Focus, Whining, and Rest
April 24, 2007
The noise began when I drifted into the half-awake limbo right before sleep. My friend’s hamster started running in the cage next to the couch I was crashing on. I was loathe to get up and put the cage in another room, so I tried to ignore it, which rapidly turned into holding the pillow around my ears. This was to no avail, until I started focusing on the noise itself. Suddenly I drifted off, and when the sleep itself interfered with my focusing on the sound I burst back into awareness. Inevitably, the sound was persistent enough that I eventually put the hamster in the bathroom, but it turned me onto this idea of focus being able to create rest.
Adopting the idea of focus being integral to rest provides an explanation for whining. Whining seems very useless to me, but I do it. Everyone does, even though plenty try not too. But whining might be more useful than simply serving as an emotional purgative. When we bitch about things, we focus on something bugging us to the exclusion of other thoughts. By highlighting the problem and deactivating the rest of the mind, we may be improving and creating new connections with the problem. Perhaps whining is the American Zen. (I am probably betraying cultural ignorance. Observing the people I know from Asia and Europe it seems there is a reservedness about complaining.)
In Zen you focus on your thoughts in a passive way. Perhaps this does the same thing as the other instances, but on a macro-scale. I focus on the hamster noise and I fall asleep. I whine about something and it’s not such a problem. I observe my thoughts and take on a preternatural calm.