Explanation of element reaction cycles: earth, water, fire, air and void; walkthrough of corresponding dakini practices; hollowness; knowing; pristine awareness arising within reaction. This class was recorded to help students with the Dakini practice.
Student: Thursday morning we’ve chosen to sort of organize our practice in terms of going through Wake Up To Your Life and we’ve reached chapter six on dismantling reactive emotions, if I’m not mistaken. Yes. So we’re going into dakini practice, excuse me, and it’s a totally new practice for us because it’s an imaginative practice and the directions for the meditations are very specific and it’s just something new, and hopefully productive. [Laughter] But I for one would like sort of to be helped into this new mode of practice, it’s a lot of stuff to remember during the meditation itself, you know the color of the dakini, the jewel, or the mirror, or the particular symbol that’s being used, the center of the body that we’re working on at any given time. And I have a lot of specific questions that maybe we could deal with after meditation but I was wondering if it might not be possible to be led through a dakini meditation itself, or fruitful? I’m not sure if anybody else has an idea as to what we should do, or approach this resource of Ken?
Ken: Okay, yeah I think it’s probably helpful to go through it as a guided meditation, and have any of you tried any of these meditations? And how has it been for you?
Student: Well my technique was to make a cheat sheet, I made a little cheat sheet and put it right here. I had the color, and then I got it so I know where I go in my body, I can remember that stuff. It’s just a few of the…like I’ll get to the middle and I’ll be here, and moving to the heart, and you know I have to look every once in a while, but I just have a couple of words by each thing—
Student: …and colors, and it seems to work for me.
Alison: It worked quite well for me I found it to be one of the more effective meditations that I have tried and I really loved it, but I’m here to learn more.
Student: I haven’t tried it yet.
Student: I haven’t tried it yet either.
Ken: Okay. Steve?
Steve: Haven’t tried it.
Student: Not yet.
Student: You know, but I still have questions about this one area where it show us the going back to the circle, the recycling. That I need help with that, I don’t exactly know how to do that and I don’t know how to get to that conclusion.
I think we’ll do a quick demo first. So can I have two volunteers? One, Joe. Okay, you two stand up here. Now you know the pose for push hands in Tai Chi, one hand just back to back? Yeah, put your that’s right, yeah there you go. Now I want you to go really slowly here because this happens really really fast. Joe, you need to get this clear in your body so you are going to…what’s your name again?
Ken: Betty. I knew it started with B. Betty is going to push on you, okay, and you are going to be earth. Which means you’re going to go rigid first, okay? So as soon as Betty pushes on you and just push consistently. But you’re already pushing too hard. [Chuckling. Laughter]
Betty: You’re not supposed to push—you little naughty.
Joe: I’m protecting myself.
Betty: Push it, push it.
Ken: Hold up the microphone for them Melissa. Okay, so Betty starts to push and you go rigid. Now just stop there and feel the rigidity Joe. What do you experience in your body? Melissa can you give him the mic.
Ken: Okay now, underneath the tension what do you feel?
Joe: Well right now there’s a little anxiety about—
Ken: Yeah and underneath the anxiety what is there? So there’s the tension, the anxiety, that’s all at this level, underneath that?
Ken: Okay, between the tension and the fear? As I say this goes really fast.
Joe: Nothing. As in—
Ken: Nothing as in you can’t sense it or a feeling of nothing?
Joe: I’m not sure. I mean—
Ken: Okay, just relax both of you. Okay, now start again, and this time start feeling each other very softly and then Betty you push just very, a very little bit on his hand, and you observe what happens in your body Joe. Feel the tension, is that right?
Joe: Yeah. It’s—
Ken: Okay, now underneath the tension what’s there? She’s just applying a little pressure so it will be easier for you to sense.
Joe: It’s more confusion than an actual nothingness.
Ken: Okay, now what I want you to do Betty, is increase the tension and Joe you stay absolutely rigid in your whole body. Okay? Just increase the tension Betty. Okay, now what are you feeling Joe?
Joe: Well now my rigidity is conscious it feels more like I’m in control and it’s—
Ken: Okay so increase the tension enough that he begins to lose balance. Yeah that’s right. [Laughter] Oh no, no, no you’ve already gone through it five times, right there. Okay, now—
Joe: That’s how fast it happens though?
Ken: Yeah you went through it five times there. Start again. So just increase it a little bit put your weight on your back foot it will help you, rather than your front foot because you want to feel there’s, and just signal or say something when you feel a little unstable. So increase the pressure please Betty.
Joe: There, there—
Ken: Yeah yeah, okay good, now so just open—just relax—open to that feeling of instability. And what is the impulse in that feeling of instability?
Joe: At the moment, bad, I mean there was wanting to push back and grasping, firm up and—
Ken: Yeah, yeah. Firm up, right, okay. So go through and experience that again. Okay, now you feel that impulse to firm up?
Ken: Okay, now feel how locked you are in your body.
Ken: Okay now you’re back in the rigidity.
Ken: Okay, that’s the earth reaction cycle.
Student: Say that one more time please.
Ken: Well no we’re going to go through it in the chart. Right okay, so—
Student: Okay, okay.
Ken: Open your text to [laughter], isn’t that wonderful [unclear]? Page 225 and have your finger open to the chart on page 237 also. You have to look at two pages at the same time. Okay?
Ken: Yeah, 235 and 237.
Ken: 235. Oh sorry. 225 and 227, my mistake you’re quite right.
Okay, so on page 225 you have a reaction, which in this case is rigidity and as your attention…you with me? Just on 225 right now, and then we will go to 227. We are doing the earth thing. First you have the reaction, which is rigidity. Underneath that reaction there’s a feeling, which is the hollowness which you were experiencing as that nothing confusion thing, okay? And underneath that is the fear, okay? Now this goes so fast [Ken snaps finger] that we aren’t usually aware of it, we’re just right into it. But that’s why I was breaking it down because in the case of earth the fear is fear of instability. You follow? The impulse when we hit that fear of instability is to tense, firm up and that’s the reforming part and then we end up rigid again, and now we go through the cycle, and that’s why I said at that one point in that interaction you went through it five times, because Joe was going like this [Ken makes gesture] and every one of those is going around that cycle. This is really really fast what happens here.
