envelope

Surviving Stressful Times 1


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Okay, so the question I wanted to start with, then, is, “How many of you are being affected directly by what is happening?” Now, that’s going to take different forms for different people. A lot of people who are in retirement or close to retirement have taken a hit in their 401k’s or retirement plans, and that can be anything from 10 to15 per cent to 30 to 50 per cent. Other people, at different stages of their lives, are finding it difficult to find work or they’re afraid of leaving their work because of loss of health insurance, and so they’re locked into certain things. Some people have not been able to move because they can’t sell houses, and things like that.

So just very, very quickly, those of you who can say a word, how are things affecting you? I’m not going to go around and do a poll—just anybody who wants to volunteer, just in a sentence or two.

Sharon: Well, the primary effect at the moment has been stock market loss, which there has been, so far, enough cushion that it hasn’t had a major negative impact yet, though I wanted to say something also on the subject of procrastination, which occasionally I find to be a gift. [Laughs]

Ken: Yes.

Sharon: I had a little money in something. It was suggested that I move it, which I just never got around to, and I very nervously, last week, called the organization. It’s a bank, a little Midwestern bank. And they said, “We’re in great shape. We never made a sub-prime loan to anybody.” [Laughing]

Ken: Okay.

Sharon: So the stupid thing, for the moment, has appeared to be the good thing and the supposedly smart thing, anyway, was not.

Ken: Okay. Anybody else? Randye?

Randye: The university is being affected substantially. We’ve had a hiring freeze on for six months and one of our out-patient facilities closed and 12 people were laid off the week before Christmas, one of whom had been at the university for 32 years. And because of the hiring freeze, she can’t come into any other position there. A big part of my job is getting grants and the funding agencies are all slashing their budgets. So it’s directly affecting my career. I can’t get the grants, I can’t get promoted. And probably like everyone else, I’ve got about a 40-per-cent hit on my retirement accounts and trying to manage that, because it’s not immediate. You know, I’m not ready to retire. But the work stress is a daily, chronic kind of a thing.

Ken: Okay. One or two more. Anybody?

Student: Well, again, as an environmental issue, I spent most of my life in blissful…blissfully ignoring the possibility of developing a… [unclear].

Student: To add to some things that people have said, my boyfriend losing his job is like the catalyst for the dying of a whole world, and you know, we were all living in one city. That’s very likely going to change. So it’s definitely that stress of something disappearing and not knowing what is coming.

Ken: Okay.

Student: I’ve lost about 97 per cent of my net worth.

Ken: Okay.

Cara: For those of us who don’t have a retirement that has been invested, and are in, you know, quote unquote “luxury” fields…

Ken: [Laughs]

Cara: …this is terrifying, you know, because my income is based on people’s desire to eat dessert.

[Laughter]

Cara: And, it’s true!

Ken: Disposable income.

Cara: I need to have like a drum kit with my, like ba-dum-bump. But I mean, the sad fact is that when they talk about restaurants, especially in Los Angeles, the three things that people do not get at a restaurant now are expensive wine, appetizers, and desserts. And that’s where we make our money. So being a pastry chef is, you know….

Ken: Bad timing.

Cara: It is. It’s bad timing.

Ken: [Laughs]

Cara: But I need a retirement, you know?

Ken: Yeah. Anybody else? Okay, Martha.

Martha: Well, I run a small business for an equity group that bought it August 1st, a small company. And sales immediately plummeted. The company is highly leveraged and I’m responsible for making it grow, which is really challenging right now. So for myself, I’m at the point where I’m thinking if I don’t do a good job at this, which could be really difficult, I could be back out on the street again any time soon. And I’m also trying to manage the expectations of 25 people who don’t necessarily understand that they should be grateful that they have any job whatsoever. So, just trying to manage other people’s career expectations and what they are looking for for themselves and hoping for from the company and really can’t be done. So, just kind of a malaise of people feeling thwarted. It’s hard.


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Ken: Thank you. Now, when you read the news, a lot of people are comparing the economic situation with that of the Great Depression. How many of you had a chance to look at that economics video that I sent out? If you look at that in terms of national debt, we’re actually well beyond Great Depression levels of national debt. We’re at higher levels of national debt than at the end of the Second World War. And for me, there’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance here, because you hear this. I do meet people who have lost jobs, whose savings have been decimated, either because of stock market slide or because of out-and-out fraud. The Bernie Madoff cases affected a lot of people, but there are many other cases of exactly the same kind of thing, where people provided good returns and then in order to keep the returns transformed them into Ponzi schemes. And with all the problems that that entailed.

