Patience | Budhism

Kneeling in the Snow

Talk two of six on patience or kshanti

The title of this talk comes from an image that stuck in my mind after reading a book several years ago. I don’t recall the title of the book now. It was written by a Dutch man and was about his experiences of living in a Zen monastery in Japan. One of the things he mentioned was the tradition of making newcomers wait outside for a few days as a sort of test of their aspiration and commitment to join the monastery. They would have to hold themselves in a particular position, probably more like squatting than kneeling, and just wait. Sometimes the Abbot would send someone out to chase them away. This was a compassionate act to give them respite from their uncomfortable position, although the novices wouldn’t necessarily know that. So if they really wanted to join the monastery badly enough, they would just wait – kneeling in the snow – as I’ve put it (perhaps fancifully). They would be patient.Can you imagine the dark, angry, resentful thoughts that might assail you if you were put in that position? Even if you knew it was a ritual of waiting – you would still find it hard to put up with. So the ability to exercise patient endurance was seen as a necessary prerequisite for monastic life. It’s as if the Zen monks are saying “If you don’t have patience, if you can’t endure, well, don’t bother, because you won’t get very far”. So this patient endurance is Kshanti, or at least an aspect of Kshanti. And as we can see from the example, it requires effort. It requires energy to be patient and to endure. It also requires positive emotion. Without positive emotion the aspiring monk would simply think that the Abbot hated him and he would go away disillusioned, despondent and resentful. Similarly, without positive emotion we may think that the spiritual life is just too much, that other people are making it impossible for us, or that we don’t have what it takes. So we need energy and positive emotion, and both of these are aspects of patience and are developed through the practice of patience.The alternatives to patience in the spiritual life are frustration, anger and waste of energy. By trying to force ourselves to grow we hinder our growth. If we try to force others to change we prevent them from changing. Patience is needed to further our own spiritual growth and to help others to grow. This does not mean a lack of effort, in fact it means great effort. Patient effort, enduring effort, persistent, consistent effort is greater, more noble, than the violent effort of frustration and anger. And patient enduring effort is also more successful. This sort of effort, the effort that persists day after day, the effort that persists during good times and bad times, is an effort that understands and uses the law of karma. Actions have consequences. Skilful actions have beneficial consequences. Patient, enduring effort in skilfulness of body, speech and mind brings about spiritual progress. Patient, persistent effort in ethics, meditation and study brings about spiritual growth. Patience is a Perfection (paramita) because it is an aspect of Reality, an aspect of Wisdom. The Wisdom of Enlightenment is expressed in the concept of the law of conditionality. The law of conditionality states that everything arises in dependence on conditions. Spiritual progress too arises in dependence on conditions, and in the absence of those conditions it does not arise. We need to patiently and persistently create and put in place the conditions for spiritual growth to arise. This is in accordance with the law of conditionality.If we try to attain spiritual insight in the absence of the right conditions we will more likely achieve a headache or frustration. What are the right conditions for spiritual growth then? There are two aspects to the correct conditions for spiritual growth. There is the inward-looking aspect that aims at self-knowledge and psychological integration through ethical practice, through self-questioning, through reflection and meditation and through internal dialogue. There is the outward-looking aspect that aims to overcome the illusion of a separate self-hood, the illusion of ego identity, through ethical practice, through friendship, co-operation and communication. There needs to be a constant movement between going deeper into the inward-looking aspect and being ever more expansive in the outward-looking aspect. This is the creative tension of the spiritual life which eventually leads to a transcendence of inward and outward. Through the persistent effort to gain a deeper and more honest self-knowledge and at the same time be in more generous and open communication with others, we create the conditions for transcendent Insight to manifest in our experience. So we have to continuously make an effort in these two directions, the inward and outward, if we want to make progress. We have to meditate every day, steadily and persistently and patiently working on our minds to change unskilful mental states into skilful mental states. We have to practice generosity constantly in our actions and words and thoughts, always bringing ourselves back to the spirit of generosity when we gravitate towards selfishness and fear.Patience, then, is necessary if we are to progress spiritually. We have to exercise patience towards the natural world, towards ourselves, and, of course, towards others. So let us look at these three areas now and at how to develop patience in relation to them. In the Bodhicaryavatara (the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) Shantideva says “There is nothing which remains difficult if it is practised. So, through practice with minor discomforts, even major discomfort becomes bearable. The irritation of bugs, gnats, and mosquitoes, of hunger and thirst, and suffering such as an enormous itch: why do you not see them as insignificant? Cold, heat, rain and wind, journeying and sickness, imprisonment and beatings: one should not be too squeamish about them. Otherwise the distress becomes worse.”(8) So here we are being exhorted to be patient with the natural world; insects, itches, the weather. Shantideva seems to be saying that we should use these relatively minor things to develop our ability to practice patience so that when it comes to more major and significant things we will be ready. He is also saying that if we don’t practise patience in relation to such things as the weather or itches or insect bites, then we will increase our suffering rather than lessen it. To put it another way, the more we seek comfort in our lives, the more precious we are about ourselves, the less we will be able to endure any discomfort or hardship, and therefore we create more potentiality for suffering and distress. It has been said that we late 20th century Westerners suffer from the “disease of preciousness”(9), by which is meant that we have little ability or willingness to endure discomfort or hardship. If this is the case, then it is bad news for our spiritual development. The spiritual life is not easy. It requires discipline and an ability to endure suffering and distress. Change produces discomfort and if we shy away from discomfort we will shy away from change. We will “squander our pain”, to paraphrase Rilke. (9) Hopefully for those of us who are practising Buddhists, it is not quite so bad, and we understand the need to sometimes “suffer into consciousness”. (10) We can train ourselves to be patient in the face of discomfort by practising patience in relation to the natural world – especially perhaps the weather. The glorious variety of the English weather gives us a great opportunity. Let’s hope we don’t waste it in complaining and comfort seeking. Of course, it’s not just the natural world that presents us with opportunities to practise patience. There are lots of minor irritations that occur all the time in city life which we can choose to respond to with anger or with patience – delays on public transport, the till closing down in the supermarket or post office, power cuts, burst water mains, and so on. Just this morning we had no hot water upstairs because our boiler broke down. So there are all sorts of minor difficulties that we can use as a way of training ourselves to be patient.The second area in which we need to practise patience is ourselves. We need to be patient with ourselves. This means being patient with our bodies – with illnesses and the process of aging. It also means being patient with our spiritual progress. Because we have a body, we are prone to illness, aging, and eventually death. This is how it is. Sometimes when people are ill they feel very sorry for themselves and want a lot of sympathy. It is as if they had received an unjust punishment. But illness goes hand in hand with having a body, there is no escaping that, and we need to be patient and forbearing in relation to this fact of life. We should also be truthful. I think sometimes people are prone to exaggerate their suffering and illnesses in order to gain sympathy. Not every headache is a migraine. Not every cold is influenza. We need to continue to be truthful, in the sense of factual accuracy, even when we are ill. It is of course important to look after ourselves and to alleviate suffering where possible, for ourselves and others. It is also important to let others know when we are unwell so that they can help if necessary. But we need to be patient with the course of nature and not childishly petulant. Illness is not a moral retribution or punishment, it is a physical phenomenon and therefore the question of justice or injustice doesn’t enter into it. Whether we are deserving or undeserving