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In a Nutshell or So

"Doing your best" may not be good enough, especially if it means straining yourself for a long time.

Theron Dumont offers some points on concentration. In some cases it can increase one's efficiency. He says: Great work can be accomplished by every man if he can be awakened to do his very best." If. What could be understood by "doing his very best"? A boat at top speed does not last long because of the strain that goes along with the speed. A boat that is not "doing its best", but perhaps 70 percent of its top speed, can last considerably longer and thus accomplish more and serve better. It depends on the time at disposal. Take into acount that doing ones long-term best is far from doing one's short-term best, but much less.

In other words: Doing your very best is not doing your maximum for long. What to go for is, generally, optimal output, not maximum output, for the latter wears and tears fast and much. So go for more sense and less hurry and get rid of being fatigued, depleted, stressed and struck with stress-related diseases. There are many of them.

So "Doing your very best" means "accomplishing without undue stress", especially since stress for long builds diseases. "Doctors estimate that emotional stress plays an important role in more than half of all medical problems (Smith et al 2003, 505)." Estimates vary. Some sources have 70-80 percent. Many psychosomatic diseases are wholly or partly due to ongoing stress. (Ib; See the book list at the bottom of the page too)

Buddha says,

DHARMA WHEEL Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha." [Samayutta Nikaya 56.11]

The Way: From dukkha to sukha, simply put. The Pali word dukkha is translated into both "stress," "unsatisfactoriness," "suffering", and more. To lessen stress and other facets of suffering - and ideally get rid of them and instead prosper in ease and happiness is what Buddhism aims at. A particularly needed derivate of one of Buddha's main tenets is "There is stress involved in living; but put a stop to it (not to living, but to undue stress)."

How? Richard Gombrich explains in What Buddha Thought how the terms duhkha (the Sanskrit spelling for for various forms of stress, pain and suffering) and sukha (well-being, being unhampered (ease), pleasure, happiness, or bliss) represent opposites on a gliding scale. Yet some meanings intertwine.

For all that, (1) On one end of the scale, dukkha covers the range from extreme pain and suffering to some unsatisfactoriness, not being quite OK and so on. (2) On the other end of the scale, sukha covers a range from pleasant, or OK, to bliss.

A span from forms of dukkha to forms of sukha ranges from extremely painful, negative, and non-assertive at one end - and at the other end of such a gliding curve are positive outlets of life, from mild and gentle to extreme ones. (cf. Gombrich 2009:69-70).

To look deeply into causes to get rid of symptoms is good. To understand a particular set of sufferings, such as a disease, it could pay to consider whether what appears appears and manifests, are possibly symptoms. The good aim is to heal the root causes and not only symptoms that "sprout" from some such possibly hidden roots.

And to learn to put one's assets to good use is of value too. Buddha says that five pleasant things can be gained by acting skillfully:

DHARMA WHEEL These five things are welcome, agreeable, pleasant, and hard to obtain in the world. Which five? Long life . . . beauty . . . pleasure . . . status . . . rebirth in heaven . . . If they were to be obtained by reason of prayers or wishes, who here would lack them? . . . The disciple of the noble ones who desires long life should follow the path of practice leading to long life. In so doing, he will attain long life, either human or divine (Similarly with beauty, pleasure, status, and rebirth in heaven)." [Anguttura Nikaya 5.43]

To go well against dukkha and handling life fitly, pretty much boils down to "Do what it takes." Are there options to choose among? Yes, there often are.

Dealing with stress and suffering

A wife is a person who helps you through all the troubles you wouldn't have had if you hadn't got married. - A Norwegian-American joke

The US researchers Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe have devised a ◦stress scale of 43 items. It reflects US conditions, but the root of most of the worst stress factors is getting involved with someone else personally, one or more others. Yet, the findings need to be taken with many pinches of salt (reservations, caveats, for it is an averaging way of stipulating causes of stress in a citizen's life, and a completely average person does not actually exist. We all deviate somehow, as for example fingerprints and the shape of our ears show.

