Daily life practice?

Daily life practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Mon May 26, 2014 11:33 pm

How does Zen inform your daily life as a householder?
Aside from sitting zazen, what sorts of things do you do and why?

Thank you for sharing.
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby yan kong » Tue May 27, 2014 1:52 am

I try to keep the five precepts. It's an excellent practice.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby Astus » Tue May 27, 2014 11:18 am

To me zen is to see life as life. Life is inevitably and unstoppably changing every moment. What does not change is dead. Trying to hold on to something is murder. The constant failure to keep things still is the dissatisfaction with oneself and with life. Thus, abiding nowhere is the buddha-mind, and buddha-mind is what zen is all about.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby seeker242 » Tue May 27, 2014 12:12 pm

Cook food because I need to eat and wash clothes because I need to not smell bad. :smile: Mundane everyday things are good zen practice. Zen informs my daily life by saying "daily life" and "zen" are the same, not different things. It says there is nothing apart from daily life. It says there is no special thing somewhere else called "zen, ultimate reality, truth, etc".
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby Gwenn Dana » Tue May 27, 2014 12:36 pm

To me there is not really any other practice than life practice.
If I cannot do it in daily situations, I cannot do it.

Best wishes
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby LastLegend » Tue May 27, 2014 1:07 pm

Let the mind be free from all intended thoughts. If there is intention, be not attached.
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Wed May 28, 2014 3:08 am

Astus wrote:To me zen is to see life as life. Life is inevitably and unstoppably changing every moment. What does not change is dead. Trying to hold on to something is murder. The constant failure to keep things still is the dissatisfaction with oneself and with life. Thus, abiding nowhere is the buddha-mind, and buddha-mind is what zen is all about.

Is this related to the quote by Dogen, "Impermanence is Buddha-Nature"?
I notice that trying to remain aware of impermanence and see the rich interplay of things, life in general is far less painful.
The view is more keen curiosity than having preferences for certain outcomes.

I'm unclear what "abiding nowhere" means. I realize it's hard to put into words a stranger on the internet can understand.

seeker242 wrote:Cook food because I need to eat and wash clothes because I need to not smell bad. :smile: Mundane everyday things are good zen practice. Zen informs my daily life by saying "daily life" and "zen" are the same, not different things. It says there is nothing apart from daily life. It says there is no special thing somewhere else called "zen, ultimate reality, truth, etc".

Zen is slippery. How is folding laundry having never heard of Zen different than folding laundry while having engagement with Zen?
It may be uncouth to say it's different but please humor me :)

Gwenn Dana wrote:To me there is not really any other practice than life practice.
If I cannot do it in daily situations, I cannot do it.

Best wishes
Gwenn

I really appreciate this approach, which is why Zen writings have always drawn me. Can you explain "life practice", what it means to you?

LastLegend wrote:Let the mind be free from all intended thoughts. If there is intention, be not attached.

Thank you, this is helpful. Intention is everywhere and seems to drive almost everything I do. How do you become more aware of the subtle intentions that habituate for example anger at pain, boredom at inaction, and other such things?
The sheer force of habitual reactivity means when I "try to do nothing" or "be free", I'm actually merely acting out life-long patterns instead, and doing actually quite a lot!
Am I missing the point?

yan kong wrote:I try to keep the five precepts. It's an excellent practice.

Thank you, concrete and specific.
I notice as the years go by with the precepts, they take on deeper shades of meaning.
At first, intoxicants meant I no longer chose to drink to get drunk. Now, I see any activity that stultifies and dulls the mind is like an intoxicant, including Twitter or boredom even.
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby seeker242 » Wed May 28, 2014 3:57 am

duckfiasco wrote:
seeker242 wrote:Cook food because I need to eat and wash clothes because I need to not smell bad. :smile: Mundane everyday things are good zen practice. Zen informs my daily life by saying "daily life" and "zen" are the same, not different things. It says there is nothing apart from daily life. It says there is no special thing somewhere else called "zen, ultimate reality, truth, etc".