is irrelevant. You could say that nobody deserves to be ill. The same applies to the process of aging. We can refuse to accept it and fight against it. We can expend large amounts of energy, time and money trying to maintain our youthfulness. We can be extremely careful about what we eat and when we eat it. We can take the right vitamin and mineral tablets. We can wear the right clothes, get the right kind of haircut, and go to even greater lengths to stay young. But we will grow old and we will die. It is in the nature of natural things to go through the cycle of birth, decay and death. So as we start to experience our bodies deteriorating we need to accept the fact of aging and patiently amend our lifestyle and outlook so that we can grow old gracefully. After all there is a lot to be said for growing old. Older people have gained experience and therefore the opportunity for wisdom. Older people are less at the mercy of their physical appetites and therefore have a better chance of attaining tranquillity and equanimity. When you are older it is less important what other people think of you and therefore there is a great opportunity for your uniqueness and individuality to flourish. As for death, well from a Buddhist perspective the dissolution of the body is simply yet another opportunity for the liberation of consciousness and nothing to be feared. The worst that can happen to us is that we will be reborn and if we play our cards right, so to speak, and set up the right conditions and tendencies in our lives, then being reborn may not be so bad – it may even be better than this time around. So we need to practise patience in relation to our own bodies, our illnesses, our aging and our inevitable death. We also need to practise patience in relation to our spiritual progress. We need to be patient with our meditation practice and patient with our friendships. Sometimes we hear people say “I’m not a good meditator”. In fact I’ve heard myself say it! Usually what we mean is that we are not having strong experiences of dhyana, we are still working with the hindrances. So the question is, what is a good meditator? What are the distinguishing characteristics of a good meditator? A good meditator is someone who meditates regularly and who makes an effort in meditation. Meditating regularly means meditating at least once a day for a minimum of twenty minutes. Making an effort in meditation means making an effort to transform unskilful mental states into skilful mental states and making an effort to return to the object of concentration when we notice our distraction. A good meditator, then, is a patient meditator, one who is consistent and persistent. Developing spiritual friendship also requires patience. There isn’t really a point at which you can say “Now I’ve developed this friendship; no more effort is required”. Spiritual friendship is a process rather than a thing and therefore there is really no end to it. It just carries on deepening. If we want to engage in spiritual friendship we have to be patient with the unfolding process of it, the gradual deepening of trust and growth in honesty and caring. More generally in relation to our endeavours to live the spiritual life and make spiritual progress there are four points we should bear in mind. Firstly, it is important to develop positive routines or habits and to be disciplined. Secondly, we should expect difficulties. Thirdly, we should not be looking for powerful experiences, or even the powerful experience. Fourthly, it is fundamentally important that we try to develop and maintain an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves. The discipline of a positive routine helps us to be regular and consistent in our practice. It also builds strength and stamina, both physical and mental. It builds strength and stamina because we are not wasting energy. When we set up a positive routine for our meditation and study and so on, we don’t have to engage in any internal debate about what to do next, and in this way we save our energy for getting on with what matters. The forces of resistance are strong in us and if we give them a chance they will take over. The discipline of a routine helps us to deal with our resistance to practice. The second point to bear in mind in relation to our spiritual progress is that we can expect difficulties. Perhaps we could go even say that we should not only expect difficulties, but we should welcome them. The difficulties we experience in the spiritual life are often a sign of progress, of greater awareness and greater ethical sensitivity. When we embark on the spiritual life, the life of self-transformation, we can expect to experience difficulties because only part of us wants to progress spiritually. For a time that may be to the fore and carry us along nicely. But then we become more conscious and frequently what we become more conscious of is the parts of us that don’t want to change. We become aware of our resistance to spiritual growth and spiritual practice. We become aware of internal conflict. And sometimes part of that internal conflict gets projected outside on to other people or on to the situation we live and work in. And so our internal difficulty becomes an external difficulty too, and the spiritual life begins to feel painful and we wonder what we are doing. Why are we putting ourselves through all this? After all, we took up meditation because we wanted to be happy and relaxed. And so, thinking in this way we fail to see the positive side of our difficulties; we have become more conscious, we have had a measure of success. If we carry on through our difficulties we will eventually get a clearer perspective and come to a realisation of the real significance of difficulties in the spiritual life. Although I’ve said we should expect difficulties, it is much more in the spirit of Kshanti as patience to have no fixed expectations at all. Sangharakshita has said, “Fixed expectations are the antithesis of patience”. (12) Really, what is required of us is that we are prepared for every eventuality, that we learn to live happily with impermanence and change. Change often does seem to be at the least an inconvenience, and can even be traumatic. To change is to move beyond current attachments, and that is difficult, because our attachments are what give us security and stability. Through our spiritual practices we are developing an inner stability and security – that is what metta is. The third point to bear in mind in relation to our spiritual life is that we should not be looking for powerful experiences. This is a wrong way of thinking about the spiritual life and constitutes a hindrance to spiritual progress. It is an acquisitive, even consumerist attitude and has more to do with our mundane preoccupations than with anything of spiritual significance. Sangharakshita speaks about this in his seminar on The Ten Pillars of Buddhism. He says: ­”You experience something as powerful when there’s a great discrepancy between it and you. But on the higher spiritual levels that isn’t the case, you can’t have that sort of experience. To take an example: if you’re wallowing on the kama-loka plane, and suddenly there supervenes a dhyana type experience, you experience that as dramatic or even powerful, because it is so different from your normal state. But if, say, while you’re in the third dhyana you experience the fourth it doesn’t have that sort of impact because there isn’t that sort of discrepancy between the third and the fourth dhyana. So what a lot of people are after is the powerful type of experience, that is their model for a valid or higher experience, something that really knocks you off your seat almost, knocks you off your feet, something violent almost. This is how they think of it. But actually the more advanced you become in spiritual life, the less likely you are to experience things in that sort of way. But I have been rather interested, not to say rather amused sometimes, by the extent to which people talk of powerful experiences. They’ve almost a hankering after powerful experiences. And in Tibetan Buddhist circles one sometimes hears people saying things like “Oh, it’s a very powerful initiation” or “such and such lama gives very powerful initiations” or “he belongs to a very powerful line” et cetera, et cetera. I think this is quite revealing. It’s as though they don’t want to rise above their present level, they want to just be as they are or what they are, and then have the experience come along from outside and just hit them, and give them some sort of transcendental shock. This seems to be their sort of model of spiritual experience very often.”