envelope

Monsters Under The Bed 2


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This morning, we talked about basic meditation. As Claudia said, this means basic in the sense that it’s fundamental. Because any kind of internal work requires a certain ability or capacity for clear, stable attention. In some respects you can regard resting meditation like scales in music: You never actually play scales in a concert, but the more you practice scales, the better your musicianship becomes. And it’s very, very much about building capacity.

This afternoon, we come to the content topic of the retreat, Monsters Under the Bed. We’re going to use a certain framework for this, which actually comes from the four noble truths: what’s the problem, what’s the genesis of the problem, what’s the solution, and how do you do it? So, this afternoon we’re going to be focusing on the problem, and George is going to start off with that.


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George: I was going to say it’s amazing how we think alike, but maybe it has more to do with the fact that you trained me. I was going to start with the four noble truths too since that’s where the Buddha started. Why not?

What is it that causes the confusion and struggle in our lives? It’s separating ourselves from experience and then reacting against it or reacting to it. The second noble truth is the cause of suffering, of struggle is thirst, tanha,, craving. You know, that thirst that can’t be satisfied. But I think that’s really short-hand for thirst or pushing. It’s either grasping or pushing something away or ignoring, you know. Those are the three ways of reacting. There’s infinite varieties in those three ways. But going back to the body again, it starts with sensations.

We’re sitting there, we’re sitting here. We’re sitting in our bodies. We can feel the weight of our body on our cushion. We can feel the movements and sensations of breathing. We feel warmth or cold. We feel hungry or full. We feel tired or jumpy. Whatever it is, there’s a cluster of sensations, of movements of energy in the body.

We suddenly decide we don’t like one or more of those sensations. We feel it’s happening to us, or we like it, and we want to keep it going. The first sign of the struggle is an impulse to grasp something, or to push something away. Or, if it’s not one of those, it’s, “Ah, it doesn’t matter,” or, “I didn’t even notice it in the first place, because I’ve got tunnel vision.” The emotional drama, the stories, the beliefs that that we cement down comes afterwards.

At first there’s an impulse. There’s a physical impulse coming out of the body or moving in the body, a movement of energy. You can call it attachment and aversion and delusion, or you can call it craving and ill-will and ignoring, but I like to get underneath those words. What does it feel like to see something, to feel something, that you like? There’s just that impulse to reach out and grab it, to keep it, to bring it, control it. If something arises you don’t like, before you even think about it, there’s stories and thoughts or emotional dramas about it, there’s an impulse to push it away or to get away.

The impulse to ignore is a little harder to notice, but it too has a physical sensation to it. It has a energetic movement to it. It’s the movement of collapsing in of losing the sense of space in the room or the sense of space and vastness of the body. It’s closing down to the fact that the kink in my neck can hurt over here, and yet my legs are pretty relaxed today. There is a vastness. When we ignore something, we close down to something, and everything else disappears.


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One way of working with this, rather than wrestling with all the stuff that gets built on those impulses, is to notice the impulse itself when it arises. In a sense, you’re not doing it. It’s certainly nothing you decide to do. It’s something that arises inside. It’s something that happens, a movement of energy. It’s reaching out to grasp something you like, pushing something away you don’t like, or ignoring something.

The reaction builds on that. It cascades. There’s additional reactions. If there is something you don’t like, there’s the impulse to push it away. After that, perhaps, comes a belief that you ought to get used to it or you ought to learn to like it, so then you start reacting against the impulse to push it away. And then you’re kind of simultaneously feeling guilty and resentful that the whole thing’s happening. Then youve got to deal with it all, and that’s where we get lost in it.

But if you can go back to that original impulse to grasp or push away, it’s kind of the counterpart in action to returning to the body. Feeling the sensations and movements of breathing rather than arguing with yourself or worrying about emotions and drama and thoughts. Just going back to the body. Going back to the sensations and movements that are driving those thoughts and emotions.