Student: So right at the top of this elliptical thing is an open space. It that you resting in the fear? What is that?
Ken: I’m going to come to that in a minute, okay? I just wanted to get how it goes around that cycle, now lets turn to page 227.
Ken: The reaction is inflexibility and rigidity. Okay? For earth. Underneath is a feeling of hollowness or uncertainty, underneath that is instability which is experienced if you actually open to that, as being in an earthquake. Right? It’s just like, “What happened!” I mean we’ve all been in earthquakes here, right? It’s Southern California! Okay. What’s the first thing you do when you experience an earthquake? Yeah exactly, you just go like that. And anytime you find yourself going like [Ken makes gesture] this in a conversation or anything like that, it’s because you’re in the middle of the earth reaction right at that point. And as I say these are really, really fast and I am going to say a word about that in a minute. So, the impulse once you hit that earthquake, that open space, that fear of instability is to grasp, lock up, whatever. And the result is imprisonment in your own rigidity, but now you’re rigid again and now you go round it again. And it goes around and around and escalates really really quickly. Okay? So that’s how you go around that cycle.
Student: And as you go around the cycle and you go back through the second time, are you, first of all I don’t know how to, I haven’t yet felt that feeling of maybe uncertainty, but I don’t know about hollowness, and, but as you go around in the meditation, are you supposed to…?
Ken: I’ll get to the meditation in a minute, I just want to get recognizing these things first.
Steve: At some point in this cycle, does the rigidity in the instability aspect, does the rigidity give way? Or do you stay rigid?
Ken: Rigidity is the form aspect, a form pole of the cycle, the earthquake is the emptiness pole of the cycle. And what you’re doing is going around and around from form to emptiness, form to emptiness. Okay, and as I say it’s really really fast. So, Betty, you didn’t experience that hollowness? So now it’s your turn, Joe, Betty please [laughter].
Betty: Who made up this stuff is what I want to know? Who picked hollowness, who picked it? How’d you know?
Ken: Some people pay attention to their experience, I benefit from their efforts. [Laughter] Okay, now, that’s a good way to stand. Just, you know, now just be completely rigid with your weight on your back foot. Joe you start to push her.
Make your arm far more rigid Betty, it’s like iron it doesn’t bend at all. Okay, now stop. You went through it about five or six times there. So start again. Put your weight right on your back foot, okay, hold your arm out further in front of you and so, and you’re going to start pushing over, she may feel a little tipsy, she’s going…really rigid in your body, okay? So push Joe. Okay, right there, what happened?
Betty: Well I felt afraid that I was going to fall over.
Ken: Okay, now go back and do it more slowly and feel what happens, sense what is there before the fear arises. So Joe just quietly increase and slowly smoothly increase the pressure. Okay, do you feel it?
Betty: I wouldn’t use the word hollowness.
Ken: What word would you use?
Betty: I like the instability factor of it but I am afraid that’s too far.
Ken: Okay that’s…yeah okay so feel first the tension and then there’s something in between isn’t there?
Betty: Yeah I don’t know.
Ken: Well you felt it. [Laughter]
Betty: I want to see it again.
Betty: I’m already past it huh? I don’t know what that feels like, I really don’t know. I—
Ken: Well we skip over it really, really quickly because we don’t want to experience it. Now please sit down, thank you. How many of you can recall a discussion you’ve had in the last week or so where you got a bit rigid? Okay, exactly the same thing is happening there. Exactly the same thing. Somebody says something and it threatens our position and we immediately clamp down and in that clamping down we’ve already felt the rigidity, felt the uncertainty or hollowness, felt the instability, felt that open space like, “I could be pushed off here,” and now we’ve clamped down. That’s how fast it is. Go ahead.
Betty: I’m going to work on that because I obviously don’t feel it in real life and I do feel a bit of this concept that when he started to push on me, I want to push back.
Ken: You’re already into the grasping. You’ve already gone right….
Betty: I know it is so fast.
Ken: And this is why I want to say, this is really, really fast. Because when you find your self pushing back you’re already on the other side, going into form aspect. Now, the reason I think this material is so valuable most Buddhist meditations don’t deal with this at all. They deal with another layer on top of this, which is the six realms—which is also part of chapter six—like the anger, greed, instinct, desire, jealousy and pride. And they are very, very good meditations that are very helpful. But they form through the energy that is accumulated in this reactive cycle of the five elements. And so people can work on those and never get at the way that these things actually form. And in here, if you go through…I think it’s, oh no it’s in chapter five if I remember correctly. Yeah, on page 164. Take the fire reaction chain. Now if you refer to page 225 you see the fire reaction chain, and when you learn these you’ll be able to observe these behaviors in your self and in other people. And Joe, yes there is stuff to learn here, learn it! Okay. Don’t say, “Oh there’s a lot of stuff to memorize.” “Yes, learn it!” “That’s it, you’re in school, okay?” [Laughter]
Ken: There will be tests.
Student: All the time.
Student: All the time.
Ken: Actually yes, okay.
Ken: So on page 225 any of you know a person who is just intense all the time, you know, or yourselves?
Student: Joe! [Laughter]
Ken: Okay, underneath that intensity there is a feeling of aloneness, and under that feeling of aloneness there is a fear of isolation or rejection. And the image there is a featureless desert. My own image is not a featureless desert, it’s vast grass lands. But it’s the same thing—it’s just like open grass, there isn’t anything it’s just grass for miles and miles. That’s why I like northeastern New Mexico, cause that’s where the landscape really works for me. You know but nothing, just open, you know. And we react to that by looking for anything to change the experience, something that makes us feel that we exist, so we tend to devour the experience and then we end up burnt out. Okay?
Now if we go back to 164, here’s this person Tom, and I’ve known many people and I’ve observed this behavior in myself, and I’ll just talk about myself here because I’m not, you know casting aispersions on anybody else. It’s very very difficult for me in groups, I’m relatively shy and I’m an introverted person, so if I come into a group—I’ve learned not to do this—but what I used to do was to look for a way to start stirring things up.