First caveat: Rahe and Holmes' scale says the most stressing event is death of one's spouse (but when he or she was a hell to live with in the first place, that top ranking is not fit: in such cases the death of one's spouse is a relief and source of joy. If one's mate had a life insurance, it might make life substantially easier also.

The example goes to illustrate that people and their conditions are different, and therefore averages-based statistics do not apply full well in individual cases. Yes, some are relieved by the death of their spouse, also if public mourning is called for. As for heirs, there is a Swedish proverb: "Rich folks have laughing heirs." (Pelle Holm 1975, 27)

And so on for the other top factors of their scale: there are nuances and differences that averages do to catch in the haul, so to speak. Averages can still be of use to gauge odds if taken with a pinch of salt or more.

Second caveat: People differ in their general stress resistance. People are different; people react to stress (dukkha) differently; and further, deal with it with different degrees of expertise too. Stress may be handled better by knowledge and sound skills. Many have not learnt such skills. There are books dealing with such issues (see the book list at the bottom of the page).

The value of knowledge, especially foreknowledge: By knowledge, learning to work with ease enough, picking a mate of value, getting money enough for your work, and so on, we improve our odds solidly and may get better lives as long as we are up to such things.

Speaking of the art of picking mates, it might be best to find one that suits you now and also far in the future. But "suit" is not enough. "Rewarding" is far better. Or "of value somehow." It could be now, in the future, or both. Those who marry for money go for "rewarding marriage partner." Those who marry heirs to much wealth, may marry in the hope of "values in the future." It may show up in time, unless prenuptial agreements bulwark against "marry-and-divorce to get rich and richer." Some who marry well off should like each other a lot, aiming to grow old together.

Now, money is far from all that is needed for a happy life together, as Maslow's pyramid of needs suggests. The hierarchy of needs that Abraham Maslow of Brandeis University systematised, takes for granted that physical needs need to be well fed and taken care of, before what is called higher growth operating in other channels or funnels, may reach peak levels. His hierarchy thinking may be debated, and should be - maybe it may be fit to speak of preponderances in his pyramid scheme. (Maslow 1964; 1968; 1987)

Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Needs +

Figure. Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Needs

There are many other and higher needs to cover too - and some things we can do without, such as grunts of pop music or some forms of folk music that we have not even heard of and not missed at all.

Living alone most of the time could work against to the root of many stress-linked problems in the first place: We either marry someone of value to us somehow - marry well - in a rewarding, fit setting we appreciate. And we ourselves also ought to have something of value to offer the other.

A marriage is rather binding. It allows a large society to bind us in many ways, also to pay long after divorces. Divorces happen to forty or fifty percent of those who marry in Scandinavia, and the divorce rates are on the increase in other countries. Granted that and much else, there may not be foresight enough in thinking fondly that a mate that suits you today, necessarily will be a joy to live with the days after the wedding. This may in part be due to the large society, which is rooted in use of or exploitations of common people by and large. Yes, the way the society is organised, takes a lot away from married life and children too, and is a cause of stress and distress to many. The "yellow vests" movement in France protested against a French government policy of letting common people "bleed" more than reasonable, for example.

Marry well or let it be. There may be very special causes to ignore this counsel, though. It depends on what you are up to and what enemies are up to, among other things. We are not all surrounded by people who wish us well.

To many who get aware of such things too late, a main option stands out too: Get out of marriage and the like in jolly good time, so that there will be time to go for higher, better pleasures (sukha) with energy and while in health. Killing a mate is not a good choice, and relatives are mains suspects in so many cases . . . This reflects how the police works, based on statistics -

So be polite and think far ahead. A long, Asian tradition involves getting away from married life in such ways. Buddha himself did, and subsequently gathered monks around him, and nuns were allowed too - Again: It is not just becoming a monk, but what kind of monk.