(13) So you may have strong experiences in meditation from time to time and they may give you faith that there are states of consciousness beyond what you usually experience, but don’t get distracted by these experiences or start to chase after them. What is really important is whether you are kind and generous and truthful the rest of the time and whether your relations with others are becoming more friendly. Strong or powerful experiences in meditation are an occasional by-product of the spiritual life for some people. They are not what the spiritual life is about. What is significant in the spiritual life is what sort of person you are becoming and how you behave, especially how you behave towards other people. The fourth point to be borne in mind in relation to following the spiritual path is that we should develop and maintain an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves. An attitude of goodwill towards ourselves means being patient with ourselves. It means working from the assumption that we are fundamentally alright. Too often people seem to have an assumption that they are basically or fundamentally worthless. This is often unconscious even, but it nevertheless affects behaviour and relationships. So we need to have an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves, an attitude of friendliness, of metta. This is vitally important in the spiritual life. When you have high ideals and high standards, you will find yourself often falling short of them and when you do fall short you can either berate yourself for being a useless person and get into a self-deprecating, self-hating mood or you can acknowledge your failing, confess what needs to be confessed and resolve to do better next time. You are inevitably going to fall short of your ideals again and again. You need to be patient and with an attitude of goodwill towards yourself, just keep on making an effort. You cannot force-grow yourself. Plants that are force-grown are the weakest plants. In the spiritual life we want to bring all of ourself along on the path. We want to become a sturdy, robust individual, capable of coping with the world and capable of handling the experience of the Transcendental Insight. We don’t want to create a beautiful, effete, head-in-the-clouds sort of person who is easily overwhelmed by the slightest whiff of a setback, like some hothouse rose. The foundation, the grounding for a sturdy, robust individual is a strong feeling of self-metta, a strong experience of goodwill towards oneself. So we can exercise patience towards ourselves by being realistic about illness, aging, and death, and by applying steady effort in our spiritual life with an attitude of self-metta.As well as exercising patience towards the natural world and towards ourselves, we must also exercise patience towards other people. According to the Dhammapada, “patience is the greatest asceticism”. (14) This was quite a statement to make in ancient India where people practised all sorts of strange and severe austerities, starving and mutilating themselves in the hope of spiritual attainment. So when the Dhammapada says that patience is the greatest asceticism, it is saying that it is both more difficult to practise than mortification of the flesh and more efficacious than any other austerity. This probably applies particularly to patience towards other people. Being patient with others means particularly being patient with the faults and failings of others. It also means being patient with difference. Sometimes others are just different from us and we interpret that as a failing on their part and get annoyed with them. The main reason why it is so difficult to be patient with others is because we experience ourselves as the centre of the universe. And from this standpoint we can get hurt and upset and angry when others don’t seem to be going along with it. So in order to develop patience towards others we need to get beyond selfishness and begin to see that real self-interest includes the interests of others. This requires imagination and a willingness to question our anger and indignation. Imagination is a prerequisite for the spiritual life. Without imagination we would not be able to conceive of a higher ideal or of the possibility of changing ourselves. Imagination is also essential to the development of metta and compassion. It is through our ability to imagine what it is like to be another person that we can empathise and sympathise with others. We all have imagination. We daydream, we fantasise, we tell stories, we exaggerate, we fall in love, we save money; all of these require imagination. To consciously use our imagination in order to develop a greater empathy with others is perhaps more rare. But it is what we need to do if we are to progress spiritually. And it is certainly what we need to do in order to develop greater patience in our relations with others. There is a story in the Pali Canon where the Buddha comes upon some young boys tormenting a crow with sticks, just the sort of thing young boys do. The Buddha doesn’t chase them away. Instead he gets them to use their imagination. He asks them how they would feel if they were treated like the crow. They say of course that they wouldn’t like it because it would be painful. So He explained to them that the crow too feels pain and doesn’t like to be beaten. And understanding this they leave the crow alone. (15) Just like those children, we too need to imagine beyond ourselves and not just in terms of suffering but much wider and deeper than that. We have to use the experience of our own humanity, even the experience of our own selfishness, to make an imaginative connection with all humanity. By doing this we prepare the ground for metta to arise. Metta can be seen as understanding. Understanding is a great antidote to anger. If we can understand why others behave as they do we will be less likely to hold onto feelings of anger towards them. There is a French proverb, “to understand all is to forgive all”. So if there is someone who annoys us by their behaviour, perhaps we need to get to know them better, to understand why they are like they are. When we see others as we see ourselves we can more easily feel friendliness and goodwill towards them and we can be more patient with them. When we become impatient with others and experience anger and annoyance towards them there is a strong tendency to justify ourselves. Anger often masquerades as truth. But we should never trust our anger. It is more likely to lie to us than tell the truth. When we get angry with someone or some situation we should make an effort to take our attention away from whatever happened and turn our attention to a questioning of our own response. Our tendency might be to go over the details of what happened in an obsessive manner and continue to wind ourselves up into fresh feelings of outrage. But we should question this. We should ask ourselves “Why an I responding with anger? Is this the only possible response? Is there perhaps a more creative response? Why don’t I choose a different response? What is behind my anger? How should I have to change in order to have a more creative response? Do I want to change? What will the consequences be if I carry on being angry?”, and so on. By questioning ourselves in this way we can use our anger as an opportunity for gaining greater self-knowledge. We can also create a gap in our experience for a more creative response to arise. In the Bodhicaryavatara Shantideva gives a number of reflections on anger in the chapter on Kshanti. He says for instance: “Having found its fuel, the frustration of my desires, hatred sets in. Because I undertake what is to my detriment, and omit what is to my advantage, frustration sets in. Thus fuelled hatred consumes me. It is the fault of the childish that they are hurt, for although they do not wish to suffer, they are greatly attached to its causes. I do not want to suffer; but in my confusion I desire the causes of my pain – so why be angry with others when you are the cause of your own pain” He also says: “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy about something if it cannot be remedied?”(16) Elsewhere Shantideva reflects on the relation between self and other: “All have the same sorrows, the same joys as I, and I must guard them like myself. The body, manifold of parts in its divisions of members, must be preserved as a whole; and so likewise this manifold universe has its sorrow and its joy in common. Although my pain may bring no hurt to other bodies, nevertheless it is a pain to me, which I cannot bear because of the love of self; and though I cannot in myself feel the pain of another, it is a pain to him which he cannot bear because of the love of self. I must destroy the pain of another as though it were my own, because it is a pain; I must show kindness to others, for they are creatures as I am myself… Then, as I would guard myself from evil repute, so I will frame a spirit of helpfulness and tenderness towards others … We love our hands and other limbs, as members of the body; then why not love other living beings, as members of the universe?”(16) So by reflecting in this way, by questioning our irritability and anger and by consciously exercising our imagination to develop empathy, we can develop patience towards other people and in the process gain greater self-knowledge and make progress on the spiritual path. Perhaps I should make it clear at this point that there is a distinction to be made between being patient and being passive. To be patient doesn’t mean being a doormat and allowing others to walk all over you. That would not be consistent with self-metta. Patience can create the gap between feeling and response where we can sow the seeds of spiritual attainment and move towards ever greater self-transcendence.I will leave the last word with Shantideva, who is very persuasive indeed about the benefits of exercising patience. He says: “Never mind future Buddhahood arising from the propitiation of living beings! Do you not see good fortune, renown, and well-being right here and now? “Serenity, freedom from disease, joy and long life, the happiness of an emperor, prosperity: these the patient person receives while continuing in cyclic existence.“(14)Notes: 8. The Bodhicaryavatara, translated by K.Crosby and A. Skilton 9. The Supreme Mystery, Cittapala, Padmaloka Books 10. The Duino Elegies, Rilke 11. The Oresteia, translated by R. Fagles 12. Seminar on The Jewel Ornament of Liberation 13. Seminar on The Ten Pillars of Buddhism 14. The Bodhicaryavatara, chapter on Forbearance 15. quoted in The Ten Pillars of Buddhism 16. The Bodhicaryavatara Kshanti