And so I would make some provocative comment and that would be how I tried to gain entry into the group. You know this is a really smart strategy right? [Laughter] But what I was doing…I was right in this fire reaction cycle. I was feeling alone, feared being rejected, didn’t want to touch that feeling so I would stir things up and that would make a lot of intensity and then I would feel more comfortable. Any of you can recognize this? All right.
Now here’s this guy Tom,
He is a bit of a social outcast. Whenever he joins a conversation in a group, he makes comments that are insightful and accurate yet controversial and disturbing.
Okay. Nobody here?
The conversation quickly becomes more intense, with everyone reacting to his comments. After a short time, however, the people in the group grow uncomfortable with the level of intensity…
They don’t want to go this deep, they just want to socialize, so they move to less controversial topics. Tom now feels isolated and rejected again and stirs it up. He does this repeatedly. What does the group do? Isolates him and now Tom goes into the hell realm, he feels everybody is against him, or into the titan realm, whatever. Because he keeps trying to join the group. So you see how the fire reaction lays the foundation energetically, in terms of energy, for the emergence of the hell realm, or the hungry ghost realm, or any of the other realms.
And when I learned this material from a friend of mine this I thought was really valuable because what you’re getting at here it is how those realms are actually formed. Is this making sense to you?
Ken: Okay. So these are somewhat difficult meditations because of the speed with which they operate, and this is why we use this technique. Because as Joe said earlier, this is like learning a part. This operates very, very quickly. We usually don’t recognize it and as I was describing that dynamic I saw a lot of people going “Hmm” a,s you began to recognize it in yourself—and that’s good.
So what we do here is we act out the drama and that’s what you’re doing in this meditation. You’re acting it out. So you imagine the dakini in front of you, in this case the earth dakini, and she’s beautiful, just think of the fall, richness, harvest time, all those rich colors, you know, like Thanksgiving, etc., because earth isn’t just rigid. Earth is also nurturing, supportive. It’s rich with possibilities. You think of a log decaying in the forest. You know, I mean Northwest, I’m thinking of now where you have these big trees that are just lying down and they’re breaking down and all of their nourishment is becoming available to everything else. This is also earth. And you just…in all of this stuff…so this is the dakini, she captures all of those or embodies all of those qualities and she looks at you.
Now have you ever met a person that they just look at you and you feel like, “Oh my God, they now exactly who I am!” Ever run into that? Okay. That’s the feeling that you have when you look at the dakini—she knows you. And there’s like, “Huh.” Everyone know what I’m talking about? Okay. So do you want to engage that level of awareness because that’s what she embodies. And that’s a decision on your part. And you indicate that you do want to by making some kind of gesture to her. And that’s what that element is in the meditation. So that element in the meditation is connecting with your intention to move to that level of awareness.
Now, as most of you know by now, whenever you move to a deeper level of awareness things get more uncomfortable because you become aware of things that you weren’t aware of before. And I love it when people come in. As you get more aware do you get the choice of what you’re aware of? No! You don’t! You get to be aware of whatever’s there. So if you’ve been ignoring stuff you get to a new level of awareness, now you can’t ignore it which is why a lot of people don’t want to do spiritual practice cause it puts them in touch with stuff that they’ve built their whole lives around ignoring, and it threatens them so a lot of people don’t want to go there at all.
So you say, “Okay, yes I do.” And then she raises this flask which is made of topaz, or some yellow stone or whatever, gold metal would be fine and pours it…actually it’s with her left hand, sorry. Cause the left hand symbolizes wisdom in Tibetan tradition. And pours this into you and you feel this elixir of earth pouring into you. Now it’s yellow but just imagine that liquid gold is pouring into you and what does that feel like?
Ken: Warm, yeah. I remember after the first three-year retreat, I was married at the time, we’d both done the first three-year retreat and we decided that we were going to ask Rinpoche to do a second three-year retreat. And we weren’t totally sure he would give permission and we didn’t want to actually ask and get a “No.” So we talked to our retreat director and he went and talked with Rinpoche privately and then came back and said, “I think you should go and see Rinpoche.” So this is how you do things in the Tibetan tradition.
So we went up to so see Rinpoche and I remember walking into his room and it was like the air was made of gold. It was just like, “Ah.” because he was really happy that we wanted to do a second three-year retreat and it was just like, “Wow!”
So imagine that feeling of that warm, rich, nourishing, nurturing, you know everything that is wonderful and positive about earth just pouring into you and that’s what you feel in your body. Okay? And it comes down into the earth center. And as it comes in you feel all of that nurturing, and warmth, and you know all the support you get from earth. And what does this put you in touch with? All the rigidity and tension in your body which you’re holding like crazy but don’t actually need, because when we move into that kind of awareness we become aware of all of those parts of us that aren’t there. Okay?
So now you become aware of all of that rigidity and you open to it. And not only the rigidity—and if you can’t actually feel these things you just imagine them—not only the rigidity but also that uncertainty and hollowness, or insecurity, or whatever you want that underlies any rigidity. And those of you who are therapists, when you’re working with clients, when clients get rigid it’s because they’re feeling uncertain and they’re protecting themselves against that feeling of uncertainty by being rigid. And you can see this playing out in the political realm all over the place.
So you open to that and as you open to that you become aware of this fear of instability. “If I let go of this position, I won’t know where to stand and I’m just going to be knocked off and and everything’s going to fall apart. Ahhh!” That’s the earthquake. You with me? Okay. Okay, and then you feel that earthquake and you feel that impulse to grab—and just as you experienced Joe, when you were doing this little thing with the body. When you feel that grasping take over you realize this locks you up. You don’t have any place to move and you don’t have any place to move because you’re totally rigid. And then the pressure increases and you go around again.
Now when you’re doing the meditation you don’t need to go around and around and around. You just need to go through and identify each component of the reaction chain. “And there it is. Oh.” And then you open to experience all of those together. So the rigidity, the hollowness, the uncertainty, the earthquake, the open earthquake, the impulse to grasp, and the feeling locked and imprisoned. And you just experience it—doesn’t have to make a lot of sense—you just open to all of that and that’s that ecstatic wave working.
