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Morality and Daily Life

Competition and unskillful thought/sensation

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Philosophical/morality question of the day:

Is it possible to be competitive without attachment to unskillful feelings? (The attention of others, wanting to be better than everyone else, etc).

The only skillful one I found was being competitive to inspire other to do better solely for their own good (and not the extra attention of being an inspiration).
Any thought? Is competition immoral?

I'm struggling with that in relation to my fitness practice. It's a group setting and I always tend to lift heavier, try to go faster than others.
Different motivations lead me to do that, the easier to analyse being the extra attention I get from it.

How to reframe my competitive spirit in a skillful way? How would you tackle the neediness for attention?

Thanks a lot friends

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 1:57 AM as a reply to SushiK.
SushiK:
Philosophical/morality question of the day:

Is it possible to be competitive without attachment to unskillful feelings? (The attention of others, wanting to be better than everyone else, etc).

The only skillful one I found was being competitive to inspire other to do better solely for their own good (and not the extra attention of being an inspiration).
Any thought? Is competition immoral?

I'm struggling with that in relation to my fitness practice. It's a group setting and I always tend to lift heavier, try to go faster than others.
Different motivations lead me to do that, the easier to analyse being the extra attention I get from it.

How to reframe my competitive spirit in a skillful way? How would you tackle the neediness for attention?

Thanks a lot friends


The neediness for attention might be helped by meditation.

Try to notice how you feel about it. Ask youself "why do I need attention", keep asking because there could be mulitiple layers of answers. Notice if the answers involve "I want ..."  or don't want or like or don't like. Also notice the "I". This "I" arises into consciousness from unconscious processes in the mind (just like every thought emotion, impulse, sense perception). It is an illusion. Revisit this occassionally.

Notice how you feel before you get attention, while you are trying to get attention, while you are getting attention? After you get attention? What causes the feelings? What is associated with the feeling ending?   When you want attention, notice the feeling of wanting. Notice if there is a common aspect to all situations where you feel wanting. What is wanting? Why do you want anything?

Observe (let yourself feel) the feelings that come up from this while relaxing. Notice any feelings in your body that accompany the emotions. Try to stay mindful that you are observing so you can be somewhat detached ie emotions don't take over your mind because you realize they are not reality, just something you are observing that arose from unconscious processes in your mind.

(There is a kind of opposing force between letting yourself feel your emotions and being a detached observer - getting this balance right takes practice and experimentation, too much of either one (wallowing in self pity or suppression) can cause problems.  In my opinion the right balance is the key to getting free from all sorts of emotional baggage - and eventually free from the fetter of identity view. Attachment to self is the hardest emotion to let go of, so practice first on the easier things.)

Otherwise I don't think the question you are asking about is an issue of morality.  It doesn't sound like you are harming anyone, cheating, or gloating.

It is a question of what is best for your progress on the path. Is it hindering you?

My opinion, based what you say in your post, is that you don't need to worry about it.

If you are meditating regularly, eventually you might feel you don't like being competitive and so you stop being competitive because you want to stop, because of how you feel, not because of philosophy. If your motivation is egotistical (attention seeking) stopping could be a sign of progress, if your motivation is to be as fit as possible maybe because it makes you healthy, your feelings might not change.


Enjoy your workouts.

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 12:58 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Thanks for your reply Jim
Otherwise I don't think the question you are asking about is an issue of morality.  It doesn't sound like you are harming anyone, cheating, or gloating.
I'm not. But the "I want to be better than all of you" is not that far from "I want to show that I'm more powerful than you and, if I wanted, could use this power on you". Of course it never as dramatic as that nowadays but it's basically a primal way of showing "I can kill you and you can't kill me".
It is a question of what is best for your progress on the path. Is it hindering you?
More generally, I have been more sensible in the last few days to the intentions behind most of my actions. Most (all?) of my actions have an intended result, usually reaching/avoiding a sensation/feeling. I'm seeing it more and more and...it's a bit unsettling. 

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 1:10 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
+ 1 to all this good advice. And I would add: Also ask the question who wants attention? Keep asking it, like a koan. Answers might very well be nonverbal.

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 1:59 AM as a reply to SushiK.
SushiK:
Thanks for your reply Jim
Otherwise I don't think the question you are asking about is an issue of morality.  It doesn't sound like you are harming anyone, cheating, or gloating.
I'm not. But the "I want to be better than all of you" is not that far from "I want to show that I'm more powerful than you and, if I wanted, could use this power on you". Of course it never as dramatic as that nowadays but it's basically a primal way of showing "I can kill you and you can't kill me".
It is a question of what is best for your progress on the path. Is it hindering you?
More generally, I have been more sensible in the last few days to the intentions behind most of my actions. Most (all?) of my actions have an intended result, usually reaching/avoiding a sensation/feeling. I'm seeing it more and more and...it's a bit unsettling. 

The unsettling part is not unusual when people start looking within, first when they start examining their emotions, later when their world view goes topsy turvy as they start to get insight into self. Samatha meditation (just sitting and noticing the breath in a relaxing way - if it's hard to concentrate, try saying "in" and "out" as you inhale or exhale, or count breaths to five or ten and start over at one) can help you feel more serene about things (more settled). I find relaxation exercises to prepare for meditation to be extremely helpful in this way.

