Monsters Under The Bed 3

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All right. One day a samurai paid a visit to a Zen teacher and said, “I face death on the battlefield every time I go out. Please teach me about heaven and hell.” And the the Zen master looked at him and said, “Why would I waste my time with you?” And the samurai went, “Rrrrr,” and started to draw his sword. And the Zen master said, “That’s hell.” And the samurai master relaxed and smiled. And the Zen teacher said, “And that’s heaven.”

Now, in the Indian tradition and by extension, the Tibetan tradition, the basic cosmology of India and Tibet is the six realms. And as a friend of mine once pointed out—it probably it doesn’t originate with him—“A culture’s cosmology is always a reflection of their psychology.” So, we have the six realms. And this is a map of human psychology. There’s the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm, the human realm, the titan realm and the god realm. And, following up on the introductory anecdote that I just related, each of these realms describes how we experience the world when we are in the grip of one or other reactive emotion or emotional reaction.

So, you came here because you are interested in monsters under the bed. Well, what we are discussing right now is when the monsters have crawled out from under the bed and they’ve eaten you. And you are in them. And now you can only see the world through the eyes of the monster. What we’re going to do this morning is we’re going to take turns describing each of these worlds, how it appears through the eyes of that particular monster. We’re just going to take turns about that.

Then at the end of our session, I’ll give you some practice instructions about what to do with this. And when you’re listening to these descriptions, see what they resonate in you. Do you recognize these? Are these totally unfamiliar with you? Most of the times that I’ve worked with people on the six realms, they usually start off by saying, “Yeah, I can see a connection with such-and-such realm. Say, the hungry ghost realm. Yeah. And maybe a little bit of the god realm, okay.” By the time they finish doing the six realms, they go, “Oh, my god. Everything I experience is one realm or the other.” This is very important. Very important. That’s why it’s called samsara.

Samsara is called moving through the six realms, or, cycling through the six realms. And it’s projected out there into, you know, life after life. But when we read the chants in the morning—you know, “May I not be born in any of these six states.”—that’s put in metaphorical language. But what we are really praying for is, “May I never fall into any of these emotional reactions and thus experience the world in these ways.” So, I think that gives enough of a framework to start off with. I think George is going to start off with the hell realm.

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George: So, a few of us have been in physical fights. How many have been in more than an argument, a shouting match? Screaming and shouting? [Laughter] More. Okay. [Unclear] How many have been in maybe not a shouting match but a kind of an ongoing conflict with somebody? Just kind of…even more. Is there anybody who hasn’t been in an ongoing conflict? [Laughter] And how many feel little quivers of resentment, and kind of just don’t like somebody? Has that ever—okay. So, the hell realm—[Laughter]

The hell realm is beyond little resentments, little ongoing conflicts, just not quite liking somebody. It might even be beyond your experience of physical altercations. The hell realm—well, traditionally there’s sixteen—eight hot hells and there’s eight cold hells. And then there’s sixteen neighboring hells. And then there are the occasional hells. But go back if you can—maybe it’s recent enough, or maybe it was intense enough—go back to a serious conflict, the shouting match. And what was going on in your body? Not the words that were said or what you were arguing about.

But what was actually happening in your body? Was there heat? Was there pressure? Was there, you know, an impulse to strike? If you weren’t in a physical fight, did you wish it could go that way? And now, crank that up about a hundred fold. So, the heat of anger, or the kind of grinding pressure in your stomach. The entire world is made out of fire. The ground you walk on is red hot metal. You run as fast as you can to get your feet off of it, but as far as you can see, everything is hot and burning. It’s burning inside and outside. And you can’t get away from it.

There’s a feeling of claustrophobia as well as heat. So there’s pressure; the heat’s getting worse. It’s like the walls of a room coming together—slowly coming together—and they don’t stop when they get to you. You are crushed between the walls. And you are not just killed and put out of your misery. They don’t crush you and make you unconscious so that you don’t feel it. You feel your bones crunching. You feel your skin oozing out. That’s the crushing hell. There are burning hells and crushing hells. Maybe when you were in conflict, it felt like the heat was rising up through you. Think of it rising up through you because you are impaled on a red hot iron stake through the center of your body. The hell realm is relentless conflict and fighting. Those are the hot hells.

But there’s other kinds of conflict. Think of little resentments, things you’ve carried around either with a family member, a friend, or so-called friend, but there’s this undercurrent of resentment. It’s not hot anger; it’s cold anger. It’s sitting there—maybe a lump in your stomach—but it’s frozen in your body. You just can’t even speak to them, because your jaws are locked with this cold hatred and anger. And now amplify that by a hundred times. You’re so cold that you can’t move any part of your body. You’re beyond shivering. You’re so cold and so stiff that you can’t even shiver. You’re so cold that your skin begins to crack. And it’s excruciating, but you still can’t move. You’re stuck in a cold, frigid, rigid hell.

