Then and Now

The podcasts and the transcripts are the fuel that drives this clips & quotes blog. Therefore, and especially as it is the nucleus and main focus of the Unfettered Mind community project (of which this blog is an off-spring), I am very glad that the very first transcripts of Ken McLeod's Then and Now class series have been officially published!

So, enjoy sessions TAN01 and TAN02 of Ken's Then and Now classes.

And congrats to all the busy people who have been transcribing and making it happen!

We will soon follow up with our first TAN01 clip & quote (IMHO an important one). There have been already a few exceptions, and clips have been made from later TAN seesions with internal material Ann and myself had access to, but they have been kind of sneak previews--on important subjects that kind of couldn't wait. But now I am glad we can use the transcripts to make clips chronologically. And you can start reading the whole TAN class by yourself, which will hopefully make it much more accessible and faster for people who don't necessarily want to spent 50+ hours to listen to the whole podcast series (or who don't want to hassle with giving them a try - for some it's much easier to have a quick glance at a text than to listen to an audio speech file).

Oh, and what is it about?! Three things (as far as my limited understanding goes):
  1. It is simply the longest series of all of Ken's freely available podcast classes and retreats - 37 sessions of around 1:25 hours each, in total around 50 hours of teachings and Q&A with students.

  2. Unlike all other of Ken's classes and retreats, which primarily focus on meditation and practice from all kind of angles, this one focusses primarily on Buddhist philosophy, history, and teachings as such.

  3. It does so by going chronologically through an old and important Tibetian book (I don't know if it is comparable in importance to the Christian bible and Islamic koran or not. Maybe not, as Buddhists seem to have a myriad of classical texts, but it sure is a "classic basic text for Tibetan Buddhist students") with two English translated versions. The book is "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation" and the two translations are by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche and Herbert V. Guenther.

So if you are seriously interested in Ken McLeod's teachings, in Buddhism in general, or in the Tibetan book The Jewel Ornament of Liberation in particular, then the transcribed Then and Now classes might be something for you.


Step Out of the Conceptual Mind

I sometimes feel that my practice is going nowhere -- therefore part of me says I must not "really" be practicing. I happened on the following clip one morning when I was feeling this way and it seemed a serendipitous answer to my feeling, leaving me with renewed resolve.

Ken's comments in the clip come at the close of a discussion of ngondro. The discussion and questions have turned to whether or not to do ngongdro, or whether or not to count the prostrations. Ken talks about the question "why do I practice" and how "understanding is cheap." After the clip, he clarifies that the understanding he is referring to is intellectual understanding.

A Trackless Path 12 01:34:34 - 01:36:50

(from ATP12: A Trackless Path (retreat) 01:34:34.00 - 01:36:50.00)

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Full Body Experience

Good Bye to the Gloom and Doom School...from George Draffan:

Full Body Experience (from MUB05: Monsters Under The Bed (retreat) 00:32:54.00 - 00:51:54.70)

(download into iTunes)

George: [Volume very low here. The sound level will increase.] I ended up in Ken’s gloom and doom school because I was, you know, gloomy and doom-y. And I was kind of half animal, half titan and half…I don’t know…animal and titan. My body was dull and stiff and kind of numb. But I was a titan, so, you know, let’s sit in meditation. So that’s the way I would sit. And the pain and the burning and everything would start to build up, and I didn’t care. Because I’m energetic and I’m pretty strong and mostly I’m really stubborn—like to the point of stupid. [Laughter]

Animal realm, right? This is the way we do it. This is the way we always do it. This is how it’s done. And if it burns I don’t care, because I’m going to meditate. And somebody else over there is moving, but I’m not. [Laughter] So, there may be…fifteen years this is the way I sat. [Laughter]

Then Ken starts in on his gloom and doom stuff. Like there’s pain; there’s suffering; there’s confusion; you’ve gotta go through it; you’ve gotta experience it fully. Well, that fit with my experience. [Laughter]