The spirit of Service

 

The Spirit of Service

–by Nipun Mehta, Mar 07, 2014[Below is a transcript of a talk delivered in February 2000, at an event hosted by AHIMSA in Berkeley.]

As I was coming today, I was trying to think of an introduction, and I realized that my voice is sort of gone (as you can probably tell) — we had an orientation meeting over the meeting and I probably talked too much. [laughs] So, I thought of an episode in my life where I was really sick.

A few years back, I was down with 104 degree fever. I mean, I was sitting down on my sofa somewhere and that was it — I was just sitting down since I couldn’t move or do anything else. Everyone in my house happened to be out at that time and I was all by myself, stationed comfortably on the sofa. Usually, I tend not to distract myself with TV, etc. when I am sick, so I was just observing, watching myself. And all of a sudden, my mind shifted into an experience that I had, oh, a couple years before that.

Four of us, including my parents and younger brother, were taking a trip to India and were visiting a religious place of some sort. There were a bunch of temples, street merchants, fakirs and the whole bit. My parents had to buy something quickly so they left us in the car. Right as we were there, this monk appears, as if out of nowhere! And this wasn’t just an ordinary looking monk; he had his own sort of makeup to give him a mystical look — you know, a garland, white-colored powder on his face, alms-bowl in his hands, and so on. To top it all off, though, he had a little golden-colored spider on his right cheek and it was moving!

Being kids whose parents had given instructions about not talking to strangers, my brother and I looked at the monk with surprise, as if to ask, “Who is this guy?” He slowly approaches us and asks, “Can you give me some food or perhaps some money so I can buy the food?” These monks have to beg; that’s how they get their food. Having been instructed by parents, we said, “No, sorry, we can’t give you anything.” He asked a couple times but we responded similarly. But we still chatted for a bit about what town we were from and so on and right when he was about to leave, he says, “Here, put this in your prayers, and you’ll get what you want.”  Of course, when my parents heard about this hoky sounding episode, we chucked the packet out the window.

But there I was … sitting on my sofa, with 104 degree temperature, and I’m thinking about this seemingly random episode … and all of a sudden, I started crying.  It wasn’t just crying; I was gushing as if there was no tomorrow. And I said to myself, “Why was I holding back?” And I said, “What do I have that I don’t want to give to the guy? Here is a person, a monk, who is in the search of truth. And I had three rupees. Why didn’t I give it to him?” I just had this feeling, as if he is my brother and I could give him everything. “Here, I’ll give you myself. What else can I give you?” And I was replaying this whole episode in my mind. And I said, “Here it is. Everything you want, take it. You know what? Let’s call all the monks in the neighborhood, and let’s have a big party at the restaurant next door.” There was this overwhelming feeling of giving. There is no way that any description can do it justice.

It’s like smelling an orange. I always use that metaphor. You smell an orange and you know exactly what an orange smells like. Yet if I ask you, “Tell your neighbor what an orange smells like,” you can’t do it. I mean you can say, “Well, it looks like a lemon,” and you can make all sorts of metaphors, but you can’t describe an orange, even when you know exactly what it is. Similarly with this. I know exactly what it is, but I can’t describe it. I’m not even going to attempt to describe it. But it’s there. And it’s something for which you can’t say, “Oh, well, it’s sorta there, sorta not there.” It’s definitely there. You know when you’ve smelled the orange.

A bunch of us run a non-profit, ServiceSpace, and we empower other non-profits with websites. It’s fully volunteer run and we do everything for free, so there’s a lot of work. Many times, I’ll be working at 1:00 a.m. I’m doing work, and all of a sudden, OK, 1:00 a.m. I’m tired and I could really use some sleep. So I’m thinking, all right, I want to go to sleep. Then I tell myself, you know, it’s really easy to give leftovers. You take care of yourself, you take care of your surroundings, and you take care of all of your comforts, and after that comfort you say, “OK, I have everything I need,” and then you give something. That’s good — it’s not bad but it’s still giving leftovers, right? You’re not giving of yourself.