The neighboring hells are imagining there is some relief from that burning hell, the crushing hell or the freezing cold hell of resentment. It looks like there is some relief. In the burning hells, there’s some oasis off in the distance, a nice cool shady place with a nice river running through it. So you run there. You think you are going to get away. But you get there and it turns into a burning pit of fire. Just as you jump into the river, it turns into fire. So, the hell realm is based on conflict—as intense conflict as you’ve ever experienced or can imagine—and added to that is the feeling of being trapped. You can’t leave. You can’t resolve the conflict You can’t work it out. They say the hell realms last for aeons. So, the longest resentment you’ve ever carried, the worst recurring conflicts that you’ve ever gotten into with someone, multiply that endlessly.

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Ken: So, George has described a world based on opposition, in which everything that arises, you experience as being against you. A world in which everything is regarded as an enemy, or a foe, or a threat, or an attack. And that’s what anger is like. When you are in that state of anger, that’s what’s going on.

By contrast, the hungry ghost realm is how the world appears when you are in the grip of greed. Now, a question that came up yesterday is about need. And we’re going to be making a distinction here between need and want. Need describes the hungry ghost realm. And want describes the human realm.

And in respect to need, there is the feeling that whatever you need, you need for your survival. So there is a very definite element of desperation. We get this in the pop songs, you know, “Baby, I need your love.” It’s an awful lot of hungry ghost realm. What’s that one, I think it’s by Sting? “I’ll be watching you.” Yeah. “Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” [Laughter]. This is not exactly love.

Students: [Unclear]

Ken: Yeah. Yes. So, whatever the need is, in the hungry ghost realm you put yourself in the position that you need this. There’s no question that you need this. This is essential for your survival. And so there’s no internal questioning here.

Now, can the world supply this particular need? No. It’s a black hole. It’s a bottomless pit. And thus, you look at the world as being deficient. It’s not going to be able to meet your need.

There was a psychotherapist I knew who liked to give seminars to other psychotherapists. Not on how to do psychotherapy, but on their relationship with the profession. And he would always start them off with, “Okay. So you’re a psychotherapist. What do you want out of your psychotherapy profession? A million dollars? Two million dollars? What’s going to be enough?” And he consistently found that most of the people he worked with had not given any consideration to this. There was never going to be enough. And that creates a feeling of desperation.

And what I’ve found is that one of the great questions to ask oneself is, “What would be enough?” Because whenever you can’t answer that question, you are right at the edge if not already in the hungry ghost realm. And that pertains to any area of life.

Eric Fromm, the great psychoanalyst, died feeling like a complete failure. Why? He hadn’t won the Nobel Prize. He’d redefined psychoanalysis. He’d had a huge influence on it. He’d been awarded, recognized, etc. It was never enough. This is the hungry ghost realm.

You look out and it doesn’t matter what comes. You cannot see the beauty, the richness. You cannot enjoy it. It’s all a pile of shit. And that’s why the hungry ghost realm, in the traditional descriptions, is described as inner obscuration. There they are in a land of jewels and food and water, and everything they could possibly want. But whenever they touch something, it turns into shit. And if they drink something, it turns into urine. I had this experience with my—he’ll kill me for putting this on the podcast, but I don’t think he listens—

Student: Oh, he will now.

Ken: [Laughing]

Student: What’s his email address?

Ken: [Laughs] We were on a canoe trip and we had about eight kids and five adults. So we had a bunch of stuff. And every morning we had to figure out who was going to be at the front of the canoe, etc. You know, the usual logistical nightmare. And so we’d just got everything arranged, and my nephew said, “But I want to be at the front of the canoe.” I looked over everything, and I figured out, okay. I said to my niece, “Would you mind paddling for the first half of the morning in the middle?” And she said, “Sure. That would be fine.” And so I turned to him, my nephew, and said, “Okay, you can be in the front of the canoe.”

And this expression crossed his face. Right there. That’s what he’d been asking for, but it was not what he actually wanted. And when he was given it, he recognized, “No.” So there was this desperation in him that was reaching out for something. But when he got it, it wasn’t what he wanted. How many of you experience that? Okay. This is the hungry ghost realm: that you reach out, you try to take hold of it, and it’s not what you thought it was. “This isn’t what I wanted.” And so now you are even more frustrated. The world is not supplying you with what you want, and so you get even more desperate. So, that’s a rough idea of the hungry ghost realm.

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Claudia: So, next is the animal realm. You might think that Ken gave George and I absolutely no choices about what we were doing on this retreat. And that’s a good guess, but there were a few options that we were given. And one of them was to sort of choose what realms we wanted to talk about. I fully expected that he would switch them at the last minute just to torture us a little bit, but he didn’t. I specifically chose the animal realm not because I felt I had great identification with it when I first did these practices many years ago, but because I thought I had really not much in the animal realm. And over the years of my practice I have really recognized that I was really so asleep—and projecting the animal realm in so many aspects of my life—that it has actually become very fertile territory for me.

This summer, I was on a long retreat with Ken. And we were in New Mexico. And it’s stunningly beautiful there, big gorgeous blue skies, puffy clouds rolling through. Every afternoon the clouds roll up and there’s pretty much a thunder storm with thunder and lightning. And then by the next morning, it’s beautiful again, and you can go hiking and walking. And you can look across the plains. There’s even a couple of volcanoes in the vista. I mean, it’s just stunningly beautiful. It’s a beautiful place to practice.

