking' leaves us feeling special, and thus terribly alone. Emphasizing the similarities and discounting the differences (i.e., feeling [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref]) is a way to [chref=16]return[/chref] to where [chref=50]there is no realm of death[/chref]. Ah yes, but [chref=36]if we would have [our species centric ego] weakened, we must first strengthen it [/chref]. So, everything is going according to plan after all. Whew!
  • edited December 1969
    Talent may just be the neural pathway that finds pleasure in a particular area making that area the area of one's 'talent'.

    That sounds true. I've noticed that musical families produce musical children, artistic families, ditto. Could be that pleasure as a child comes from the parent's approval and so we naturally develop that pathway.
    Speaking of talent, I find that life's deepest adventure lies not so much in expressing my 'talent', but rather in discovering pleasure through that which I have previously failed to notice

    Does that include you playing guitar and singing? That would be something I have never thought of attempting although I notice it...I always seem to be around musicians. (But maybe that had more to do with my drinking patterns!)
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Lynn Cornish:[/cite]Does that include you playing guitar and singing?
    Sure, my playing 'at' music illustrates the connection between pleasure, pain and talent. First, playing music, for me, is like being a fish out of water. I have no musical talent per se, just perseverance 'talent'. Heck, I don't even like listening to music! Why am I drawn to play it for heaven sakes? I suspect it 'promises' to fill a void - a lack of 'social talents'. For example, chit chat gives me a lot less pleasure than it does for most folks. And even when I chit chat, the topics I'm interested in are a bore to most folks, and visa versa.

    My only true talent is a talent to organize. Organizing 'stuff' gives me pleasure. Letting 'stuff' be disorganized is a pain. Any philosophical 'talent' I may have (philosophizing give me pleasure), really rests on my fundamental 'organizational' talent. Nevertheless, I love ('philo') wisdom ('sophy'). For me that boils down to pondering what makes life 'tick'. This kind of 'understanding' deepens the experience of wisdom. And, isn't wisdom simply the 'big picture' understanding of what's going on? But I digress... pleasurably so.

    All of which brings me back to what? Pleasure drives me to organize. The promise of the pleasure of social connection drives me to 'play' music. The pleasure of not being as pained as I might be drives me to look for the [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] between order and chaos. 'Pleasure - pain' is the quintessential driving force in life from viruses to humans and everything in between. But, don't ask me how a virus feels pleasure - pain. Certainly, it doesn't feel these in the same way we do, biologically neurologically speaking... but it 'knows'. I could elaborate, but better quite while I'm ahead.

    Finally, to tie this back to the topic, 'Don't Practice - Play': Playing, not practicing, gives me the most pleasure in the here and now. Even if I'm playing at that which offers no innate pleasure, jumping into it whole heartedly gives pleasure. I suppose it is the 'whole hearted jumping in' that is the true pleasure. Come to think of it, that's always the case in the end. It is just easier to feel a 'whole hearted jumping in' to that which we are naturally drawn to, e.g., food, sex, relationships, tribalism, war,...etc.

    Yikes, I got to [chref=23]stop using words and be natural[/chref] for awhile. Wait a second, just one more observation: When practice becomes play, work become rest, life becomes death, war becomes peace, pleasure becomes pain, and so on, or visa versa. No wonder [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] feels so good... or [chref=2]bad[/chref]. :wink:
  • edited December 1969
    It's not a great example, but what you are talking about reminds me of acting. I studied acting in school and in college, and it is actually what I majored in. I knew that taking the classes and getting the diploma would not secure me a job in this field... far from it. Performing is a difficult job to get for anyone, and a lot of it is about luck.

    But I didn't like acting because I wanted to make lots of money, or because I wanted a whole lot of attention for it. I just liked it. I felt that I was learning something about myself each time I studied a role... and when I watched others portray a role, I felt I was learning then too... but at the time, it just felt like I was 'playing.'

    I enjoyed the 'practice' and the 'work' of it, because to me it was more like fun. Consequently, I seemed to get better at it. I didn't always have this success. As a child (when I first discovered acting), I was all about attention... about being "famous" one day.

    Once I learned more about it (and myself), I saw it as an art... not a means to a glamorous lifestyle. That is when rehearsing became less stressful, and more fun. I guess because I was less worried about trying to impress everyone, and more focused on the moment... if that makes sense.

    Even in college, I did see many of my classmates struggling with and complaining about the assignments and the work... and I'll admit, during times of stress, I did the same thing. But I always reminded myself of why I liked it so much.

    I learned a lot from my teachers, for sure... but in a way, I feel that because I saw things the way I did, I learned a lot from myself. The same goes for everything else I enjoy. I suppose all I'm trying to say is, I think "playing" is the best way to learn... or at least has been for me.

    You'll have to excuse my long-windedness, please. I tend to type as I think, and I think a lot and discover new ideas as I'm trying to write. :)
  • edited December 1969
    Whenever I pursue a musical endeavor, I like to do it on my own... to play in order to learn. I have some basic music knowledge from playing flute in middle school, but I always really learned best by ear. In fact, playing in the school band, I usually wasn't reading along with the music, I was using my muscle memory and playing the song from having heard how it sounds so much.

    Anyway, after reading this article and the one on Blowing Zen, I purchased one of your pvc shakuhachi (i hope i spelled that right) flutes. I just got it yesterday. So far, it is somewhat challenging... I'm slowly finding the correct mouth position to get sound to come out of it, but it's a LOT different from the regular European orchestral type flute I'm used to. :D

    Just wanted to say thanks, and I'm looking forward to figuring out and/or learning to play it!
  • edited December 1969
    Congratulations, ZiggySunshine! Carl is going to be thrilled and will, I'm sure, help you as much as he can. I love the sound of the shakuhachi. PVC? Oh, PVC! We've been working with that in the garden quite a bit lately (a bit too much).

    Good luck to you.
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] ZiggySunshinedust:[/cite]... You'll have to excuse my long-windedness, please.
    ... I love it, and the paper is real cheap, so be as long winded as you like. I too feel self conscious when my words get stacking up to high. Although, I'm more justified perhaps because I'm going on and on 'cutting' philosophical fine points. :oops: Your reflecting on life and experience - giving personal testimony - which deserves as many words as it takes.
    [cite] ZiggySunshinedust:[/cite]...shakuhachi flutes. So far, it is somewhat challenging...

    ...I'm looking forward to figuring out and/or learning to play it!
    ... Ha! During the first year, blowing shakuhachi each time felt like running a marathon of sorts. It was grueling, but most of that toil may have been due to how I used to really throw myself into things (sanity came late to me)! Nevertheless, patience is the key. It is an endeavor spend your life time "learning". Let me know if you encounter any insurmountable difficulty.
  • edited December 1969
    Thank you, Carl! I was very excited this morning when I finally got out a single clear-sounding note! It only lasted as long as I could breathe in that moment, then it was hard to find again. But every now and then I can hear the notes, and it's movitavting.
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