At the same time, in a certain sense, life goes on and you see people driving around and going to restaurants and things like that. So there’s this little cognitive dissonance. A friend of mine sent me this email, which is from a forecasting firm, and it has wonderful news, things like: …An estimated 15-to-25-per-cent drop in the standard of living around the world, more in some beleaguered regions, as cuts in virtually every arena take hold.; …A significant increase in prices for the basics, food, energy and other essential staples…;…A political leadership that needs to reach out to the best minds in the world to seek solutions and ways through the troublesome dislocations that lie ahead, but may not do so…; …A spirit of innovation driven by men and women who will see a silver lining in the period ahead and will be determined as pioneers to capitalize it…; …An emergence of bottom-feeders who will take every advantage…every opportunity [unclear] the weak and win economic advantage…; …A severely cluttered cyberspace that will significantly shape the next generation…; …A mounting public rage that may well result in political instability, especially in poor nations, and manifest itself in widespread civil unrest..

It goes on and on. There’s one and a half pages. I can leave this out for you to read, in case you want more cheery news.

One way to look at all of this is that there are a lot of stories going on. There are a lot of stories going on about what’s happening around us, and being discussed all over the place on the talk shows. And as several of you commented, there are a lot of stories that are going on inside us. And several of you have said one of the things that you’d like to get out of this is what to do about all of these stories. So, that’s where I’d like to start right now. What to do about all of these stories.


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So, we’re just going to sit for a period. I’m going to keep things very, very simple today and for two reasons. One, there are a number of people for whom this is a first exposure to meditation practice. And the second thing is that even though I’ve had many, many years of study and practicing meditation of varying degrees of complexity, including highly complex practices, I find that more and more what’s really important are very simple instructions. But we need to remember that simple does not equal easy.

There’s one instruction we’re going to work with today that I want to explore in some depth, because I think it is very important—not only in terms of spiritual practice but on a very practical nature. And the instruction is this: how can I experience this—and for “this” you can substitute anything you want—how can I experience this and be at peace at the same time?

Let me repeat that: How can I experience this and be at peace at the same time?

Now, there are many, many ramifications to this instruction and that’s what I want to explore with you today. But to begin with, we’re just going to sit for a period of time, and I want you to explore. Here you have the circumstances of your life: challenging work situations; uncertainty about the future; crises in your personal lives; or what have you, whatever form this takes. Whatever comes up, take the question, “How can I experience this and be at peace at the same time?”

The only other thing I’m going to say is that when we talk about being at peace, this is not simply a mental thing. We can look at ourselves as having three aspects to us. There’s our body, so how can I experience this and be at peace in my body? A lot of people, they’re shut off from here down, you know. And they don’t feel anything. They think being peaceful means everything being quiet in here, and they have ulcers and they’re sick and all kinds of things. That’s not being at peace. So, how can I experience this and be at peace in my body?

And then, of course, everybody or almost everybody has mentioned something about emotions. Melissa was talking about fear. And several other people picked up on that. So, how can I experience fear and be at peace at the same time? It’s a very interesting question.

And a third one is all of these stories. Sanders, I think you were saying, “What do I do about all this stuff going on in my head,” right? Well, my teacher used to say, Mind is a very, very difficult thing. You put it down; it won’t stay. You send it away; it won’t go. It’s very difficult. So, rather than trying to do anything, just let’s explore the possibility of, okay, how can I have all of these stories going on and be at peace at the same time?

So, there’s these three levels of exploration. Before we start this, any questions? Is this clear? I’m not giving you anything else to do. I’m not telling you to breathe a certain way, or sit a certain way. That’s up to you. I just want you to explore, “How can I experience this and be at peace at the same time?” And we’ll sit for about 15, 20 minutes. Okay? And that’s it.

What’s the peaceful way to sit? With everything that’s going on, what is the way to sit so that the body is at peace?


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[Bell]

[Three bells]

Cara? Cara, I think we could take the temperature down a little bit.

Cara: You have to push the button once every five minutes so, it’s going to take [unclear].