And I was sitting out on the deck one day. And basically, this property is a cattle ranch so there are cows sort of running around here and there. And I sat there for a while, watching the cows. Here, they are. At first, I thought, “Wow! What a great life they have. Here’s this beautiful, beautiful spot, this beautiful sky all the time. They’s so lucky to live in this gorgeous place.” I mean, here they are. What bothers them? You know? And then I looked at their bodies, their heads always down on the ground. That’s all they did. They never looked up. They never saw that sky. They didn’t appreciate those clouds rolling in every day, or those beautiful sunsets, or those gorgeous sunrises. They never saw them. And I…I just kind of felt that right in the pit of my stomach.

The animal realm is ruled by instinct. And one of the qualities of a life ruled by instinct is a very, very, deep dullness. You miss most of what’s going on around you because your major concerns are just following that automatic, instinctual flow. And, yes, it’s best demonstrated in animals. Their fear of being prey to someone else. And yes, there are cattle bones on these acres where you know an occasional mountain lion has taken them out. Or you know, coyotes are feasting on what’s left over, or whatever. A few bears running around, too. So, it’s a fear of being killed and eaten by other animals. And constant vigilance, constantly trying to protect and stay alive. But it’s also that dull, repetitive quality of simply being asleep to most of what’s in your environment.

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I worked in the college system for about twenty years. And I had a very good friend who was a new dean. I was sort of mentoring her along. She was coming to work, getting in between 7:00 and 7:30 in the morning and often wasn’t leaving until well after 7:00 at night. Sometimes later than that. And a couple of times I tried to set up a lunch date with her. “Let’s go have lunch. We can visit. We can talk. I can catch up on how it’s going in your department. Whatever.” No. No lunch breaks.

One day at lunch, when I finally got her out, she described to me what her day felt like. She said, “I get up in the morning. I take my shower. I put on my work clothes. Maybe I grab a lunch to take with me or some food, but sometimes I don’t. I go to work and I work. I can’t tell you what the day looked like. I can’t tell you if it rained or if it was sunny. I can’t tell you what my secretary wore that day. I don’t know what my husband was doing during the day. I just worked. I did my job. When my job was over, I got in my car and I drove home. And I can’t tell you what was on that road. I can’t tell you if anything changed on that commute path. I just drove home.”

That’s a life filled with dullness. And it’s pretty easy in our culture to fall into this realm. Because we’re under a lot of pressure. We all carry a lot of roles and responsibilities. There’s a constant flow of stimuli around us. And one way of coping with some of that is to just fall asleep in some of it. So we don’t have to experience it. And we don’t have to pay attention to it. And we just put ourselves into an automatic pilot, instinctual kind of place. We know how to do this. We know how to take our showers. We know how to eat our same breakfast every morning. We know how to drive on our commute lane. We know all that. So we don’t really have to experience it. And we don’t. But at the end of the day, we have literally missed that portion of our life. Those moments are gone. And we weren’t in them.

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So, I think that if you spend some time with the animal realm, you’ll be able to find some pretty fertile territory there for the places in your life where you’ve really just shut down. I know personally one of the places I tend to shut down is when I come home at night. I’m tired, don’t really want to have a conversation with anybody that lives with me. Like my husband. It’s like: “Is there food on the table? Can I eat my dinner?” And, “Can you go away and leave me alone for a while?” And on more than one occasion, he’s pointed out to me that it’s not really very pleasurable to live with somebody whose completely zoned out. So it does bring me back to where I’m at, at that point.

So, if you explore this realm—and I hope you will—you want to look for those instinctual, dull, really asleep areas in your life where you’re projecting this realm.

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Ken: Next is the human realm. Now, what we’ve described up to this point—the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm—in traditional teaching they’re described as unmitigated suffering. Somebody was asking, I think, the difference between suffering and pain, recently. Pain is a sensation. Suffering is the reaction to experience. And so, when we say that the three lower realms are unmitigated suffering, it’s a constant struggle. You can think of it as just a constant struggle. Cause you’re always trying to get something, and it just never works out.

When you get into the higher realms, it gets a little more complex. You actually get to enjoy things once in a while. So, in the human realm it’s dominated by want as opposed to need. And the difference between want and need is that you don’t regard a want as something that is essential for your survival. Now, in the traditional teachings of the human realm, you have the four major sufferings of birth, old age, illness and death. We’re just going to put those aside for the time being. [Laughter]

Student: Not to worry.

Ken: [Laughter] Then you have the four minor sufferings: hanging out with people you don’t want to hang out with, not being able to hang out with people you do want to hang out with, trying to get what you want, and trying to hold on to what you have.

Many years ago, I had an office in Orange County and there was a management consultant that worked with me. He made his money by taking over companies that were in really, really deep trouble. He specialized in the health care industry. You know, turning them around within six months or so. He’d just move in and just do what was necessary. So, we were working through various topics and we got to the six realms. We got to the human realm, and I said, “And these are the four minor sufferings.”

