Wanting it all, dedication, belief • 25 January 2010

Or, Faith in Faith Itself. Moment in conference yesterday:

An American guy in the back raises his hand high at the end of the Q&A. He’s agitated, passionate and confused.

-I want to know, how much am I supposed to sleep? …When do I sleep? … How much do you sleep? Because I’m going back home and I want to know, how am I supposed to take my practice with me? Am I supposed to get up at 4 o’clock? Cos I live in New York, and you know, it’s hard to go to bed early…

-S chuckles. Yes, hard to go to bed early, especially in New York (smiles… he loves New York). Many distractions…. It is not easy. It takes dedication. What do you do?

-Me? Do? I’m a consultant. A financial consultant. (Audience sighs.)

-Aah. I take some tips from you later… (he laughs… then everyone else laughs)

-So how much do you sleep?

-(pausing, in what seems like reluctance to say) I am sleeping four hours. Sleep at nine, one o’clock I do my practice. Then teach… I almost don’t leave the house. Only difference is go upstairs, go downstairs. (laughter) At twelve o’clock I sleep for exactly one hour.

-How do you get energy for your family, teaching, practicing…?

-Read scriptures! Always study…

This is a paraphrase, and likely the ordering of sentiments is inaccurate.

Afterwards he expanded on this topic of dedication, and talked for a while about doubt. Doubt mostly serves to distract you from your practice and reduce your energy.

That is why you have to believe in what you do. If you do not believe the method will work, no matter what it is, it will not work.


Been feeling that lately, a lot. I identify as a skeptic, cynic, and critical thinker. I would prefer to operate as if without a "hard core" belief system, theology, ideology, whatever: understanding the endeavor is niave, but at least trying to be so free.

But somewhere between Kirkegaard’s leap of faith and the dirty truth of the placebo effect, it did occur to me that I’d given myself to this practice despite myself.

The fact that this has been true for years—that my actions have outpaced my critical mind—is only now coming home to me. But so it is: practice two hours or more a day, outsource the dirty work (the gross physical structure) to a teacher, dive in to meditation, commit most other cognitive resources to professional things… then, not as much room left for compulsive questioning.

That’s not the same as subscribing to a belief, but now I realize I’m already living as if I’ve taken the leap of faith. It’s so weird. At this point I really don’t have a problem placing faith in faith itself.

In fact, I sense that doing so is a lot more effective than my default way of doing things—treating everything as an amusement, an experiment, or a piece of my worldly education.