Ken: Okay.

Cara: [Unclear]

Ken: You mean it only goes down one degree at a time?

Student: You might turn a few of those lights off. They give off a lot of heat.

Ken: Okay. Thank you. [Can] you still see okay?

Student: Yeah.

Ken: Yeah, okay.

Okay, so how was this for you? Let’s just hear from a few people, in a sentence or two. Randye?

Randye: It was slippery.

Ken: It was slippery.

Randye: I know I’ve been doing this, but it was very, very clear now that I use my stories as an escape mechanism.

Ken: From?

Randye: The stress. But I’m using the positive bits in my life and shifting my attention to that and ignoring what I need to be looking directly at. So you know, I’m kind of escaping into the good bits.

Ken: Okay.

Randye: And every time I push my attention back to the stressful bits, it slides off.

Ken: Okay, so if I understand you correctly, you’re exploring how to experience what’s actually going on and be at peace at the same time, and what you became aware of is how much you’ve been ignoring what is actually going on.

Randye: Deliberately.

Ken: Deliberately.

Randye: Intentionally.

Ken: Yeah.

Randye: Because it’s much pleasanter to sit in the good bits than in the stressful bits, and that’s an escape mechanism. That’s not living what’s actually there.

Ken: Okay. All right. Anybody else? Randy—our other Randy.

Randy: Might be similar to what Randye is experiencing. But I’m trying to find answers before I confront the questions.

Ken: [Laughs] Trying to find answers before you’ve figured out the questions. Anybody else find…

Randy: Or sit with the experience of…

Ken: Okay. Anybody else? Martha.

Martha: I was trying to sort of physically feel what peace felt like and I started off thinking of it as sort of a diffusion of stress. In other words, like letting it all go. And then I started thinking about it differently. That, you know, there’s a sort of a self-contained cycle of energy sitting in meditation, that maybe it feels a lot more peaceful when you actually feel powerful, or self-contained in some way, you know, like, you feel a certain solidity. When you feel a certain solidity in yourself you actually feel quite peaceful.

Ken: Okay.

Martha: So it’s not so much the trying to make things go away, but actually sort of a gathering up.

Ken: Yes, I think I…

Martha: Does that make sense?

Ken: I think so. Instead of trying to make things go away, you used the term “gathering up.” But what I’m inferring from what you’ve said is that it’s almost like letting things in, or finding a way to let things in.

Martha: But not so much from the outside, but actually just sort of recognizing what’s already available to you internally if you allow yourself to feel.

Ken: Okay, yeah. Yeah, we’ll be going more into that in a little bit. Yes, okay. Melissa.

Melissa: Yes, it’s to do two things, really, it seemed like. How do I experience this…

Ken: And be at peace…

Melissa: And be at peace at the same time.

Ken: I know, it’s walking and chewing gum, I understand.

Melissa: Right.

[Laughter]

Melissa: What I noticed was that when I tried to be at peace at the same time, I was not at peace. But when I was in the “experience this” part of it and just experiencing this, I felt more at peace.

Ken: So you found a way.

Melissa: I guess so.


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Ken: You may recall, in an email I sent out, that I talked about things in terms of principles and strategy and tactics. Well, here’s the principle, and what we’re going to do today here is [Ken writes on the board] I’m going to talk about some fairly deep principles from Buddhist background and so forth. And I’m going to suggest a number of strategies which I’ve come across over the years. Your work is going to be figuring out the tactics: what you do yourself in your lives, in your meditation. We’ll have a chance to discuss that.

So to start off, the first principle here is just the instruction that I gave: how do I experience—sorry about my writing today—“this” and be at peace at the same time? Now, what Melissa said is that she found that if she tried to be at peace, tried to be peaceful, she wasn’t, right?

One of the things that’s important here—and there are probably many, many ways this applies—it’s actually a second principle: goals are not results, and vice versa. Now, we’re a very goal-oriented society, aren’t we? My nephew, who was hired by Deloitte & Touche, a young financial analyst He was visiting LA last September and he said, “I don’t know what to do, Ken. They’ve asked me what my goals are for next year.”