I was telling myself, “Here is your opportunity to give of yourself. You’re here. Your body wants this. These are very selfish desires — if you really want to give yourself, this is the time. Do it. This is not leftovers, because I could be sleeping, I could be comforting myself.” The choices I had were either breakdown or breakthrough. And I say, “All right, that’s it. I’m going to buckle down and do it.” So I do it, I do it, and I go to 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. … I would’ve otherwise thought that I’d be tired but no! I’m feeling like Rocky, you know, 12th round, he’s fighting all over the place, and there I am, after 12 rounds, there’s something – it’s intangible. It’s something that’s not there, yet it’s there. You can’t describe it, yet it’s there. It’s that whole concept of the orange metaphor. You smell the orange but you can’t describe it.

So my talk was titled “Spirit of Service” and I just said that you can’t describe the spirit of service, so what am I going to talk about for the next 40 minutes? [laughs] What I’m going to talk about is not the spirit of service, because you can’t describe that, but what I am going to say is why are we not in the spirit of service. Why are we not in the spirit of service in this very moment? Right now. That is the question before us.

So why am I not serving others at this very instance? In other words, why am I selfish right now? I can really answer that because I have so many selfish moments and I know exactly what it is because I experience it. Take a general example: Many times I go in to work on holidays because I have to do some extra work to catch up. So one particular three-day weekend, I was at work and all of a sudden it dawned upon me that I was the only one at work. I’m here at work, and I’m saying, “What are you doing? You’re doing all this stuff, and you’re not getting anything in return. Why are you doing this? Are you just obsessed? Is there something wrong with you? Do you really want to be doing this? You could be out there hanging out with your friends. You could be out doing so many other things. You could watch a movie, you could do something fun, or you could even do nothing! Whatever you want.” But I wasn’t doing any of this. I was at work doing all this other stuff, and I realized that it was hard. I watched myself and asked, “Why is it hard?”

Why is it so hard to give? What I came up with is that you always want something in return. You want something in return for everything you do. And when you don’t get that something in return, then it hits you. Oh, yeah. Oh, this is not such a good thing. And that’s hard. Even when you try to do a selfless action–by the very definition, when you’re trying to do a selfless action, it’s not selfless because there’s effort. But there’s a certain percentage of action which is selfless. Let’s say even just 10 percent. So when you do a selfless action, you realize this dichotomy between selfish and selfless. It’s very clear. It’s in front of you. It’s staring at you. You say, “Oh, yeah, OK, I can either do something which is selfish or on the other hand, do something which is selfless.” These are two different things. And they’re right there in front of you. This dichotomy is very clear. Whether it’s just a smile or something really extravagant, a selfless action feels distinctively different from a selfish one.

So the question still is why is it so hard? And why do I always want to go after these outcomes? Why am I not content just staying here doing the things I’m doing – why do I want something in return and why do I always want to pursue something? Can I give up this pursuit? Because there are so many negative effects of it. You can see it in your daily life – when you want all these ends, you lose the beauty of the moment. Let’s say you want fifty ends to happen in one particular “right” way, then all of a sudden the ten steps to each one of those ends start cluttering up your life, because then you’re very busy and oh, very stressed. “I have so many things to do, such little time.”

About nine months ago I was in the back room actually, talking to Ajahn Amaro and Reverend Heng Sure, and this lady comes in. Naturally, we move our attention to her and ask how she’s doing. The lady doctor says, “Oh God. So busy. So many things. Oh, man, this is a really stressful time in my life.” Perhaps just out of courtesy, she asks Ajahn Amaro, “So how are you doing? How is your life? You seem to be doing a lot of things.” He said, “I’m active, not busy.” That really struck me. He had the same amount of things, but he didn’t care about the end. He was right there, right then, and there were hundreds of those moments, and there were hundreds of those things to do. And he was doing them. So he was active, he was not busy. That really struck me.

So why do people get busy? We know that you get busy and then you get stressed, and these are all negative things, so why do we do it? And why do we care so much for the outcome? Now, if you ask this question to a layman on the street, he will usually say, “Well, if you don’t do it for the outcome, there’s no progress.” Well, OK. Is that really so? The layman typically would say, “Yeah. You wouldn’t be motivated to do anything. Why would you care to do? Technology — great. Why build websites? Just let them be. I don’t need to do anything.” That’s the typical response, but is that really so?

Is that really true, that if we had no conflict of interest, we would not do 100 percent? If my mom, for instance, comes in in the middle of the night and she says, 2:00 o’clock, “Nipun, wake up, wake up. I know you do ServiceSpace work at this time, and today you didn’t do your dishes, so go downstairs and do the dishes.” If my mom told me that and let’s say I even went down, I’d say “It’s all living in the moment. OK, live with what you got and just enjoy doing the dishes in the middle of the night.” [laughs] That’s not gonna happen … I’m not going to be living in the moment. I’m going to be thinking, “I need to go to my bed. Now.” So, I do my job haphazardly, by saying, “Let me just get this done so I can go and sleep in that nice comfortable bed that I have!”

So I had this conflict of interest, so that’s why I did this. Now, what if I didn’t have a conflict of interest? What reason would I have not to put in 110 percent in everything I do, wherever I go, whatever I do. I’m here and now, and that’s it. This is the only reality. Right? It doesn’t matter what car you drove in, because that doesn’t have anything to do with this moment. This is the only reality. The past is gone. The future is a fantasy. None of it’s there. This is it right here, right now. So why am I not able to enjoy the journey right? Why am I am not able to fully live in each moment?

Many of you might have heard that story about Thich Nhat Hanh; he has his monastery called Plum Village in France. One time when he was a young student, his teacher called him in to talk to him. When they were done, he walks out and as he was leaving, he leaves the door half-open, in his rush to go out. So his teacher calls him in and says, “Why didn’t you close the door? I asked you to close the door when you left.” And all of a sudden it hit him that when he was closing the door, he was not closing the door. He wanted to get to some other place and that is why he was not fully there. To this day, he hasn’t forgotten that lesson. In fact, even to this day, people go to France just to watch him open and close the door, because he does it so completely. For him, the door is it. He is there. All his life comes down to that one point, when he’s closing and opening that door. He is just closing and opening that door. That is it. He has that detachment with outcome which lets him fully experience the present.

