Habits help organize our lives. The rhythm of a daily or weekly schedule may be comforting or constricting, but we all have them to a greater or lesser extent. At times we are resistant to our own routines. How often have you given yourself the opportunity to ask yourself: What daily routines would I keep for their intrinsic value? Why?
Precepts in Buddhism serve as a healthy set of habits of conduct. As Buddhists, we commit not to kill or harm other beings on purpose, take what is not given, engage in sexual misconduct, lie or speak harshly, or take intoxicants. These five precepts keep us free from collecting additional akusala kamma (unwhlolesome actions). Additional precepts restrain the senses and guard against lust, greed, aversion, hatred and delusion (a false sense of self), and are used when the person is undergoing a period of more intensive training like a retreat or ordination.
So What happens when the training ends? What stays, what goes away, and why? These are the very ‘training questions’ I’m examining empirically right now.
So far (after two full days), it feels a little strange to stray from the eight precepts, though I will state that I was not perfect in keeping them all during my training period, as indicated in earlier posts. The areas of sensory experience I’ve delved into — eating after noontime, listening to music and singing, dabbing on a little fragrance, wearing the clothes of my choice — have generally been pleasant at first and have then become mildly unpleasant.
For example, the music that I had always enjoyed playing and singing became slightly annoying and aggravating after about 1/2 hour. I would have never anticipated this. So once it became aggravating, I said to myself, “Enough of that,” and turned it off.
Another example: Scented products (perfumes, fragrant oils, shampoos, soaps, etc.) had always been a delight to me. I used to feel not completely “dressed” without them. Yet after three months without so little as a scented soap to adorn my own fragrance, a tiny bit of scented oil brings self-consciousness. It makes me wonder about how ‘private’ or ‘public’ personal fragrance ought to be, and what an extreme variation there is among individuals’ sensibilities in this regard. For the time being, I’m keeping it way more conservative than ever.
As of yet, I haven’t had the will or emotional energy to pull out my big earrings. Until recently, these were my signature adornments. I never left the house without them, especially since I cut off my locks back in 2012. Is it laziness that’s keeping me from these dramatic accessories, or simply lack of real interest? In such a short time I have come to experience such previously significant details as superfluous, and today, even my overall personal appearance is of little concern. Not out of aversion, mind you, but because it holds minimal significance or interest. As long as my body is clean and reasonably groomed, its greatest adornment appears to be any inner light my being is capable of transmitting.
This process, testing which changes stick, is about questioning the previously unquestioned…but accepting all answers as provisional. It is a valuable process. It makes evident the freedom and eventual effortlessness that can result from purposeful constraint.