A goal is something very concrete that we work towards and one of the best ways to think about a goal is it’s measurable. You can either say it’s there or it’s not. But once you set up a goal, you create this kind of tension, right? So one way of looking at what Melissa said is that she set this up as a goal, and created the tension, and you weren’t at peace. What if you explore peace as a result, not as a goal? Then it becomes a question: what’s it the result of? Right? What was it a result of?

Melissa: Just experiencing this.

Ken: “Just experiencing this.” Okay. Anybody else find something similar along these lines? Romey, do you want to say a word about that? If you’re like Art, you’ll just say no. [Laughs] Could you hand Romey the mic please, Randy?

Romey: I’m not sure this is what you’re going toward, but I just really didn’t try to focus on anything beyond just sitting and what was going on with me. And I didn’t try to imagine peace. It was just…there was so much going on… [Laughs]

Ken: Okay.

Romey: …that I just let it be, and that in itself almost resolved a lot of it. I felt better just sitting with it.


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Ken: Okay. So this is very interesting, because now we move into the strategies. This is the principle. Here is one strategy: Let it be. It’s the name of a song.

[Laughter]

How do you let something be? Let’s translate that from the strategy to the tactical. How do you let it be? What do you actually do?

[Unclear remarks from students]

Ken: [Laughs] Art? Romey, could you hand the mic?

Art: Recently, I was doing this with some stuff in my life, and I don’t know how to describe it other than I would open to a wider framework or experience, so I could see it all and yet not be caught up in it.

Ken: Okay. Now, there’s something very important in what Art is saying here. Several of you said, “Well, you just…you do nothing”. That’s very useful if you know how to do that. How many of you know how to do nothing? [Pause] Okay, so if we just sit quietly, how long does it take for you, before you start doing something? One, two seconds? Okay, so again, how many of you know how to do nothing?

Ben: I feel like…

Ken: Ben.

Ben: I feel like doing nothing is more of an instinctual thing.

Ken: Say more.

Ben: That I end up doing nothing when I’m not…I don’t know how to put it. But…

Ken: Speak up, please, Ben.

Ben: I feel like doing nothing is more of an instinctual thing, for me, and that I find that I’m most, well, relaxed, and also just doing nothing, I got there without thinking about it or trying to get there.

Ken: What I want to suggest is that doing nothing is a result.

Cara: How are you ever going to get anything done if you don’t do anything?

Ken: Ah, we’re talking about different things. We’ll come back to that. Right now, we’re talking about, “How do I experience this and be at peace at the same time,” okay? We’ll talk about getting things done, either in the next section or in the first afternoon session, okay? Frances.

Frances: Well, this relates to depression, but I find that I have had to learn to do nothing because there gets a certain point where I realize that a depressive episode is coming on, but the more I try to fight it, the worse the depression will be.

Ken: Yeah.

Frances: And so there are certain things I can do to prevent it, but it gets to a point where it’s too late So, I have learned, I had to learn to let it go and if I can’t work for two days that’s just the way it is, That’s just the way it is. So I let it go.

Ken: And you find that not fighting it decreases the frequency and…

Frances: It decreases the length of time that I’ll be depressed.


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Ken: Okay. So, Frances is referring to something else here, which I’m going to throw up as a principle. We’ll explore this one in greater depth. This is a very deep principle. [Writing on the board] There are no enemies. You’re grinning, Art.

Art: It’s been my experience.

Ken: Please? Not your experience?

Art: No, I said, “It’s been my experience.”

Ken: [Laughs] Now, how many of you find that certain aspects of your psyche or the way that you approach the world are problematic and you would like to get rid of them? See? So all of you have an enemy.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Well, in this context, how am I using the word enemy? Here, I asked how many of you had this part of you that you would like to get rid of, just get rid of, and you know, almost everybody held up their hand. So there is something in your world that you want to get rid of, that you regard as an enemy, basically. Now, I want to explore this one in a little detail because it shows the transition here and the strategy, I think, fairly clearly. It will lead us into letting it be.

Let’s take a very concrete situation. How many of you know a person that you don’t want to have much to do with? Okay. I mean, we all have one or two of those in our lives. Commonly, we could regard this as, you know, someone we don’t want to talk to, we don’t want to meet, we don’t want to interact with. Now, it would be easy to regard them as an enemy, I mean, in a fairly broad sense of the word. They may not be fighting against us, but they give rise to negativity. We want them out of our life. Everybody with me? Okay.