But then everyone can ask all sorts of cynical questions about it, right? Well, if you don’t care for the outcomes, how can you really get anywhere? What if you had a business and you did all this? How are you going to get anywhere? You’re not going to do anything. And that’s a legitimate response. But I’ve experienced quite to the contrary with ServiceSpace. We have nowhere to go, we have no end to pursue. We’re all volunteers and we just want to give. ServiceSpace is simply our instrument of giving. But all of a sudden we realize that when we just care to enjoy the journey, when we’re just doing what is in front of us, then that is it. We don’t care what happens at the end. All we’re living is the present moment and you end up doing 110 percent. In just nine, ten months we’ve done amazing things! Three hundred and fifty volunteers, two hundred non-profits served. All sorts of things. But how can you do this when you don’t care for the end? [laughs]So my question is how can you not? When you don’t care for the end, you’re doing 110 percent, and that is the only time when you can do something really worthwhile. But this is still hard. Right? Everyone can rationally say all these things. Yeah, well, don’t worry about the end. This is not about the end, just enjoy the journey. But it’s hard to do. We all want to go out and get results.

I can remember an episode where a particular volunteer team was helping a nonprofit in making a website. The nonprofit representative was very demanding but the volunteer continued to serve to the best of their abilities. The lady at the nonprofit thought that her cause was it and had all sorts of complications. But the team worked hard and finally finished the project.Then, all of a sudden [sound] after the project was over, the very next day, she chucked the site. She threw everything away!

Now, these guys, if they were truly enjoying the journey, they’d simply say, “Oh, OK, I guess our services weren’t useful,” because they’ve already gotten their reward. The reward was in the journey. But if they hadn’t done that, if they said, “Yeah, I want that end. I want that particular thing to happen. I want them to benefit in this way. I want to give this type of good – I want them to have these sorts of results in the end.” If you had all those expectations, then all of a sudden, oh, yeah, it’s very stressful and it’ll hit you for five, ten days as you try to figure out what’s wrong with the lady. So this detachment has a lot of practical benefits. The detachment – it’s not so much detachment – is more about fully living. That full living has a lot of benefits. First of all, you won’t have all this stresses and worries. You’re just living, just sort of floating through the water like a little log of wood in the sea — rising up with the wave and coming down with the ebbs. You’re just going through wherever it takes you. There’s something magical about that.

So then we still have this question. Why is all this hard? Why is this very hard? Everyone can say all this stuff rationally, right? But it’s very hard to implement it into our everyday actions. I asked myself the same question when I was younger [laughs]. I said, “Yeah, OK. I’ve read all these philosophy books. I’ve read all these scriptures and beliefs and dogmas. And I have everything inside of me.” If someone asked me, “Yeah, why are we this?”, I would sort of vomit all the stuff. “Oh, yeah, I know all the answers here. This is what the scripture says and this is what this person say and … you floss ten times a day and do this and do that and you won’t be selfish anymore.” I was vomiting this information – it was a very rational understanding of it. I said, “Oh, yeah, this is what the book says, so this must be it.” So I’d tell myself, “Yeah, I know all this stuff.” But, in reality, a rational level understanding is nothing. Everyone knows that anger, fear, depression, jealousy, and all such things are all very negative things. Everyone knows that rationally. No doctor’s going to come in and tell me, “OK, Nipun, you’re a little too pumped-up. Make sure you get angry three times tomorrow.” No one’s going to say that. There are no good benefits of anger, and there are no benefits of all these negativities. But you still have these negativities, right? Even when we understand that rationally it’s no good, but when it comes down to putting it in practice, this is just another thing. It’s very hard. So what to do about it?

What we understand at a rational level is very limited. I can tell you all this stuff and you can listen to everything. But it’s very limited. You need some sort of an experiential understanding, something where you realize what is wrong. It’s as if you hit your head against the wall and you know — ok, that hurts and I’m not going to do that again. In the same way we need an experiential understanding about this.

That means we need to understand the selfishness that’s in us. Right? Consider this moment right now. We’re acting. Every moment is of action, right? If we’re selfish, maybe we’re selfish right now too. So I’m talking, you’re listening. Let’s take my example. I’m talking. Now, before a talk, if you get nervous, what does that mean? That means you have an image in your head, and when you give a talk, you’re worried about protecting, preserving, and projecting that image. You want to make sure everyone thinks of you in the same way that you think of yourself. You want to make sure that everyone gets some ideas that they have of you. And you’re not sure that that will happen. That uncertainty creates this tension and nervousness. And it’s a very self-centered issue. You might’ve heard this story about Gandhi … he was traveling to address the whole nation of India and on his way to make the speech, an English gentleman stops him and asks, “Mr. Gandhi, what are you going to speak of today?” I can’t do an English accent, but [laughs] I try. “What are you going to speak of today?” was the question. Do you know what Gandhi’s response was? He says, “I don’t know. I’m not there yet.” He was five minutes from the talk. He didn’t know because he wasn’t there. His experience of reality was very spontaneous. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t some things which go in a certain order. He was just saying things as they were, as they manifested themselves in this present moment.

So that was about talking. Now, let’s take listening — all of you are listening. So what does listening imply? I’m saying all these things, but you’re not listening to a word of what I’m saying! You’re hearing these sound waves that I’m emitting but you’re not listening to any of it. To your processing system these are sounds like blaup blap blaa. It’s like that, right? Now, you take those sounds and you process it and translate it and that’s what it means to you. You’re only listening to your own selves! You’re hearing what I’m saying, but you’re only listening to your own self. If I said blaup blap blaa — what does that mean? If I forced everybody to come up with an answer, everyone would come up with different responses. It’s the same sound waves. You heard the same sound waves, but its translation is very different for everyone. So I’m saying all these things, but they mean something totally different to every individual in this room.

So we’re back to our original question, right? We said why are we selfish? We really have to look at that question really deeply to understand it, not just come up with rational jargon. Why are we selfish? You can just ask somebody, “Hey, why do you go rock climbing?” “Well, it’s fun. I just kinda like it.” “Why do you like to read?” “Well, I just sorta kinda like.” Why do you go to the movies? Why do you do drugs? Why do you draw? Why do you play music? Why do you do so many things? Right? Why do you all these things? You can ask, they will all say, “Well, I just sorta like it.” If you really break it down, initially they’re fun, but why are they fun? Why do we do all these things? We do them for that inner kick. We do everything for that inner kick.

Everything in our life comes down to that inner kick. “Oh, I like this ’cause it gives me this kick, and I don’t like this because it does not give me that kick.” Right? So all of a sudden now we start to have this good and bad, based on that kick that we get from these things. All our moods are in the same way — I’m in a good mood if I get this inner kick from things and if I don’t get it for a while, I’m in a bad mood. Or if someone gives me a negative kick, I’m in a bad mood. So all our lives, we become puppets to this inner kick. Everything we do is a reaction to all these things that are happening to us.