Ken: Yeah, you just open to everything and what you’re feeling, the working of this whole cycle in you. And in the beginning, yes it will take a little familiarity, but as you learn this stuff and do this again and again you become more familiar with it and you start experiencing things in these terms. So you’re learning a new language here. And…just a sec.
And all this time the elixir’s pouring into you cause it’s this heightened awareness you’re receiving from the dakini that’s making all of this possible. And as you open to all of this you become aware of a stability that doesn’t require any support. “Oh.” and you find that in the experience it’s not opposite to the experience it is actually in the experience of that reaction chain. You find yourself, “I can just be in this and there’s a stability there that doesn’t require any support. Oh.” and that’s when the jewel forms in the earth center and then you let yourself feel that. And that’s the where you’ve moved into what I translated there as evenness pristine awareness, I think, or sameness pristine awareness. Because when you feel that stability then everything becomes just experience. So that’s it.
Now I would actually have changed my translation of that into the pristine awareness of balance. And this is very interesting ’cause I came back from a three-week retreat in Colorado many years ago, and where there was this Tibetan term called mnyam nyid (pron. nyam nyi) mnyam nyid ye shes (pron. nyam nyi yé shé), which is almost always translated as pristine…evenness or sameness, pristine awareness or the pristine awareness of equality. Because mnyam means equal and nyid makes it a noun, so like equality or evenness.
And I went to visit an old Tibetan friend of mine in Santa Fe and I said to him, “Just out of curiosity Lobsang, what’s the Tibetan for balance?” And he went [Ken snaps fingers] “mnyam nyid ” [Laughter] I went, “Oh, okay,” because it’s taken us a long time to figure out what words actually really do correspond experientially to what words, ’cause mostly academics got it wrong.
And so we have this instability and now you have this stability which doesn’t need any support—you feel completely in balance and everything is just experience. And now the elixir pervades your whole being, you have that jewel of stability at the core of your body, and now you can just invite in all of that energy from the universe. All that comes in the forms of dakinis so that your whole being is permeated with the sense. And that doesn’t feel too bad. You get to feel good sometimes in this. Okay?
Joe you had a question?
Joe: And you approached the question really in this last part, but I find as I enter into this meditation that a good way for me to understand it is how it differs from the meditations that I’ve done up to this point. And it seems to me that in a lot of cases in our work on Tibetan classic texts that we’ve done it was important to remember that what is laid out there is often descriptive rather than prescriptive, but in this case it is actually prescriptive. Like you said, if you don’t feel it, imagine it.
Ken: We need to qualify that a little bit—it’s actually descriptive still. It’s a description of a level of experience that most people just aren’t aware of. And because it’s difficult for us to be aware of it, we’re putting it into dramatic form and acting it out so that we are familiarizing our self with it. And in this way it is different from the meditations that you’ve done up to this point. But this this approach to familiarizing your self with what it feels like to be completely awake and in attention—that is the characteristic of vajrayana.
You know if you take Chenrezi or Avalokiteshvara meditation—meditation on the embodiment of compassion—you imagine what is it like to be the embodiment of compassion. And so it’s sort of a prescription, but it isn’t saying, you know, you have to be this way. You’re imagining what is it like to be that way, and this puts you in touch with all of the other parts of you that say, “I don’t want to have anything to do with it.” And so it allows all of that to unfold. And how this is described in traditional texts, it’s using the result as the path, rather than the genesis as the path, if you follow.
Joe: Yes, it also cuts out one of my routes of escape.
Ken: Which is?
Joe: It’s descriptive instead of prescriptive.
Ken: Yes, I’m all for cutting out those routes of escape.
Joe: And another example of that is when something as simple as imagining the dakini—well you know in my case it’s always a projection of something I already know—so the dakini has a possibility of taking on the face of somebody I know. So I would usually examine that dynamic, but in this case I feel that it’s more fruitful to just let it be and go forward.
Ken: Yes definitely because it probably won’t stay with somebody you know for very long. [Laughter]. You know, I mean there’s a certain person that to my mind embodies all the warmth and nurturing of earth. This was a friend of my mother’s in Yorkshire and even though she wasn’t a family relationship we always referred to her as Aunt Flo. But my mother once told me that she had said, you know, “Rachel if you ever commit a murder you can always come here.” [Laughter] You know, now that’s earth energy. So it can be helpful to remember certain things like that. You know when did you feel completely supported in your life? Or who’s somebody who provided that? And that will put you in touch with something okay and then just let yourself feel that. Okay? So I’ve gone through the earth element very easily, let me go through the other ones in the same way if that’s helpful and I think I’d rather do it as this rather than as a form of meditation because you’re more relaxed now and so it’s more likely to go [unclear] meditate when you’re all tense.
Steve: Just one quick question and these are…it’s very…have the same…some of these words don’t necessarily strike everyone the same way that when you go to this hollowness word it’s not resonating with me, where you’re going with that? Is there another description of it? Because you’re going from rigidity to something and I’m not—
Ken: Well the best thing to do is to—okay stand up, take off your headphones. What’s your name?
Ken: Paul. Okay. So Steve stand up and just stand over here. Paul you stand behind him. No, face back.
Ken: Yep. Face back, okay. Now you’re going to put your hand up just a little behind him and catch him when he falls. Okay? Hi Steve. Now I want you to lean back very slowly. Okay, now just right at the point you’re losing…okay that’s very good. Paul’s going to catch you—you don’t have to step back. But I want you to feel this whole thing. So just lean back.
Steve: And keep going?
Ken: Keep going but just stop just before you feel unstable. No you went too far.
Steve: Right before that.
Ken: Just stop just as you’re beginning to feel unstable. Okay. Now stay there. What do you experience? I mean keep your hands up just in case he falls over please Paul.
Yeah, okay that’s what I’m referring to.
Steve: Seems hard to articulate so.
