Experience your feelings completely

From: Heart Sutra Workshop 3
Full transcript
How many of you got angry over the last week? How many of you took the anger that arose as a fact that you just had to act on? Yeah, let’s be honest. You got angry—all of you did! And we do that because we don’t know at that moment what anger is. It appears to be very solid and have a lot of force, etc.
But if we experience it completely then we know that it is a movement in mind. In the same way that a wave is movement in water. I imagine most of you have had the experience in your meditation of sitting there fuming over something that happened the previous week or the previous day and just sitting there, Grrr! Grrr! Err. And think, “Okay back to the breath, but he said this and he said that.” Grrr!
Anybody had this experience? [Laughter] And it goes on, you know, for ten minutes or fifteen minutes or twenty minutes or whatever and then suddenly you find yourself sitting there like this…and you’re not angry at all. And you didn’t decide not to be angry. You didn’t say to yourself, “Oh, I’ve worked through this now.” It just stopped. Right? And some part of you may go like, “What happened? I was so angry three minutes ago.” And you try to remember the situation but you can’t get any juice in it. Anybody had this experience?
Well, that arises because the anger has actually been felt. You know it may sound a little stupid but I say a lot of stupid things. So that’s nothing unusual. But the function of a feeling is to be felt. And a feeling can’t be complete until it is felt.
Now what happens if a feeling comes up and you try not to feel it? “No, I don’t really love him.” How well does that one work? You know, “I’m not really angry with you; I just have a few things to tell you.” [Laughter] Or the Charlie Brown version of this. Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “I’m going to do you a favor Charlie Brown, I’m going to tell you every thing that’s wrong with you.” Next frame, “Why don’t you get a sheet of foolscap.” Next frame, “Draw a line down the center.” Last frame, “On second thought, get two sheets.” [Laughter]
No anger here at all. But when we experience it and a lot of us don’t do that very gracefully but when it’s actually been felt, been experienced, then its finished. When we know this about feelings, then we can open to the experience of them. And we experience them vividly, just like our friend here, this piece of paper. And they come and they go.
And something very important happens then. Can you be something that you experience that comes and goes? No, if it comes and goes in our experience, we can’t possibly be it. So we can’t be anger. Anger arises but it can’t be what we are in the way we were talking about this morning. Oh, okay.
And not only that, we experienced it, we felt it and the world didn’t come to an end. Most people don’t actually experience the emotions because they’re afraid that if they do the world will come to an end. Or they’ll die or something like that will happen. So the more intimately we know our experience, the more we’re able to just experience it.



From: Warrior's Solution 4
One day a man reproached Bayazid, the great mystic of the ninth century, saying that he had fasted and prayed and so on for thirty years, and not found the joy or peace which Bayazid had prescribed.  Bayazid said that he might continue for three hundred years and still not find it.   
"How is that?" asked the would-be-illuminate.   
"Because your vanity is a barrier to you" 
"Tell me the remedy." 
"The remedy is one which you cannot take."  
"Tell me nevertheless." 
Bayazid said, "You must go to the barber and have your very respectable beard shaved, remove all your clothes and put on a simple girdle, fill a nose bag with walnuts and suspend it from your neck, go to the market place and call out, 'I will give a walnut to any boy who will strike me on the back of my neck.' Then continue on to the courthouse so that they may see you."   
"But I cannot do that. Please tell me something else that would do." 
"This is the first move and the only one,"  said Bayazid, "but I had already told you that you would not do it, so you cannot be cured."
Ken: When I was in the second three-year retreat one of the retreatants was a very, very intelligent young man from an upper middle class family. He spoke English better than me, and his French of course was superb. And would normally have pursued an academic career which would have ended up as one of the chairs in the department of literature in the Sorbonne or something like that.  And at one point in the retreat a group of us were standing outside the temple, and he said, "Ken, what do you have to do to get some understanding?"  And before I could reply, one of the other French people in the retreat said, "Wow, that's why you have given up so much."  And he said, "I haven't given up anything."  And another person said, "Well you know what it says, "Meditate for twelve years, become enlightened in sixteen," or whatever.  And Francois looked at this person with an expression of scorn and said, "That I could do at a drop of a hat, but I know that it wouldn't be enough."

The theme from yesterday is intent, the theme for today is sacrifice.  The word sacrifice etymologically comes from the Latin, and means quite literally, to make holy.  Sacra, the word for whole, and fico  the verb to do, to make, facra, facra, if I can remember my high school Latin.  

