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Awakening From Belief 8

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Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Well there’s nobody sitting there. I don’t know whether it means it’s free or not. But there’s a price for everything. [Laughter]

Student: What did he say?

Student: “There is a price for everything.”

Ken: When I was in Rinpoche’s monastery for his funeral, a colleague of mine, a good friend—who was in the cell next to me in the three-year retreat—and I were talking about the three-year retreat with a young Frenchman who was very idealistic and looking forward to the three-year retreat. Now, I’d done two three-year retreats, and my friend had done one and taught one. And during that three-year retreat somebody had committed suicide, which was a bit rough.

So, we were trying somewhat gently to let this very idealistic young man know that it wasn’t quite the ideal situation. And together we came up with the phrase which runs in French, “Tu faux payer, mais peut être tu n’obtiens.” Which is to say, “You have to pay but you may not get anything.” [Laughter] Yeah, you can think about that.

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Okay, let’s take a few minutes on any questions you may have about your practice, the practice we’re doing here.

Student: I have a question relating to the practice. In my practice, normally what I do [unclear] pretty much like just about Tibetan Buddhism [unclear] books very much. And more from meditating and focusing on primary awareness and working outwards from there.

Ken: Yes.

Student: And so what I found yesterday in the practice was that I felt like I had far too much insight into the situation for the level of compassion that I was at [laughter], to put it mildly. And it was great in one sense, because I stuck with the feeling until I didn’t have any word for it—I just felt it. And then after a few minutes of that…kind of the further understanding of where that was coming from came from.

Ken: Mmm-hmm.

Student: And that was good. But then even after I understood that, once I came away from that situation, I found that it was like trying to deal with that—what I discovered was I still have a lot of anger and negativity. And it was difficult to find the compassion to look at the situation and be present with it in my mind. Maybe that’s the problem—that I was in my mind. But I guess my question would be if you could talk a little about the danger of that and then get some advice.

Ken: I’m not going to talk about that in response, I’ll talk about something else.

Student: Okay.

Ken: Here is a situation, and you could see into it, and I’m inferring from what you said that the more you saw into it the more it bugged you, irritated you, and the angrier you felt. And like many people who practice, you try to counteract that anger with compassion. We have to be very careful—that kind of direct countering, and there’s a number of methods in Buddhism for that—to counter desire with revulsion, counter anger with compassion or loving-kindness, and so forth. Unless they are practiced properly, and there’s some subtleties there, they almost always end up in suppression. And what you describe sounds like it could be going in that direction. Like you understand, you know, but then you think about engaging the situation—it’s all up again. So I would like to ask you, you don’t have to answer this out loud, but for something for you to consider: what are you trying to get from the situation?

Student: [Laughs]

Ken: And one of the ways that I’ve worked with a number of people in difficult situations is, “What are you trying to get from it?” And you have to get really clear about that.

Now, sometimes what you’re trying to get is to satisfy a pattern, which is hopeless, but it’s operating anyway. But you have to include that in the awareness. And sometimes it’s a very deep yearning, what have you. So that’s the first step: “What am I trying to get here? What do I really want?” And that involves a level of examination internally, and sometimes it’s very hard to admit.

For instance, I had a woman in my office the other day who’s in a kind of messy family situation. She has a stepdaughter and there’s some alienation taking place, and she was going on and on about this. I finally looked at her and said, “It strikes me that you miss her.” And of course she just fell apart, you know, because that’s actually what was going on inside. But that was so hard for her to admit to herself.

So that’s difficult, and so once you identify what you really want from the situation, then you take a look and—is it possible? And sometimes you look and you say, “Well, this is what I want, but it’s never going to happen.” Now you have…pardon?

Student: Yes. That’s where I got.

Ken: But it’s never going to happen.

