Memorable Quote: “Many habits that we’ve built up that are habits that create short-term pleasure; in the long-run, these habits are unhelpful and destructive.”
Synopsis: Gina encourages us to be open to exploring the countless ways we can define “who we are” and “who we might become.” She points out that we tend to fixate on a version of our “self” as someone with certain habits, certain weaknesses, certain tastes, certain loves, and certain desires. When we define ourselves in this way, we block out the possibility that we could become somebody radically different. Piled on top of this idea of the particular person we think we are is the idea that certain physical and mental habits are unbreakable. But, when we sit to meditate, that is exactly what we are attempting to disprove: we are trying to eliminate unwholesome habits and replace them with wholesome ones.
Gina describes the four “great efforts” that comprise wise effort: 1) preventing unskillful thoughts that have to arise from arising; 2) abandoning unskillful thoughts that do arise; 3) cultivating and encouraging skillful thoughts that haven’t yet arisen; and 4) maintaining skillful thoughts that do arise. Although these efforts sound wonderful in theory, they can feel impossible to put into practice, especially in a culture that encourages consumption, and defines the happy life as piling up as many pleasures as possible. Countering these trends and reconnecting with our minds is not a matter of “willpower,” of gritting our teeth and muscling our way through. Instead, Gina says, it is a question of tapping into our wisdom and comprehension, which will guide us away from things that aren’t good for us.
I like: I deeply appreciate Gina’s commentary on getting rid of our fixed notions of “who we are.”
I wish: I wish Gina provided a little more guidance on wholesome vs. unwholesome thoughts. A wholesome thought can’t be simply one I find pleasant, but instead seems to tap into some notions of virtue, generosity and kindness.
More about the Speaker: Gina Sharpe was born in Jamaica and immigrated to New York at the age of 11. She has an A.B. in Philosophy from Barnard College and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. Before practicing law, she worked for the New York City government, in the motion picture industry, as well as conducting research in public not-for-profits. Read more at ginasharpe.org.