And he said, “That’s what my life consists of: having to hang out with people I don’t want to hang out with, not being able to hang out with people I do want to hang out with, trying to get what I want, and trying to keep what I have. That’s it.” Because, you know, we have to work. We don’t often choose our work, our co-workers. We get a boss we don’t like, well, that’s that. The only choice we have then is to quit and change jobs, which a lot of people do.

People always say they want to spend more time with their family. There was another person that I worked with in another capacity, and I’d been called in to coach her. I said, “What’s one thing you want to change about your life?” She said, “I want to spend more time with my family.” She had twins that were four years old at this time. I said, “Okay, that’s easy. Leave at 6:00.” “I can’t do that.” “Why not?” “Well, people always give me work at 5:00. If I left at 6:00 I’d never get it done. I’m always here to 7:00, 7:30.” I said, “Just leave at 6:00. There aren’t any machine gun-toting guards at the door. You can just walk out at 6:00.”

Student: That would be the hell realm. [Laughter]

Ken: And I said, “I’ll tell you what is going to happen. If you leave at 6:00 and start doing that, people will stop giving you work at 5:00 and they will give it to you at 4:00. And then you’ll be able to get it done and leave at 6:00.” And so the first time, she literally tiptoed out of the office, hoping that no one would see her. Nobody of course said anything. And she got to spend more time with her family. Now, this is a good example of the animal realm. Because she was just doing, you know, without thinking about it. But there is this impulse to spend more time with people that she wanted. And that was a struggle for her.

So, the frustrating thing about the human realm is that you actually enjoy things. It’s very different from the hungry ghost realm, because you never enjoy anything there. Just, nothing satisfies at all. But in the human realm, you get to enjoy things. You get to enjoy good food, a good movie, sex, all kinds of things. But there’s only one thing that’s a problem there—you want more! And you are willing to work really, really hard to get more of it. And of course, the harder you work, the less chance you have to enjoy it. And now you’re back in the same old cycle again.

So, in practice, just look at this cycle of enjoying and then working hard to enjoy it again. It’s just like food, you know. You have this good meal, and then four hours later, for some reason you’re hungry again. It’s very irritating. And now you’ve got to go and cook another meal, and go through the whole rigamarole once more.

Okay. Titan. That’s you.

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George: Titan is a good word, a good English word. Or a Greek word, whatever it is. Because, I mean, what comes to mind when you think of a titan? Somebody big. Somebody strong. Somebody prominent. Somebody powerful. Titans of industry or titans of Hollywood. Or, you know, like stars. Stars are beautiful, big, rich, powerful. Those are the titans. The only problem is, the titans—as fancy as their house with the swimming pool and the servants and the whole thing, no matter how fancy their place is—they can see on the next hill the god realm. They are not quite as powerful as the gods. They are not quite as beautiful. They’re not quite as rich.

Whenever they look over to the god realm, there’s what Kangyur Rinpoche—19th century teacher—called the “thorn of jealousy.” Just something sticking in you. “I should have that, too. I should have that house. They have a six-car garage. My three-car garage…it’s just not right. But I’m powerful. I’m rich. I know how to get things done. I’m going to get it. I’m going to move into that other gated community. I’m going to get there.” They’re fast. They’re powerful. They’re ruthless. So they do whatever it takes to get out of being in the jealous god realm—the titan realm—to get to the god realm. But they never win. They never get it.

So maybe you’re not rich. Maybe you’re rich enough. Maybe you have a sense of contentment. You don’t really want a six-car garage. But is there someplace in your life where you look around and see somebody else has it a little better? Maybe for you it’s not money. Maybe it’s expertise or knowledge. Maybe it’s mastery of a skill at work or a sport. You’re pretty good at it. You might be really good at it. But there’s somebody else that’s a little better. And that thorn of jealousy is just stuck in your side and you can’t shake it. You can’t really enjoy what you’ve got even though you’ve got plenty. That thorn is a poisoned thorn—kind of like a bee sting. There’s something seeping into your body that just makes you sick—green with envy.

And you’re willing to do anything to better your already excellent position so that it’s perfect. Everything’s got to be perfect. And everything turns into a competition, whether it’s at work, or in sports, or getting together with your family. You’re a joker, but your brother’s even funnier. It’s just not right. And it tends to seep from one area of life to another. So if you tend to be a little jealous, a little envious, a little competitive at work; what happens when you are out at the highway driving to work and somebody cuts in front of you? You are already going seventy-five miles an hour in your BMW with the surround sound stereo. But an even nicer…you know, a Jaguar passes you going eighty-five. [Laughter]

I think it was Trungpa that called it “the paranoia of the jealous god realm.” Where everything, no matter what you’ve got, everywhere you turn, somebody has got it a little bit better. That kind of universal, 360-degree jealousy becomes paranoia. Trungpa called it “ego’s radar.” You walk into a room, and the first thing your ego picks up is the one person whose got it better than you. [Laughter] And you just can’t let it go, no matter what you’ve got.

