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Real Happiness Challenge - Week 2: How Fast Can You Take Your Time, Kid?

“DE is a way of doing. DE simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in DE.You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting papers. Don’t fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest.”
- William S. Burroughs


I do things quickly, too quickly. I walk quickly and wear holes in new footwear within months. I stub my toe. I became an alcoholic largely because I treated cans of watery domestic as enemies to be vanquished as rapidly as possible, always with an eye toward the next one. I forget things and get behind schedule and sometimes take to my bed, paralyzed by adrenal burnout.

In 2012, during a period of severe stress and physical illness, I studied The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a guidebook of sorts, applying ancient Buddhist modes of thought to daily decision-making and gradual attitude-adjustment in the scary and chaotic modern world.

Reflecting on Trungpa's teachings, I realized I was primed for them years earlier by two creative heroes from my teenage years: the filmmaker Gus Van Sant and the visionary Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs. In 1982, Van Sant created a short film called The Discipline of D.E. (or “Do Easy”), based on the Burroughs story Exterminator!, a Westernized riff of basic Buddhist principles as they relate to everyday physical behavior. Like Trungpa's work, the film is quite sincere but essentially light-hearted and humorous, resonant with “crazy wisdom” that sounds like forced eccentricity until one begins to experiment with it in earnest.

Rather than making a foolish commitment to practice D.E. forever and never look back - or even diving into a year-long program - I set aside individual D.E. Days.

I was my hands slowly and carefully. Hand-washing is a sacred everyday practice which saved lives and altered the course of human history when first introduced in emergency rooms. Too often, it is something done in haste to get out of the bathroom and back to work as quickly as possible. On D.E. days, I give it at least 60 slow, deliberate seconds, following the guidelines of the National Restaurant Association.

When walking to an appointment, even a work appointment... even when I'm running late... I practice walking meditation in hallways and on sidewalks in full view of the fearsome public. I treat each step, appropriately, as though I will never take it again. (Los Angeles is the perfect place to try this, as one will not appear particularly eccentric putting one foot in front of the other, heel to toe.)

I wash the dishes. This is the ideal chore for D.E., since it is never done. After washing a sink full of dishes, one does not receive a certificate absolving one of ever washing another dish. The dishes will get dirty again. And yet, washing each dish with thoroughness and care, as though consoling a troubled friend, can be its own reward. It's the ultimate exercise in prioritizing practice over results.

How will you celebrate D.E. Day?

IDP is participating in lineage mentor Sharon Salzberg's REAL HAPPINESS Meditation Challenge.  This 28-day practice follows the the program outlined in Sharon’s New York Times bestseller, Real Happiness for the entire month of February. We encourage everyone to join us; since 2011, thousands have participated in this challenge which will help you develop your meditation with support from the entire community.

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