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So confusion, struggle, is caused by the impulse to react to what we experience. What is it that we’re trying to do? What is it we’re trying to get by reacting? Something happens that we don’t like, we want to get rid of it. Something happens we do like, we want to hang onto it. When we try to hang onto something, we’re ignoring the fact that everything changes. Some things change faster than others, but everything changes. Sensations, feelings and thoughts arise. They pass away. Some of them don’t pass away fast enough for us, so we’re basically fighting the fact that everything changes.

It also works the other way. With the things we like, we want to keep them around, we’re fighting the fact that everything changes. We want that sunset to last forever. We go on retreat and at first it’s horrible, and we just want to get out of there. By the end of the weekend, though, we’re liking the simplicity of it, and the fact that we don’t have to answer the phone, and suddenly now we want it to keep going. We’re fighting the passage of time, the arising and subsiding of feelings, sensations, events.

Another thing that we struggle with is to get our emotional needs met, whatever they are, or whatever we think they are. Another reaction is to survive, to build a sense of self in relation to meditation practice or a relationship. Ken and Claudia will be talking about trying to get our emotional needs met, trying to hang onto things and make things solid. I’d like to focus on the change.


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It’s not very popular in Western culture, but in traditional Buddhism probably the number one form of practice is contemplation on death and impermanence. You need some basic stability of attention, some basic mindfulness to be able to do that. So you build some capacity in that first.

Often the first practice that you do for a period of time after that is on change and impermanence. The big one for humans is the impermanence of our lives, but change is happening constantly. It’s happening in our bodies, happening in our emotional experience, happening in our thoughts, happening in the world around us. We tend not to notice it. We grasp after what we like and try to hang onto that. We push away what we don’t like and try to get rid of it as quickly as possible. We ignore the basic fact of change, constant but irregular change, that’s actually taking place. We ignore the fact that our experience arises due to causes and conditions, few of which we have some influence over, and subsides for the same reason. Namely, that causes and conditions fall apart.

You can approach it philosophically like that and then go through your life systematically trying to find things. What actually lasts in my life? Some things last longer than others. But what is actually dependable, what is going to be there forever? Try to find something. That’s the contemplative or philosophical approach.

There is a more immediate way, one that might be more useful in the context of the practices for this retreat, which is to notice those reactive impulses as they arise, at the moment they arise in the body. To notice the actual sensation, the movement in the body, of pushing away or grasping. Start with those. Begin to notice those. Notice how they happen moment after moment with practically everything that arises in experience: We like it and we grasp it. Or we don’t like it, we push it away. Or it doesn’t mean anything to us so we ignore it.

Watch those impulses and see how many of them are an impulse to do away with time, to do away with the passage of time, the flow of things, whether slow or fast. Whatever the causes and conditions of things arising, see how many of those impulses are to try to fight that.

For now just notice the impulse rather than resorting to philosophy or trying to change the impulse. Since my theme is usually the body, keep it as visceral and physical and realin the sense that it’s actually something arising.

I have an impulse to continue talking, but I think I won’t. [Laughter]

Kim: Is it on? Okay.

Ken: Dave, it’s very thoughtful of you but Kim chooses to stand sometimes because of her back.


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Claudia: As George mentioned, one of the reasons that we tend to react impulsively is to get our emotional needs met. We live in a culture that force-feeds us, on a continual basis, the line that you not only should get your emotional needs met, but if you’re not getting your emotional needs met, then something’s wrong somewhere. We put that expectation into all of our situations in our life, into our relationships, our marriages, our friendships, even to our children sometimes, into our careers. Because what the undercurrent for many of the activities we’re engaged in is, “Well, I’m not in this career just because I want to do this job. I’m in this career because I get my emotional needs met by doing whatever it is I’m doing.”


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So, the interesting thing about emotional needs is that the patterning that comes from that line are often familial patterns that are set very early in childhood. I think the research says that somewhere around the age of three you have patterned how you respond in certain situations. You’ve patterned your tone of voice and how you work with people. All of that comes out of the family environment, and of course life happens to us, trauma happens to us, so additional layers of emotional needs get layered on top of that as we grow and experience life.

Those emotional needs get turned into scripts and stories and often it doesn’t take too much to trigger them. The response becomes a very automatic, very impulsive response. Something happens, and with really no thought or intervention, that pattern just kicks in and starts to run. I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of having responded in that way, very impulsively, in sort of an emotional state, and then later on stepped back and said, “Why did I do that? Why did I say that?”