Zen is slippery. How is folding laundry having never heard of Zen different than folding laundry while having engagement with Zen?
It may be uncouth to say it's different but please humor me :)


As I see it, the difference is the "engagement with zen" while folding laundry. As I see it, it's quite similar to placing your attention on the breath while doing zazen. Sitting there still, breathing in and out. Something appears that takes your attention off the breath. You notice that and return your attention to the breath. Standing there folding laundry. Something appears that takes your attention off the act of folding laundry. You notice that and return your attention to the act of folding laundry. Not very different from walking meditation or kinhin. Walking along, one foot in front of the other. Something appears that takes your attention off the act of walking. You notice that and return your attention to the act of walking. You could call it "folding laundry meditation". At our temples, we call it "work practice". Robert Aitken Roshi says that: 'Practice in daily life is the same practice as on your cushion: check your ordinary thought of greed, hatred an ignorance and return to your original pure mind.'

:anjali:
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Wed May 28, 2014 4:03 am

Thank you, very helpful and descriptive.

This original pure mind referenced there, is it known in attending to the shifting display of phenomena through the sense doors, i.e. that which renounces observantly versus that which becomes entangled in blindly grasping after things?

To me, mindfulness can be a slippery term. I can be generally aware of folding laundry (a bird's-eye view), or I can zoom into every tactile sensation, the attention ricocheting throughout the body at each new change in perception, or I can be aware of the play of intentions to move... There are many avenues.
Do you mean to say choiceless awareness rather than this pinpoint awareness of impermanence is what one dwells in during ordinary daily life?

Sorry to be so technical (I always feel like I'm missing the point with Zen) but having experience with several techniques now, there seem to be many facets to what being aware of something means.
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby LastLegend » Wed May 28, 2014 6:37 am

duckfiasco wrote:Thank you, this is helpful. Intention is everywhere and seems to drive almost everything I do. How do you become more aware of the subtle intentions that habituate for example anger at pain, boredom at inaction, and other such things?


I know nothing about subtle intentions. I know of conscious intention. When I get angry, I just simply go back to "not creating an intention" to achieve anything.

The sheer force of habitual reactivity means when I "try to do nothing" or "be free", I'm actually merely acting out life-long patterns instead, and doing actually quite a lot!
Am I missing the point?


Like Astus said, everything is impermanent. It is futile trying to have a particular experience, in this case, "try to do nothing" or "be free." It is not something to be achieved. So it is NOT about trying to put effort to induce a particular experience or a state of mind because any particular state of mind is also impermanent won't last. If you just sit in front of your computer without worrying about the past, the future, "what if", "what might", "what's going to happen", then this would help a lot in reducing stress and worries. Drop the intention to achieve or gain (even a particular experience)...but there is always going to be some intention, like "I am going to cook my rice" or "I want to cook my rice perfectly." What if it is not cooking perfectly? How am I going to react? one word: NON-ATTACHMENT.
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby oushi » Wed May 28, 2014 7:52 am

LastLegend wrote:Let the mind be free from all intended thoughts. If there is intention, be not attached.

That is right, but... how do you get free from an intended thought? You can either let it be, or intentionally move your awareness to something else. Some teachers say, that you can move it to acknowledging that it was just an illusory thought. Both techniques can work just fine, but only if there is no suppression of those intended thoughts.
I prefer the second method, with small modification. I contemplate, or read teachings looking for a short passage that addresses this problem directly and I apply it. Some are so potent, that you can feel the relief immediately, in your whole body and mind. There is no greater proof that this is true Dharma.
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby Luke » Wed May 28, 2014 10:11 am

duckfiasco wrote:How does Zen inform your daily life as a householder?
Aside from sitting zazen, what sorts of things do you do and why?

I haven't been practicing Zen long enough to be able to give an authentic answer, but my Zen teacher says that the key to success outside of the zendo is to practice the Six Paramitas and the Four Vows. This might not sound stereotypically "Zen," but Zen is a Mahayana school, too. :buddha1:
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby Astus » Wed May 28, 2014 11:10 am

duckfiasco wrote:Is this related to the quote by Dogen, "Impermanence is Buddha-Nature"?
I notice that trying to remain aware of impermanence and see the rich interplay of things, life in general is far less painful.
The view is more keen curiosity than having preferences for certain outcomes.

I'm unclear what "abiding nowhere" means. I realize it's hard to put into words a stranger on the internet can understand.