Why do we not want to meet or interact with that person? There are going to be individual cases. Well, you know, “Last time I interacted with him, he spat in my face.” [Laughter] Or, “She lied to me.” Or, “He insulted me,” or, you know, all kinds of reasons. They’re going to be individual ones. But what I want to suggest here is that that person elicits a feeling in us that we don’t want to experience.

Now, what’s the big deal? There’s an experience there. What’s going to happen to us if we experience that experience, experience that feeling? At this point, usually, the stories start to run. Everybody know what I mean there?

[Affirmative sounds]

So I would just like for a few moments for you to explore the possibility of just experiencing that feeling. Now, you can do this with the hot stove approach. How do you touch a hot stove? Really lightly. [Laughs] Just like that. Because if you leave your finger on it, you get burned, okay? So you just touch. That’s one way of approaching this. You just touch it.

Another is the open the door a crack approach. My father worked at a steel company in Canada and every now and then we’d take a tour of it and they allowed the employees’ families to do things like that and it was quite fascinating. And a couple of times, I saw them tapping an open-hearth furnace. Now, when you tap an open-hearth furnace…I mean they’re very, very large industrial buildings. We were usually, you know, a hundred yards away, at least. And the door to the open-hearth furnace would be open just a crack. And as soon as it was opened a crack, you just felt the heat of all of that molten steel.

The same thing happens in India. I was in India in February, which is one of the cooler times of year. It’s just moving into the hot season in Northern India. And you get up, like, around five and the sun’s not up, and it’s wonderful. And then the sun just puts that much of itself above the horizon and now you’re staring into a blast furnace. It’s that fast.

When we think of this person that we don’t want to interact with, there’s feelings that we have that we don’t want to experience. That’s what makes that person an enemy. So, what I’d like you to do, just before we take a break, is just take a couple of minutes and explore either with the touching the stove technique or opening the door a crack technique. Oh, there’s a third technique. It’s putting it on the other side of the universe technique, or the other side of the room. That is, it’s in your awareness but at a distance, which you can manage.

So we’ll just sit for a few minutes. I want you to explore any of those three techniques of letting this experience just be there, that feeling just be there. You’re not doing anything about it, particularly, except experiencing it.


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[Bell]

[Some time passes]

[Three bells]

What was your experience here? Romey.

Romey: [Sighs] My experience was that, first I think I opened maybe a little more than a crack. I went to a point where I started thinking about something else. You know, the feelings were there, and then it got to a point where I couldn’t stay with it, so I went to something else. And then I realized that was happening, so I came back. But besides that [pause] I guess I realized I fight it. Instead of letting it be, there’s something in me that resists it, tries to push it away, tries to solve it instead of just letting it be. You know, it’s a matter of…I think “fighting” is the right word. I want to push it away.

Ken: So there’s an enemy.

Romey: There’s an enemy, yeah. There’s definitely that, that feeling of instead of accepting it, that I have to do something about it, I guess is a better word.

Ken: Yeah. Do something about it and get rid of it.

Romey: Yeah.

Ken: One way or another.

Romey: Yeah.

Ken: Okay. Randy?

Randy: I dropped into a space where either I’m going to go on continually being tortured…

Ken: [Laughs]

Randy: …in some morbid sense of pleasure, or…

[Laughter]

Randy: …or just say no…

Ken: In this particular situation, you mean?

Randy: Yeah.

Ken: Okay.


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Randy: And just allow it. To let it be, I mean. That’s really where I came to.

Ken: Now, Randy’s raising a very interesting point. In every situation we encounter in our lives, there are only three alternatives. [Writing on board] Any situation. And we’re talking about what arises internally, here, primarily. We can accept it…the third one—I have to do things in this order—take action. You know what the second one is, Melissa?

Melissa: [Unclear]

Ken: Pardon?

Students: Deny…aversion…[unclear] [Laughter].

Ken: These are the only three possibilities. That’s it. Either accept it, or you take action, or you suffer. Valerie, you look completely dismayed here. Microphone for Valerie, please, if she doesn’t mind.

Valerie: But suffering is rejecting it, right? You have “accept it.” Reject it is the suffering, pushing it away, the tension.