Ken: Yeah but you’re not quite sure where things are just before things get…once they become unstable you know where you are and you don’t like it. But just before that.
Steve: Okay so there’s what…okay. Feel a lot quieter without the headphones on.
Ken: Okay. Question?
Student: Nothing. I mean the word is uncertainty, but I guess, I mean, you said a hollowness or uncertainty.
Ken: Yeah, that’s and I’ve messed around with the word a lot and those seem to be the ones that are closest to it but what I’m doing here is trying to point you to the experience. I mean another way that you can come across this is recall a conversation where you were absolutely sure about what you were saying and then somebody introduced a fact which caused it to be questioned? What do you experience right there?
Ken: Yeah, and if you open to that feeling it feels like, “Oh the ground just shifted.”
Student: Are you saying the hollowness refers to—
Ken: Microphone please.
Student: Are you saying that the hollowness refers to the fact that there’s no structure so there’s—
Ken: It’s the beginning of the disintegration of the structure which has supported your position.
Student: And so that imaging something to be hollow, by definition, in that space there is no structure.
Ken: Yes, is the imagine that I have, and why I use the term hollow is here you have, you know, the rigidity is like an eggshell it’s hard but inside there isn’t anything solid. And so when you poke, go under the rigidity you find what the rigidity is protecting which is that, “Oh I’m not really sure where I am. I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’m not sure what I’m standing on.” and so there’s that uncertainty or hollowness. And then you hit the actual instability which the rigidity is really protecting against. Anytime that somebody is adamant about a position you know actually that their unsure of it. This is where this stuff is really useful in day to day life. Whenever I find myself expressing myself adamantly about things I go, “Hmm?” I get suspicious now. “Why am I being so adamant about it?” ’Cause if I really was confident about this I would just say, “Oh, that’s how it is.” and I wouldn’t be adamant. That make sense to you? No.
You can tell a real master of a discipline because they don’t have to impress anybody. It’s the ones who aren’t so sure of their master status that are showing off. Striking any chords? Ah, I see you’re enjoying this Betty. [Laughter]
Okay, so that’s the earth reaction and how the earth…and I really want to emphasize that stability that doesn’t require any support is found in the experience of the reaction chain not—it isn’t something which comes from outside and opposes it—you experience all of these elements and you find, “Oh, I can just experience all of this. Ah.” And then you imagine that as the jewel and that gives you a symbol to work with. Again, that’s just helping the old mind form a different relationship with experience which is what we’re doing here. And then you feel yourself flooded with the energy, everything turns to light, sit in the light a while and then you start with the water dakini.
Now the water dakini, she’s totally different okay? Whereas the earth dakini is fall, richness, support, nurturing, everything like that, the water dakini is like the clarity of winter after a snowfall. You know we’re in Southern California, you probably don’t recognize this but you’ve had the snow, the world is completely white, everything is absolutely clear. And we sometimes get this here after a rain, you know, how clear the sky gets. And but everything is crystal clear, you look into her eyes and you know you don’t have anywhere to hide. Absolutely nowhere. Nowhere to hide—she knows everything about you. Now when you imagine that what do you feel? You look into this person’s eyes and they know everything.
Ken: Go ahead.
Ken: Okay, and that’s important to touch that because now you are going to make a gesture to show that you are prepared to move into that same awareness. And what a lot of people forget is if you move into that awareness you no longer can hide from yourself. This awareness business is massively inconvenient. You with me? Okay.
So you, and she’s dressed in white, and silver and all of that stuff, and holds a crystal flask in her left hand. And so when you make this gesture she moves towards you and pours elixir into you. And it comes down and you feel that total clarity, you know, just everything becomes vividly clear. And of course as things become vividly clear, everything that you aren’t clear about, you know clearly.
So you begin to experience the water reaction.
Now the water reaction is very interesting. How many of you can recall being asked a question that you didn’t want to answer? Well?
Student: Just now [unclear]. [Laughter]
Ken: Okay. So when we’re asked a question that we don’t want to answer, but we don’t want to break the connection. If we don’t care about the connection we just say, “X Y Z,” and we walk away, but we don’t want to break the connection. What do we do? We…that’s exactly right. What did you do with your body? That’s, yeah, okay you see what we’re doing? We’re dodging and weaving—we’re trying to deflect the energy of that question. And there are all kinds of different ways we can do this, so we become very fluid, and that’s exactly what everybody did with their body, they started moving their body like a wave. You see?
It’s because we’re experiencing that question as a threat. Not consciously, you know, this stuff is really, really fast. But that question feels like a threat and we’re trying to get out of the way of it. Okay? But if it’s a good reporter that’s asking these questions—they pin us down—and now we feel like we’re being carried away by this wave or current. [Ken takes coarse/exasperated breath] And how many…I mean you go to the ocean do you know the feeling of when a wave picks you up? If you’ve done any body surfing there’s that first moment when the wave picks you up and you go, “X Y Z,” okay? So that’s the feeling, loss of control. “This has just taken me away.” Same thing if you step into a fast moving river, you know, that current can just knock you off your feet and you’re gone. And when you do that what we try to do is disperse that energy so that it doesn’t happen. And it doesn’t work of course, and we end up getting frozen by it. Now we’re like in ice and you know we can’t move because our efforts to disperse have exhausted all possibility of movement.
Think of Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky Scandal. He dodged and weaved, and dodged and weaved, and dodged and weaved and then with nowhere to go. He was very good dodger and weaver. “It all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” And then we just go through the cycle again, and again and again—it’s very, very fast.
So that’s one way of doing it, you know just if you want to play with this yourselves just form into pairs and you can give them a question. “If you ask me this question,” and it’s a question you absolutely don’t want to answer. And the person just asks the question, you don’t have to answer it, you just have to feel [Ken laughs] what’s going on in your body, and it’s all going to be there. And all the other person does, “No, I really need an answer.” [Ken makes an exasperated noise] It’s all there again. “Please, just answer the question.” And you can just feel your body doing all of this stuff. You with me on this? Okay.