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 1:58 AM as a reply to SushiK.
Hi Sushi,
I think competitiveness is totally compatible with a skilful moral code. However i think the word is tarnished with a sense of one upmanship. Rather i think the ideal relationship to being competitive is to focus on bringing out the best skills from yourself, whilst being mindful of not putting others down,. Not with a sense of ego/power trip but rather a sense of compassion for others to do well at the same time. 

I love this interview by Dan Harris with Thupten Jinpa, they talk about the exact same thing around 34.30 mark
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pYLBF3Uz9E&t=73s

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 3:51 AM as a reply to Nav.
Rather i think the ideal relationship to being competitive is to focus on bringing out the best skills from yourself,

I would agree but what are the intrinsique motivations to do that?

Staying into fitness, at one point the benefit of exercising are maximised and there is no need to push for more.
What benefit the body is within morality, anything extra seems more related to pride/other unskillful aspects.

I will have a look at the video this weekend (China firewall at the office).

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 5:52 AM as a reply to SushiK.
SushiK:
Philosophical/morality question of the day:

Is it possible to be competitive without attachment to unskillful feelings? (The attention of others, wanting to be better than everyone else, etc).


The book "The inner game of tennis" will answer all of your questions about this.

I learned this the hard way, so maybe it will be helpful.... In terms of weight training (and meditation), if you have a well thought out plan for training, then you won't be tempted by trying to achieve "more than the other person" in a single day. You'll think about "what is my workout today that fits into my long-term training plan?' and you'll define success by keeping to your plan. I'll say it again: success is keeping to your plan.

95% of everyone else just "works out hard" (which includes myself for 50 years) and then is too destroyed to keep going for the rest of the week. Or someone with a weak daily sitting practice who goes on a Goenka retreat and then spend the next few months recovering psychologically.

The trick is simple, consistent, non-heroic practice. In exercise physiology, this is known as periodization: If you actually want to get good in a physical skill, then learning about periodization is essential. At least understand that a mesocycle consists of 14 to 21 days of strong training followed by ~7 days of 50% intensity training to allow the body to repair and recover for the next mesocycle.

Random google links, there are many others:
Endurance training: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/macrocycles-mesocycles-and-microcycles-understanding-the-3-cycles-of-periodization/
Weight training: https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/a-simple-guide-to-periodization-for-strength-training

In meditation periodization is essentially: daily (short) sitting, a few day/weekend retreats, and a yearly long retreat.

Hope this helps in some way. Seriously, read "The Inner Game of Tennis". It's also a great meditation book.

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 9:00 AM as a reply to SushiK.
SushiK:
Rather i think the ideal relationship to being competitive is to focus on bringing out the best skills from yourself,

I would agree but what are the intrinsique motivations to do that?

Staying into fitness, at one point the benefit of exercising are maximised and there is no need to push for more.
What benefit the body is within morality, anything extra seems more related to pride/other unskillful aspects.

I will have a look at the video this weekend (China firewall at the office).
To whatever extent we are engaged in normal life, there is nothing wrong with seeking aesthetic pleasure, as long as this remains an enjoyable endeavour and not an obsession or battle of pride. 

We have to ackonwledge that no matter how much we meditate, we will spend a percentage of our life engaged/dealing in the world of form and content,  to this degree making our ordinary life as best as we possible can without overt attachment and clinging is all the motivation we can hope for. 

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 9:02 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi Shargrol,

How much is the book actually about tennis though ?

Cheers

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 9:38 AM as a reply to Olivier.
It's the metaphor throughout the entire book, but the focus of the book is how we actually learn any new skill through developing awareness, allowing instinctual learning, and not being confused by other "attitudes" that get in the way of perception and learning.

review: https://www.nateliason.com/notes/inner-game-of-tennis-w-timothy-gallwey

Table of contents:


  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Foreword
  5. Preface
  6. Contents
  7. Introduction
  8. Chapter One - Reflections on the Mental Side of Tennis
  9. Chapter Two - The Discovery of the Two Selves
  10. Chapter Three - Quieting Self 1
  11. Chapter Four - Trusting Self 2
  12. Chapter Five - Discovering Technique
  13. Chapter Six - Changing Habits
  14. Chapter Seven - Concentration: Learning to Focus
  15. Chapter Eight - Games People Play on the Court
  16. Chapter Nine - The Meaning of Competition
  17. Chapter Ten - The Inner Game Off the Court
  18. Dedication
  19. Other Books by this Author
  20. About the Author

RE: Competition and unskillful thought/sensation
Answer
9/24/20 3:20 PM as a reply to SushiK.
SushiK:
...
I'm not. But the "I want to be better than all of you" is not that far from "I want to show that I'm more powerful than you and, if I wanted, could use this power on you". Of course it never as dramatic as that nowadays but it's basically a primal way of showing "I can kill you and you can't kill me".
...


Have you ever tried metta meditation? I think that would help. 

Here is a guided meditation:
https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/guided_meditations/01GuidedMetta(4min).mp3

Here is some background information:
https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/BeyondAllDirections/Section0007.html

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