And I was getting sick, and like, you know, my back was in horrible shape. And you know, I…I’m breaking down, cause I’m not that strong. But I thought I was. And then one night up in the zendo my body just exploded. I mean, it was like Star Wars inside. And everything just went haywire. And luckily it was at night, so I didn’t have to, you know, sit there for more there for more than—how long is the night session, like, eight hours or something? [Laughter]

And so I crawled out of there. And my vision was weird and my balance was weird. And I made it back to my cabin and I laid there. And all night long my body’s just going “whew, whew, whew.” All the nerves and everything’s going crazy. And the next morning when I came into the zendo…you know, I crawled back up there in the morning, and my body’s just like “this.” And about halfway into the session, I thought, “You know, this feels kind of good.” I can actually feel my body. There’s like…I have internal organs. And if I want to sigh, I can get some air and sigh. It was like, “Wow.”

And so, if you make that gloom and doom website, I’m going to put together a team of hackers, because there’s…I mean, it’s true, you do have to experience all the struggle, all the resistance, all the pain, all the burning, all the wanting, all the competition—whatever you’re into, you’re going to have to experience that.

And you’re going to have to experience it until you get to the point where you really understand physically, emotionally, mentally, perceptually, socially—you don’t care how stuff’s going anymore—you realize that the struggle’s not going to work. The fighting is not going to work. The needing is not going to work. The dull, “Just do it the way it’s always done” is not going to work. It doesn’t work. That is what the realms are. Each one’s got its own flavor of struggle. But the whole thing’s kind of self-contained and self-referential, and it doesn’t work.

What works is giving up on that struggle. And each of you is going to have to find the way, you know, to do that. It’s not really even something to do. You’re going to have to stop struggling. If you’re dumb and stubborn like me, then you’ll wait until you explode. Or if you’re stronger than me, you’ll go through your whole life struggling and then you’ll die, and that’ll be—[Laughter]

So, that’s the gloom and doom part. How do you get to the good part? It’s better than love and light, it’s like bliss and freedom. And it’s there. I don’t care what Ken says. I’ve escaped from the gloom and doom school. I’m still hanging around with him because he gives me tools. But I’m starting to use the tools to hack into a different system. And I’m not at all clear about how to do it. I think, again, it’s giving up on some level—every level—whatever your, you know, favorite kind of struggle is. You’ve gotta give that up and die to that realm. That’s how the realms are emptied.

The only tool I think I can give you is the physical one. We call it physical. We call it the body. And then we have the emotions, and we have the mind. Well those are conceptual, you know, things that we put on them. The body doesn’t exist. This is a field of energy. It’s a field of awareness. And all the emotions, all the sensations, all the thoughts that you ever experience—ever will experience—take place in this field. It’s not like the emotions are here, and the thoughts are here, and the body is, like, somewhere, “I can’t feel it.” It’s like, there’s a field here, a field of experience.

How can you sit, so that you can feel the field of experience? And when emotions arise, thoughts arise, you can feel them in your body. That’s where they’re taking place. So, sit however you want to sit. You stay like that, and yeah, everybody stay where they are. Don’t get into meditation posture. Posture has the same root word as pose. So you find this pose, and then you hold it. It doesn’t work.

Sit how you’re sitting. Feel your spine from the top of your head to your tailbone. Just feel it. You might feel like, “Eh, nothing.” Or it might feel, “Well, I can feel my tailbone, but I can’t feel anything, you know, my upper back…” Just feel what you feel from the top of your head to your tailbone. That is kind of the central core of the nervous system that’s the communication system for this field of experience.

So feel your spine. Is there tension in your body? Does your lower back hurt? Is there that monster between your shoulder blades that just kind of lives back there? Do you have a kink in your neck? Move your spine as a whole. Don’t straighten your neck. Don’t get rid of the kink. Move your spine. And find a way—find what makes that pain worse, and then find what releases it. And play between those two points. One way to do it is by rocking your pelvis—which the guys, especially, are not going to want to do—but try it.