Later there’s all this internal talk that goes on from that, like, “I shouldn’t have said that,” and “What will happen from that,” and so on, but in the moment, that script just kicked right in.

Along with those emotional scripts are sort of core dramas. We often move from one pole to the other to get our emotional needs met. In one moment we’ll be a certain way where it will draw attention to us and feed our emotional needs to make us feel good about who we are, that we’re doing a good job. And in the next moment, we’re creating a problem. Any of you who work with people know that generally you favor one pole or another.

So why is it that some people are labeled problem-people? There’s always issues around those people, over and over again.


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The real challenge that we have is to try to build up our awareness so that we can begin to experience what is underneath those emotional scripts and those core dramas that we carry around with us.

I think that if you take the time to start reviewing the aftermath of those experiences you’ll see that they’re the cause of pretty serious suffering in most of our lives. They create the kind of difficulties that we carry around with us for long periods of time.

It’s one of the aims of our practice to begin to penetrate and to shed light on some of these core patterns and the way that they run, to begin to cut into those emotional behaviors. For example, how much energy do we put into caring about what other people think about us and whether they care at the level that we want them to care?

Our emotional needs tend to drive a whole lot of our activities and a lot of the time they’re completely below the level of awareness.

It’s not an easy process to engage in this. Ken always calls it out straight out. This is not about making you feel good and it’s not about making your life better. It is about waking you up so that you start to build awareness when you’re in one of those built-in emotional response patterns so that you can begin to actually cut those patterns so that they don’t run so automatically.


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Emotional patterning and responses to our emotional needs fuel a lot of the choices that we make in our life and the expectations that we carry around with us. It’s very painful when we’re sitting and feeling that those needs are not being met and our expectations aren’t being met. It can even move into our practice. Quite easily, actually! We bring some of those emotional needs directly into our practice and our expectations about what we should be getting from our practice and how it should feel when we practice. All of those are tied to our emotional needs and what we expect and hope that our practice will bring to us in terms of fulfilling those emotional needs.When that doesn’t happen there’s tremendous suffering and despair. We think, “My practice isn’t working. I’m not doing it right, something must be wrong because I’m not getting from it what I want.”


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There’s a story. One of the Nasrudin stories.

Nasrudin went to the minaret to do the call for prayer. Shortly after he did the call, he was seen running like mad away from the minaret. Somebody called out to him and said, “Nasrudin, what are you doing?” Nasrudin turned around and he said, “That was the most penetrating call to prayer that I’ve ever done. And I’m going to run as fast and as far as I possibly can so that I don’t have to hear it!”

That’s what happens when we hit one of these emotional patterns. We don’t really want to hear it. We don’t really want to feel it. We don’t really want to experience that struggle, so we run. The place we usually run is straight into our head and into our thinking. And we start analyzing it and thinking about it and dissecting it: “What should I have done differently?” or “What would make it better?”

Unfortunately none of that ever really cuts to the heart of what’s going on. The difficulty in our culture is that people, even and perhaps especially parents, build in the expectation that you’re this special person and therefore your emotional needs and everything you need in life should be given to you.

I work a lot with parents today and I am stunned by the extent they will go through to meet every emotional need that that child has, every emotional need. It’s incredible to me. And of course the children become very adept at getting them met. If one path to the parent doesn’t work, they’ve learned many roads to get those needs met.

I’ve seen parents literally throw up their hands with the child completely acting out, completely out of control, in total tantrum, demanding some crazy thing like, “I’m going to go to McDonald’s and get a meal,” or whatever. The parent will simply say “Uh, what can I do? What can I do?” The aftermath of that for the child is actually an incredibly painful life because when they grow up nobody’s there like mom and dad to meet those emotional needs.

I think if we all examine what we’ve carried forward in terms of expectations for life we will see that thewanting and the insisting and constantly driving to get those emotional needs met is part of the driving force of this impulsive behavior. We feel those needs are important. They’re part of who we are. We feel we deserve to have those emotional needs met.

