Our Pain and our Problems, Plato, Prashant, and philosophy as serious play

Once again,  walking in less than ideal  circumstances (Jeff and I went up past Toyota circle to buy veggies, fruits, dahl, and the very important  chapti atta (flour), yielded good philosophical result.   As we were crossing the road,     I  remembered something  important Prashant said in class.  Two things actually.

1. Our  pain and our problems. He said  we seem to come to  yoga with the  mindset of  “I have this problem or  that  problem. My knee hurts,  my lower back.”  etc.   While in another  context, we do not dwell on those problems.  Like if we are out with friends, we  don’t  dwell on  the fact that the lower back hurts.  I think his point was  why do we bring the mindset of the body presenting us with problems to our yoga practice when it is not in the forefront in other contexts?

Now, if you happen to be around a bunch of yogis and yoginis  they may well talk about  this and that problem a lot.  But  I think  he  is right  in a broader  sense.

One aspect of this phenomenon  that he returned to later  was if  we are in the problem fixated frame of  mind, solutions don’t come to us.  We  don’t find the key when we are looking for it, but perhaps when we are looking for something else.   We have to have a certain leisure or playfulness with our  approach for  solutions to come to us.

2. At the same time he said,  playfulness doesn’t mean we are not serious about what we do.  I was reminded about Plato’s intriguing claim  that   philosophy is  “serious play.”

The mind at play  has a receptivity and an openness that the mind at problem solving  doesn’t have access  to.  However,  the problem we are working on  or  the question we are driving at  does seem to focus the play, so that answers come.  If we didn’t have the problem experience,  our minds at play wouldn’t have  an outlet to return to with the answers that receptivity brings.

Like this Aristotle paper,  I was  having a bad day with it, a couple days ago but the next time I sat  down, I saw a structure that I was missing in the part I was working on.  But more importantly,  I also realized  that even though I really wanted to focus on practice, that’s only one wing…  As I was reading Aristotle looking for practice and habituation stuff, I just kept on reading all these comments about pleasure and  pain that I’d never  paid all that much attention to.  Then I realized detachment is there too and the paper really needs to be  the power of practice and detachment  not just the power of  practice.


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