Monday, December 13, 2004


I have had, for the last three weeks, the worst case of procrastination I have ever had. And we are talking here, mind you, about the man who got his driver's license at age twenty-seven, and who got his M.Phil. eight years after beginning graduate school.

I resolve each day to plunge into working on my new project, and only twice have I actually done anything. This is starting to look grim. I always worry, when this happens -- is this going to be the time when nothing kicks in? When I simply stop doing anything, ever again? What will become of me and my family, when I simply stop, for the last time?

A couple nights ago, I decided -- "this is my Dharma practice, right now. A grand opportunity to practice, eight hours a day. Every time I'm tempted to do something other than work, I will just sit with it, and watch it."

Well, it seemed a brilliant idea, and the next day was in fact one of the days I worked. But the power of the idea expired after one day. Today I've done it again. I sat here all day. Did a few piddly things as requests came in. But I'm paralyzed.

One thing this taught me (this is a lesson I've learned scores of times, but it never seems to stick) is that reason I practice on the cushion is that it's too damn hard to practice in real life. If making life my Dharma practice was going to work, trust me, amigos mios, I'd know it by now. Which is not to say that informal practice, what we call "carrying the practice" in my daily life, has no place. It's just that, if I try to go to war with daily samsaric life, armed with my Dharma practice, like that, samsara will simply win, & all I'll get is a broken life and a broken Dharma practice.

Procrastination is one of those truly inexplicable strategies I come up with, one of those ways of avoiding suffering that plainly inflicts so much more suffering than it could ever save me from, that I'm baffled as to how to deal with it. When I tell myself, "if you sit here and read blogs and write comments for the next three hours, Dale, you will be unhappy all the while, and miserable by the end of the day," -- when I see that with absolute clarity and without a dissentient voice anywhere in my head, and thereupon sit here and read blogs and write comments for three hours -- what's left to try?

Well, for one thing, I can make it public. (Et voici.) That often has a transformative effect on anything shame-based.

Another thing I can try is breaking the job up into tiny parts, and setting myself the task of doing just the very first tiniest lowest-risk part of the task. Because once I'm working, the whole complex sometimes just evaporates. The interest of the problem itself starts to get hold of me.

Sometimes, anyway.

Well, in any case, here we are. End of day.

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