Coming face to face with that is a pretty painful process to begin to work with. And that’s why we had you sit this morning to try and really get a strong base of attention, because the thing about dealing with Monsters Under the Bed is that they’re monsters! This takes some hard work and we’re here to provide some tools to do that. We begin by exploring some of the reasons for our impulsive behavior.

I think my time is up!


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Ken: George started off by providing a general framework first and then talking about making things last. We have a lot of instances of that. As he mentioned, one of the things we try to do is make our life last. I really enjoy the quote by the writer called William Saroyan who said, “We all know that we’re going to die, but I really thought an exception was going to be made in my case!” [Laughter]

For many of us that sums up our way of approaching life. And then Claudia talked about emotional needs. I’m going to get this clipped on so I don’t have to hold it.

George: What will you fidget with if you don’t hold on?

Ken: I’ll find something!

I’ve done a fair amount of executive coaching, business consulting, and one of the things that I come back to again and again is that many people’s careers are completely established, particularly in the entrepreneurial realm, by their desire or their need to complete some kind of relationship. It’s pretty standard fare that if you’re a venture capitalist and you want to determine whether an entrepreneur is going to be successful, the number one question you have to ask is “What is your relationship with your father?” And if he says, “I get along with my father,” you don’t invest in that guy! [Laughter] He doesn’t have anything to prove, you see? The single most reliable predictor of entrepreneurial success is tension in the father-son relationship.

Student: I should be rich! [Laughter]

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: So.

Student: What about women?

Ken: I’m not an expert on that, but I see it again and again in women. One way that it manifests is they do not want to let go of the relationship with their mother. They want to make it last forever, and there’s a great deal of fear. We also have this in men but I think it’s a little deeper in women because women have the same body as their mother. They’re very, very much connected. I find that over and over again.

But I just give that as one example. And as far as I know, it holds for women too, if they have tension with their father, they’re much more likely to be effective in building businesses and institutions. Don’t know what it’s like for the mother. Doesn’t usually come up, but that’s another whole field. I don’t want to get into it.


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So, we titled this retreat Monsters Under the Bedbecause there are these things lurking within our psyche which are determining very large swathes of our lives. And we have no idea that that’s running.

I’ll give you one example. There was a student of mine many, many years ago who, when he was 18, at the height of the Vietnam War, joined the Marines. He did a couple of tours in Vietnam. When he described what it’s like to be in combat in Vietnam, I just couldn’t imagine it.

He was doing the meditations on death and impermanence. One of which is to take a look at how you’re relationship with life and your worldview changes over the course of your life. You do it at about five-year intervals. He came in for one meeting with me and just sat down in the chair and said, “I never knew.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Well, my father died shortly before my 18th birthday. And he was a Marine. And it’s just very clear to me now, that’s why I joined the Marines. It was to keep that connection.”

He had no idea that that’s what was going on at the time, and that was a very large chunk of his life. He’d written three novels to get the Vietnam experience out of his system. So, we come up with many, many examples like that.


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The question is, who’s actually living your life? What’s actually living your life?” Is it the desire to make something last as George was talking about? Is it the concern to get old emotional needs met, things that were laid down in the past? Or is it the concern, which I’m going to be talking about now, to be somebody?

Now as Claudia pointed out, our culture really conditions us. I like what she said about how if you’re not getting your emotional needs met then something is wrong with you. From a Buddhist point of view this is so mind-blowingly insane you can’t really take it in! [Laughter]

Because all of that stuff’s in the past, and there’s no possibility of actually getting in there because those people aren’t around anymore! All you can get is some imitation of it. A lot of people do that. In our culture, the idea is that you are to be somebody. Claudia also said, “You’re special!”

The process of being conditioned to believe that you’re somebody special starts very, very early in our lives. Along with this comes the idea that if you aren’t somebody special and unique then there’s something wrong with you! This is an incredible burden to lay on people as a way of defining their lives, and it comes up again and again. I’ve noticed, with an odd mixture of bemusement and horror at myself, that having taught for so many years, every now and then if somebody talks to me a certain way I think “They shouldn’t talk to me that way, I’m a teacher.” I’ve noticed this little idea, “I’m somebody!” The bemusement and horror is how I go, “What’s that?!”