Feel your belly button or your pubic bone and rock the pelvis itself. What happens to your belly as you rock your pelvis forward and back? What happens to the small of your back? What happens to your shoulder blades as you rock your pelvis forward and back? What happens to your sternum? What happens to your ribcage? What’s your head doing?

When you’re moving your pelvis, is your head locked up? Or is your chin, your head rolling on top of your skull? Your spin is curved like an S. If you’ve got a kink in your neck and you try to straighten that kink, then you’ve just put a crease or a kink in your shoulders blades. If you try to arch your back—your lower back—while keeping your head, you know, slumped like that, you’ve just introduced tension. So move your spine as a whole. If your head moves, then your lower back better move, or else you’ve just put a kink in your nervous system.

Same thing with rotating. Can you rotate your shoulders—doesn’t have to go more than half an inch—can you rotate your shoulders and participate with your ribcage? Can your shoulders move independently? If they aren’t moving independently, you’re holding something, because your shoulders are only held together by a little tissue and a couple of tendons. Your collar bones are only attached in one place. Your shoulder blades and your collar bones should move independently. That will unlock whatever that demon is between your shoulder blades.

Same thing with the sternum. The sternum is a little bone that sticks down here all the way up to the little hole up on top. All your ribs are connected to the sternum. We think of it as a cage, cause we’ve built a cage. And we hold it rigid. And when we turn, we turn like that. And we bend, we bend forward like that. We’ve turned this into an iron cage, cause guess what’s behind the sternum? The heart. Guess where grief comes from? Right in between those ribs. Guess what happens if you, you know, slump? You’re shoving down on your solar plexus! Guess what’s…what emotions come out of the solar plexus? What comes out of the lower belly that we’re always holding in?

You can move your sternum half-inch in and out, encourage it with your fingers. You can actually bend there. What happens to your shoulders? What happens to your shoulder blades when you move your sternum back half an inch? It doesn’t have to be very far. And it may start to crackle and crunch. That’s cause you’ve been holding it for about fifteen years. But it actually does move, and all those ribs move independently.

So, I can go around when we go up to the next session. But I’d like you to start by sitting. Find your sit bones. Let your skeleton hold you up. Gravity, your skeleton, and your chair will hold you up. You can let go. Let your belly hang out. Let your head do whatever it wants to do. Feel your spine. Find the place on your sit bones where you can balance and all your weight is on your sit bones, and you can let go.

Five minutes later something’s going to start burn. There’s going to be some pressure. It’s cause your back is arched. Or you know, you’re, like, trying to be Mr. Soldier or something’s holding. See if you can move your whole spine by undulating it, you know, forward and back, rocking your pelvis—the pelvis is really important—or by doing the rotation thing. See if you can find where that holding is, and what you’ve gotta do to let go. And if you want to sit like this for five minutes, because it feels good to twist a little bit, then fine. You’re allowing the fight or flight mechanism—that anxiety that wants out—and you’ve been holding it back. It wants out. So if you just let your body twist a little bit, it’ll pop out.

The patterns that we’re trying to dismantle, they operate on physical, emotional, mental levels, perceptual levels, social levels. There’s a physical component to every pattern. You’re working it with your brain, with your mind. You identify it. Now you’re going to be willing to get rid of it. You’re going to chip away at it. But if your body’s like this—the pattern that you’ve held in your body, the knot, the samyojana—the knot itself that is that memory of that pattern that you’ve been carrying in your body is not going to be able to release.

So you’re going to have anxiety. You’re going to have fear. You’re going to have hatred. And you’re just holding it there. If you let go, your body wants to move. Those knots release by themselves when you have enough awareness and the field of experience is open and relaxed enough to let that movement happen. You are not going to dismantle a pattern of anxiety until your body can move the way it needs to move to release that knot. So, with so many things in life we’ve set up a contradiction, “Sit still, you know, find the pose, the right place. Sit still, and now dismantle your patterns. You know, like, release all the knots in your body…” Okay, well, you can try.