So this kick – why do we have this kick? I had a meeting with a CEO of a company that processes online donations last week (we were trying to build an alliance with them to help nonprofits) and he told me a very interesting thing. He says, “You have this pledge line where the donor has to check ten dollar line, twenty, thirty, fifty and then a blank line for any other amount. You know what we found in our research? People give the lowest amount.” So if you say 25 as the lowest one, people will pick that one. “You know why? This is the feel-good principle,” he told me. “Feel good principle? Oh?” He said, “People give that minimum amount so that they can feel good.” So he says, “It’s never a good idea to put that. Just have a little box, open-ended, so it’s up to them to decide, because otherwise they’re going to pick the lowest one.” That somehow made sense to me too. Even with giving – a lot of people – you can give for that inner kick. Oh, yeah, let me give $100,000 to something. OK, now I feel really good. My life is worth it, and all this, other stuff that I’ve collected and done, it’s all OK because I do this. Or if you don’t have money, you go out and help the homeless. Yeah, I’m going to go out and help the homeless. Oh, that’s really cool. Yeah, you know, I can go to bed today without any guilt feeling. So you go out and do this for that inner kick. You don’t have to do it for that inner kick, but a lot of times we tend to do it for that inner kick. Even giving? So what’s going on here?

There’s another cool story actually. There’s lots of cool stories. But this is a story about a monkey and a fish. A monkey is watching a river and notice a fish flowing down in the stream. Suddenly, the the monkey says, “Oh, I feel really compassionate. I think I need to go and help someone.” So he decides to help the fish and says, “All right, this fish looks like it is really struggling. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to help the fish.” The monkey picks up the fish and bring it to land. [laughs] Fish dies. A lot of times we think, oh, we can help, and we can do all these things – but who are you to help? You don’t even know who you are. How are you going to help? You don’t necessarily know.

And there’s no question of ego. When you do all these things, the ego doesn’t arise because you’re thankful for the opportunities that come to you. If the fish comes and says, “Hey, monkey. Hey, can you hear me? Can you throw me some food?” So then the monkey doesn’t say, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to help this fish.” The monkey instead says, “Oh, thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve, because I’m already lost, and you’re giving me this opportunity to serve.” That’s something great, right? For instance, with ServiceSpace, the word has spread all over the nation that we’re doing free stuff.  This is tens of thousands of dollars worth of services, so we get a lot of requests. It’s definitely a lot of work. But the perspective is this: Oh, thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve. You’re serving because you got that opportunity. You got that chance to purify yourself, to see what’s going on, to see that dichotomy between selfishness and selflessness.

One of the other things we see when we see this dichotomy is the goggles. The goggles factor – I think that’s what I’m going to call it – we have goggles every time we see people, we do things, we interpret ideas, we listen to talks, and we hear all these things. We have put on our goggles. We filter everything through our own biases and make judgments based on those. Now, if I don’t know what those goggles are – even more basic than that, if I have green goggles on and I look at the sky, and the guy next to me says, “Hey, you know what? The sky’s blue.” I’m gonna say “No, I see it. The sky is green. It looks green to me. You can’t tell me otherwise.” The first guy says, “No, you got goggles on. You don’t understand. You’re not looking at it right.” I’ll still say, “No. The sky is green. I know it. That’s how it is. That’s how I see it. It can’t be another way because I see it that way.” But, of course, you’re in this illusion. You have these goggles on and you can’t see. You can’t see right.

So then how do you become aware of these goggles. That’s the next question, right? How do you become aware of those goggles? A very simple question with a simple answer: it’s observation. You just observe and you’ll see it. You say, “Oh, OK, things are great.” You watch. And this tool of observation is very powerful.

At every instance – right now, later when you go to your car, before when you were coming here – we’re all acting. Action — we can’t escape action. Action is there; we’re doing all these actions. But instead of going after that inner kick. If we just watch it – if we’re here and we’re now, and we say, “OK, how is this happening?” I’m dumping all these sound waves on you, and every one of you hearing these waves and interpreting it. But as soon as you become aware of it, it means something entirely different.

Then the whole cycle stops, right? Then we’ve realized that, oh yeah, I – you know, I’m hitting my head against the wall. I make up these desires and then I have cravings for them. Then I build up attachments. When I have these attachments and cravings, I have expectations. And when those expectations aren’t met, I generate negativity. I feel depressed. I feel this, and I feel that. Right? So why do we do all this? I mean that’s the real question. And it’s simple – when you see it in front of you, you say, “Yeah, hey, I shouldn’t be doing any of this. It doesn’t make any sense.” You say, “OK, I’ll stop then,” because it’s no longer a rational understanding. It’s no longer someone telling you rationally that, oh yeah, well, anger’s all bad because this book says so. You see it yourself. You’re banging your head against the wall, and it hurts. You’re banging your head against the wall, it hurts. You bang it again, and it hurts. You bang it again, and it hurts. This is how it is. As soon as you see that, you say, “OK, I’m not going to bang my head against the wall because if I do, I’ll be hurting.” So that choice is up to you, right?

Now, right now, you know, as I already said, I’m dumping all these sound waves on you. Let’s say I’m telling you something and you get really inspired, or you’re listening to another talk and you get really inspired. And you’re all pumped-up. I’m going to go and observe myself for the next 18 hours. I’m going to do something about this. And I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that. OK, so that’s great. You do all that. And what happens the next day? Nothing. You don’t have that inspiration so you go out hunting for those sound waves again. And, you know, if you’ve seen a movie that inspires you, you can’t see it 20 times and have the same effect. The first time it’s just something – so you look for different variations. You’re always hunting, hunting, hunting, and it just never ends. And then there’s money. People always criticize others chasing money. But you can start chasing inspiration. You can have this spiritual currency. Oh, well, I want tobe in this state. I want to feel this way. I want to feel this. I want to have this and that. And it’s all the same thing. Right? You’re just hunting.

How many people ever say, “I have arrived. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for all my life,” or “This is a moment that’s a culmination of all my life, all my experiences and this is it. I am here.” This Berkeley Buddhist monastery isn’t a pit stop from doing x, y, z — coming here and then going and doing something else. This is it. You have arrived. This is all there is to it. You have arrived. There’s nowhere to go. But this is all hard to do, right?

