Hurt and Harm

Hurt - Harm (from FI 01: The Four Immeasurables 00:29:36.00 - 00:32:00.00)

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This is probably a little more arbitrary distinction, but I also like to distinguish between hurt and harm. Hurt occurs in relationships whenever two people interact in a way that doesn't fulfil the expectations or wishes or hopes or aspirations of the other person. They're hurt. Harm is when they're damaged in some way. So in this world of interaction, it's probably, I won't say absolutely, but it's probably difficult to avoid hurting people from time to time. But I think we take as something very fundamental in our practice to live our lives in such a way that we don't actually harm people. Because when we harm people, what we're actually doing, or one way of thinking about what we're doing, is that we are affecting them in such a way that we're increasing their reactive tendencies and so increasing their suffering. You follow?

Okay. So, out of this very brief discussion we come to this point. We're here to end suffering or we're here to learn how to interact without harming people.


The Greatest Fool

The Greatest Fool (from TAN11: Then and Now (class) 00:04:05.10 - 00:05:45.10)

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Ken: There's an old story from medieval Europe of a king being entertained by his court jester. And after a particularly entertaining session, he throws his court jester a bag of gold and says, “You are the greatest fool in the world.”

And the court jester says, “Ah your majesty, there is one who is a greater fool than me.” Or "than I," if you want to be fussy about the English.

The King looks at him and says, “There is? Well! You’ll have to show him to me sometime.”

The jester says, “Now is not the time, sire, but I will do so.”

Many years pass and the king is taken ill and eventually it's clear that he is going to die. And the Jester appears by his bedside and says, “Remember, sire, you asked me to show you a greater fool than me?”

And the king goes, “Oh, yeah.”

“Well, sire, you've always known you were going to die, now you're dying, and you have done absolutely nothing to prepare for this. What greater fool is there than that?”

This is the kind of thing that you can get away with if you are the king’s jester. Not to be recommended otherwise.


Everything grows in its own way

Everything grows in its own way (from TAN22: Then and Now (class) 00:57:37.20 - 01:0:45.20)

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What makes bodhicitta--awakening mind--so wonderful is that when it actually becomes our intention in life, then as we were discussing a couple of weeks ago, there is an inexhaustible fountain or font, of goodness that comes from that. And an inexhaustible energy that comes from it. But, yes, one encounters many difficulties in the way but it gives you a way of meeting all of those difficulties.

This isn’t everybody’s spiritual path. What's very important--this came out of a conversation I was having today--we have to be very, very careful with the Tibetan tradition because it sets out a path so clearly. And we can say, "Okay this is the path," and many of us feel a connection with it and want to follow it. But one of the things I've come to appreciate about teaching is no system actually works. Sooner or later, if you're in a teaching position, you're going to have to adapt whatever process or procedure you have for teaching, to the needs of an individual because everybody's different. If you're teaching something that's relatively straightforward for a short period of time you may be able to get everybody through just a, b, c. But teaching and learning are primarily about growing, not being processed. And everything grows in its own way. You plant two seeds of exactly the same plant, like say a tree, and they will branch in different places. You can't get them to branch in the same way. One will branch and the branch will go to the right and one will go to the left or straight ahead, or something like that.

So I've come to the conclusion that if you have a system, you can only use it for a certain period of time with people and how long you can use it is going to vary on those particular people. For some they can follow that system for a longer period of time, for others for a shorter. But at some point, they're going to have to make it their own and figure out their own relationship with it.


How the "steps" of the five-step mindfulness practice evolve

Ken has encouraged me to use the five-step mindfulness practice in conjunction with the primary or central practice, and this has been very helpful, particularly when strong resistance, aversion and anger arise in daily life. Recently I've been listening to the audiofiles from A Trackless Path II  and found this advice from Ken to a student who asked about whether it was important to do all the steps sequentially.....