So in some ways it’s like the hungry ghost realm, except that you’ve got lots. You’ve got what everybody else wants. The hungry ghost couldn’t dream of what you’ve got. But like the hungry ghost realm, it doesn’t satisfy. And like the god realm, there’s opposition, there’s conflict, you love to fight. You can’t resist a competition—a fight—in any area of your life. So there’s constant fighting, quarreling, striving, competition—but you never win. You are always the loser. I would hate to spend any time there. [Laughter]

And that’s why I really can’t figure out why Ken asked me to do the titan realm. After all the time we’ve spent together, you know I’m not competitive. [Laughter] And for instance, it would never leak into the spiritual practice area. Like being the best meditator. It couldn’t happen. So I don’t have to worry about it.

Claudia: Our final realm is the god realm.

George: You’re probably going to do this better than I am. [Laughter]

George: We’ll see who does better this afternoon. [Laughter] Go ahead. [Laughter]

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Claudia: Okay. The god realm. The god realm is where you have everything. You have the best house, the best food, the fastest car—one of those nice Italian jobs. And you have servants, so, you know: a housekeeper who cleans up all of your messes, a cook to prepare all of your meals, someone to do the shopping so you never have to wait in lines or go to the bank or sit in commute traffic. Because of course you have a limo, or a driver, or somebody who takes you where you need to go. When you fly, you either have your own jet or you can fly first class on Virgin Atlantic where they give you back rubs and do your nails and whatever else you need.

You have the good life. Plenty of money. You never have to worry about the tax bills or the property tax bills or your PG&E winter bill when it goes sky-high or any of those things. You don’t even know what your bills are. You have an attorney or a C.P.A. who handles all of your bills. You never see them. If somebody asked you, “Gee, in this mansion, what’s it cost you to heat this place,” you wouldn’t have any idea. You wouldn’t know. You wouldn’t care.

Now, you may think, “Well, I really don’t have any fertile ground here to work with in the god realm.” But the god realm is a place where you are protecting what you have. It’s the areas in your life where you’ve got something that’s really important to you, and you don’t want to lose it. And that protection moves you into a state of indifference about where other people are at. Think about the god realm—they don’t really care about the people in the hell realms or the hungry ghost realm. They don’t even look at that. Their world is so protected and so safe and so secure that they don’t even have to come into contact with that. So there’s no way that they have to see it or feel it or experience the suffering of anyone else. And basically, they’ve done everything in their power to prevent themselves from any suffering.

Unfortunately, there are some things that are inevitable. My father used to say, “death and taxes.” And in the god realm taxes probably aren’t a huge issue, although if you have a lot of money you do pay a lot. But death and old age and the deterioration of one’s life, no matter how much money you have, no matter how many expensive doctors you can pay for, sooner or later death happens. And so regardless of how much energy and time and money go into trying to protect who we are and what we’re about and the life we’re living, death comes anyway. So there is suffering and a fall—even in the god realm.

The state of indifference in the god realm is similar in some ways to the animal realm. In the animal realm, that dullness means that you don’t experience the fullness of life. And that’s also true in the god realm, because you’re blocking any form of suffering or pain that you possibly can from your protected, safe, wonderful, rich, luscious environment. So you’re missing that huge segment of life where most of the world lives.

And you may think that there’s really not very many people in this world that live in that realm. But I think you’ll be surprised. I was surprised. Money, of course, changes things. And it doesn’t take very long when people come upon money, especially rather quickly. I ran into a guy that develops some software in the Silicone Valley. And he sold his rights to what he developed for a couple of million dollars. And he was pretty young—he was like in his early forties—when he got the money. He just sold it out.

He had a lot of money, he wasn’t married, and he set about just really creating an isolated world that he lived in. He got himself a beautiful house overlooking Folsom Lake, which is above Sacramento and is an area where, oh, some of the major football or basketball players live, and some movie stars live. A beautiful mansion, but it was in a fairly isolated area with a lot of acreage, so he was kind of tucked away. And he was alone. There was nobody in his life to make him suffer. And all of his needs were met. [Laughter] [Unclear] Well, that’s what happens in relationships, that’s why they work for it.

Student: But how did he get all of his needs met, if he didn’t have anybody else in his life?

Claudia: You know, he thought that would satisfy him. And in some ways he was pretty happy. But he was aging. He couldn’t do the athletic things that he used to do. He’d had a couple of injuries. And as he was aging, he was starting to rethink this life that he’d created for himself. By many marks in our culture, he’d had it all. He’d done the big deal. He’d hit the jackpot. He’d got money. He had the beautiful house. He had a beautiful location. He had friends—you know he had a pretty active social life. And he was happy. But as he aged and things didn’t bring the same quality of satisfaction to him, he began to realize that he couldn’t protect himself and started looking for ways to change his life. So that’s the god realm.

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Ken: Now, in working with these realms in practice. George, Claudia and I have been describing them through a mixture of metaphor and emotional experience. Claudia, for instance, was using the metaphor of money and wealth, as George was to illustrate the titan realm. But the essential feature is the emotional quality.