When I go around this morning, when the bell rings, you know, find that place. Take the time to find the balance, so that your skeleton holds you up instead of your muscles. That’ll work for about three minutes, and then your body’s going to want to move. Move it. Riding the bike. Riding the horse. You’re not holding still. You’re balancing. Whatever has to happen, let it happen.

I’ll come around, but I can’t ask you how you feel and where’s the pain and how long’s it been there and do you have a physical injury and all that and then, you know…I could do that if we each had an hour together. But I’m going to go around, so if you have a persistent pain or a habit of holding, if that knot between your shoulder blades is your big thing, then when I come around to you, like, point at the problem or say “Shoulder blade.” Or you know, if you’re holding yourself up all the time and your lower back is starting to go out, say “Lower back.”

So, like, identify a place in your body where there’s tension, burning, pain, you know, something like that. And I’ll do whatever I can in the context of, you know, silence and the time limitation. But the essence of it is to remember there’s a field of experience here and it has to be open. The spine and the nervous system have to communicate. It has to move. There’s energy moving inside.

When you can do that, the tingling, the burning, the fear—all those things that, when you’re in the realm, you’re struggling with them, either to hang onto them or to get rid of them, or to ignore them, because you’re trying to meditate—all that struggle, the sensations, the emotions, et cetera, in themselves, are a source of exhilaration and movement and flow. And I shouldn’t say this in front of Ken, but bliss. That doesn’t mean everything feels good. It means everything feels like “Whoa.” And, like, the pain is like, “That, you know, that is amazing. It’s like, you know, my back is, like, burning. Or something, you know, in my solar plexus keeps coming out and my jaws just keep going [pops cheek]. It’s like, Whoa, this is like an adventure.” [Laughter]

So whether it’s pleasurable or painful, there’s something…that’s the third mark of existence, right? Nothing but suffering. Everything is unreliable. Everything is suffering. Well, the flip side of that is when you let it be that way and let it flow, everything is bliss. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s pain or pleasure, it’s a full-bodied experience. It’s always moving. It’s never stuck. And it’s really exciting. And it’s actually the full-bodied experience that we’ve been looking for. That’s what the struggle is all about. Whatever you’ve been locking in and stuffing and trying to control and manipulate and keep or get rid of is—what you’re missing, that sense of incompleteness—is the full-bodied experience of the field of the body.

The body, the mind, the heart is all the same. It’s a field of experience. And when it flows—and you let it move—it’s pretty amazing. And there are problems and there’s pain and, you know, etc. If you have injuries and whatever, it hurts. But it’s different. And there’s not a struggle. It’s just whatever it is.

I’ve left Ken four minutes. [Laughter] It’s about right. [Laughter]


The Six Realms

By George Draffan from:

Driven By Desire - Why The Global Economy Won’t Satisfy Us
Ultimately, it’s not greed or aggression that’s the problem: it’s ignoring, not feeling or understanding, the effects of that greed and aggression. We think some self-indulgent action is going to make us happy, so we do it, and we believe we’ve gotten away with it, so we do it a few more times. All the while, our inappropriate behavior undermines our happiness. Somehow, we never make that connection, and so we keep doing this thing that isn’t making us happy; we do it even harder, faster.

But if we can extricate ourselves from that cycle even for a little while, we begin to see that it isn’t making us happy. The problem then is that the impacts of our behavior are so shocking and horrifying, we immediately go into denial again to numb ourselves. On a personal level, we turn away from homeless people — or never even see them at all, standing there dying. On the economic level, we buy and consume vegetables grown with pesticides because they’re cheaper.

Jensen: I’ve known you for a while, and it’s pretty clear to me that your perspective has been deeply influenced by Buddhism.

