Wanting as an ability

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Inedible
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Wanting as an ability

Post by Inedible »

If you have looked into a few self improvement courses you have seen that they tend to tell you to start by deciding what it is you want. This is where I tend to get stuck. Thanks to family, teachers, and kids at school I got into bad habits early on about not believing I deserved anything. The other part was doubting my ability to accomplish getting it anyway. So over time it all turned into giving up right away before I could know I wanted something to begin with. It seems like if I could get some healthy wanting going it would be easier to move forward and do a better job of taking care of myself and my wife. Yes, I know this is a strange place to talk about this. Desire and wanting are the bad guys. But what if as an individual some of us just suppressed our wants and needs and instead of gaining wisdom it is more like the fable of the fox and sour grapes?
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Sam Vara
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by Sam Vara »

Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:24 pm If you have looked into a few self improvement courses you have seen that they tend to tell you to start by deciding what it is you want. This is where I tend to get stuck. Thanks to family, teachers, and kids at school I got into bad habits early on about not believing I deserved anything. The other part was doubting my ability to accomplish getting it anyway. So over time it all turned into giving up right away before I could know I wanted something to begin with. It seems like if I could get some healthy wanting going it would be easier to move forward and do a better job of taking care of myself and my wife. Yes, I know this is a strange place to talk about this. Desire and wanting are the bad guys. But what if as an individual some of us just suppressed our wants and needs and instead of gaining wisdom it is more like the fable of the fox and sour grapes?
I think the Buddha taught that wanting positive, wholesome things, and wanting the end of suffering, are the good guys.
Inedible
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by Inedible »

It is hard to want when the I can't is so much stronger.
binocular
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by binocular »

Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:24 pmIf you have looked into a few self improvement courses you have seen that they tend to tell you to start by deciding what it is you want.
And then they tell you that the only reason you don't have what you want is because you haven't wanted is hard enough! And you feel even more crappy and stuck.

But they are actually on point, as far as Buddhist doctrine goes: look up "generating desire".
"And what, monks, is right effort?
(i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
(ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.
(iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
(iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
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Sam Vara
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by Sam Vara »

Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:38 pm It is hard to want when the I can't is so much stronger.
Understood. You might want to start with some "small wins". Gain some confidence and trust that you can make progress, and build on that trust. An excellent place to start, that the Buddha recommended, is giving. Just try giving of your time, energy, skills, wealth, etc., and see if there is a sense of wholesomeness and well-being that comes from that.
Inedible
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by Inedible »

That Sutta reference suggests that right wanting is a good idea, but it isn't clear to me where it says how to do it. Especially after years of not feeling capable.
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by dharmacorps »

Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:38 pm It is hard to want when the I can't is so much stronger.
It might be worth reflecting on this voice in your head as being a defilement. It certainly is.
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by JohnK »

Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:24 pm ...Thanks to family, teachers, and kids at school I got into bad habits early on about not believing I deserved anything...
So, you already have a sense that this self-view is conditioned (vs. "who you are"). That seems like a good first step -- no need to believe your belief. (I suspect you want happiness/relief -- just not so sure about the specifics of that.) Be well.
Those who grasp at perceptions & views wander the internet creating friction. [based on Sn4:9,v.847]
Inedible
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by Inedible »

(1) Thanks for the support. I really appreciate the ideas.

(2) Is anyone else here in the same boat with me?
2600htz
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by 2600htz »

Hi:

Psychology and self improvement advices are almost always reasonable, and when we think they don´t agree with Buddhism, is most of the times just a misunderstanding of the teachings.

Im trying to imagine your case, something like: "i want to be a pianist, but my father and friends told me i suck at music" (i know its not so simple).
If you aim to improve your self- esteem, first you should try to get rid of remorse. Thats following the 5 precepts.
Without regrets, you may want to adopt the duties of a householder: To provide for yourself and your wife and maybe children.
You should also start doing forgiveness meditation, and then move to love and kindness as your object.While doing this also apply right effort to aim for your wholesome wants, without being unable to achieve goals because of your personal hindrances.

Regards.
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Dhamma Chameleon
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by Dhamma Chameleon »

Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:38 pm It is hard to want when the I can't is so much stronger.
Hi, I recognise what you describe. When you don't believe you are capable (or rather, when you don't believe your achieved result can meet expectations) you're mainly motivated to want and do the things that will avoid you feeling that way.

The 'I can't' is also rooted in a form of wanting. e.g. to be effective, capable, praised (or not blamed). So it's not a lack of wanting that's the 'problem' but that your subconscious believes it will not achieve its wants with your conscious, goal-oriented plan!

One practical tip is to switch the focus from the goal or achievement to the process, the doing. You say you want to be a good husband, to take good care of yourself. These are wants you already naturally feel and you can apply the eightfold path to them. Focus on the time and effort you put into that, rather than any measures of how good (or not) you are at it. Rather than 'was I a good husband today' ask, 'how did I work on being a good husband today'.
binocular
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by binocular »

Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 4:27 pmThat Sutta reference suggests that right wanting is a good idea, but it isn't clear to me where it says how to do it. Especially after years of not feeling capable.
I can relate. That's where both pop psychology, official psychology, and much of Buddhism let you down.