I know some people who feel morally superior to everybody. That’s a form of god realm. They are living the right moral life, and their morals are unassailable. They have the right way of approaching life and everybody else is wrong. And that’s why their lives aren’t working—“My life is the right one.”

And as Claudia was describing, there’s that barricading going on. Not allowing any questioning in at all. So it becomes very inflexible. And more and more effort goes into shutting the world out, so one can maintain one’s feeling of moral superiority. So, that’s in a totally different arena of life. And as George was describing, any area where we feel competition or we’re struggling to achieve something so we can satisfy that internal sense of deficiency that dominates the titan realm. So when you’re contemplating these realms, don’t think of these things in terms of literalness, of actual places or lifestyles or things like that. Look inside and see where those particular behaviors or emotional reactions are operating.

So, in the practice—we’re going to be spending the rest of the morning and probably into the evening on this—I want you to look at situations in your life where you’ve been in one or other of the six realms. So as George started out, you may take an experience of conflict. Now, most of the time, when we’re experiencing conflict, we’re pretty shut down. Probably in the animal realm just doing things automatically.

How many of you saw the movie, Thank You for Smoking? Yeah. There’s a wonderful animal realm line in that movie, “Why are you doing this to me?” And what is the answer, always? “I’m just trying to pay my mortgage.” That’s the animal realm. You know, so they’re doing these horrible things to each other, and they’re good friends and things like that. But why? “I’m just trying to pay my mortgage.” They’re just doing it without thinking.

So, take an area where you experience conflict or where anger comes up for you, and how do you experience the world when you’re in the grip of anger? This is going to involve inviting in the feeling of anger, and then looking, “How do I experience the world when I’m like this?” Now, when I say the world, I mean the totality of your experience. As we’ve been emphasizing in this retreat, you start off with the body. “How do I experience my body when I’m in anger, or when anger is present?” And you have the sensations of heat and claustrophobia and crushing and pressure or rigidity, and all of those things that George was describing.

And in the hungry ghost realm, how do you experience the world when you’re feeling needy? That’s the hungry ghost realm. Well, you feel less-than. The world looks like a desert. It’s parched ground. There’s nothing out there for you. The slightest thing you feel this craving for. You know, when you feel needy, you feel it’s like your fingers get long and thin. And they reach out and they’re trying to grasp stuff.

So look at the physical sensations that arise. And the emotional sensations that arise. Don’t try and remedy this stuff. The purpose of this next section of practice is to recognize these states and these emotional movements within you. And a great deal comes from just recognizing them. We’re not trying to remedy them at this point, but to at least be able to recognize them when they arise. And I want to emphasize that key to this is being to be able to identify the physical sensations connected with when you move into the realm. That’s going to be extremely useful to you in your day to day lives. If you can use this period of practice here in the retreat so that, “Oh, I’m feeling needy.”

Then the animal realm. Open to that experience of just doing things automatically. And as Claudia was describing, you know, there are the cows, “Munch, munch, munch, munch, munch, munch.” Beautiful sky, thunderstorms, rainbows; doesn’t matter. “Munch, munch, munch, munch, munch.” [Laughter]

I was teaching a retreat up at Cloud Mountain, which is in Washington state. And they have peacocks there. Now, have you ever observed a peacock? Here’s what a peacock does—[Demonstrates] [Laughter] I timed it. Never lets more than thirty seconds go by without checking it’s environment. You know. But every thirty seconds.

George: And there are no threats at Cloud Mountain. It’s a bunch of Buddhists walking around, going, “Oh, beautiful.”

Ken: But there it is, checking the environment every thirty seconds like clockwork. Animal realm. Okay? So, where do you have that kind of automatic behavior? And in particular, what does it feel like, you know, when you are functioning that way in your life?

Human realm, well, that’s one arguably that we’re pretty familiar with. And it goes back to those four things that I was describing. Well, actually make it simple: Enjoying things and then the thirst that comes from wanting more. It’s not that you don’t experience satiation. You know, you feel full and contented, but then you want it again, and again, and again.

George: [Unclear] it’s this busyness to try to get.

Ken: Exactly.

George: Working, working, working [unclear]

Ken: Yeah. And then the titan realm. George was describing that in terms of paranoia. Where do you feel that? There was one woman in one of my groups who said, “I don’t get the titan realm at all.” She was a newspaper reporter. She was very nice woman. So I looked at her and said, “Okay. You have a good story. The guy at the desk next to you—his story is not quite as interesting. But he gets two column inches for his story, and you’ve got one.” And she went, “Oh, yeah. I’d feel something there.” [Laughter] So, where do you feel that competition, or having to prove yourself by achieving something?

There’s so many areas where people exert themselves—in their work, in athletics, in various sports and games and things like that—where they are trying to prove something to somebody. And that’s all titan realm.