Try not to get frantic, but get the cream of city life. Modern city life is marked by isolation. Living as a city anchorite or hermit may suit many. You may not have thought of how many millions, but here are some figures:

Nearly every third grown-up Dane lives alone, shows a TNS Poll made for [the newspaper] Berlingske, and nine out of ten of them are doing just fine that way. Living as singles is an active choice for many. [◦More]

Also, one third of those between 30 and 40 years do not expect to move in with others either. The figures may reflect a people more than its overriding conditions. An American professor in sociology at New York University, Eric Klinenberg, thinks that living alone is the new norm, and that Scandiavians may be called trendsetters. Be that as it may, 37 percent of all households in Denmark consist of a single person, and the percentage is on the increase. [◦Every other Danish single . . . alone][◦Danish statistics]

Living alone is a widespread phenomenon, if not an urban epidemic of a sort. It does not have to be all bad or very bad - what matters is what we make out of it, and how we separate ourselves more or less or full well from the fangs of the large society - that control freak.

In Sanatan Dharma, Hinduism, the golden life stage is that of a sadhu, recluse. The recluse drops marriage to gain better conditions for a more fulfilling life as should be, and works toward it. Yoga and meditation are means to that.

It needs to be added to those who want to avoid getting in harm's way: "There might be one or more very fit ways, many unfit ways, and the ways of the Army." Yet it should not be thought to be bad to marry or to become a sort of city recluse: what matters is how. Good skills are needed. Skills in managing one's life with proficiency is what ◦Maharishi's University of Management (MUM) is meant for.

Keys of a US study: In Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (2014), Eric Klinenberg argues that many people living on their own have richer social lives than other adults in cities, but not necessarily in the countryside. Living alone is most common in big cities. He found that only a small number of city dwellers who are living alone are actually isolated, or lonely, and came to see that living alone shows a social change. What is more, it is a big one: US statistics show that in 2012 there were more than 32 million people living alone in the USA. That is about 28% of all American households. Moreover, the US rates are lower than the rates of living alone in comparable European cities, he asserts.

He asserts that living alone in a rural area can be much tougher than in a city, and the risks of isolation are greater. If you lose access to a car there, you can be in real trouble, he says

In other countries the places that have, by far, the most people living alone, are the Scandinavian countries. In Stockholm, more than 50% of the households are one-person households. Further, it stands to reason to discern between living alone and being alone, or being isolated, or feeling lonely. These are all different things.

More and more critics are concerned that we are overconnected in industrialised countries. Blame it on human folly too, and not just the large, looming control-society and its offers. Alongside being overconnected, many people need a kind of restorative solitude, or a productive solitude, or one's own oasis from the constant chatter and overwhelming stimulation of the digital urban existence. Yet living alone may cost in several ways and call for discipline.

The four key drivers identified by Klinenberg so far: (1) Women disconnected from homes and made use of for money. The large society finds it fit to use women and thereby largely reduce the conditions of thriving, and thereby burdening lots of families and children with much stress. Given such exploitative circumstances, up to half of marriages break after beginning well. Marriage is not as necessary for men and women as in earlier centuries, but for the lack of it, some people get ill, in distress, feel lonely, just not alone. (2) The communications revolution: we can be at home and stay connected there is identified as a driver to. (3) Urban living reduced life space and individual freedom by cramping one's conditions and future. This may make living together less attractive. (4) People are also living longer than before, with one spouse outliving the other by 5, 10, 20 years or more.

Living alone is a condition that we experience as a personal or private matter, when it is [also] a public and widely shared one, a profound social change. How so? The familiy unit is exploited and may be damaged thereby.