Student: So the point it left me, I guess, and I don’t think it’s in a challenging way, but it brings me to this sort of crisis say. So, where it takes me is knowing the extent of the situation that I wouldn’t have understood before. But apparently I still haven’t developed a level of awareness and presence to be with this situation [unclear]. How am I better off than if I had like my…[laughter]. But if I had dealt with my sort of practice that deals with more, like, you develop awareness and presence, and out of that naturally flows understanding and compassion. There’s no need. Do I have to go through all this gunk to get these patterns so I get where they’re coming from? I guess this is something only I can answer but…

Ken: Well, yeah, we do have to go through this gunk because you say, “Am I better off?” Well, yes you are, I mean from the weird Buddhist perspective, you’re better off because now you know where the edge of your practice is. You see that you’re not going to be able to get what you actually want, and you can’t accept that. Well, there’s something in you that can’t meet this reality. So that tells you that there’s something quite deep stuck in you.

Student: [Unclear] a diagnostic tool [unclear].

Ken: It’s a very good diagnostic tool. But now that you are aware that there’s something going on in you, you can start to work with that. You see, everybody says they want to be aware, but most people only want to feel aware. It’s not the same. When you’re aware, you have no choice about what you’re aware of—you’re aware of everything. So the possibility of orchestrating the world to suit your needs is gone. You have to deal with what is. That can be difficult sometimes.

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Yes? Go ahead Robert.

Robert: I found myself struggling with pretty much exactly that kind of situation.

Ken: Yeah.

Robert: But I thought that if I had a lot of insights and kind of insight with compassion [unclear]. And I felt that and when I thought about it, I’m trying to fulfill what kind of my sense of my family obligations, relationships some people in my family might perceive as difficult. And kind of the big insight for me was that I was very angry and very frustrated—I am very angry and very frustrated over kind of being caught in a situation where I feel that I have to relate to people that I just…

Ken: Have to, you see.

Robert: I haven’t kind of seen the way around it. I mean they’re blood family members and stuff like that…

Ken: Yes, but, have to. There’s the pattern imperative. And it’s operating in your case, too—“Things have to be this way. They aren’t, but they have to be.” So you’ve hit a pattern operating in you.

Robert: Well, I guess part of the question is, and this is something I learned from you. [Laughter]

Ken: Blame me, okay. [Laughter]

Robert: I identify my sense of the obligation, but I feel that I’ve been approaching it wrong. So that, in a sense, the obligation remains, but that there’s another way of approaching it. And what I have done, I think, is to accept that I project my sense of the error that that person’s making. It’s become so big I became preoccupied with the capacity that this person is creating for herself. And then I dread talking to her, and yet I feel that I have to talk to her.

Ken: But you don’t dread talking with her. What you dread is experiencing something in you when you talk with her.

Robert: It’s extraordinarily painful and also—

Ken: Yeah, look, “dread” is a wonderful word. We don’t fear what’s going to happen, we fear what has already happened.

Student: In the past?

Ken: In the past. And when we encounter a situation, and we feel afraid of it, it’s because we’re afraid of experiencing what it is resonating in us—but all of that is in the past. And so we’re bringing those fears to the present situation. We actually have no idea what’s going to happen in the moment. But what we’re afraid of is what has already happened to us. Yes? You follow?

Robert: Right.

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Ken: Okay. Your question, Scott?

Scott: I came up to you last night and was trying to get to the pattern variants in my own life. And I said that I had grown up in a very dysfunctional alcoholic home, and in my life I do impeccable work where I repeat my own home in anything I do. But that there’s also clutter and mess around me. In my room, my bedroom there’s an altar, which is beautiful, simple—but my dresser is cluttered.

And I was sitting until I got here early this morning and I was sitting just meditating, meditating, meditating. And I realized that in a certain sense there are two mes. One of them is sitting at the altar that’s very neat. But the other one—and it’s almost the more important one—is sitting amidst that clutter, and that’s where my presence has to be, in a certain sense, because that’s the thing that stands between me and presence. Because if I can just clear that away without hating it, without saying you’re the problem, then I’ll be able to sit with it, and be with it, and practice with it. And the two will perhaps no longer be divided in me.

Ken: In the bigger picture we have no idea and can have no idea what the result of our efforts is going to be. Rather than working towards some ideal, which is a tendency that people adopt in the practice of Buddhism, partially because of the way it’s presented, I’ve found some of the Taoist perspectives very helpful. And they’re actually quite consonant with what Buddhism teaches.

