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Edited version of something I posted on alt.polyamory.

[personal profile] serene pointed me at this:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-rotondi/brad-warner-zen-_b_873882.html
(Interview with Brad Warner, the author of Sex, Sin & Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between)

Quote from the article:
my feelings about polyamory are not entirely negative by any means -- I've met some people who seem to be able to make it work. But I first heard of polyamory because people had written to me in some distress asking, essentially, "How can I find calmness and centeredness in my polyamorous lifestyle?" My response to them was that perhaps the lifestyle itself was contributing to their mental distress. Now, I'm not even saying that they need to give up polyamory, but at least acknowledge that they've chosen a lifestyle that is going to be inherently stressful for certain kinds of people. Okay, it doesn't seem to be inherently stressful for everyone who practices it, but it causes a great many people a great deal of stress trying to juggle multiple lovers, which is not easy even if everyone, in theory, agrees to it.
I think all of that is absolutely right. First, that some people make it work. Second, that some people are very stressed about it.

What he doesn't quite come out and say is that stress around polyamory is an example of a larger phenomenon.

I know a lot of people who are stressed because they are trying to do too much. I think that's partly because, in my corner of Western culture, there's a belief that success in life means having as many different positive experiences as you possibly can, or reaching for as many things as possible that you perceive as good.

[Note, I also know a lot of people who are stressed because it's hard to survive. People who are stressed just because they are trying to grab all the good stuff have a lot of privilege.]

Another quote:
you can't expect to simply override your cultural programming. That's one thing Zen has shown me, on so many levels. It's not something that works on an intellectual level; yes, you can work on your cultural programming, and eventually even successfully overcome it, but it's very deeply ingrained, and you don't simply override it just by deciding that you will.
I think all of this is absolutely right too. I had a lot of difficulties with polyamory at first, and I didn't overcome them by just deciding that I would.

If you try to overcome programming by doing more complex and sustained work, not leaving it all to the intellect and expecting to be able to snap your fingers and have it change, you sometimes can. Anyway, it worked for me around polyamory and some other kinds of cultural programming.

But for me it took a lot of work, and I would never expect someone else to spend their energy on that particular thing.

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/726117.html, where there are comments.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
pingback_bot
Jun. 17th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
Done yesterday (20110616 Th)
User mdlbear referenced to your post from Done yesterday (20110616 Th) saying: [...] mark a transition. Yay! @ firecat - Ported from Usenet: comments on a Zen guy's take on polyamory [...]
gmdreia
Jun. 24th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
I know a lot of people who are stressed because they are trying to do too much. I think that's partly because, in my corner of Western culture, there's a belief that success in life means having as many different positive experiences as you possibly can, or reaching for as many things as possible that you perceive as good.

I think we're also fixated on peak experiences and on triggering the reward systems of our brain, as a culture, to the point that there's almost something "wrong" with you if your life is predictable or merely content... while contentedness is the ideal baseline in plenty of other cultures.

Something I've seen among poly and mono people alike is an addiction to peak experience. Mono people deal with it by cheating, creating drama or practicing serial monogamy; poly people deal with it by adding a new person into the mix.

firecat
Jun. 24th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
I think we're also fixated on peak experiences and on triggering the reward systems of our brain, as a culture, to the point that there's almost something "wrong" with you if your life is predictable or merely content... while contentedness is the ideal baseline in plenty of other cultures.

I agree that my culture is strongly oriented toward peak experiences, and I think that causes problems. I don't know enough about other cultures to know what they teach about contentedness, but I hope there are some cultures that accept it as a baseline.

poly people deal with it by adding a new person into the mix.

Yep, I've seen that, and have felt subtle pressure that if I'm not always "poinging" over someone new, there's something not quite right about how I'm doing poly. (I'm not saying other people are directly pressuring me, mind.)
gmdreia
Jun. 24th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
It seems that Buddhism tends to aim for contentedness as the baseline. What's interesting is that when I practiced, though, plenty of the Westerners I knew were after the peak experience highs (wanted to have mystical experiences). Including myself, for a long time.

Constant poinging sounds like a horrid way to live, for me. I've acclimated to "contentedness" as my baseline and am pretty happy if nothing's breaking that day. I just don't see it as healthy to tweak with my brain drugs that much - hard on the brain, hard on the body. I wonder if it leads to adrenal fatigue.

firecat
Jun. 24th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
I've noticed striving for super-concentrated and mystical experiences among some Buddhist practitioners, but fortunately I've encountered a good set of teachers who don't focus on that.

I'm glad to have found support in Buddhism for contentedness as a baseline.

I'm "lucky" in that strong emotions, even positive ones, tend to quickly turn into feeling sick and/or anxious. So I don't get quite the amount of reinforcement for peak experiences that some people do. When I have had sustained peak experiences, it has felt really addictive.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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