You can relate it to Dogen's teachings if you want, but it's not necessary. What I'm saying is about first hand experience, that is, something to check for yourself.

Maintaining an awareness of impermanence is an important practice, but that's not what I meant. Everything is already changing, there's nothing you can do about that. The problem is when one happens to form a concept, views it as permanent, and thus grasps it and identifies with it. That is, ignorance is having a view and acting on it, it is not the lack of something but something added. Thus it is said that the buddha-nature is clouded and one simply has to remove the dirt. However, that dirt is just this mistake about appearances, of trying to fix things and make things happen (i.e. generating karma).

Abiding nowhere, or non-abiding, is the central teaching of prajnaparamita as well as zen. Understanding that already the mind is without any abode (fixed state) and phenomena are originally empty (without anything to hold on to), that is seeing nature (that change is universal) and not abiding anywhere.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby seeker242 » Wed May 28, 2014 12:35 pm

duckfiasco wrote:Thank you, very helpful and descriptive.

This original pure mind referenced there, is it known in attending to the shifting display of phenomena through the sense doors, i.e. that which renounces observantly versus that which becomes entangled in blindly grasping after things?

To me, mindfulness can be a slippery term. I can be generally aware of folding laundry (a bird's-eye view), or I can zoom into every tactile sensation, the attention ricocheting throughout the body at each new change in perception, or I can be aware of the play of intentions to move... There are many avenues.
Do you mean to say choiceless awareness rather than this pinpoint awareness of impermanence is what one dwells in during ordinary daily life?

Sorry to be so technical (I always feel like I'm missing the point with Zen) but having experience with several techniques now, there seem to be many facets to what being aware of something means.


I don't think it's that technical. :) One of the monks in the documentary "amongst white clouds" talks about it some while they are out doing work practice. He says "Don't think this or that. When working, just work". As I see it, it's not choiceless awareness or pinpoint awareness, it's just folding laundry and that's it. There is a good dharma talk about it here. http://castroller.com/podcasts/AncientDragonZen/3868510" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby Gwenn Dana » Wed May 28, 2014 2:45 pm

duckfiasco wrote:
Gwenn Dana wrote:To me there is not really any other practice than life practice.
If I cannot do it in daily situations, I cannot do it.

Best wishes
Gwenn

I really appreciate this approach, which is why Zen writings have always drawn me. Can you explain "life practice", what it means to you?


It means to me: No matter what situation in daily life I face, when I notice an emotion coming up, along with a story that wants to keep it and bribe me into acting upon it, I hold in instead of acting upon that story. When there should be fear, bad conscience, aversion, want or anything related coming up, then that fear is duly noted, but not nourished by reacting upon it. Or only reacted upon, when there is actual harm for the body involved that can be avoided by that reaction. Making a practice out of just this act.

If I'm sitting in a meeting, and one of those waves starts where people react on each other via trigger words, I don't join in that reaction game. If I notice that urge arising, I let it subside. I still think about what I want to say, but sum it up to a short, concise statement I will place when the situation is right, and hopefully in a way that will not trigger another couple of those waves, by not sending "you"-messages. I also no longer accept tasks that I doubt will be fulfilled or create long term liabilities where arguments will start over.

Although I can only become "soft" so aversion cannot cling, I cannot completely avoid that such waves arise when others respond as a self-driven system. But when few people do that in a meeting of many, there will be a ton less of those chatter- and blame-waves. It means that I don't look for guilt or blame, but am interested in solutions.

It means to me when I'm playing pool, it is not primarily about the technique or result, but primarily about maintaining equanimity throughout the practice or competition. When there is excitement at the beginning of the tournament, honor it as a gift to the body who is now more alert instead of turning it into anxiety and proceed with the way I usually approach shots. It means facing whatever happens with an equanimous mind, not hoping for my opponent to miss, watching his game without building up inner tension, even when I'm on the brink of losing and watching the last couple of shots. It means getting up and congratulating to the game even when I lost an important match.

That also means holding in and sitting still for a couple of minutes, or "holding the one point" (which is basically a navel chakra technique), or a breathing technique, or meditating on inner fire when there is tension in the central nervous system, taking the time to re-center whenever I notice that I shifted off center, so subsequent actions are not born from defilements. I do this because I know when I act on defilements, that will backfire and create even more of them. Karmic stuff.