Ken: It’s not truly accepting it, yeah. You either really, really accept that this is how things are, or you take action, and actually there’s a close connection between these two but I’ll get to that in a minute. Or you suffer, which is this ambivalent relationship where you struggle with it and we just go on, on and on, and nothing changes except that we’re struggling, suffering, frustrated. This is—and since many of you mentioned this—this is what generates stress. It’s this second approach. Sophie.

Sophie: I was just curious in doing that meditation. I found myself kind of analyzing it. And what I noticed in a particular situation with a person…that I want to just try and go around the block if I see her coming.

Ken: You don’t just cross over to the other street, you go around the block.

[Laughter]

Sophie: To get to the same point. What I realized was that I take it so personally. And I started thinking about my reactions, and then hers, and then there’s, like, this whole long tale to both of our histories, that she’s reacting that way because of her stress or her situations. I’m reacting because of my conditioning. So I started feeling like there was these long tales behind us and I realized it wasn’t really like a personal thing, that we were just kind of coming together in that moment. So I don’t know if analyzing it is rejecting or suffering, or…

Ken: Well, let’s just take a closer look at that. When you came to that perspective, and I like the image that you have here if I understand you correctly. Here’s Sophie and here’s…

Sophie: [Names a person].

Ken: Okay. And initially, it looks like this, right? [Drawing on the board] But when you thought about it, when you just were with that whole feeling, then you saw that there was [more drawing] and over here there was…we’ll just do this really well, with another color. Yes, there we go. [More drawing] Something like that, right?

And now, when you look at the picture this way, what do you experience?

Sophie: That we’re the same.

Ken: Yeah. So, something drops, the sense of conflict, frustration? Okay. Now, so you ask, is this a good thing to do? It’s a method, okay? It is a way of moving from here to here [tapping the drawings], okay? What I’ve found consistently in working with people and in my own personal experience is that when we see and accept how things are, mind and body relax. When we see and accept how things are, mind and body relax. In other words, we find some peace, or freedom, or whatever term you want to put on it. What people struggle with is how to get there.

One way is to reflect, in the way that Sophie was describing. That, “Oh, this isn’t just what is happening now. There’s a whole history on my side, there’s a whole history on the other person’s side, and that’s what’s brought us to this situation, and I don’t particularly like it, but that’s how it is.” And so there’s a shift away from the personal antagonism to an acceptance of the situation and, as we’ll talk about more after the break, it actually allows more appropriate or better focused action to take place.


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Cara, you had a comment.

Cara: But aren’t those just stories?

Ken: Pardon?

Cara: Aren’t those just stories?

Ken: Yeah. Yeah, what’s wrong with stories, Cara?

Cara: Well, in previous workshops…

[Laughter]

Cara: Sorry. We’ve talked about the black box, the idea that it’s not for me to decide or describe what’s going on with you if you’re pissing me off. I mean, it’s great to be able to develop empathy, but like, I can go into a full-on spinout telling you why you act the way that you do, and I’m happy to if you’d like. You know?

Ken: Why do I act the way that I do?

Cara: Well, you specifically, not so much. You’re pretty sympatico. But if I’m fighting with my boyfriend or I have several people in my life that I mean it’s literally like [hisses], when I see them.

Ken: Yes. However, that isn’t what Sophie was doing.

Cara: No, not in particular. But I mean, for me, that’s the beginning of…

Ken: She was seeing how the stories enmeshed, okay?

Cara: Right.

Ken: Which is very different from standing over and saying this is your stuff.

Cara: Right.

Ken: Okay? Now, I said this is a method. Maybe it’s a good method. Maybe it’s not a very efficient method. That’s something we can look at. But it is a method. How many of you have just allowed yourself to become quiet and something shifts, and you just see the larger picture. Because what is being talked about here is seeing the larger picture.

This goes back to something Art was saying earlier about…do you want to say it again, Art? About opening to things?

Art: Oh, yeah. I was envisioning the situation and it was easy to get caught up in all the emotional turmoil about it, so when I would experience that, I would just try to open up a little bit more to it. It’s almost, the way I described it to someone else, is kind of like a camera pulling back on a shot in a movie, so you get a little bit bigger field, a little bit bigger field, until you saw it all. And that sort of touches on the way I interpreted what you were saying earlier, Martha, about the internal and external. There’s an alignment that happens.

Ken: Yeah.