What I did is I did a keyword search for "generate desire" at ATI, studied all the found text references there, read up on quite a bit of psychology and pop psychology, and then devised a system of practice for changing beliefs and habits. But I'm not saying more for free.
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
perkele
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by perkele »

binocular wrote: Thu Oct 15, 2020 3:21 pm
Inedible wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 4:27 pmThat Sutta reference suggests that right wanting is a good idea, but it isn't clear to me where it says how to do it. Especially after years of not feeling capable.
I can relate. That's where both pop psychology, official psychology, and much of Buddhism let you down.

What I did is I did a keyword search for "generate desire" at ATI, studied all the found text references there, read up on quite a bit of psychology and pop psychology, and then devised a system of practice for changing beliefs and habits. But I'm not saying more for free.
What's the price for your knowledge? Is it negotiable?
I'm interested, but am not sure I can afford it.
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greenjuice
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by greenjuice »

Sounds like depression.

I would suggest things:

1) Practice meditation to learn how to focus on the breath while ignoring the automatic mind, not being lead by it and not being averse to it, just ignoring it and leaving it to function in the background of consciousness. Do regular practice - at least five or six days a week, if you miss a day or two sometimes doesn't matter, but try to keep it regular. Doesn't need to be long, if you can only do two or three minute, that's great. Keep it regular and increase the time bit by bit, until you come to at least 10 minutes, 15 or 20 are even better.

2) Practice walking meditation or doing chores or combination of the two several times per day. If you are sitting or reclining for an hour or two without any physical activity (except maybe some which lasted for half a minute, like you went to the kitchen or the bathroom) - get up and start doing walking meditation walk back and forth, and do it for 3 or 4 minutes, or do it for 1 or 2 plus do some chore (clear some part of the house, or tidy it up, or go to the store, etc, and not just house chores, this can also be taking care of yourself - take a shower, brush your teeth), or just do some chore if doing that chose will last for 3 or 4 minutes. The point is to have some activity of 3 or 4 minute, this will 'boost' your metabolism, and increase your energy. This is probably the best thing to do for people who have sedentary lifestyle and have lethargy.

3) As you get somewhat used to the practice from number 1, to being detached from your automatic mind, neither attached nor aversed - try to apply it to depressive feelings (including lethargy) and thinking which appear when you want to do something or start doing something.

4) Remind yourself that wanting and desire are not bad guys. In fact:

Buddha's advice for happiness in the Dighajanu Sutta is: 1 Pursue gain through honest work, 2 Preserve what you gained against thieves, natural disasters, etc. 3 Be friends with good people. 4 Have a balanced living, don't spend beyond your means, but also don't be too frugal. In Rasiya Sutta Buddha says a person should be a pursuer of pleasure and gain in four ways 1 Not commit evil deeds in pursuit of pleasure and gain, 2 Make oneself happy, 3 Share with others, make other happy, and 4 Enjoy things in a non-attached way.

Set goals which you want and focus on doing steps which lead towards those goals.
coconut
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Re: Wanting as an ability

Post by coconut »

In terms of the dhamma, we are victims of our circumstances. The Buddha didn't expect lay people with families to attain much. If you attain Right View and keep the 5 precepts strictly until you die, along with some generosity, you've done more than enough as a lay person. Maybe observe the Uposotha as much as you can, try to attain at least first jhana once in your life and that's probably the best you can hope for as a lay person.

The Buddha said, even if you never attained beyond theoretical understanding, in your next life you will return to the dhamma.
Take another mendicant who memorizes the teaching—statements, songs, discussions, verses, inspired exclamations, legends, stories of past lives, amazing stories, and classifications. They’ve followed those teachings by ear, reinforced them by recitation, examined them by the mind, and well comprehended them theoretically. But they die unmindful and are reborn in one of the orders of gods. But passages of the teaching don’t come back to them when they’re happy, and neither a mendicant with psychic powers … nor a god teaches Dhamma to the assembly of gods. But a being who has been reborn spontaneously reminds another such being: ‘Do you remember, good sir? Do you remember where we used to live the spiritual life?’ He says: ‘I remember, good sir, I remember!’ Memory comes up slowly, but then that being quickly reaches distinction. Suppose there were two friends who had played together in the sand. Some time or other they’d meet. And one friend would say to the other: ‘Do you remember this, friend? Do you remember that, friend?’ They’d say: ‘I remember, friend, I remember!’ In the same way, take another mendicant who memorizes the teaching … But they die unmindful and are reborn in one of the orders of gods. … Memory comes up slowly, but then that being quickly reaches distinction. This is the fourth benefit you can expect when the teachings have been followed by ear, reinforced by recitation, examined by the mind, and well comprehended theoretically.
https://suttacentral.net/an4.191/en/sujato


There's another similar sutta where he says, that even if you have basic faith in the Buddha and you die, something will draw you back to the dhamma.

In short, the best you can do in this life as a busy lay person with family is:

- Study the suttas as much as possible
- Attain Right View and understand 4NT and Dependent Origination
- Maintain the 5 precepts as much as possible
- Be generous and support monks who you think have Right View
- Observe the Uposotha
- Try to attain First Jhana at least once

Good luck!
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