What do we sacrifice?  Well that's illustrated in the first story that I read. This would-be aspirant  has to sacrifice his vanity, his pride. So take a moment and ask yourself what do you have to sacrifice in order to be awake? There are many ways to this and the way that we are using it in this retreat is to meat what runs our lives in conditioning and transform the energy of that into attention and awareness.  So what this means in practice is that we are going to make our conditioned personality holy, in other words we are going to sacrifice it. 
All of you have practiced enough, and have lived long enough to know that there are numerous occasions on a daily basis when something seems to take over and start running the show.  Quite contrary to your intention to be present and awake.  There is a whole web of patterns and conditioning which is set in motion by the resonance that there is experiences in life set in motion, or triggered and that web of patterns takes over.  It is almost as if there is another person inside of us. One person brought this up the other day,  "the ogre inside."  And the way that we are working in this retreat, we call this "person" the appropriate opponent. It's called an opponent because it opposes our intention to be awake and present.  It is called appropriate because it is actually the right focus for our efforts. Too often in our lives we regard some external factor, another person, as an opponent.  The mother in the supermarket who is under pressure for time, but she is with her child and her child is feeling playful and a little mischiefs and does something and the mother gets very upset and she glares at the child, "See what you made me do!"  That is an example of attributing the opponent outside.  But that isn't the opponent, the opponent is the set of patterns inside that was set in motion, that's where we need to direct our attention.   

Aristotle had a line on this, he said "It is very easy to get angry; it is very difficult to get angry at the right person, at the right time, inn the right way."  Always keep in mind that patterned behavior has one function and one function only.  That is to dissipate or degrade attention.  That is the sole purpose of reactive patterns. The sole function.  We are sometimes amazed at the ability of reactive patterns to hijack our attention and to screw things up.  But we shouldn't really be surprised.  The opponent has access to everything, to all of your intelligence, and to all your experience.  It can and does adapt to every condition except one.  It can't adapt to awareness because there is no awareness in the operation of the opponent. There may be intelligence but there is no awareness.


The two poles of a reactive pattern

From: Mind Training 15
Full transcript

Every pattern has two poles, which I choose to call expressive and receptive. Not active and passive, they aren’t quite precise. The very easy one you see is the bully/coward. The bully is the expressive and the coward is the receptive. Now, bully isn’t a pattern; coward isn’t a pattern. The pattern is bully/coward. And when you push on a bully and make it impossible for him to be a bully—threaten him so you’re bigger than he is—then he becomes a coward. And when a coward encounters a situation where cowardice doesn’t work, he flips into bully. Which is one of the reasons why some of the weakest people become the most vicious torturers, you know. The people who are weak inside become the most vicious torturers.
So, most of us, in a reactive pattern, identify primarily with either the expressive or the receptive pole. So, we often think of just the one side. But as you begin to work on, say the expressive pole, and it becomes more and more difficult for you to function in it, then you will flip and start behaving in exactly the opposite way. And what’s important to understand here is the pattern hasn’t disappeared, you’ve just picked up the train and reversed the train—it’s running on the same track.
So, when you start seeing this flip, now you’ve got to work on the other side, and the best way to do this is to hold the expressive and the receptive in attention at the same time. By doing that you will bring attention to the emotional issue that is driving the pattern as a whole and split into these two forms of expression.

More on this topic in: Buddhahood Without Meditation 9 |  Warrior's Solution 4


Feel everything that is in your experience and rest there

From: Heart Sutra Workshop 1

At the same time, noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, was looking right at the experience of the profound perfection of wisdom and he saw the five groups to be empty of nature. 
So now we have to figure out what Avalokiteshvara was doing. Well, I'd like you to put the books down. You're never going to find this in the book.

How many of you remember the fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea? Hmm, lots of you don't know this story. What do they teach in schools these days? [Laughter] I won't go into all the details of the story, but there's a prince and he has to determine who is a suitable wife. So these various princesses are invited, and he has an old aunt or grandmother who's helping him choose the right wife. She has a bed prepared. It consists of a hundred mattresses and under the bottom mattress she places a dried pea.

One after another these princesses come in and sleep in this bed for the night and she asks, "How was your sleep?" And they all say, "It was wonderful, I had a very nice sleep." Until one woman says, "Ah! It was terrible. There was something in my bed and I just feel black and blue, and all bruised."

Grandmother says to the prince, "This is your wife."

Now there's many ways we can understand this story. I'm not going to explore that particularly. What I want you to do is be that princess. 
We're just going to sit here. I want you to rest. Now, now we'll do this up here so that everybody can see. Can I borrow a piece of paper? Thank you.