Draffan: Yes, what we’re really talking about here is awareness, and Buddhism is all about awareness. It’s about becoming more aware of suffering: that other people suffer; that I suffer. It’s about recognizing that happiness is an elusive — and illusive — goal that we keep striving to reach. And out of that awareness comes a desire for something deeper, a willingness to slow down and start paying attention to what is actually happening, instead of being so focused on getting what I believe will make me happy. When I stop long enough to see what is actually happening — both externally and internally — that clarity enables me to take effective action commensurate with what I and other people really need. Buddhist meditation can be a tool for dismantling habitual behavior and projections.

Jensen: What sort of "projections"?

Draffan: We often project our emotional states onto the world, and this prevents us from seeing it clearly. The ancient Buddhists — and, before them, the Hindus — had a different way of describing this. They believed the world is divided into six realms of being, of which the human is only one. The others are the realms of hungry ghosts, hell beings, animals, gods, and jealous gods. To the ancients, these were literally different realms. To a modern person, it might be more helpful to see them as worlds we project onto this one when in the grip of certain emotional obsessions. Buddhist teacher Ken McLeod has done some excellent work on making these ancient contemplative practices relevant to us today.

The hungry-ghost realm, for example, is projected when you are habitually overcome by grasping and greed. The hungry ghosts have huge stomachs and tiny mouths and necks, so they can never get enough to eat, and whatever they do eat turns to fire. If you’re a hungry ghost, you live in a world rich in resources — like the earth — but as far as you’re concerned, you’re wandering in a desert. Nothing satisfies. Sound familiar?

Of course, normal human desire is not as strong as the grasping greed of the hungry ghosts. In the human realm, you actually get some enjoyment out of the things you acquire or consume, but the satisfaction doesn’t last very long. Once I have dinner, I want dessert. Once I have dessert, I want seconds. Humans’ endless desires lead to constant busyness — always working, always trying to achieve more, always driven by a desire that we can never quite satisfy. A thousand-year-old Tibetan text describes the human realm as one of "incessant activity and constant frustration," a never-ending sense that things are not quite right.

The animal realm is based on instinct. According to this cosmology, animals are very efficient and clever, very suited to their world, but they’re locked into certain instincts. Humans enter the animal realm when we’re locked into our instinctual way of thinking and doing.

The hell-beings realm is where everything is seen as opposition. Everyone is attacking everyone else. It’s a realm of aggression, paranoia, hate, and fighting.

Then there’s the god realm, where you feel complete satisfaction to the point of being self-absorbed. The gods live for thousands of years in total comfort, but at some point their time runs out. As they realize they’re going to die, they suffer even more than the beings in the lower realms, because they’d believed this pleasurable state would last forever.

The jealous-god realm is based, obviously, on jealousy, and also on competition. The jealous gods see how comfortable the gods are, and they want that comfort, too, and will do anything to get it. They constantly attack the god realm, but they always lose.

Even if you don’t believe that these realms exist, you might recognize these same emotional states in yourself. The hungry ghosts, for example, might remind you of the desire to have something that, once you get your hands on it, turns out not to be what you want. We need to notice when this happens and understand what the end result of these obsessions is: being stuck in a projected world where everything is viewed through those emotions.

The basis of Buddhist mindfulness meditation is to slow down and focus your attention on something neutral, such as your breath, because it helps us to see through the projections.

Jensen: You once explained to me the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, "Life is suffering," in a way that helped me to understand its meaning — something I’d never been able to do before.

Draffan: The difficulty is in the translation. I’m not sure suffering is the right word. The word in Sanskrit is dukha, which literally means "a wheel with the axle hole off-center." Dukha means that things never seem quite right, and it encompasses everything from vague existential angst, to excruciating mental and physical torture, to inescapable old age, sickness, and death. Even when we find something that gives us pleasure, these pleasures are never permanent; in the back of our mind is the belief that we should be happy all the time. We’re never completely satisfied. One of the first steps to awareness, I think, is to realize that, although we’re pursuing happiness, we’re actually suffering. We’ve been pursuing something that not only doesn’t satisfy, but doesn’t even exist. As Ken McLeod puts it, "We’ve been barking up a tree that isn’t there."