You have to have that sense of observation. And that observation – as soon as you start to observe this process, as soon as you observe selfishness, it disappears because there’s no solid foundation holding it down. So you watch it and you say, “OK, that’s just stupid. I’m not going to do it anymore.” As soon as you do that, that is the start of inspiration. It’s not dependent on anything I’m saying. It’s not dependent on anything you saw. It’s nothing external. It’s nothing related to any of these things. It’s internal. You are there. You are living that inspiration. Wherever you go, wherever you are, whether you’re in a car, you know, or you’re doing ServiceSpace stuff, or you’re doing something else, or you’re shaking hands with a stranger, that inspiration is with you, and it does not go away from you.

It’s not something that’s induced. You know, “Oh, yeah, give me this drug. I’ll feel this way.” It’s there. It’s permanent. It’s solid. That is true inspiration. And that inspiration has nothing to do with going on a hundred-day meditation retreat. Or going to the Himalayas and meditating. Or going this place or that place. There’s nothing wrong with those things; they’re there and they may work for a lot of people, and they may inspire a lot of people in different ways. And that’s fine. But the thing is you can never escape action. Whethere you’re meditating and doing nothing, so to say, or going out or doing all these complex activities, you’re still acting. It’s all action. You can’t escape action. And with each action is an opportunity to learn, to observe, to come out of this process of selfishness. And as soon as you observe, the selfishness drops away, and inspiration starts to take birth. And that inspiration is something very, very simple. It’s something very pure, something very genuine. And that is the spirit of service.

There’s no way I can describe it. The only thing I can do is tell you why I, myself am not in that state. And that’s it. Why am I not? Because I’m selfish. I have that chance for that pure, simple spirit of service in this moment, and that’s all there is to it. That opportunity of inspiration lies in each action and each action can manifest the purest spirit of service. Starting right here, right now.


Nipun Mehta delivered this talk at the age of 25, at the Institute of World Religions, in Berkeley.  It was set in the context of Silicon Valley’s dot-com gold rush; a month earlier, SF Weekly had just done this story to explore that stark contrast. Today, more than fourteen years later, Nipun continues to dedicate his life to small acts of service and volunteers full time with ServiceSpace.

Getting things done

  1. The Art of Getting things done
    1. A New Practice for a New reality
    2. Getting control of your life : The five stages of mastering work flow
    3. Getting projects creatively under way: The five phases of Project Planning
  2. Practicing Stress free productivity
    1. Getting Started :Setting up the time, space and tools
    2. Collection : Coralling your stuff
    3. Processing : Getting “In” to Empty
    4. Organizing : Setting up the right bucket
    5. Reviewing : Keeping your System functional
    6. Doing : making the best action choices
    7. Getting projects under control.
  3. The power of key principles
    1. The power of the collection habit
    2. The power of next action decision
    3. The power of outcome focussing
    4. Conclusion
Two objectives
  1. Capturing all things,
  2. Disciplining yourself :- “To get the input , to let the output”
  1. The power in a karate punch comes from speed , not muscle.
  2. Controlling the open loops in there lives.
  3. Anything that does not belong where it is, the way it is, is an “open loop” pulling on your attention.
Managing commitments well requires the implementation of some basic activities and behaviors:-
• First of all, if it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you’ll come back to regularly and sort through.
• Second, you must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to make progress toward fulfilling it.
• Third, once you’ve decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organized in a system you review regularly.
 “In knowledge work . . . the task is not given; it has to be determined. ‘What are the expected results from this work?’ is . . . the key question in making knowledge workers productive.” And it is a question that demands risky decisions. There is usually no right answer; there are choices instead. And results have to be clearly specified, if productivity is to be achieved.”
 Outcome thinking is one of the most effective means available for making wishes reality.
 
Most often, the reason something is “on your mind” is that you want it to be different than it currently is, and yet:
• you haven’t clarified exactly what the intended outcome is;
• you haven’t decided what the very next physical action step is; and/or
• you haven’t put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust.
 
 
 
Here’s how I define “stuff”: anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step.
Instead, the key to managing all of your “stuff” is managing your actions.
not ::— managing time, managing information, or managing priorities
it might amaze you to discover how many next actions for how many projects and commitments remain undetermined by most people. It’s extremely difficult to manage actions you haven’t identified or decided on. Most people have dozens of things that they need to do to make progress on many fronts, but they don’t yet know what they are. And the common complaint that “I don’t have time to ” (fill in the blank) is understandable because many projects seem overwhelming—and are overwhelming because you can’t do a project at all! You can only do an action related to it. Many actions require only a minute or two, in the appropriate context, to move a project forward
There is no reason ever to have the same thought twice, unless you like having that thought.
 
 

The knowledge that we consider knowledge proves itself in action. What we now mean by knowledge is information in action, information focused on results.

“It seems that there’s a part of our psyche that doesn’t know the difference between an agreement about cleaning the garage and an agreement about buying a company”
“The value of goals is not in the future they describe, but the change in perception of reality they foster.”
“Use your mind to think about things, rather than think of them. You want to be adding value as you think about projects and people, not simply reminding yourself they exist.”
“The great secret about goals and visions is not the future they describe but the change in the present they engender.”
“You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done.”
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

ENFP Strengths

Nearly all ENFPs will recognize the following characteristics in themselves. They should embrace and nourish these strengths:
  • They’re exceptionally perceptive about people and situations. The’re often able to quickly and accurately assess where someone is coming from.
  • They accept and value people as individuals, and are strongly egalitarian. They believe that individuals have the right to be themselves, and are very tolerant and accepting of most people.
  • They’re often deep and intelligent, and may be quite brilliant in their ability to tie things together. They’re wired to look for connections int the external world, and so may mentally put things together more easily than many.
  • Their interest in understanding the world usually makes them in tune with what’s socially acceoptable and what isn’t. This may help them to be popular and likable.
  • They’re highly creative. This ability may be used in an artistic way, or way to be used to generate ideas and new ways of thinking.
ENFPs who have developed their Introverted Feeling to the extent that they apply judgment to all of their perceptions will enjoy these special gifts:
  • They will have the ability to follow through on projects they’ve begun.
  • They will be less gullible and malleable, and generally more able to discern between “good” and “bad”, rather than accepting everything without question.
  • They may be highly artistic.
  • They will have the ability to focus and concentrate deeply on tasks. This enhanced ability to think and process information internally will make them more capable on many levels.
  • They will balance out their desire to meet new people and have new experiences with the desire to put their understand to use in some way.
  • They will find more meaning and purpose in their lives.