You have an area of your life, maybe it’s your dresser, maybe it’s your work, maybe it’s your family, and it’s a mess. What happens when you let yourself experience the mess? You just experience the mess. Well, what happens when you do that is that we, quite naturally, like, “Oh, let’s put that there. And let’s put that there.” Not with a sense of trying to tidy things up and make them look neat, but we simply detect imbalance, and the movement of awareness is to address imbalance. But we do that not by trying to balance things but simply correcting imbalance—which is different.

If you look at your meditation practice—shamatha—we never maintain a stable clear attention. What we actually do in shamatha is progressively develop the ability to detect dullness and awareness at more and more subtle levels and more to correct the imbalance. The result is experience of stable clear attention.

This really came home to me when I was skiing, and the snow was very deep. I don’t have a lot of experience in powder skiing. And, you know, you watch all these people powder skiing look so smooth and just do these nice turns down the slopes and just look so wonderful. And I took a couple of lessons because the conditions were right, and it was just a mess. And what’s actually happening in most powder conditions is the snow’s not even at all. It’s grabbing at your boots. It’s a little softer there and it’s softer there, and to ski those kind of conditions you have to have a far more refined sense of balance and be very, very subtle and responsive. And then it looks great and smooth and everything like that—it’s nice.

But it’s all about your ability to detect imbalance. I mean we can all feel this, when we’re in awareness and we see something, it’s just, “Oh.” Then we change it. And balance is the optimal condition for presence.

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Student: Your suggestion to me, by the way, which may help anyone in this room because it helped me enormously was that you do practicing a dam approach. It made tremendous sense to me; you said to me—because the dam seems overwhelming—

Ken: That’s right.

Student: —but the crack doesn’t. So I went back to the motel last night. First of all I tidied up my little area here, [laughter] the gum wrappers, you know…

Ken: Right.

Student: So there was one sock—one sock. If anyone finds a sock today… [Laughter]

Ken: Oh, there’s a boot with a rose on the lamppost out there—is that yours?

Student: Went back to the motel, and I put the laundry that I had had just loosely scattered it and spaced it and condensed it and put into a bag—I did the very same thing this morning.

Ken: Mmm.

Student: And then you said to just take it—reduce it to as small an area as you can and maintain order in that…until that becomes comfortable.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: And then you can [unclear].

Ken: Right.

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Josephine?

Josephine: So balance is not a static state?

Ken: No.

Josephine: So…?

Ken: It’s the result of an effort.

Josephine: So what is stillness?

Ken: The same. Yeah. By the way, you remember the five kinds of pristine awareness, and you have evenness, pristine awareness? Wrong translation. It’s balanced. I was talking with an old Tibetan I’ve known for many years, and it was just after I had done this dzogchen retreat. I asked him, you know, “What’s the Tibetan translation for balance?” And he went, “Oh, it would be mnyam nyid [pron. nyam nyi].” Because it’s usually translated as evenness, or equality, or sameness, I went, “Ah, that makes a lot of sense.” So it’s that quality of pristine awareness which perceives balance and imbalance.

Student: Oh.

Ken: Makes a little difference, doesn’t it?

Students: Yeah.

Ken: Yeah, give us another twenty years will have this stuff worked out.

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Okay, there was a question back here?

Kamala: Yeah.

Ken: Yes, Kamala?

Kamala: My question is which level do we need to dismantle our patterns?

Ken: Right down to the marrow of your bones. [Laughter]

Kamala: [Unclear] this morning at breakfast [unclear], and instinctively I went to the bread, and I immediately realized that’s a pattern. I’m always having eggs and bread. Maybe I get liberated if I don’t have it. But then that’s absurd because everything I keep doing that all day long. When do we stop? [Laughter]

Ken: This is a good question.

Student: Wouldn’t you like to know.

Ken: And it ties into just what we were talking about. Somebody raised the point yesterday, “Well, don’t we function habitually in lots of areas?” Yes, we do. Address those areas where the habituation creates imbalance. Now, if having bread with eggs doesn’t create imbalance—nothing to do. Don’t need to do anything there. But—

Kamala: But the experience that freedom of not having that [unclear].