Now that’s what we feel as this elixir from the water dakini, which is the elixir of mirrorlike pristine awareness. Because as we open to all of that we find a clarity in that experience. Like, “Oh!” Now I’ve been doing this is terms of questions and one of the things is that, “Oh, I don’t have to answer this question. I don’t have to say anything.” That could be the clarity.
Can I have a couple of volunteers so I could illustrate this in the body?
Melissa: Do you want to do it with me?
Mary: I’m okay to this.
Ken: Okay, that’s right. He he [Ken chuckles]. Okay, now—
Mary: I experience that as a threat.
Ken: Very good. Right foot forward, back of the hands…no, no one hand just the right hand, okay? Now, oh I’m terrible with names today.
Ken: Mary. What I want you to do is stand a bit closer to Melissa with your right foot about a foot more forward. Uh, that was six inches, more forward. Yes, okay that’s good. And your foot a little more forward Melissa. Okay. More forward—this is water, this is connection. Both of you bend your knees. Ah, good.
Now, what I want you to do is to push very, very slowly right at the center of Melissa’s body. Now you see already you were in the earth cycle.
Mary: I’m doing earth? [Unclear]
Ken: Yes, okay. Don’t do earth, do water.
Mary: I’m assuming the body meaning right here.
Ken: No, you push right at her.
Mary: You want me to do water?
Ken: I want you to do water.
Mary: So up on her.
Ken: Just go very slowly. There. Okay. Now you see what she’s doing? So you adjust your thing. Keep going and every time she moves you adjust. Don’t go rigid Melissa, keep…so you see how Melissa’s trying to avoid. Okay, that’s the water cycle. All right? Now go back. I want you to stay in that experience and don’t do anything until it becomes completely clear to you which way she’s moving, or which way she’s pushing. Just stay right there and do nothing and when you know which way she’s moving just turn. No, no you’re already backing up, go back, go back.
Melissa: When I know which ways she’s moving I—
Ken: You just turn your body.
Mary: Turn your body down.
Ken: Turn your body.
Melissa: Okay, okay.
Ken: See. Do you have any push Mary from that point?
Mary: Did I feel a push?
Ken: No, after she turned did you have any place to push? Do it again. Gotta get much closer Melissa. There now okay, do you have any push Mary?
Mary: Just a speck, not completely.
Ken: Yeah, no, you’ve lost it right yeah. So that’s an example of clarity emerging in the experience. Because if you go back and do it the other way where you just try to avoid it—disperse the energy. You see. [Laughter]
Ken: You get it? So when you try to disperse it’s very easy to gets trapped that’s what happens with the water.
Student: It’s the frozen peice.
Ken: It’s the frozen peice. Whereas if you just rest in it, “Hmm, oh, that way, okay we’ll go that way.” Done.
Student: How is frozen different than rigid and earth?
Ken: You don’t have any place…well they feel very similar in a certain sense but the way you get there is in the earth one it’s the impulse and you’re grabbing. In this one you end up frozen because you’re trying to avoid.
Now anybody here from the South?
Student: St Louis. St. Louis, Missouri that was…we were on the edge.
Ken: Yeah, that’s right. So anybody had interaction with a Southerner recently?
Student: Mother’s from Kentucky.
Ken: Well that will do. So you know you bring up a topic and they say, “Oh you don’t want to talk about that my dear, why don’t you have a nice mint julep.” [Laughter] You know and they just take that energy and move it. They’re wonderful with water, you know, but you can’t get anywhere with it because they’re just fantastic at dispersing energy. That’s American culture…that’s where that comes up. You know other parts of the country, they have other stuff.
Okay so in that clarity experience arises with the same kind of clarity that you see things in a mirror. They’re just there. It’s not like they’re reflected—they’re just there. When you look in a mirror, like if you look in the reflection of this glass functions well enough, you can see all of those reflections—they’re just there—and they’re completely clear. You know nothing made them clear—they are clear. That’s what mirrorlike pristine awareness means. They’re completely clear and when they’re completely clear then you know what to do. It’s so simple. Yeah, right! [Ken chuckles]
Student: It’s not you know.
Student: It’s not you know.
Ken: [Laughter] Well it is actually—it’s the stuff that gets in the way. And that is symbolized as a mirror at or a crystal, whichever you want, at the solar plexus because that’s where we feel emotion, right there you know. Put your hand on your body half-way between the navel and the end of the sternum and you’ll feel a little crease in there. Okay? And you push on that may be a little tender. That’s your emotional center. Do you feel that? Yeah. So when things aren’t going quite right in a conversation that’s where you feel it. You know, okay?
So and then again you invite in all of that energy into your whole body, etc. and just thousands and thousands of water dakinis coming into you and you feel wonderful, and totally clear, everything dissolves into light and now you get the fire dakini.
This making sense to you Joe?
Joe: Yes it is.
Ken: Okay, now we’ve already talked about fire a little bit. Consuming intensity—it’s about passion—but have any of you run into a person you felt is just trying to devour you? As I said, I’m a little shy, introverted person. Up at a conference I was giving a presentation which I did a very bad job on in Santa Barbara a couple of months ago, and over lunch I met this person associated with this organization, but I wasn’t properly introduced so I didn’t really know who she was.
We sit down for lunch and she says, “Tell me about your spiritual path!” You know, “Tell me about…” No, she said, “Tell me about you.” I said, “What do you want to know?” “Tell me about your spiritual path.” I had never met this woman before and so that to me was like fire coming at me. And so I felt very alone at that point. Now I learned later that, of course this is not going to happen now, she was actually interested in me because she might have wanted to study with me. [Laughter] So clearly she was in fire reaction too because she was feeling alone, and uncertain and all of that stuff so she was making it really intense. You see how it plays out?
So anytime you find yourself going at somebody or somebody going at you, you’ve got fire going on. Okay? That consuming quality and underneath is that aloneness or loneliness, and underneath that is that feeling of rejection or isolation.
