There's a passage in Roaring Silence, excerpted in the email course, that stuck with me. A questioner says they want to meditate more, it's important to them, and they don't do it. The lamas as teaching couple respond:
Ngak'chang Rinpoche: Well, the answer is fairly simple then. When you want to meditate more than you want to use your free time in other ways, you’ll find less difficulty. I must apologize if that sounds somewhat blunt, but it’s a simple statement of the manner in which motivation functions. We could look at it another way. What if I told you, “I want to get thinner, but I keep eating too much and don’t exercise.” Your response might be the same: “You obviously like eating and not exercising more than you’d like to be thinner.”
Khandro Déchen: We’re not making a value judgment here either—we’re just saying, “Enjoy the roundness of your belly as much as the taste of your food.”
NR: Or enjoy your moderation as much as your envisioned thinness.
The phrase is a great handle for an idea I've been running into a lot lately. There's the above passage, to start with. There's a hint of this in the background of Ultraspeaking, in "Choose one thing" and in how Michael Gendler talks about speaking. It's in Introspect. It's an undercurrent in Mark Manson's Models. It's in Dangerous Friend, in Ngakma Shardrol Wangmo's interview with Nga-la Rig'dzin Dorje. It's in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, too.
Conceptualizing this passage (sorry), it's about decisiveness and/or self-honesty. If you want it, go for it. If you don't — consider if you really want it?
I won't dive deep into Ultraspeaking, because I think the most explicit content I've found on this point is not public. But the others I'll cover in more detail.
Visakan Veerasamy touched on a related point in Introspect (original Twitter thread here). From the pages numbered 288 and 289 in the PDF:
hen I reflect on my own annoyances with other people, I notice the thing that troubles me most are the people who I describe as “half-free” – and definitely, definitely, I see myself in them and I despise it.
You know how people can be harsher on their loved ones or their own crew, than with strangers? there's a range of reasons, from "I expect more from us", "your incompetence/failure makes me look bad", "this is a sore spot for me", etc?
One of mine is, I get annoyed by the "half-free". I believe that I truly mean it when I say that I'm honestly cool with people who don't think or care about being a Free Sovereign Autonomous Individual or whatever. call them NPCs, whatever, the label doesn't matter. They can be Happy and Good. I'm also cool with Real Gangstas, High-agency players, ambitious and striving.
But the people I somehow simultaneously have the most tenderness for – and get the most fucking annoyed by, ugh – I guess it's because they remind me of a part of myself – are the people who are stuck in the middle, a foot in both worlds, being indecisive, whining, etc.
... I'm talking about people with a very specific energy. Flooring the gas and slamming the brakes simultaneously.
Decide!! Who! You! Are!!!! Omg!!!!!!
(skipping over some qualifications with the ...)
Half of this is an expression of annoyance. But the final words here (not the final words in the thread) — I think those count as legitimate advice. They're not especially detailed — but that comes with the territory. You can't get advice on how to be independently decisive. It defeats the point. Although half of Introspect is an attempt to nudge the reader in the right direction.
I can't find an easy quote from Mark Manson's Models, but here's the definition of "Honest Living" from the glossary:
Honest Living — Removing the separation between the person you desire to be and the person you actually are.
That reads to me like roughly the same advice as enjoying the roundness of your belly as much as the taste of your food — only in a much more abstract, clunky form. If you enjoy your belly — or your thinness and moderation — there is no separation.
Dangerous Friend make a similar point in Ngakma Shardrol Wangmo's interview with Nga-la Rig'dzin Dorje:
NSW: In the west we seem to place a great value on personal independence. What would you say to people who believe that vajra commitment is an abdication of responsibility for making one's own decisions?
NRD: I had a favorite uncle who ised to say: If you can't make decisions in life you're not even a mensch. I suppose you could describe this condition of being unable to make a decision as a steady state of adolescence. In other words, we assume that life will go on forever and that there will be endless time to change, endless possibilties and eventually we will select the right one. Society seems content to see people remain in this state as long as possible, because then they continue to be optimistic consumers. This is a notable feature of the Kali Yuga, according to traditional teachings: life-span gets shorter, in the sense that psychological development becomes truncated. Someone who has not yet become a mensh, a decisive person, has not even reached "Buddhism square one." Square one would be an acknowledgement of the First Noble Truth, that one cannot find perfect security in life; meaning, in dependency on life.
Brutal, but not wrong.
Finally, here's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, page 20:
Q: If you are feeling very confused and trying to work your way out of the confusion, it would seem that you are trying too hard. But if you do not try at all, then are we to understand that we are fooling ourselves?
A: Yes, but that does not mean that one has to live by the extremes of trying too hard and not trying at all. One has to work with a "middle way," a complete state of "being as you are." We could describe this with a lot of words, but one really has to do it. If you really start living the middle way, you will see it, you will find it. You must allow yourself to trust yourself, to trust in your own intelligence... External aid cannot help. If you are not willing to let yourself grow, then you fall into the self-destructive process of confusion. It is self-destruction rather than destruction by someone else. That is why it is effective; because it is self-destruction.
This is coming at the issue from a slightly different prompt and perspective. It feels more similar to the passage from Introspect than the original dialog. But it seems clearly to be getting at a similar idea.
So: Enjoy the roundness of your belly.