Ken: Well, you can explore that if you wish, you know. But in the sense that we’re talking about here, reactive patterns create imbalance. And because they create imbalance then we compensate for them with other things and that creates more and more imbalance. And so that’s why we end up creating suffering for ourselves and others, etc.

What we’re going to discuss this morning is how do you move back into balance? You move back into balance by moving into your own experience. So, if, for instance, all day long you think, “Okay, what is my experience?” You may discover, you know, I always eat my eggs with bread, and I really don’t like eggs. [Laughter]

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Yeah, so maybe I’ll try blueberries this morning.

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Okay, you had a question?

Student: Yes, if you [unclear] operates so that I can avoid “x,” and it delivers “x,” so if I don’t want “x” [Ken laughs], and I dismantle the pattern, am I dismantling the pattern so that I can get what I want? So, I’ll give you an example [laughter] if I may?

Ken: Concrete examples are usually better.

Student: The pattern that I was experiencing yesterday has to do with my nineteen-year-old daughter and how when I see her, I always go through this period of, “What is she wearing? Why is she wearing that?” You know [Ken laughs], “How is she doing? Is she ‘x’ with me?” and all this stuff, and it creates this wall between me and her. You know, I can’t experience her because I’m experiencing a virtual parent stance, you know, a real one. And what I desperately want to do is experience her.

Ken: Mmm-hmm.

Student: So if I can dismantle this pattern that doesn’t accept her because she isn’t perfect, then will she become perfect? [Laughter]

Student: Perfect for you.

Student: Right, right.

Student: You don’t know.

Student: I mean, what…and I just think I [unclear].

Ken: Well, let’s start at the beginning. What are you experiencing when you look at her critically?

Student: Once had perfect child; can’t have imperfect child.

Ken: Why?

Student: Can’t be imperfect.

Ken: Why?

Student: Can’t be imperfect.

Ken: Why do you have to have a perfect…?

Student: She must look good, can’t look bad.

Ken: Why do you have to have a perfect child?

Student: I think…I don’t know why, but I think what I went back to was, must look good.

Ken: You have to look good?

Student: Right. Perfect child [unclear] look good.

Ken: Well, is your child you?

Student: I’m not sure. [Laughter]

Ken: You might look at that. And that’s big, I think, for all parents. I think it’s more difficult for mothers because child comes from your body, and that separation’s difficult on both sides. But is your child you? And that’s a question you could sit with, okay? You describe what we tend to do. We tend to try to manipulate the practice so that we’re still getting what we want rather than moving into the actual experience. Okay?

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Now, as you work with these, as you become aware of patterns, and you begin to observe their operation, then you begin to experience the feeling which the pattern is protecting. Now, if you go to some of the old fairy tales—Sleeping Beauty is a wonderful example of a fairy tale which is totally about protection of patterns. But there’s another one—I can’t remember the name of it—but the hero comes to this castle, and he’s to retrieve the bright shining sword, which of course is a symbol of awareness.

As he comes to the castle, there are all of these bears, and lions, and tigers, and dragons, and they’re all asleep. And as he goes deeper in the castle, then there are the soldiers, and the guards, and things like that—and they’re all asleep. And he goes right into the very depths of the castle, and he comes across the sword. And as soon as he picks it up—everybody wakes up! [Laughter] And now he’s got to get out of there!

A rough metaphor, which I’m still in the process of refining, looks like this. Our innate knowing, in Buddhism, is always symbolized by the feminine. So you picture this woman, and she’s surrounded by jackals, and lions, and tigers, and wolves, and dragons, and so forth, and everybody is asleep. And that innate knowing can, for our purposes, be that undischarged emotion that’s buried inside. Everybody’s asleep.

Attention, which is usually symbolized by the masculine, comes along in the form of your ever-present prince, you know. That’s what the fairy tales are all about. And when the prince gets close enough, the woman starts to wake up and begins to feel. And of course as soon as she wakes up, all of the jackals, and hyenas, and lions, and tigers, they wake up and they go hunting for the attention, for the prince. And they either drive the prince away or they kill him. And then everybody goes back to sleep. That’s how it works.