And then the god realm. We’ll be using this tomorrow in one of the exercises, but here is the phrase that sums up the god realm completely: “I’m right, and that’s just how it is.” [Laughter] So, anybody recognize that one? [Laughter] Okay. So where in your life—not guilty, Ron? You’re not guilty of this at all? Okay, glad to know that—

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Okay. So, where in your life do you hold that attitude? “I’m right, and that’s just how it is.” [Laughter]

Student: [Unclear] [Laughter]

Ken: I think we touched something here. [Laughter]

Students: [Unclear] [Laughter]

Ken: Okay. So, this could be a lot of energy in this meditation. You go through things. I mean, where in your life do you just experience things in terms of opposition? That’s the hell realm. Where in your life do you feel that you’re never going to get enough? Hungry ghost realm. Where in your life are you on autopilot? Animal realm. Where in your life do you enjoy things, and you make yourself so busy because you want to enjoy them more? Where in your life are you trying to prove who you are by achieving something—with all the jealousy and paranoia that comes associated with that? And where in your life are you right, and that’s just how it is?

Student: Could you just say that again? [Unclear]

Ken: All six of them?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Oh, thank you, yes. I forgot about that.

[Discussion with students about book and handouts]

Ken: Okay, so I’ll go through those again quickly.

Where in your life do you experience things in terms of opposition? There is a psychotherapist in my office building who was very, very irritated at another psychotherapist because of the way she billed her clients. And I said to her, “Well, you could either take it up with her, you could let it go, or you can suffer.” But that was her hell realm.

Where in your life do you feel like you’re never going to get enough? That’s the hungry ghost realm.

The titan realm is, “Where in your life do you feel you’re never going to be enough?” So you’re always trying to prove yourself through some kind of achievement.

Animal realm is, “Where do you just do things on autopilot?”

And human realm is, “Where do you get so busy that you find yourself unable to enjoy things?” When ostensibly, the reason you are getting busy is to be able to enjoy things. There’s kind of an inherent contradiction in the human realm.

And where in your life do you feel that you are superior and above it all? Or—I should amend that—where you are special and different from everybody else? Because an inferiority complex is a kind of inverse god realm—“Nobody is as bad as me.”

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Pardon? No, that’s an inverse god realm. You’re proud about how bad you are. Yeah. Okay. That’s just how it is. “Nobody can touch me in terms of vileness.” It’s all about pride, you see.

So, when you’re working with these—as we’ve emphasized before, and this is very, very important—find that area of your life and then notice how you experience your body when you’re in that emotion. And look at how you experience the world also. But what emotions and what stories come up, but always start with the body. And this, as I said, will be very helpful in your daily lives because the more able you are to recognize the physical sensations associated with the realm, the more quickly you’ll pick up when you are moving into that realm in your daily life.

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I remember one instance when there was a kind of crisis in the Buddhist community. I was having a very, very difficult and sensitive phone call with some senior people in one of the other Buddhist traditions. I was in my office, and I was chatting on the phone, and I was cool here, and I was cool here, and I was cool here, and I watched and I saw my knees were going like this. And I think, “Oh, you’re a lot more upset and disturbed and a little fearful than you are giving yourself credit for here, Ken.” And, okay. So, I just included that in my experience. But it alerted me that, no, I wasn’t as cool and calm and collected as I thought I was all up here. Because my legs were just going like that. It was something that upset me very, very deeply.

So, that’s what I want you to do in the meditation. Now is this clear enough instruction for you? Yes, Caroline?

Caroline: Now what realm would that be in?

Ken: Fear? Well—

Caroline: The titan?

Ken: No, it was probably more animal realm than anything. Because I was just feeling like there was some threat to my survival.

George: Although there is fear in every realm.

Ken: Yeah.

George: Projecting ourselves, creating those realms comes out of fear. So, in conflict you’re always afraid of being attacked. In the hungry ghost realm you’re afraid you’re never going to be satisfied.

Ken: Being attacked.

Student: Or being alone.

Ken: Possibly. Yeah. But it’s more a fear of being attacked in the hell realm.

George: In the god realm, you’re superior and you’re insulated and you’re secure. But there’s eventually—at some point—there’s something in the back of your mind, “Maybe I can’t hang on to this. Maybe this isn’t going to last forever.” So there’s fear in every realm.

Ken: Yes?

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Thank you. Thank you for reminding me.

Student: [Unclear] Well I now know why I like all of those gladiator movies so much. [Laughter] But there’s so much material for me to work with. When we’re meditating, would you recommend having one…one thing to work with, or lots of them or—

Ken: Good question. And thank you for bringing it up, because my instruction has been incomplete.

First, always work from a base of stability. Doing these meditations can stir up a whole bunch of stuff. And you can find yourself in a mass of thoughts. Just stop and let everything drop. Come back and rest with the breath, until things have settled down a bit.

Then I suggest you begin with a realm that you feel a kind of resonance with. And open to your experience of that realm. And as much as possible get the physical sensations associated with that.

And when you can stay in that—and actually breathe and rest in the physical sensations associated with that realm—possibly include some of the emotional sensations. That’s a good basis. What we’re doing in this retreat isn’t the idea of, “you’re going to work through everything in this retreat.” But I want you to get enough experience that you know how these tools work. So when you’re able to do that, then move on to another realm. Realistically, spend at least five minutes on each realm. And you could easily spend fifteen. So in the three periods, you could quite reasonably work through all six realms—spending about ten minutes in each one—and still have plenty of time to let the mind rest.

