First, short thought: when you are not-doing, that too is a thing you are doing. You cannot do more or less. All you can do is redirect energy from one thing to another. Hmm. This is a half-formed thought; let's let it bake while exploring:
A longer thought. A section I liked in Noble Truth #2 part 2 of "Dancing with Life" by Philip Moffitt.:
"How do you know that you know?"
So he's talking about how to avoid clinging/addiction/unhelpful desires, and a student says "It seems to me that I have let loose of clinging... but then a little voice of doubt inside me asks 'How do I know that I am not just in denial of my clinging and am fooling myself?'"
Moffitt answers: if you've actually abandoned clinging to a thing, you'll feel it, in three ways.
1. You experience a distinct felt sense of spaciousness, well-being, and lightness. Depending on your nature, you will feel it more strongly in either your body or your mind.
2. You have a felt sense that something is over and that something new awaits you.
3. When you reflect back, you can see how your clinging was making a bad situation worse.
Let's look at things that I used to desire that I've not been desiring much (like these) and see if I'm abandoning clinging or just shoving it under the rug!
1. Being known as a master chef. I cooked some in college. Some people said I cooked well. It went to my head, I got the idea that I wanted people to think I was a super cook. Today, I don't really care.
- spaciousness/lightness: sure! it's nice to just make food to stay alive, and explore new things for fun!
- something is over, something new awaits: in a sense, yeah. I'm not sure what new awaits, but I guess "cooking with anxiety" has been replaced by "cooking and enjoying it more."
- clinging was making a bad situation worse: I think so. I used to think real hard, like think till I explode, or at least get real anxious, about what to cook.
Verdict: probably mostly abandoned clinging. Hooray!
2. Food advocacy. I used to think I would be some sort of social crusader, particularly in the area of food. Funny how little I think about it now.
- lightness: yes. well, it's one less thing to worry about.
- old thing out, new thing in: also yes. Now I concentrate on one cause, which is my work. It will help the world. Good enough for me.
- bad situation worse: yeah. I couldn't really do anything about it, or I wasn't willing to put in the time to do anything about it. So all my food advocacy thinking was just making me feel bad.
Verdict: also abandoned clinging. Also hooray! (note that these hoorays are completely unclingy hoorays. of course.)
3. Being a musician. I used to want to be a musician. Like a guitarist, like a cool guy, but I didn't want to play guitar because everyone does. So I figured I'd play trombone a lot. Like a cool guy. I do not have time or energy to play trombone. I suppose I'm not a cool guy.
I'll skip the details, but it feels like a weight lifted. Another clinging gone. Check me out, I'm practically in a cave on a mountain already.
4. Meeting a nice lady friend. I just have not had any inclination to try to do this for the past few months! I did a bit last year, but nothing worked out very easily, and I became busy with other things. So have I transcended even the desire to go on dates? It would help on that becoming-a-monk thing.
- lightness: not really. I guess not dating means one less thing to do, but dating wasn't a burden.
- old thing out, new thing in: nope. It's not like that energy translates into more energy for something else.
- this desire was making a bad situation worse: well, no.
Verdict: not abandoned! Just pushed under the rug. Well, that is not ideal.
5. Languages. I keep saying I want to learn languages, and then I keep not learning languages.
(moment of reflection)
Okay, well I still want to learn languages. I guess I'm not very effective at abandoning OR denying this one yet.