Now the way most people rest is like this. [Places a book on top of a glass]  It is a form of resting, but in resting that way you don't experience very much.

There's another way of resting and that's like that. [Places the somewhat flexible sheet of paper on top of the glass. It bends a little when placed on the glass]  It's a little more complete resting, you see these parts are resting more fully than the book was. But it's still only a partial form of resting. Can I borrow that cloth? Thank you. 
There's a third way of resting which is like this. [Places a soft silk cloth over the glass. The cloth drapes over and takes the shape of the glass] You feel everything that is there in your experience. Like the princess and the pea. That's how I want you to rest right now.

Be the princess, feel all the peas. None of the peas are an enemy, though we often think they are and so we rest like this [Rigidly] [Laughter].

And see what has to happen in you to rest that way [Like the princess]. So there will be sensations, there will be feelings, and there will be thoughts. There may be sensations in your body. There may be emotions that are connected to things that happened this week or things that you're concerned might happen next week or next year. And there may be some thoughts and stories. Don't try to get rid of any of it. Just explore "How can I rest with this?"

Now, this doesn't mean go with the flow. As one person, Jim Hightower, once said, "The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it's conformity. Even dead fish go with the flow." So this is not about being a dead fish! That's kind of like this... (sighs as he goes limp)

No, this is about opening to and resting in exactly what is there. So we'll do this for a few minutes together now.
You may find the exercise we did on opening helpful to this, you may find it helpful, I don't know. 
If you start to rest and something stops you, rest with that. Don't try to overcome it or go to war with it. Just rest with that too.
From time to time check your body. Is it resting? Many of us meditate with our chins jutted forward, it creates tension in the jaw and the neck. Not exactly resting but we try to ignore that because we are trying to meditate "the right way."

So don't think about doing this the right way, just think about resting. 

Resting in the body. Resting the heart. Resting the mind. 

Check your shoulders...check your stomach...let yourself open to whatever is there. All of the old pains...all the monsters under the bed or in the basement. Rest completely. Allow yourself to feel what you may have never felt before, what you've held away from.
If thoughts or emotions start up, don't ask, How can I get rid of these?" Instead ask, "How can I rest with these?" 

Now we add on more element. 

As you rest, look at this experience of resting. Don't start to think about it, just look at it. And rest in the looking. Look at this experience of resting and rest in the looking.
Rest in your experience. Look at the experience of resting and rest in the looking. 


We've lost touch with the contingency of life

From: A Trackless Path 10
Full transcript (available soon)
Audioclip (Available soon)

Now in many respects spiritual practice becomes possible only when societies are able to generate a sufficient surplus so that people have the leisure and time to do so. And the amount of time and opportunities that we have are very much due to the way the society is set up, which generates huge amounts of surplus, does everything it can to rope people into generating more surpluses. And spending actually precious little time utilizing those surpluses, individually or collectively, for the common good. Which is actually extraordinarily ironic when you think about it. But I mean that's how we end up in this kind of rat race or the treadmill.

For me anyway, the most important one of these [reminders] is death and impermanence. Where we are faced with the certainty that we're going to die, which can be more broadly extended to everything we know, every relationship that we have is at some point going to change and it's not going to be there anymore. It may be with our death. It may be before that. And we don't know when any of that is going to happen. And we have our ideas.

And we often fall under the spell of the last couple of centuries, which has allowed us to control our environment and circumstances to a degree which was unthinkable in earlier cultures to the extent now that if anybody dies prematurely it's deemed that something has gone wrong and somebody is to blame. And out come the lawyers and so forth. And we've lost touch, in many respects, with the contingency of life. But this is very important because it doesn't matter how many safeguards we build into things. Things still happen. People get sick, accidents happen.

And out of this comes a very important piece. In traditional Buddhism, one is encouraged again and again to sever attachment to this life. And so everything is projected onto future lives and that's what you're working towards. That's mythical language, one could say, metaphorical language. And over the years I've come to interpret what death and impermanence do for us is to bring us into the awareness that what we experience now is all we will ever know. And then the question is, what are we going to do with it? And all of the other reminders, their energy and the power come from being really, really clear about that one point.

So, over the next day or two one of the things I'd like you to keep in mind is, we have this life, each of us has our own experience;  what do we do with it? This brings into play the old Chinese adage or wish, May you live a life of no regret. Which sounds inconsequential perhaps when you first hear it but as one allows it to rattle around inside it becomes weightier and weightier with meaning and implication.