Evolution of 5 Step Practice (from ATPII02: A Trackless Path II (retreat) 00:01:05.00 - 00:07:35.60) (download into iTunes)

It's called five-step mindfulness practice and there may be a better word in English rather than step because step is the idea that I take one step and then another step, or climbing a set of stairs, and you deliberately move from one to two to three to four and five. This practice doesn't really work that way. The steps evolve out of each other. So the first step is: "Breathing in, I experience this reaction; breathing out, I experience this reaction," or pain or difficulty or problem. And as you do that you naturally evolve into the second step which is: "Breathing in, I experience my reactions to this problem; breathing out, I experience my reactions to this problem." And those reactions are, at the physical level, how the body's reacting; at the emotional level, all the emotions that are coming up and at the cognitive or mental level, all the stories and associations and memories and distractions that come up. And you just experience those.

And what's happening there is one is moving into a fuller and fuller experience of the problem, the reaction, whatever. And in that you find yourself just experiencing all of that. And now rather than reacting to all of that you're just experiencing it, which is actually the start of the third step, which is: "Breathing in, I experience calm in the reaction," or in the problem. And that's something that evolves out of opening to the experience of the problem itself and all the reactions to it. You follow? So you may find yourself naturally moving into step three without actually deciding to.

Now when you hit step three and particularly step four, as you rest in all of that stuff, okay, "Breathing in I experience calm in this reaction; breathing out I experience calm in that reaction. " That calm gradually evolves into ease or relaxation. So now you're sitting with this problem and you're actually relaxed. And as soon as we start to relax, then attention opens up and we experience the problem more deeply. And often that puts us right back into step one again. But now we're operating at a different level. And it continues to cycle around this way. And can, over decades actually. [laughing] Maybe none of you are as screwed up as me, but it really can be like that because you are actually able to experience something progressively deeper.

And all of this time you think, "It's just a mess," but that's the subjective experience that it's a mess. What is actually happening is one is experiencing more and more completely what's really going on in you. And the more we're able to experience the less we have to react. So though we may feel like it's a total mess inside. Other people may think, "How can you be so calm?" Because we're dealing with all the reactions inside rather than spewing them out into the world. You follow?

And through this then step five isn't something you decide. "Oh, I understand this now," or "I'm going to understand this now. It's something that evolves out of being in that experience and what happens is that you find the clarity in the experience and the understanding of the experience, of the reaction, of the problem, arises spontaneously out of the calmness and clarity. And you realize, "Oh, I was looking at it this way, but now I see it this way." And one's whole relationship with it will have shifted. But none of the steps are something that you decide: "Oh, I'm going to do this now. I'm going to do this now. I'm going to do this now." It's not those kinds of steps. You just start off just breathing in, experiencing it, and then you become aware of the physical reactions, become aware of the emotional reactions, you become aware of the cognitive reactions.

Where people get tripped up a lot is that as they sit with the problem their level of attention is often swept away by the stories that come up. And so they start spinning the stories, but once you start spinning the stories you're no longer experiencing the reaction or the problem. You're in the world of the stories. And this is why I consistently emphasize coming to the body. And becoming clear about the physical reactions that are arising, because that grounds you in your present experience and you don't spin off in the stories. When you're able to stay in the body and the emotions then you can experience the stories as stories and not get distracted by them. They're just stuff that is flying around all over the place.


Anything, Not Everything

Any Not Everything (from SUS05: Sutra Session (questions) 00:50:56.00 - 00:54:51.80)

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We can do anything we want in our lives, we just can't do everything. So, part of being really clear about your intention here, is being clear about what you can do and what you can't do. And that way you stop taking on too much.


Five Dakinis

We've clipped six guided meditations from the Five Elements | Five Dakinis retreat podcasts. This the sixth and final meditation of the series:

Five Dakinis Meditation (from FEFD07: Five Elements | Five Dakinis (retreat) 00:31:40.00 - 00:55:05.00)

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Access the other dakini meditations: Earth | Water | Fire | Air | Void | Final