I remember a situation at a one of my business clients I happened to be in the room with the head of HR, and the president of one of the divisions called her and it had been made clear to him that he had to fire his assistant because his assistant had been sexually harassing somebody. And the assistant worked for him but he realized, you know, he had to get rid of him. And so he was calling up the head of HR and says,“You know I really have to do this.” and the conversation quickly became difficult even though I was only hearing one end of it, and I just wrote on a piece of paper—I knew this guy—I wrote on a piece of paper, “Make connection with him.” because when a person’s feeling alone you make connection.
So she said, “Do you want to talk through this again. We’ve talked through it before but I’m happy to talk through it with you again.” “Nrr nrr nrr nrrr nrr….” “Well do you want me to come down to your office?” And so she just kept making connection and after about five minutes he said, “No, I know what I’ve got to do. I’m fine.” But by making connection she was undoing that feeling of aloneness that he was feeling about having to take this difficult step with his assistant.
So again very, very practical tools come out of this stuff by understanding what’s going on in the fire cycle.
So here we have the fire dakini. So she’s in clothes that are like flames and not uncomfortably hot. But I mean you run into this all the time in your business Joe, people who are passionate about things, directors and so forth. You can feel that intensity, and vibrancy and that vitality, and all of that good stuff about fire which can be nurturing, you know, can be warming and things like that. But it just energizes and there are people who can walk in and just fill a room full with energy and get everybody moving.
I was up at Mammoth with a friend years and years ago and we we’d had dinner in one of the restaurants, The Whiskey, and upstairs at The Whiskey they have a band in the evenings, and he was a musician himself. And so we went up there and the band started playing and in two minutes everybody was up dancing and he just looked up and said, “Good band—they got everybody moving quickly.” And I went, “Oh, that’s how you judge whether a band is good—how quickly do people get on the dance floor.” And so just everybody was up because they had that fire, and passion and vibrancy in the music—everybody wanted to move with it.
So this comes up in the arts all the time so that’s what this woman is like, this dakini. So it’s just all of that passion and you look at her and you know and you sort of go, “X Y Z,” because you know it’s going to be wild, it’s probably going to be great, but you know that it’s going to be wild. Do you want to engage this you know? And you make your gesture and she pours this elixir into you and you just feel yourself filled with this passionate fiery energy in all of the positive ways, you know, all the ways that are good. You know not stuff that just burns out but something that is really enduring, and positive, and connecting, energizing in all kinds of different ways.
And of course you feel all of the parts of you that are scared of it, don’t want to have anything to do with it, are shut down, you name it. A lot of people when they’re doing something that they really, really care about, you know when it actually comes time to do it there’s stage fright and they go, “Uh” and they feel very alone, and even though they really, really want to do this they have to go out and do it by themselves. And so you have all of those parts in you and going on and you just open to the experience of them.
So what’s the fire cycle? One is this consuming intensity underneath of which is, as we went through that whole discussion around Tom and about being provocative in groups and things like that, is this sense of feeling of aloneness, underneath that the fear of rejection and isolation which is like this blank desert—think of Joshua Tree or what have you—and then you just seize on something and devour it and in that the…and you find yourself consumed.
I mean as I’m talking about this it’s a bit like bulimia in a certain sense isn’t it? You know because you know they’re feeling very alone and they just consume and—
Student: Right, right. Experience of devouring.
Ken: Yeah. And so you go through the cycle step by step feeling each stage and you know like that, and then you sit in the whole mess, and then you find that there’s a knowing there, and what is this knowing?
Let me give you an example. Think of somebody you know, yourself, and just imagine them in your mind right now and think of one of their qualities, something you like about them. Okay. How do you know they have that quality? Okay. Now, you know they have that quality because you know the person right? But rarely is it a process of deduction or rational deduction. There’s a different kind of knowing—just knows. Are you in touch with what I’m talking about? Okay, that’s the kind of knowing that I’m talking about here—you just know—and it’s a knowing which doesn’t depend on rational deduction, or inference or induction. Think there’s one more but I can’t remember—or analysis—it’s a direct knowing and there’s a connection that comes through that knowing.
Recently there was this match at Wimbledon which it was eleven hours and the final set was—
Student: Oh that was [unclear].
Ken: 70-68, okay, and that broke the previous record which was one in which Agassi where they played for five hours in one of these things. And when you play that level of tennis for that period of time there’s not much left in your body. And when Agassi, and I can’t remember his opponent at that time, but after this five hours—a grueling match which Agassi in the end won—they came back and they were both lying on tables in the locker room and they were getting massage. And their hands were like this [Ken makes gesture] and Agassi took the other person’s hand and they just held hands together for several hours because they were so wiped out from this experience. But because they had been in this very intense experience with each other they knew each other intimately and were connected. Even though tennis is a ritualized fight. But you so you form this kind of connection either through fighting with someone or through making love—same kind of connection. It’s that direct knowing through, you know really intimate knowing, that’s the kind of knowing that I’m talking about here. This is the kind of way we can have this kind of knowing in our lives. And that’s what the fire cycle is about: where you have that intimate relationship or connection with everything you experience so you know it.
Just to give you another example: pick up any object. I have a battery here but any object that fits in your hand, you know a cup is fine, okay. Now you can look at the object all right? You know what the object is? Okay. Now instead of looking at it, know the object. As you look at it know it. What happens in your experience there?
Student: They soften.
Ken: Microphone please.
Student: They soften.
Ken: Okay, what else?
Student: You understand it.
Ken: Say it again.
Student: You understand it.
Ken: How deep does the understanding go?
Student: Very deep.
Ken: How deep? Is there an end to it? Look at it.
Student: In this case yes but I’m guessing you’re getting to no.
Ken: Well when you…yes, where did you stop?
Student: It’s inanimate.
Ken: Okay. It’s a ballpoint pen, a rather nondescript commercial variety. Now, know it. Know it completely. Now tell me your experience.
Student: You feel it here—
Student: …in your heart and it’s deep.
Ken: Yeah and it’s just a ballpoint pen but there’s the plastic, there’s the ink, there’s the nib, and there’s all of the different crenellations in the plastic right.
Student: You need to feel it.