Art: And when that alignment happens, one has an experience of peace. It could be peace over a really horrific situation. That doesn’t change, but there’s a peace.

Ken: Yeah. And to put this…I hope you don’t mind these pictures.

Student: No, I wish I understood it better, though. I didn’t get that last one.

Ken: Well, maybe…we’re going to take another crack at it, okay?

Student: Okay.

Ken: So, here’s a conflict [drawing]. That’s just my diagrammatic of a conflict. And if we look at things right there, that’s all there is is conflict, okay? Now, what Sophie and Art have been talking about is not limiting ourselves to that, but taking, let’s say, a larger picture. And then Sophie’s way of looking would be [drawing], okay? There’s a whole story that has brought this about. You follow? And a lot of times, people want to forget about that whole story. They say that’s looking at the past, or that’s looking at extra stuff, and they’re just focusing on this. But there’s no resolution here. And then you look at the whole thing and said, “Oh!” The blame game drops, because you see that you’ve done things, and the other person has done things, to create it. And also, in this larger framework, there’s so many other things that can be appealed to, to understand what has happened and how to look at it.

So, just having that larger picture, and it doesn’t have to be simply conceptual. It can be experiential as well. And then it creates possibilities for the kind of thing that Art’s talking about, is that when you open that larger picture, you just see things differently and mind, body, how we look at things, all can find a different alignment.

Now, I’m talking rather abstractly. I’m talking very much at the level of principle. And I’d like to take this into some more concrete things and let’s explore that. But let’s just have a couple of questions and then we’ll take a short break. Maya? Microphone please, Valerie, right in front of you. Okay.


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Maya: I think I ended up at the place where I stepped back from an interaction or an aversion that I had to a particular person. But I think what happened was, “What next?”

Ken: Yes!

Maya: Because when I first started with, “How do I experience this and be at peace,” I tried to go to this and I experienced it as a contraction. And I think I feel it culturally in my job, where I do fundraising and depending on the kindness of strangers. And I think, overall, I feel like a sense of contraction in the world, and fear, and then that leading to paralysis. But then, when I looked at it, at being, I thought well, the opposite of that is relaxing, not contracting. But I realized that actually, what was at its root was this quest for approval of other people.

Ken: Your own.

Maya: My own approval and my desire to please, and maybe it has something to do with my occupation. That led to, in the enemies part, an aversion, thinking of somebody who truly, when I get on the phone with that person, I want to get off the phone. A friend of my sister’s, he is a person who is desperate for approval, desperate for my approval. He has a certain autism, Asperger’s syndrome, where he does not know how to interact and he is so transparent that he wants my approval in particular, and he overdoes it. He says, “Am I talking to the great Maya?” You know, “Is this really you?” And I start to recoil. And I was realizing as I went through this process that my aversion came out of the fact that he was clearly like me, and that I…

Ken: As a mirror.

Maya: That he was just a mirror, and when I sat with that and I thought, “Okay, I see him for who he is, as desperate as I am.” And then I thought, “Okay, now what do I do with it?” Because I accepted him.

Ken: Are you willing to try a thought experiment?

Maya: Sure. ’Cause it was just like, as though we were on the phone and I had nothing to say except to try to start getting his approval by showing him how great I was in accepting him for who he was.

[Laughter]

Ken: I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to answer it yes, okay? Am I talking to the Great Maya?

Maya: Wait, are you asking me?

Ken: Yes [laughing]. And you have to answer this question yes.

Maya: Oh, okay. Oh, sorry.

Ken: Am I talking to the Great Maya?

Maya: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Ken: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, you have to answer yes.

Maya: Yes. Yes you are.

Ken: Okay, so let’s try it again.

Maya: Okay.

Ken: Am I talking to the Great Maya?

Maya: Yes, you are.

Ken: How does that feel?

Maya: Totally fraudulent.

Ken: [Laughs]

[Laughter]

Ken: Are you agitated?

Maya: I am.

Ken: Okay. So that gives you what to explore next.

Maya: Okay.

Ken: Your relationship with that feeling. But you see, that actually has nothing to do with him. Okay? So things have become clearer here. And you do have an enemy, but it’s not him. It’s something in here. And that’s what I’m talking about. Thank you very much for being willing to do that.

Okay, let’s take a 15-minute break right here. Be ready to go at twenty past. Okay?


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