Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More




Practicing Being

Cowboy Cottage Cattle Pasture, East Napa, California, USA

April 10, 2020

"Distinctions have a short half-life, and need to be recreated from time to time." ... 
"I seem to be a verb." ... Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller
This essay, Practicing Being, is the companion piece to Adding On.

It is also the sequel to Half-Life.

It was written at the same time as The Physical Universe Is My Guru.

I am indebted to Mark Harris who inspired this conversation.




In American English, "practice" is both a noun and a verb, both of which are spelled the same way (in British English, "practice" is the noun, and "practise" is the verb). If you look up the noun and the verb in the dictionary, you'll find a plethora of definitions for both. Two examples of the noun "practice", are a medical practice, and the practice of jurisprudence. In this essay I'm zero-ing in on, distinguishing, and differentiating between two definitions of the verb. Two examples of the verb "practice", are to practice* card tricks, and to practice being. This essay fleshes out the latter practice (ie as in to practice being) contrasting it with the former practice.

Imagine you're a budding magician and you aspire to master card tricks. You practice the tricks over and over again until you've got them down perfectly before you venture out in front of an audience and dazzle them with your prestidigitation. So with learning new card tricks, first you practice them until you master them, and then when you've mastered them, you no longer need to practice them anymore, at which point you simply venture out in front of your audience and perform them.

Similarly, if I aspire to be a master of being, I practice being - over and over again. But there's a difference between practicing card tricks, and practicing being. It's a subtle yet profound difference: when I'm still practicing card tricks, I haven't yet mastered them. Practicing card tricks is what I do prior  to mastering them - whereas practicing being, is  being. In other words, practicing being is what a master of being does. In practicing being, there's no middle man, and there's no middle ground.

Said another way, practicing card tricks over and over again is the best way to prepare for mastering them and performing them - whereas practicing being over and over again, is  being (practicing being is more immediate, more urgent, more intimate  than preparing for being). I'm saying that practicing being, is what it is to be.

We know that "to practice being" is a verb, and verbs (my third grade teacher told me) are "doing  words". So what then is it exactly that I'm doing  when I practice being? The answer is grounded in the bedrock: practicing being is a matter of distinction, which simply means that practicing being is a matter of making distinctions.

Here are three distinctions I make, which give me being. Try them on for size. If they work for you, they're yours. If not, discard them, and walk on. They're from the quiver of distinctions I deploy in my own practice of being (and by the way, none of them are Laurence's original distinctions: I got them from being around Werner):


1)  I distinguish between "I feel" and "I have feelings" (or even better: I distinguish between "I feel" and "there are feelings").

There's no being in "I feel", and neither is there any access  to being in "I feel". The statement "I feel feelings" is patently false. In fact it's a lie. I don't feel feelings. Feelings feel me. Moreover, feelings feel me automatically  (my vote isn't required).

Such assertions are often misconstrued as making emotion wrong. Look: there's nothing wrong with emotion. Honest! It's just emotion. That said, it's not the being. Distinguishing between "I feel" (a statement of emotion) and "I have feelings" or "There are feelings" (statements of being) gives me access to being.


2)  I distinguish between "I think" and "I have thoughts" (or even better: I distinguish between "I think" and "there are thoughts").

There's no being in "I think", and neither is there any access to being in "I think". The statement "I think thoughts" is patently false. In fact it's also a lie. I don't think thoughts. Thoughts think me. Moreover, thoughts think me automatically (my vote isn't required).

Such assertions are often misconstrued as making the mind wrong. Look: there's nothing wrong with the mind. Honest! It's just the mind. That said, it's not the being. Distinguishing between "I think" (a statement of the mind) and "I have thoughts" or "There are thoughts" (statements of being) gives me access to being.


<aside>

Listen: if you're still unclear that your feelings and thoughts are on full automatic, then stop  having feelings / stop thinking thoughts.

<un-aside>



3)  I distinguish what I add on  to what's happening ie what I add on to what's going on ie what I add on to reality  ie what I add on to what's so.

For example, I add on "This shouldn't be happening"; I add on "I don't like what's going on"; I add on "Something's wrong"; I add on "This isn't it" - in other words, I distinguish between being  with life ... and what I add on to being with life. That doesn't negate, diminish, discount, deny, or ignore what I add on to my experience of being with life. Rather it simply distinguishes what I add on to my experience of being. And it's making this distinction that gives me access to being.


In summary, what is it to practice being? Simply put, to make distinctions is what it is to practice being. To practice being in this way (ie by making distinctions) is an ongoing practice. In contradistinction, practicing card tricks isn't an ongoing practice: once you've mastered them, the time allocated for practicing them is over. It's practicing being by making distinctions, which is the ongoing practice. Distinctions have a short half-life, and need to be recreated from time to time. As long as I'm making distinctions ie as long as I'm practicing being, I'm being. When I'm no longer making distinctions ie when I'm no longer practicing being, I'm no longer being.


* From the Cambridge International Dictionary:

<quote>

Definition
practice


verb
1) the act of doing something regularly or repeatedly to improve your skill at doing it
2) action rather than thought or ideas

<unquote>


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