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Now, as you do this work you start hitting at that undischarged feeling. What I want to talk about this morning is how to work with that. And as I said yesterday, this is a straight application of the Sutra on the Full-Awareness of Breathing à la Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s a very good technique.

That feeling has been covered over and protected by patterns for a long time. It’s not unreasonable to consider that it’s pretty tender; it’s hot, very sensitive. How do you approach something that’s very sensitive?

Student: Gently.

Ken: Gently. Pardon?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Yeah, gently. So the image that Thich Nhat Hanh uses is a newborn child. How do you hold a newly born baby? Carefully, but there’s softness in your hands, and there’s also firmness, because otherwise you’d just drop the child, which is not a good thing.

So, that’s how we start to hold a feeling in our attention. We sit, let a field of attention develop, and then start to include that feeling in that field of attention. But we’re not analyzing, we’re not trying to get at the feeling, you know, pull it out. We’re just going to hold it tenderly in that field of attention.

Now, some of these feelings are pretty hot. They’re really sensitive. So you may not have the capacity to experience the whole feeling in attention right away. In fact, chances are you probably don’t. So hold one-tenth of it, one-hundredth, one-thousandth, just a small piece of it. That’s one technique. Or another is put the feeling on the other side of the room, “It’s okay, it’s in that chair over there. Maybe that’s as close to it as I can get.” Either of these methods works. And so you rest with your breath, rest in your breathing. But you’re including that feeling. That’s the first step. And the way that this is described is, Breathing in, I experience this feeling. Breathing out, I experience this feeling. Yes?

Student: [Unclear] The mind that fears should be put in the cradle of loving-kindness.

Ken: I’m not familiar with that line, but that seems to be pointing in this direction, yeah.

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Now, when you do this—even if you’re holding one-thousandth of the feeling—you’re going to notice the secondary reactions. The secondary reactions are what happens in your body, what other emotions that are kicked up, and what stories, and associations, and memories.

So, as you’re sitting there and maybe there’s a feeling of grief, maybe—in the case that you were just describing—a feeling of wanting to hold, wanting to stay connected and the thought of separation just like “Aah,” right? So you hold that. And when you hold even a little bit of that feeling you feel how your body just wants to go [Ken makes a sound of exertion], or maybe it’s constriction here, or something here, but anyway there’s physical sensations. And you’re only going to be tasting an echo of those. But that’s fine; that’s where you start.

And then there are other emotions—fear. “Who would I be without this?” Anger, shame, I mean, all kinds of secondary emotions which can come up—and their stories. You know: “Has to be this way;” and, “I remember when;” and, “This wasn’t meant to be this way;” and all of these different things. “It’s not fair.” You know, “If only everybody thought the way I did everything would be wonderful. I can’t believe all of these idiots that comprise the rest of the world.” You know, just little stories like that that come up in us. Am I the only person who sees it this way? You know, “Nobody understands me, nobody’s every going to understand me, and that’s just how it is.” Anybody have these stories? [Laughter] Sometimes I think I’m the only one [laughter]. So, you know that old saying, you know, all the world’s crazy except me and thee, and I’m not to sure about thee. [Laughter]

So, you have these secondary reactions, and you do the same thing—you just experience them. You don’t try to sort them out, you don’t try to analyze, you don’t try to deduce, you don’t try to understand them—you just experience them.

Now, you continue resting with the breath, you have the main feeling or whatever small part of it, and you’re holding that tenderly, and then you have all of these other things going on, and you also hold them tenderly. And you’ll notice how quickly you get angry with yourself for having, you know, “My body shouldn’t be tight right there, you know, smarten up!” But that’s not the attitude we take here. It’s like, “Oh, my body’s tight right there. Hm, okay.” Just let it be tight. And you let yourself feel that tightness, and you go, “oohh,” and you just keep breathing.

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Now, as you include these things in your attention, you’re going to be going back and forth between steps one and two a lot. But at a certain point, you actually will experience some part of all of this. Just be right in the experience of it. At that moment, when the mind joins with the object of attention, mind and body relax. When the mind joins with the object of attention, mind and body relax. And the moment you relax guess what happens?