And it's very important, I think, because many people say, "Okay so you're saying just focus on your own life. That sounds very selfish." And this goes back to a point I touched on in the beginning of our time together. And that is we have to be very clear about what our life is. Our life is everything we experience. Not what we want to experience or what we want to happen, etc., etc. It is everything we experience. And this is where the Mahayana instruction of Regard life as a dream comes into play in a way that a lot of people overlook.

Everything that arises in a dream is something that's arising in your own mind. It's not coming from anywhere else, though one can develop theories about visitations and things like that. But it's all coming from your own experience. And you can't get away from any of it because it's all yours. And that's what I mean when I say our life consists of everything we experience. What happens most of the time is that we direct our energies to those aspects of life which we find interesting or rewarding or fulfilling in some way. And we ignore, push away, or seek to destroy sometimes those aspects of life which make us uncomfortable. But all of it is our life. And what do we do with all of it?


The four forces

From: A Trackless Path 3
Full transcript (available soon)
Audioclip (available soon)
Okay. So, things happen. And parts of us feel shame. We've violated something, or that's the feeling. Question now is, "How do we live with that?" Right? Okay. Now, we're not the first people to consider this question. Milarepa murdered 37 people. Milarepa murdered 37 people, and that was his impetus for embarking on a life of practice, was how to live with that. And some form of shame or regret has been the impetus for many many people over the centuries.
In the Tibetan tradition, there are a series of teachings called the Four Forces or the Four Powers, whichever way you want to translate it, which are usually described in terms of clearing away unwholesome actions, which is closely related to our topic. But I'd like to look at them this evening in terms of coming to terms with what we carry in us.
Now whenever we feel shame, some part of us feels that we've done something wrong. It may be in our own eyes. It may be in the eyes of someone else. A lot of people spend a lot of time in analyzing, "Well, did I actually do anything wrong here?" and go through, let's say, a rational process of trying to sort it out. "Well, no it's justifiable from this point of view. Well, no it's not justifiable from that point of view"etc. And you get lots of essays written on morals and ethics and so forth.
Personally, I think it's much better to go straight into the feeling. Straight into the experience, and open to it. And in doing so, when we're able to rest in the experience without resisting it, quite frequently a knowing arises. That knowing can take a lot of different forms. One form it can take is, "Oh, this isn't as big a deal as I thought it was." That's one form it can take. Another form it can take is, "Oh, I couldn't see any alternative at that point." There are probably other forms the knowing can take. It may be, "It had to be done, and I'll live with the consequences." But in each of these cases, by experiencing it completely, you change your relationship with whatever's inciting the shame.
And when the knowing takes the form, "I couldn't see any alternative," or "I didn't know better" or whatever, there is implicit in that--and this is important--a sense of regret. And we all make mistakes in life. My view, the big thing is not whether we make mistakes--'cause we all make mistakes--but whether we learn from them. 
Now we can't possibly learn from our actions, our past actions, unless we're willing to open to the experience and all the discomfort associated with them. For in all of these cases, when there's a sense of shame, there's also a sense of separation. And it's that sense of separation, which I think we can say is the cause of the pain, or the genesis of the pain. Apparently the original etymology of the word sin is connected with separation. So, one can look at the four forces, which are regret, reliance, remedy, and resolve. I carefully translated them so they all started with "R". So you can call them the Four Rs if you wish. All of these are ways to address the sense of separation. I talked about regret a little bit already.
 Reliance is the sense of separating from our own personal values and ideals. Traditional language, these are embodied as, say, the three jewels or what have you. There's a sense of disconnection. And so reliance means to actively or intentionally renew that connection.
Story is told of Atisha, that's why he came to Tibet. He was probably the highest ranking Buddhist master in India. He held the title, Holder of the Vajra Seat, which was the name of Bodhgaya. So, we don't know much of the hierarchy, but he was at least a cardinal if not a pope...something like that. And as such, he had a big pavilion at the annual festivals there. And a sadhu by the name of Maitripa entered into this tent, this pavilion, where all of the monks were seated all in order of rank etc., and very formal setting. And he and his mistress proceeded to make love, which totally outraged all of the monks, and Atisha's senior attendants looked at him and said, "Should we get rid of them?" And Atisha said nothing. Which was taken as a yes. So they grabbed Maitripa, and Maitripa shook them off and said, "If I'm going to be forced out of here, I will leave in my own way." And he walked straight through the wall of the pavilion. 
Afterwards, Atisha wasn't too happy. And Atisha had a very close relationship with Green Tara, and had since he was a young man. And whenever he prayed to Green Tara, she instantly appeared, and he'd have a conversation with her. So he prayed to Green Tara and she didn't show up. Now he was definitely worried. So he prayed more earnestly. And she appeared, but her back was turned. You can see how this is all about this sense of separation. So he said, "Did I goof up today?" And she said, "Yup." He said, "So, what's the karmic consequence?"
"You'll be born as a worm that surrounds Mt. Meru, and every day a flock of birds will pick your flesh to the bones. And this will go on for X hundred years."
"Is there an alternative?"
"What is it?" 
"Go to Tibet and teach the dharma there." 
It's recorded that Atisha said, "I'll take the worm."
Well, it takes us a bit beyond the point that I wanted to make, but it's an example of reliance--that you have to renew that connection. And you can only renew that connection by coming to terms with whatever action is causing you shame. You can't really renew the connection unless you come to terms with that. You can think of Hamlet. Claudius at one point prays to God for forgiveness for murdering his brother. But he recognizes that he's not sincere, he's quite happy that he got the kingdom and the girl. And he says, you know, "Prayers which are not sincere will never be heard by God." It's pointing to the same thing. So it's another way of coming into a complete experience that we've been trying to avoid.
Third one is remedy. Actions always have consequences. They initiate in us a process of evolution. We can't stop that process, but we may be able to influence it. So if we say something to somebody that's hurtful, there's nothing we can do to undo those words. There are many adages in English to that effect. But we can influence how that propensity develops in us, perhaps by apologizing. And again, the only way that apology can be meaningful is if we really have come to terms with it, so that becomes the right thing--the appropriate thing for us to do. Follow? It can't be just going through the motions. It's not always possible to remedy something directly like that, and one of the traditional instructions is--when you feel like you're regretting something or dealing with this kind of shame or whatever--is to go out and do some kind of virtue for the express purpose of moving things in a new direction, even if it has no relationship to the actual action.
And the fourth one is resolve. And when you move into that deep knowing which comes when you open to the experience completely, that knowing may take the form of, "I will never do this again." Doesn't matter what. And that's what's meant by resolve.
Now, these are, as I said, usually described in terms of clearing away the effects of unwholesome actions. And that's part of a much larger system. But I think we can approach them much more simply, much more directly as: when shame and regret arise in our experience, these are four possible ways of coming to terms with it. And all of them, inevitably lead you into being completely in that experience, which is usually quite uncomfortable, I've found.