One traditional metaphor is that we’re licking honey from a knife: We keep tasting that sweetness, but we also feel the pain. So we focus on the honey and keep licking, thinking if we do it carefully enough or fast enough, or get a better knife, we’ll escape the pain.

In the phrase "Life is suffering," the Sanskrit word that’s commonly translated as "life" is samsara, which really means "round and round." It describes a circular way of thinking and behaving: going round and round grasping for things that don’t exist and therefore can’t actually bring you happiness. So, of course, "samsara is dukha," because it’s painful to go round and round trying to get something that’s not real.

The First Noble Truth could be translated as "Your reactive emotions and habitual projections cause you to suffer." Because of our delusions, and because we are controlled by the parts of us that are never satisfied, we turn everything to suffering; we are incapable of enjoying real pleasure, of letting it come and go. The problem isn’t that "life is suffering." The problem is that we are stuck in mental delusions and emotional obsessions.

Jensen: How do you link all this to our economic system?

Draffan: Well, the system is driven by our endless desire, and suffering is the result of our habitual ways of seeing and thinking and doing. I once read about a Canadian lumberman who said, "When I look at trees, I see dollar bills." Before we could deforest a mountain, we had to change the way we perceived it. Before the trees could be cut, they had to be redefined as property, and then as private property.

Once that projection and objectification has taken place — from living being to property, from trees to dollar bills — and once you identify possession of that object as your source of happiness, then everything else falls into place. The forest has been privatized, and the landslides and species extinctions are all externalized.


Jensen: What will it take for us to survive?

Draffan: Attention to and care for the world. No matter where you are, or what you’re trying to do — whether it’s in your personal life or in the political realm — slow down, pay attention, and take careful responsibility for everything you do.


Self and Separation

Self and Separation (from What to Do about Christmas? 00:25:33.70 - 00:27:16.60)

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This specific form of Mind Training is aimed at undoing what is called self-cherishing or to put it in more modern language, taking care of ourselves first. And that’s ordinarily how we approach situations.

What do I need here? What do I want here? How can I get it? We get a fair amount of reinforcement from our culture to approach things this way. But when we do that — and there’s also a very deeply conditioned thing, you know, about survival and all of that thing, to focus on ourselves first.

But when we do that — when we focus on ourselves first we immediately create a separation based on the sense of self from experience. And that introduces an imbalance and the more that we function under that imbalance, the more out of balance it gets.

When we open to the totality of feelings in a situation, not only our own but also everybody else’s, and I want to emphasize this doesn’t mean excluding our own but including everything, then as Karen was saying, “well, we know where to go. We know what to do.” But now it’s not based on a sense of an I separate from experience, but based on a sense of being in experience. This makes sense to you?

Note:  The "specific form of Mind Training"mentioned in this clip and quote is this Taking and Sending exercise.


Rest - Sleep

Resting - Sleeping - Dreaming

Rest - Sleep (ATP10) (from ATP10 -

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Exercise - Refresh

Physical exercise and refreshment: yoga, walking meditation, hiking, mantras, body and mind, day dreaming, research, FMRI...

Exercise - Refresh (from ATP10: A Trackless Path (retreat) 00:57:22.00 - 01:03:47.50)

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Rest - Refresh

Energy Drain - Rest - Refreshment

Rest - Refresh (from ATP10: A Trackless Path (retreat) 00:45:23.00 - 00:57:22.00)

(download into iTunes)

Larry: It depends on what you call resting.

Ken: Thank you Bill Clinton!


Larry: ... I mean, I can rest on a cushion, I can rest going out for a walk, I can rest reading a book...

Ken: That's not the same, the last one.

Larry: Or listening to music?

Ken: Maybe the same.

Larry: Maybe? Because, a book is too linear and analytical?

Ken: There is an engagement.

Larry: And not with music?

Ken: As I said, it depends.

Larry: On me or the music? [Laughter] I am sorry! [Laughter]

Ken: I was going to just say both. Now...