[Rooted in abstracts from a Klinenberg interview]

Exerting oneself and stress management. To avoid getting trapped in an unrewarding marriage or something similar out of a sense of duty, there are good things to learn. At the root is letting "I don't care (so much)" manifest in bland enough ways with a minimum of shame. In some circumstances, reeking of garlic could be fit. Garlic perfume can be made for modern times. In many circumstances, not answering the phone, looking neat but unattractive or too old, and so on. A personally tailored list is possible - circumstances differ, yet we may not always take a liking to be without a mate.

After finding and getting a mate come some of the usual life-stressors (stress-bringers) that Rahe and Holmes have plotted. In general, they call for much work and different sorts of work and may cause illnesses along the way. To make the best out of such fares, the art of living lies in learning to work with ease, with far less wear and tear. Is it possible? Yes, far and wide, the research into Transcendental Meditation shows. There are research results that should be encouraging reading. [◦Transcendental Meditation]

Exerting oneself had better to be conveniently done, with as little strain as possible, or strain-linked dangers could be brewing. Get a clearer view, get an education, become rational, in part by education, learn to be attentive and relaxed here and now, and go for better insights. In the end such measures might help. They do help some. Knowledge that ten or eleven of the fourteen top stressors in life may evolve from getting intimate with someone, should be a boon. A traditional way to deal with it may be another boon, if that way is sound. A happy monk and nun is a good sign, if so.

Maybe much speed is needed at times, just to carry on. The strain from it could weaken a person, so it might do lots of good to take time to relax. Stress is eased by ◦Transcendental Meditation. Among tested meditation methods, TM works best.

"In, out, and both in a flow"

Meditative living flows along with the main rhythms of life. You absorb, you expel, you live by such interchanges, basically.

  1. IN: By proper rest you may revitalise yourself. Sleep is one form of going within, and most people depend on it.

    If you think your way inwards by "riding" on thoughts like masters learnt to do in order to go far inwards, you may come up with different abilities than those about you. If it cannot be hidden, it cannot be helped. The standard counsel is to keep silent about such findings, at least for a long time. We leave out exceptional cases for now.

  2. OUT: After sleep and rest come activity. It helps to make it fruitful by good choices and skills hand in hand. When you turn your attention to the outside world, maybe you master more and better or faster through it. There is that hope. Substantial research on TM documents it. It is not a myth.
  3. BOTH COMBINED THROUGHOUT THE DAY: You have to tend to the balances of living, for your own good. Rest well and do work that pays, and stay attuned to sound, basic rhythms if you can. This is a golden point in Waldorf education too.

There you have it - two grand avenues staked out for beginners. One makes use of sensible amounts of awareness to turn inside, the other mobilises focusing on targets in the world. And you should know how to combine the inward-turn with outward accomplishments. That is advised in some yoga schools too.

There are many outlets, and there is no need to become discouraged or hurried - if you find yourself unable to hold your thought on the subject very long at first. Quite soon your skills develop if you take up a meditation method like TM (Transcendental Meditation). Skilful practice is by an idea.


So Well . . .

Try for Fifteen Minutes Two or Three Times a Day

Concentration might be dealt with like a cat-like art.

Do good things for yourself, and your doings may not all go to waste.

Sometimes fair perspectives help, and at other times not, for example in a sea of sharks. Here is Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, sooner or later someone will see to it that it does.

Look before you leap into fields full of vines and flocks of cattle . . .

Some become visible leaders.


Most Bigwigs Fail ☼

1. Maybe not most of the time

One price to pay for not being whole-heartedly oneself mainly and most of the time, could be lack of congruence, infirm boredom with life and hankering for the god and other assets of others.

Proper precautions and calculations can bring great benefits.

A great mind does not have to be sinister and lacking in day-to-day competence.

Buddha's counsels to lay followers are excellent. [Link]

2. The entrance to greater awareness lies in "listen out" - that sense of awareness

Great awareness ties in with being yourself well.

The whole body of the Buddhas of the ten directions is like common brick. - Dogen, Record of Sayings at Daibutsu Temple, No 34.