Claudia: [Unclear]

Ken: Yeah. But I look at it, I go, “What’s that doing here?” I go, “Okay, so, try to do something with that.”


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I’ll be quite straight with you, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, because one of the things I’ve become very interested in are the different forms of conditioning that work on us.

Now most of us are quite used to familial conditioning, which really sets up a lot of the emotional patterns. As Claudia said, that’s usually well set in place by three years. In fact, an awful lot of it is laid down in the first six months. It’s a little frightening. Any of you who are into attachment theory know about that. You spend the rest of your life dealing with those first six months.

One of my students came in and told me that his sixteen or seventeen year old son once said to him, “Dad, you just made a huge mistake in parenting. Do you know how much therapy I’m going to have to go through to work through this?” The student said, “What do you do when your son says that?” And I said “Here’s what you say. You look at your son, you say, ’You’re right, I really screwed up. But it’s your problem now!’” [Laughter]

And he said, “I can’t say that!”

In addition to that family and emotional stuff I’ve become aware that there’s a very significant component of conditioning, which I’m going to call sociological. That is, the way we behave and the way we act in certain situations is very largely dependent on our role in those situations.

If you are a worker bee, you’re going to come in and behave in certain ways and you usually form really good connections with your other workers and think, “They’re doing it to us again!” You get nice cohesiveness and you have fun, but you always feel slightly oppressed.

And then if you’re in middle-management it’s like, “Nobody loves me, I’m all alone and nobody understands my position. And I can’t get anything done. And I’m full of fear because they don’t like me below me and they don’t like me above me.” It’s just a mess!

And then if you’re in the top position or in a senior position it’s like, “Don’t bother me with all that stuff. You don’t know how much I have on my plate! I don’t have time for your little problems cause I’m trying to do this!” And you get authoritarian and demanding of people.

A lot of these behaviors are totally unproductive. The amazing thing is if you take those same people, put them in the same position but in different roles, their behaviors will change completely, just like that. [Ken snaps his fingers]

And so you take the person who is in the top position, you put them in the bottom. And you take the person who’s in the middle position, you put her on top, and they behave differently.

We actually see this in revolutions. In the beginning, when the revolution is getting going, everybody is like, “Oh, we’re all together, you know.” They’re oppressed and things like that. But as soon as the revolution is successful, what do you get? Turf wars. And they all start fighting with each other for influence and who controls the government now. So, that’s another whole level of conditioning, and it’s all about who we think we are.

This notion of being somebody is something that we carry in us. It’s something that is reflected back. It’s the first thing most people, at least in L.A., want to know, “Who are you?” And if you’re not somebody, then “Why am I talking to you?” It’s quite ridiculous.

I was at a dinner party once. They were having a very involved discussion, it was quite substantive. And then somebody asked, “Well, What do you do for a living?” I said, “I’m a Buddhist teacher.” Nobody listened to a word I said after that. [Laughter] That was it! I was out of the discussion—just like that! [Ken snaps fingers] [Laughter]

I thought, “Oh, that’s very interesting!” [Laughter]

Student: What do you make of that?

Ken: Well, it says a lot about how people perceived Buddhist teachers. I mean, that’s changed. That was a long time ago. I had a very different experience recently ’cause I was in a networking group and somebody said, “What do you do?” “I do executive coaching.” They said, “Well, everybody does that. What do you actually do?” I said, “Well, I also do Buddhist teaching.” “Oh, that’s really interesting!” [Laughter]

Student: [Unclear] trying to hang onto that, actually.

Ken: So, you get this stuff coming up all over things. So, how does this being somebody manifest in your experience? I’m torturing Claudia this weekend by making her tell stories. She’s doing a great job.