It means living up to a certain amount of precepts which you can also hold when you're not ordained. Not waste food. Not lie. Not badmouth people. Not steal. Not claim the work of others. Because it will backfire. Contributing or hinting attention where I have something to offer. Not being superstitious about the contribution of others, but pervading those that are apparently born from emotional want or aversion. Acknowledging options instead of seeking reasons of denial. Cherishing diversity. Not deliberately making evaluating differences based on verbal judgement. Trying to find consensus instead of making foul compromises (sometimes that makes it smaller). Acknowledging that people will have to make their own experiences and you can only hint their attention. But speak about these matters and find people who are also on the path.

It also means not blaming myself for stuff that I wasn't able to achieve or do but staying open for new options that arise. There are so many things outside of our control.

And always see what comes.

Best wishes
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Thu May 29, 2014 8:23 pm

LastLegend wrote:
duckfiasco wrote:Thank you, this is helpful. Intention is everywhere and seems to drive almost everything I do. How do you become more aware of the subtle intentions that habituate for example anger at pain, boredom at inaction, and other such things?


I know nothing about subtle intentions. I know of conscious intention. When I get angry, I just simply go back to "not creating an intention" to achieve anything.

The subtle intentions I'm referring to are the ones that seem to arise spontaneously with their goal: intending to move the foot and it moves, subtly losing the intention to concentrate on an object and the mind dissipates... There are many strengths of intention. It undergirds so much.

The impression I get though from your explanations is more towards "abandon any hope of fruition" that famous lojong slogan, than the kind of bland "now I will burp *burp*" intention of basic functioning.
I read a passage by Uchiyama that says something to the effect of "we sit zazen to give up self-centered evaluations and entrust our life to zazen, all things as they are."
Seems difficult, another such evaluation :P

Thank you for the rest of your explanation too, very helpful. I have a great deal of dissatisfaction from how scattered, forgetful, and unreliable this mind is. It doesn't seem to want to do anything but daydream, either on the cushion or off. My experience thus far of trying not to touch or modify this experience means it continues to boil and make crazy fantasies, often completely enveloping my attention. I forget and daydream, swim in lustful and hateful thoughts, sitting or standing, zazen or nembutsu or what have you. It's as though I may as well never have come into contact with the Dharma.

Astus wrote:The problem is when one happens to form a concept, views it as permanent, and thus grasps it and identifies with it. That is, ignorance is having a view and acting on it, it is not the lack of something but something added. Thus it is said that the buddha-nature is clouded and one simply has to remove the dirt. However, that dirt is just this mistake about appearances, of trying to fix things and make things happen (i.e. generating karma).

Abiding nowhere, or non-abiding, is the central teaching of prajnaparamita as well as zen. Understanding that already the mind is without any abode (fixed state) and phenomena are originally empty (without anything to hold on to), that is seeing nature (that change is universal) and not abiding anywhere.

I read something similar, and notice that each perception forms a mental wave of consciousness or an impression. Then that impression can be glommed onto and fantasies woven around it, long after the initial contact has faded. Is this where the grasping and identification you mean occurs? It's very, very deep and habitual in my mind, and daunting to try to maintain consistent awareness of something happening so frequently.

As for "understanding that already the mind is without any abode" what is this understanding? Surely not an intellectual set of ideas? It wouldn't matter anyway since I can't remember most of what I learn, so I'll forget. Then some experiential insight? If so, how does one come to see this without setting up goals to see something and doom zazen from the start? This is the paradox of Zen I keep running into: it's not nothing but at the same time it's not something in the realm of all the "somethings" I'm used to.

Thank you all for your helpful input and helping me along with my intellectualizations and whatever else. Much appreciated :cheers:
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby Astus » Thu May 29, 2014 11:36 pm

duckfiasco wrote:I read something similar, and notice that each perception forms a mental wave of consciousness or an impression. Then that impression can be glommed onto and fantasies woven around it, long after the initial contact has faded. Is this where the grasping and identification you mean occurs? It's very, very deep and habitual in my mind, and daunting to try to maintain consistent awareness of something happening so frequently.