Ken: No, I see it's refreshing body and mind is the end result. Refreshment.

Larry: Refreshment... OK. Thank you.

Ken: Yeah, because, this has a lot to do with what I was talking about the other night in terms of the rhythms of practice. We need to respect the rhythms of practice. ...



Motivation for practice

I'm going to die (TAN10) (from TAN10 -

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"And he goes to concentration on death -- the signs thereof; on life as it draws to an end; and on separation. So this is one way you can meditate on impermanence. That the first thing is: “I’m going to die.”

And this is Rinpoche’s favorite way of starting off talks with new people. I remember once in Hawaii, we were staying with a couple. She, the woman was very sweet. They were retired. And he was a hard-nosed engineer businessman, from aerospace, I think. And over dinner, he kept asking Rinpoche, you know, “Why is it necessary to practice religion? Why is it necessary? Well, what’s the point? Isn’t it all hocus-pocus?” So that evening in a public talk attended by about 400 people Rinpoche started it off by saying, "Well, some of you are probably wondering why you're here. So let me start off by saying that there are three kinds of people who don’t need to be here tonight. First, all of those, all of you know who you are not going to die, there is no point in you being here. So you might as well leave. Secondly, all of those who you know that when you die, nothing is going to happen. And if you know that’s the case, then you might as well leave, because I don’t have anything to say to you. And the third kind, the people here who know that when they die, if they're going to be reborn, it's going to be in something better than they have now. If you know that, that’s fine. But if you don’t know one of those three things, then maybe you want to stick around.” 
And then another time, we were in Vancouver. And we had this wonderful dinner in a very nice home. And it was a typical Vancouver winter night, it was just cold and rainy and miserable. And so after dinner the...the husband of this couple said to Rinpoche, “So Why...why is it important to practice?” And Rinpoche said, “Well, right now we’ve just had this lovely meal. And here we are sitting around. We have a nice fire, and it’s all warm. Imagine what it would be like if you had to take off all your clothes, go out into that cold, dark, stormy night and you know that you could never come back here. Well, death is much worse that that.”

And there is the case of -- who is it in Minnesota, the Zen teacher starts with a K? I can’t remember. Anyway, had this huge fundraising...fund-raiser put on. And so all of this...all of the glitterati of Minneapolis were gathered here. And they -- you know, the usual things -- they had been wined and dined. And now here comes the Zen master that they're all there to give money to. And so he comes downstairs, looks at everybody and says, “You know that you are all going to die, don’t you?”

And it is the probably the single most important thing to take in about your life -- that it is going to come to an end. And it is why teachers talk about it again and again. Because when you really take it in, you begin to relate to your life as your life. Not -- as we were discussing before -- as the life which society has conditioned you for. So, and it takes a lot of work to over...overcome all of that conditioning.

Then the second thing is attention to the signs of death. And the third here is to be conscious that life is passing moment to moment."

Leave No Ashes

A redundant post copied from The Unfettered Web blog, but for completeness sake to have the clip and quote here on this dedicated blog as well.

Leave No Ashes (from What to Do about Christmas? 00:15:03.88 - 00:16:36.00)

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when something is experienced completely, good or bad, it’s done, that’s it. Yes?

Student: I have a question [unintelligible]

Ken: All of this is connected with impermanence because we know the passage of time by recalling what we’ve done and that engenders all of these feelings. But as we’ve seen, if you experience things completely in the moment, they tend to leave fewer traces and fewer reverberations or resonances around. So that’s one of the things to take out of this.

In the Zen tradition, Suzuki Roshi says, “Whatever you do, do so completely that there aren’t even any ashes left.” Which is an extraordinary intense way of living. But you see this reflected in the attitude of a lot of athletes, of basketball players or somethings that don’t leave anything on the court. Which is: do it totally.

So I just want you to think for a few moments about what it would be like that everything you do, you do with your total attention. Complete, there’s nothing left. What would life be like that way?