3. Some bland focus on thoughts that offend fool's play and idiotic customs might turn out to benefit you

The old plum tree on the cliff's edge, the curling peach tree on the ocean. The unique dynamic is clearly evident, meditation is in everything. - Dogen 2013, Record of Sayings at Daibutsu Temple, No. 68.

The apricot is ripe every year in midsummer. - Dogen 2013, Record of Speeches at Kosho Temple, No. 9)

Thoroughly studying life, you find out about death. - Dogen 2013, Sayings at Eiheiji, No. 53)

So: Big shots tell you what they want, often on your behalf.

  1. We may tell ourselves what we want after going deep inside for it.

  2. To study swindlers at length could work for good, eventually.

  3. Our day-to-day habits and ways of spending time matter deeply. A Zen hall is for ample quality time.


"One of the most beneficial practices I know of is that of looking for the good in everyone and everything". [Theron Dumont]. You can start with yourself, and much could get better according to, "Charity begins (with yourself) at home, but it does not have to stop there."

To learn how to live so as to get welcoming arms and affection should be good.


Zen living and TM, Transcendental Meditation, Literature  

American Psychological Association, APA. "The Impact of Stress" Washington DC: APA, 2015 [◦Link]

Evans, Martin. 2007. Emotion and Stress. New York: Chelsea House.

Dogen. 2013. Eihei Koroku I-V: Speeches of Zen Master Dogen. Tr. Thomas Cleary. Seattle, WA: Amazon Digital Services LLC. -- Eihei Koroku is a record of speeches and poetry of Dogen (1200–53), one of the founders of Zen in Japan. This volume contains translations of the first five of ten scrolls.

Dumont, Theron Q. 1918. The Power of Concentration. Chicago: Advanced Thought Publishing Co.

Goldberg, Joseph. "The Effects of Stress on Your Body." WebMD Medical Reference, 2014. Kahn, Ada P. The Encyclopedia of Stress and Stress-Related Diseases. 2nd ed. New York: Facts On File, 2006.

Klinenberg, Eric. 2014. Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. London: Duckworth/Prelude. Kottler, Jeffrey A., and David D. Chen. Stress Management and Prevention: Applications to Everyday Life. 2nd ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. "Stress Related Diseases and Conditions". MedicineNet 1996-2015. [◦List]

Mieder, Wolfgang (main editor), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder. 1996. A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback) New York: Oxford University.

Murray, Michael T. Stress, Anxiety, and Insomnia: What the Drug Comapnies Won't Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn't Know. The Natural Solutions that Can Change Your Life. Coquitlam, BC: Mind Publishing, 2012.

Roth, Bob. 2018. Strength in Stillness; The Power of Transcendental Meditation. London: Simon and Schuster UK.

Shealy, C. Norman. The Healing Remedies Sourcebook: Over 1,000 Natural Remedies to Prevent and Cure Common Ailments. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press Lifelong Books, 2012. -- Dr Shealy is the founder of the American Holistic Medicine Association. This comprehensive sourcebook is easy to read, understand and use. It is based on eight therapeutic backgrounds: Ayurveda, Chinese herbal medicine, traditional folk remedies, herbalism, aromatherapy, homeopathy, flower remedies, and vitamins and minerals. There are some largely safe substitutes for conventional medicines in it too.

Shrand, Joseph A., with Leigh M. Devine. 2012. Manage Your Stress: Overcoming Stress in the Modern World. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Smith, Carolyn D., ed, et al. 2003. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. 14th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.

Spielberger, Charles D., and Irwin G. Sarason. Stress and Emotion: Anxiety, Anger, and Curiosity. London: Routledge, 2005.

Smith, Carolyn D., ed, et al. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. 14th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2003.

Suurküla, Jaan. "The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Prevention of Psychiatric Illness." Gothenburg, SE: Vasa Hospital, University of Gothenburg, Sweden - Paper 127, prepared in May 1977.

Zautra, Alex J. Emotions, Stress, and Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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