As for "understanding that already the mind is without any abode" what is this understanding? Surely not an intellectual set of ideas? It wouldn't matter anyway since I can't remember most of what I learn, so I'll forget. Then some experiential insight? If so, how does one come to see this without setting up goals to see something and doom zazen from the start? This is the paradox of Zen I keep running into: it's not nothing but at the same time it's not something in the realm of all the "somethings" I'm used to.


There is no state or perception you need to hold on to. If you want to figure out something extraordinary, that is just another impermanent experience. Whatever thought, feeling or sensory impression occurs, it inevitably disappears, and there is nothing you need to do about it. That is why it is often said that the mind is naturally peaceful and aware. Ignorance is mistaking impermanent phenomena for a permanent self, that is, intellectualising (trying to understand and/or explain things) and emotionalising (mostly liking or disliking something). The mistake lies not in the fact that there are thoughts and feelings, but in regarding them as real, as true, as self or a possession of the self. Knowledge is to see that all thoughts and feelings are momentary appearances. To see this you just need to sit down (or you can lie down, or stand, or walk, doesn't actually matter, sitting is recommended mostly because it can give a balance between relaxation and tension), and look at what happens. Is there any experience that stays? Can you even do anything to maintain an experience?

Non-abiding mind is just the natural - i.e. already present - awareness. Experience is always changing. Experience means that there is awareness, and since it changes, there is nothing to grasp, nothing that can be taken as reliable, as self. So it is an empty awareness, without attachment, and that is a mind without abode. Don't your thoughts come and go? So, there is no thought to hang on to from the very beginning. The first error we can make is to believe that we can maintain a thought, a state of mind, an experience. The second error is to believe that we have to get rid of a thought. Without attachment and rejection the mind is naturally as it is, open and aware.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Fri May 30, 2014 12:19 am

My experience is as you say, simply because no matter what technique I've tried, the mind does what it wants, secreting thoughts and fantasies like the senses secrete impressions. It strikes me as remarkably unreliable as a source of wellbeing.
The difficult point I think is the ceaseless, instantaneous identification with what the mind does. I see dukka woven into the mind but think "well, what else is there other than this churning out of thoughts, feelings etc.?"
Daydreams come, from insipid nonsense to deep philosophizing. Of course they naturally dissipate on their own at some point, but while present, the action of "I am thinking this" or "I can't calm this unruly mind" is so fast and so bodily gripping that I have no idea how to do anything else.

It feels like trying to watch the surface of a lake, and bugs keep skittering by.
Now, they're going to do that no matter what, but I seem to pay attention to every single one to the point of exhaustion, and I've lost sight of the water's calm surface. All I see is bugs making endless ripples.
The purity of the water doesn't change this habituated fascination with bugs.
If it is just a matter of seeing what I can see, then I'll just continue doing my best.
You learn a lot about your weaknesses in this line of work, lemme tell ya.

Thank you for your insight and patience, Astus and everyone.
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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby LastLegend » Fri May 30, 2014 2:15 am

Duckfiasco,

It takes time my friend. Right now, you have uncontrollable racing thoughts. But it will get better.

Right now try to relax your mind. Don't plan a lot of things. Better to have not much in mind.
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NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

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Re: Daily life practice?

Postby Wayfarer » Fri May 30, 2014 8:03 am

I was reading about the daily schedule at a practicing Soto monastery in Japan....actually it was attached to a link that you pointed to the other day, at Antaiji Monastery.

Each day starts at 4:00 am with two hours of Zazen, followed by a rigorous schedule of meal-breaks, work, rest, work, then two more hours Zazen. So that's four hours per day, except for on the sesshins when they do much more. I notice that they invite people who are interested in practicing zazen to come and stay - but you need to be pretty fit, willing to observe the schedule, and also be willing to stay for three years. I imagine the discipline is pretty intensive.

So the question that occurs to me is, why go to such lengths, when it seems just a matter of 'letting go?' So I think that is why we might have trouble 'making sense' of Dogen when simply reading or thinking about it. The actual work involved is pretty demanding and something that can only be learned by doing.

So in my case, that is a commitment to daily sitting. I am trying to work up to two 45 minute sessions daily although I think ideally it takes a bit more than that. But I have realized my urban middle-class lifestyle is not conducive to that kind of life. But you have to do what you can. 'Doing' makes a big difference.
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