On Good Form

^z 24th July 2023 at 6:26am

Guy Claxton's The Heart of Buddhism in Chapter 1 (section "The fruits") offers an awesome and inspirational image of an ideal human state (independent of religion or philosophy or practice) that epitomizes awareness:

Perhaps the best answer to the question, 'Why Buddhism?' is to point to its fruits — the qualities that naturally arise in someone who pursues the Buddhist path. There is a sense that the problems of life are dealt with more smoothly than before. One is less thrown by unforeseen or unwanted events. One takes things in one's stride more easily. As the advertisement says, one is less inclined to make a drama out of a crisis. Somehow one's peace of mind is more stable, so that, although things may be difficult from time to time, one does what one can without becoming distressed or confused. Inner strength grows, and one seems to have greater reserves to draw upon. At the same time a non-complacent self-acceptance builds up — one sees oneself more clearly, warts and all, but without the degree of debilitating self-criticism that might have been present previously. One develops the capacity to be self-aware without being self-conscious.

People who have been practising meditation for some time are recognizable by their poise, naturalness and spontaneity. They gain a non-defensive cheerfulness, a light touch in their dealings with others. Without making a big song and dance about it, they develop a gentle kindliness which is perceptive but not intrusive or sentimental. They are available without a need to 'mother' people. Yet this increased generosity of spirit is down to earth, it is unsanctimonious and certainly non-evangelical.

Also people become more clear in their thinking and their responding. The 'right' thing to do somehow emerges with greater obviousness. Someone once asked Bobby Fischer, the chess champion, how many moves he considered in his mind when it was his turn to play. He said: 'Just one . . . the right one.' In the same way Buddhist practice seems to flower in a greater expertise in making real-life decisions. We could sum up all these effects perhaps by saying that Buddhism helps people be at their best more of the time. All of us have periods when we are 'on good form', in which these qualities are available to us. But we are also only too aware of the other times, when we are ratty and muddled, mean-spirited and intolerant. Buddhism expands and consolidates our better natures.

Many virtues to ponder in Claxton's description:

  • balance
  • equanimity
  • non-judging
  • kindness
  • availability
  • generosity
  • groundedness
  • clarity

His British idiom suggests a perfect summary, and a mantra candidate:

Be On Good Form

(cf. My Religion (2000-11-06), No Method (2010-01-21), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...) - ^z - 2015-02-08