Students: [Unclear]

Ken: No, you experience it even more. [Laughter] And so as soon as you relax, you’re going to actually move into the feeling and all of the reactions of the feeling a bit more, and you’re going to go [Ken makes an abrupt stop sound], and you start the process all over again. But now you’re moving through the next layer. And all of this is done in the same way—just holding your own experience tenderly in attention. And as you do this over and over again, you’ll be going round and round, and back and forth, and you’ll gradually find that you can rest in the feeling and in the reactions to the feeling and be calm.

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So we started off with Breathing in I experience the feeling. Breathing out I experience the feeling. And then Breathing in I experience the reactions to the feeling. Breathing out I experience the reactions to the feeling. And then the third step and I really want you to work with this as a process of maturation, not like walking—step one, step two, step three. The third phase, if you wish, is Breathing in I experience calm in the feeling. Breathing out I experience calm in the feeling.

It’s a little bit surprising, you have this feeling and you’re actually experiencing quite a lot of it. You got all of these reactions going, and something in you is not disturbed—you can be there. So you’re actually developing the capacity to show up in the feeling.

Once you reach this point, things start to mature, and you’re going to be opening to other dimensions of the feeling, and other facets of the feeling—it’s just going to happen. But in that calm, as it develops, and your ability to be in the feeling, holding it in attention tenderly increases, you find that the fourth phase or step takes place. That is, you actually begin to relax, even in the experience of the feeling.

So, breathing in I relax in the feeling or breathing in I am at ease. I experience ease in the feeling is the actual wording. Breathing out I experience ease in the feeling. You can feel just from the way I’m talking about this how much has changed—you’re no longer fighting your own experience. When you no longer fight your experience, you have a chance to experience it. And when you experience something completely, and this is the nature of experience, we say awareness and experience are not different, are not separate.

So, when you experience something completely, you experience understanding, too. And an understanding arises spontaneously—it doesn’t come from a system of deduction, or inference, or logical analysis, or anything like that. It arises quite naturally, quite spontaneously. Don’t try to figure anything out. So that’s the fifth, and it happens by itself, I experience understanding in the feeling. And in this process you experience the feeling completely—when you experience something completely it releases.

Those of you who’ve heard this term self-liberate, you know, scratch that translation. Release: they release themselves. I could never understand what self-liberate meant. They just release. Thoughts release themselves in awareness. Feelings release themselves when you experience them completely. And as I said the other day, what does a feeling want? To be felt. That’s all a feeling wants. And so you’re just giving this feeling the opportunity to be felt. And then it goes, “Okay, fine that’s what I wanted. Thanks, bye.” [Laughter]

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Josie?

Josie: Well it seems like self-liberated is saying that you’ve liberated the experience for yourself.

Ken: Yes, but the releasing is the result of opening to the experience—you don’t do, you know. And that’s very important. You don’t do anything except open to the experience of the feeling. Everything else takes care of itself. Those of you who are control freaks will have a little trouble with this, but you know, you don’t get to do anything.

I mean I had an attorney as one of my students. He had this case about an accountant who had absconded with a trust fund. The lawyer knew where the money was, he’d penetrated the corporate veil so the whole partnership was on the hook for the money. But he wanted to recover some of the money itself, and he needed the cooperation of this accountant.

This attorney is bit of control [unclear], and he sat down with the accountant and his attorney and said, “You know what you’ve done. You know that your partners are going to be paying for this for the next ten years. That’s all done. The only thing that’s left is what you carry away from this. I’d like to recover the money, but I can only do so if you’re willing to help. I can’t do anything to make you help. But I just want you to think about how you’re going to look back at this in ten, fifteen years. I’m going to leave the room; I’ll come back in fifteen minutes and you tell me what you want to do.” He didn’t try to control. He just left him with the situation. He left, came back fifteen minutes, got ten times the amount of cooperation that he ever expected he could.

This is one of the key things. It’s something that Taoism is very, very strong about—that you create the conditions in yourselves or in the world so that things can work themselves out. This is a very powerful way of being. And what it requires on our side is the ability to experience just what is, with all of the discomforts and inconveniences of that. Just relating to what is, not what we want it to be, but what is.

