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Imagine You're Enlightened

Some personalities will have more energy for us, some will bring more challenges, but each of them can transform our understanding of what we are and how we experience the world. The key is commitment, and the personality we commit to is called the commitment being (Skt., samayasattva).

In the Tibetan tradition, deities fall into three categories: peaceful, semi-wrathful, and wrathful. The personalities of the semi-wrathful and wrathful deities often embody the energy of strong reactive emotions, such as anger or sexual desire. While they may resonate more closely with a particular set of emotional knots, they are a little more dangerous to practice. If the energy in our attention drops, we will fall right into a full-blown emotional reaction. The peaceful deities, which typically embody the energies of compassion, compassionate activity, intelligence, and so forth, are powerful in a more subtle way, as their energy seeps deep into our reactive patterns and dissolves the corresponding identifications.

Practicing as the Commitment Being

In formal meditation sessions, we let the mind settle, resting in the experience of breathing, perhaps, or resting in natural awareness. Then we imagine being the embodiment of awake compassion, awake pride, or whatever we are using, drawing on the seed of direct experience planted through empowerment. We let the sensations connected with being awake compassion or awake pride soak into us. As Suzuki Roshi once said, practice is like going for a walk on a misty day — we don’t notice it at first, but we end up completely soaked, wet right through.

This kind of practice requires an effort that is simultaneously gentle without being soft and unyielding without being hard. Resistance may arise. Reactive patterns associated with the ordinary sense of self push us to ignore, shut out, manipulate, or control what arises in experience.

The commitment is to meet that resistance as the embodiment of whatever personality we are using. If we are embodying awake compassion, for instance, we don’t harden against the resistance but rather are completely present with the resistance and the pain it protects. If we are identifying with awake pride, we experience resistance with complete equanimity, not judging it as good or bad. If we are working with the awake loser, we have no expectations about the outcome of practice; we just meet whatever is arising.

To take the practice deeper, in our meditation sessions we can imagine taking the sense of awake compassion or awake pride into specific scenarios and explore how we might meet them. Maybe I’m a schoolteacher with a difficult and demanding principal, and I have to meet with her to discuss my contract for the coming year. Or maybe I have a beautiful and valuable carpet in my home and a painter I’ve hired has just spilled a can of paint on it. Or perhaps a great job opportunity has opened up and the choice is between my co-worker and me. My boss pulls me aside and asks for my opinion on my co-worker’s abilities.

We don’t think about these situations or try to figure out what we might or might not do. Instead, we put ourselves right into the situation and meet what arises as the embodiment of the awake quality we have committed to. In other words, we don’t try to figure things out — we experience being the awake quality and work from there.

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