Claudia: It is torture. [Laughter]

Claudia: [Unclear]

Ken: But I love working with stories. So there’s a very short story about Nasrudin about being somebody. And he comes into a bank. Wants to cash a check. And the clerk says, “Do you have some ID?” Nasrudin puts his hand in his pocket, takes out a mirror, looks in it, and says, “Yup, that’s me.” [Laughter]


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Ken: Okay, before I got to the Q & A, just a few comments about meditation and what we want you to move into now. George talked about impulses, and how impulses originate in the body. What he said is that we see something that we like and there’s actually a physical reaction. Most of us don’t notice it, but there’s a leaning towards or a reaching out or trying to take. When something comes up that we don’t like, there’s another physical reaction that takes place. It’s very, very fast, depending on the strength of the reaction. Claudia talked about the emotional needs and how deeply they’re ingrained and I’ve talked a little bit about being somebody.

I don’t want you to get into an analytical frame of mind. We all have enough exposure to psychology that we can do that very easily. I want you to go through the body. This is really, really important. Take a situation, either a relatively recent one, or something big from some time ago, though I like to work with stuff that’s at maximum a month old, usually within a week so that the memory is relatively fresh. A situation where something took you over. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Maybe it only took you over for five minutes. Maybe it took you over for five hours. Maybe it took you over for five days! Explore it but don’t explore it in terms of trying to figure out what it was that took you over or how that came from your childhood and that it’s all because your mother hung a spider in your crib. Just forget all of that stuff.

What were the physical sensations? What were the physical sensations that arose? That’s going to involve you bringing the situation to mind, replaying it relatively slowly and observing what happens in your body. You’re not going to have the actual physical sensations because it’s a memory of the experience, but you are likely to be able to detect an echo. That’s sufficient for our purposes. When you’re able to detect that echo, then you just rest with it.

One of the things that has been coming up in the interviews, when those physical sensations come up, include them in your awareness. It’s not so helpful actually to put the attention right into that place in your body. It’s better to keep a sense of the body as a whole and include those physical sensations or the echo of those physical sensations.

If you don’t know how to keep awareness of your body as a whole, my suggestion is that all the time you’re meditating, you keep an awareness of the soles of your feet and the top of your head at the same time. I’m not very good at this stuff, so I like to reduce it to really simple things. That gives me a better chance of doing it. If you’re aware of the soles of your feet and the top of your head, you’re naturally aware of everything in your body. Anytime you’re getting lost or distracted, go back: Soles of the feet, top of the head.

And then you are aware of the physical sensations, which may be relatively faint. That is fine. Just rest in that experience. Replay the situation again. Now that you’re in touch with the physical sensations, they’ll be a little clearer. At some point, you may get some emotional sensations as well, and that’s fine. Include that in your awareness, in your attention.

When you can hold the physical and the emotional sensations together—and we’re just including more and more here—you may find to your surprise that you can rest there. One of my students just before the retreat emailed me and said, “This is so weird, Ken. I’ve got all of these disturbing emotions flying around, and I can just rest in them.” I wrote back, “Very good. Keep going.” [Laughter]

Not only can you rest there but you may find that you also begin to relax, without actually doing anything about all of that stuff. What happens, though not all of the time, is that as you actually begin to relax, one of two things happens: You either get a much clearer experience of that situation, so now you go back to the beginning and work with those physical sensations and those emotional sensations which is very good because now you’re moving deeper into all of that material, or you get a glimpse of the monster. The glimpse of the monster is some kind of understanding, “Oh, that’s what I was doing,” usually accompanied by feelings of nausea, shame etc. [Laughter] “I can’t believe that, how could I be doing that….”

Tomorrow we’re going to start talking about the different forms those monsters can take and so forth, but that’s the idea. So let me review that again.

You’re going to let your mind settle, just resting in the experience of breathing as we talked about this morning. Then recall a situation which was troublesome for you in some way. When I say troublesome, maybe you got really excited and so full of glee and so enjoying things that you completely forgot everybody else around you. Anything like that happen to anybody? You get carried away? We can get intoxicated by glee and excitement and success and good fortune just as much as we can get depressed and angry and despairing and so forth.

Recall it. Start sensing the physical sensations. Including them in your awareness of the body as a whole. Then include the emotional sensations. See if you find some rest in the experience, not bringing it to the experience, but in the experience itself. See if you find some relaxation. See if you find some understanding.

This is not an intellectual process at all. It begins with the body, and this is all about sensing. As we talked about this morning, listening deeply. Okay?