If you just move through them after a minute or two, you’re not going to really get that—how it is in the body. And that’s really what I want you to go for. When I’m in this realm, how does it feel in the body?

Hand the microphone to David, please.

David: What happens—Raquel is a good technology person. What happens when you, when you bring up the physical sensations, and you rest in it, and it dissipates quickly—like within fifteen, twenty, thirty seconds—then, is it done?

Ken: Very unlikely. If it dissipates within fifteen to thirty seconds, it’s more than likely that some blocking mechanism has started up. So, when that happens, stay in the feeling of the realm. Because you’re able to rest there. And then just keep opening to the feeling. It will be more at the emotional level. But as you keep opening to the emotional level, you’ll start getting the physical come up again. But it will be different.

Usually when things dissipate that quickly, it’s more that they appear to disappear than that they actually disappear.

David: So you just keep recreating the situation, or—

Ken: I would come back to the situation. But because there’s that blocking going on in the body—or it sounds like there’s that blocking going on in the the body—then I would advise you to rest just in the emotion. Now, if the emotion shuts down—like it dissipates in fifteen or thirty seconds—then I would advise you to rest in whatever you’re experiencing right there. Which will be a kind of stillness, but I suspect that it will have a quality of dullness in it. And there will be a quality of not feeling in the body. Not feeling is an experience.

So, you rest in the experience of not feeling. Okay? Now, it’s going to feel very vague, and like amorphous, there isn’t much to go on. It’ll be very easy to fall into dullness. But resting in the experience of not feeling is what is going to start bringing attention to the mechanism of not being able to feel. Is that clear? Good. Okay. One other question, and then we need to break. Okay, two. One, two. Microphone to Amy.

Amy: I have almost the opposite problem in that emotions come tumbling in really quickly. And seem to overwhelm the physical sensations for me. That definitely happened last night with the first meditation we tried, where, you know, all of a sudden I was really up in my head and thinking how angry I was and not feeling my body. So what would you recommend? Do you parse those? Can you possibly parse those?

Ken: If you have a very powerful emotion coming up, there are two methods that I know of. And one works better for some people, and one works better for others.

One is experience one-tenth or one-hundredth of the emotion. It’s you know like you have a furnace, like, and if you open the door you get that blast of heat. So you just open the door a little bit. That’s one method.

For some people that doesn’t work at all. They open the door a little bit, it’s like having it full open. And what I recommend with them is they put the emotion on the other side of the room. Or to some suitable distance. So it’s still in their awareness—and they can feel it—but it’s not threatening. And it’s not overwhelming.

So, in either case you’re titrating how much of the emotion you’re actually opening to. And when you do that, again go to the physical sensations. Because the more you go to the physical sensations, the more you build up the capacity. Okay?

George: When you’re keeping the emotion there, you’re still relating to it. There’s still something going on with the emotion.

Ken: You have to keep it in the room. Okay. Sophie?

Sophie: Well, that was the first part of my question, which was helpful. The second part was when we’re looking at identifying with the different realms, how does that not become like thinking or another concept?

Ken: Because you keep going to the body. “What am I experiencing in the body?” And you’re resting with that.

Sophie: But then if I’m feeling, like, anxious or something, I say, “Oh, that’s from the hungry ghost.” Then I say, “Oh, thinking,” and then go back to the feeling?

Ken: Well, anxiety is to emotion what froth is to beer. [Laughter] Okay? So you go below the anxiety. What is there? And what am I experiencing in the body. And you say, “Okay, here’s an area that I feel that there’s never anything enough. What do I experience in the body when there’s not enough?” I mean, do you have enough money?

Sophie: Yes.

Ken: Okay, what’s something you don’t have enough of? [Laughter]

Sophie: I have enough of everything.

Ken: You have enough of everything. Okay.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Pardon? [Laughter] I was just going to say that, so—you’re on top of it all?

Sophie: No.

Ken: Okay, titan realm then, as Dave said. Okay. What are you trying to prove?

Sophie: That I’m good enough.

Ken: Okay. What are you experiencing in your body right now? “I’m not good enough. I’ve got to prove that I’m good enough.” What do you experience in your body?

Sophie: That it’s shaky.

Ken: You can use the microphone, please.

Sophie: I experience shakiness.

Ken: Okay. That’s where you rest. That’s not thinking. So you breathe and you experience that shakiness. Thank you for asking this, and thank you for being so generous. But that’s exactly how you do the meditation. You bring up that state, and there’s the body sensation. Now you breathe, just experiencing that. It will last for a period of time and then it will dissipate. And then you bring it back. After a while you won’t be able to bring it back; you’ve run out of juice. Then it’s time to move onto something else. Okay? So thank you very much. Okay.

We need to break here. We’ve gone over, but that happens. Who’s on han? If you could ring immediately. And so we’ll start meditation five minutes late.

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