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So, in your meditation practice I’d like you to work with this technique this morning. I’m sure all of you have some uncomfortable feelings lurking somewhere in your psyche. Rather strange, because psyche just means breath, but we use it differently. Somewhere in your stream of experience you have some uncomfortable feelings. And you know, pick any one of them, and I would only pick one by the way. It can be a feeling, or it can be a difficult situation, a situation that gnaws at you or causes you pain or something like that, and you just go through this five-step process. But the key is holding it tenderly, gently in attention. Okay?

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Any questions? Yes?

Student: [Unclear] sleeping, and for the last two sessions that’s what it felt like [unclear], so is that workable in the sense of…?

Ken: Ah, you’re dealing with Sleeping Beauty.

Student: Yes.

Ken: Yes, so, you remember the story of Sleeping Beauty?

Student: She picked up…

Ken: Pardon? Well…

Student: I remember a hedge, there’s a hedge—

Ken: That’s right. That’s—

Student: All these people sort of in the hedge impaled on—

Ken: Right because they didn’t have sufficient capacity of attention or intention to penetrate the hedge.

Student: Okay.

Ken: Okay?

Students: [Unclear]

Ken: Oh…

Student: [Unclear] and the European version.

Student: And not inviting the witch—

Ken: [Laughs] Who is the witch?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Yes, yes, I know. Well, I’m going to let you sit with that one. You tell me this afternoon who the witch is, okay?

Student: Okay.

Ken: I’ll give you a hint. She’s not far away. [Laughter] We’ll talk about that this afternoon, okay? Other questions? Yes?

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Student: Correct me if I’m wrong, the first step is breathing in the experience and breathing out the experience of feeling.

Ken: Breathing in I experience the feeling.

Student: I experience the feeling.

Ken: Breathing out I experience the feeling. You’re using the breath as a base of attention, and you include in your experience of the breath the experience of the feeling, okay?

Student: And then I breathe in the experience of the reactive pattern?

Ken: No. Breathing in, I experience the reactions to the feeling.

Student: Okay.

Ken: Breathing out, I experience the reactions to the feeling, or the problem, or the situation, whatever. And then, Breathing in, I experience calm in the feeling; breathing out, I experience calm. You aren’t breathing the stuff in and out, you’re breathing in and out and experiencing these things, okay?

The fourth one: Breathing in, I experience ease in the feeling. Breathing out I experience ease. And the fifth one: Breathing in, I experience understanding. That happens quite spontaneously and when the understanding arises, you just rest in the understanding—you don’t have to analyze; just experience that.

Student: And is there a passage between the steps where you just recognize, as you said, that the mind does relax or ease into it, and then you feel it even more intensely.

Ken: Working with this technique you’ll find that you’re going to go round and round. In particular—in steps one and two—you’re going to go back and forth a lot. And then as you start to mature in three and four, you’re going to find you hit three, and then four, and you’re going to be back at one again. But each time you’re moving deeper and deeper into the experience.

So, these are phases of maturation or phases of fullness of experience. And when you experience fully, then step five takes place by itself. A lot of people try to make step five happen—it’s totally the wrong approach.

Another way of thinking about this—you’re going to sit with this feeling and let it open to you. It’s like your attention is the sun, and the feeling is a closed bud of a flower. And you’re just going to be there and in the warmth of your attention, the flower opens. You don’t make it open; you don’t start prying off the petals and things like that. You’re just there, and you let the feeling open to you. Okay?

Student: Thanks.

[ PERMALINK ]

Ken: All right, yes?

Student: I keep experiencing headaches in this feeling process.

Ken: Mmm-hmm.

Student [Unclear]. I get to a certain point and then either it’s [unclear] I don’t know…

Ken: It sounds like energy is rising in your body and some tension is coming up, so when you find yourself experiencing headaches, check your posture, relax your posture a little bit. Bring your attention down to here, because I suspect it’s all up here. And rest a bit more deeply with the breath; possibly don’t try so hard. In this, resting is very, very important. As I said, I think on Friday evening, the power of practice comes from resting. That’s where the real power is—you’re just there. Okay?

[ PERMALINK ]

Any other questions? Good. Let’s take a break, and then we’ll start the meditation. We’re almost on time for a change [laughter].


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