Note:  Click here for a another quite extraordinary clip & quote on the four forces


Things aren't what they seem

Santa Fe Radio Cafe host, Mary-Charlotte interviews Ken McLeod 

A snippet from the interview:
Form is emptiness is basically a statement that things aren't what they seem. We have this experience. Now we experience a table, a wall, light,  When we actually ask, "What is this we experience?" whether you look at from a scientific point of view or a philosophical point of view, the substantiality runs out like sand running through your fingers. What is this that we experience?  It's very, very difficult to describe.  And that's what form is emptiness refers to.  Experience when examined, is ineffable, you can't say what it is. 


The water reaction

From: Five Elements Five Dakinis
Full transcript

Become aware of all the ways that you react in water: the way that you gently evade a question, or deflect a question, or encompass what the other person is saying or doing so it becomes part of your world. They’ve moved into your world, you don’t have to go into theirs. Other words you dissipate any energy, anything which may disturb or disrupt the way you want to experience the world.
And as you feel that quality of dissipating, or deflecting, or evading, encompassing, you become aware that part of you at least is feeling threatened, possibly even attacked, so you feel that. Maybe there are physical, emotional, conceptual components associated with that.
And underneath that feeling of being threatened or attacked, you’re feeling that if you don’t do this [dissipation etc.] you’re just going to be engulfed, you’re going to be swept away, overtaken. It’s like you’re standing right at the edge of a fast flowing river and your feet are in the water and you can feel the current pulling at you and you don’t do something you’re just going to be swept away. Or maybe you’re in the surf, and like the wave is just about to pick you up and carry you, or the tide, or the current—so you feel that fear.
And as you touch that fear, there is a surge like, "Gotta dissipate this energy, get it out of here."  So you start to wriggle away from it, or deflect it, or try and do something. But as your efforts become more and more extreme you find you’ve run out of room, you can’t do any more. And you feel frozen and you can’t avoid it.
So now you try even harder to evade, deflect.
These are the components of the water reaction.