So, with that, we can open it up for questions. Anita, microphone here.

George: Probably have to turn it on.


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Anita: Okay, I wanted to know what happens when I’m trying to rest and all this analysis starts to come in.

Ken: Go back to your body.

Anita: That’s it?

Ken: That’s it.

Anita: Okay.

Ken: Yeah. That’s all thinking.

Anita: Yeah.

Ken: Yeah. So just go back to your body. When that analysis starts up, you go, “Okay, what am I experiencing physically?” It may take you several tries, but that analysis has started up because there’s been a physical movement away from all of that stuff. So, you go back to the body.

Anita: Okay.

Ken: Microphone, there.


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Student: I’m having trouble understanding what you mean by a “glimpse of the monster” if that’s not some sort of analytical insight.

Ken: Very good point. You can leave the mic on, so it doesn’t click on and off. It may be exactly the same understanding that would’ve come through an analytical process, but when it comes through this process, it arises as an experiential understanding, not an intellectual understanding. So, you may have been able to figure it out, but because it’s an experiential understanding, it carries a hell of a lot more weight in terms of actually changing things, than just an intellectual understanding. George, you want to answer that?

George: Yeah, a concrete example of that is knowing that smoking is bad for you. You can even look at pictures of you know, smokers’ lungs, etc. but imagining that you’re going to get cancer or reading the medical literature, even if you actually believe it, or you understand how cancer grows, doesn’t stop you from smoking.

It takes something more than thinking or reading or hearing before it actually allows you to be willing to go into the sensations of craving. You know, smoking’s not the problem—something’s making you smoke. My sarcastic responses to people are not really the problem. What’s happening that makes me do that? Something’s happening before that. Until I see that and see the whole horrible chain of it, knowing that I’m sarcastic isn’t going to change my behavior.

Ken: Good.

Other questions? Raquel? Nicholas, could you pass the mic back, please?


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Raquel: I have an ongoing gap in my understanding about trying to get my emotional needs met and how that’s a bad thing.

Ken: It’s not a bad thing. It’s just that resistance is futile!

Raquel: I understand it in terms of some of the examples. On the other hand there just seems like so much grey around my aspirations and motivations and wanting to connect with people. It gets really confusing for me around that. It’s not just today, it’s very ongoing. It’s layered with the expectations piece, like when there’s a household and there’s the expectation the kids are going to go to college, they just go. It just seems like there’s some benefit. I feel very hardwired around this one.

Claudia: Well, first of all, an expectation that somebody go to college is a little bit different than saying, for example, “You know, my life was so much better,” or “I didn’t get to go to college, I was deprived of college. I don’t want that to happen to my child, therefore you will be going to college.” What that builds in is an expectation for that child that emotionally he must go to college to meet the expectations of the parents. And that’s when you have college students committing suicide, dropping out and all kinds of problems and ramifications from that.

So, we have to be careful in the language that we use in terms of expectations. In terms of emotional expectations that you take into relationships and friendships and all of that. What your work is and what all of our work is is to move into the experience of what that feels like. What that needing feels like and to really rest in the body. And fully experience that needing so that we can get in touch with what’s driving it.

Ken: I’m going to go a little further. Claudia’s example of college is a very good one. One of my old friends up in Canada used to be in the registrar’s office. A student came in, or potential student, who was rejected for some reason. And he just sat down in the office, he said, “I can’t go home.”

Student: [Softly] Yeah.

Ken: He just didn’t move and it was six o’clock, it was time to close the office. And he said, “I can’t go home,” ’cause he hadn’t been accepted.

So, rather than trying to figure it out intellectually, which I suspect you might be doing, whatever comes up, experience it completely in just the way that I described so you know what it is. That way you don’t have to figure anything out. You follow?

Raquel: Mmm-hmm.

Ken: If you try to figure it out with this, you know how far you’re going to get?

Raquel: Not very far.

Ken: Okay, if you figure it out with this and this, what’s going to happen?

Raquel: [Unclear]

Ken: Ah, you’ve got the tools then! Good! All right, I think I heard the dinner bell ring.[Laughter]

Ken: Have a good dinner. See you at 7 o’clock.


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