Ken: Yeah, okay, that’s the knowing were talking about. Now, how often do you have that kind of knowing when you sit down with a friend? We don’t usually relate to people this way. What would it be like if we did? What would it be like if we were able to relate it to everything we experience this way? What would your life be like? Well it wouldn’t be empty. [Ken chuckles]
Ken: Okay, so this is the kind of knowing. So in the middle of all of this consuming, and feeling alone and rejected you find this knowing and you find that that knowing actually brings about real connection to your experience. Just the way you experienced with that. A little different isn’t it? Okay. And that is what is called distinguishing pristine awareness. Distinguishing because we see all the differences, everything that distinguishes, we see incredible detail when we do this.
Student: Could you talk about the rose or the lotus as the image that comes up?
Ken: Sure, what did you feel when you were looking at your magic marker there?
Ken: Okay microphone please. So you want me to talk about the roses and image. Okay, thank you for because that was the part I missed. Now when you look at this highlighter—
Student: I don’t feel a connection to it.
Ken: Okay so open to it.
Student: I don’t feel it.
Ken: Know it.
Student: Into it.
Ken: Know it.
Student: Know it.
Ken: Know it.
Student: It just feels light.
Ken: Okay, keep opening to it. What do you notice about it? Tell me about it.
Student: It’s worn, it’s old, I’ve used it for a long time.
Student: It’s lasted a long time.
Ken: You notice the change in your voice just there?
Student: Not really. But yeah now that you point it out.
Ken: Yeah, what’s going on?
Student: I used to feel my teaching and—
Ken: What’s your voice expressing?
Student: Emotion I guess, a softening.
Ken: There’s your rose.
Ken: You’re falling in love with it.
Ken: No but you can hear it in your voice—.
Student: Yeah, yes I know.
Ken: …because it’s bringing back all those memories, that’s all those associations.
Ken: So now you’re knowing your experience and out of that comes passion.
Ken: And so here’s this plain old magic marker but as you realize this has been with me for a long time and all of that teaching comes in and now it becomes a very rich experience. That’s exactly how it works.
Student: Okay [unclear] thanks.
Steve: So one of the questions I have is like that was a great experience, but I would never get that from reading this.
Ken: Oh, okay I have to write another book.
Steve: So I mean when we come up with something that we like when a red rose, lotus I had no real it—so I moved on—what would you suggest because a lot of this is difficult without you sitting here, you know, as I reported?
Ken: That’s why we have teachers.
As the elixir…., this is page 221,
As you sit in the field of light, the need to consume, the need for intensity, dissolves into light, and you become aware of how knowing arises when you connect completely with what your are experiencing. And that’s exactly what happened there.
Ken: Yeah because at first she said,“Nah it’s just this, nah” I said, “Keep….” and then her voice just shifted. And you didn’t notice it until I pointed it out to you but then you could hear the softer quality, the quality [unclear] refers to and that was when connection was actually beginning to form. And that’s what’s when you connect completely with what you are experiencing—and that’s what the rose symbolizes. So yeah it’s all here.
Steve: I’ve heard this book.
Ken: Yes, yeah, Steve very patiently listened to me read the whole thing—that’s how we got the recording. Okay, so does that help?
Steve: Oh it definitely helps.
Steve: It’s just that it’s you should come every week ’cause—
Student: No, I agree. I think each of these stages you’ve given specific examples and I think sitting alone will be a bit of a challenge, unless I can keep referring to this dialogue [unclear] yeah.
Ken: Well that’s why we thought be good to record this.
Student: But to stay on the imagery and following it through I’m not sure.
Ken: Well as Joe said right to the beginning this is learning and I meant it for presentation last night, and in order to learn something so that it actually becomes part of the way that you operate takes three months of daily practice. That’s the minimum amount of time for something to become part of the way that you operate. And I would suspect that even if you do it for three months very consistently—still after that it takes a while. This is why in meditation I don’t pay any attention to anything anybody says until they’ve been practicing for three months ’cause they haven’t really started to know what the practice is about because they’re still just struggling with it. Around two or three months things begin to form and then there’s another key thing happens around five or six months.
So yeah you’re learning a very different way to relate to experience, and so that’s why when Melissa and Joe emailed me I said, “Yeah I know this is difficult.” That’s why I said, “Yeah I’ll come up and help you with this. Very happy to.” But it’s learning and you know give yourself a break. Try it a hundred times, try it a thousand times you know.
And maybe, you know, when did you learn how to catch a ball?
Student: Six years old.
Ken: Okay, how successful were you at the beginning?
Student: I’m sure not very good.
Student: Not very good.
Ken: So what if you’d given up first time?
Student: I’m sorry.
Ken: What if you’d given up trying the first time? “Oh, I can’t do this.”
Ken: You know it’s the same kind of thing.
Ken: Then after a while you get quite good at it then you don’t even think about it. You know driving—like all these things to think about—now we drive we don’t even think about them ’cause we know them. And that’s why we practice this stuff. We practice it so that it goes in and we actually start working with our own material and with our experience of the world in a different way. But it only comes through just repeating it over and over again and yeah this is going to be a bit of a jumbled up recording but that’s fine you can go through it and then think, “Okay, this, this, this.”
So now you have that sense of this just knowing my experience and that brings about a connection and, “Wow! Okay.” And it’s not a rational, intellectual connection, it’s not even really just an emotional connection—it’s more than that. And you’re ability to sense it and to touch into it will increase through doing the practice. You follow? And so now you invite all of that energy into you and that’s the fire dakini and everything turns into light and then you get the air dakini.
We just need to keep track of time I have no idea where we are. Oh, we’re all right.
So, now the air dakini is very popular in our lives. Air is about busyness—I’m trying to write a book. It’s amazing number of things I need to do now. I’ve hired a new person, she’s helping me organize my whole apartment—that’s absolutely vital. And it’s at least three seconds since I checked my email so I have to do that again [chuckles]. You know it just goes on, and on and on. It’s about busyness. Why? Because you’re busy in order to avoid that feeling of, “I don’t know who I am,” which comes up when you write, quite frequently.
I was talking with my brother and he said, “So what makes writing so difficult?” I said imagine that every time you sit down to write you have to face all of the material which prevents you from knowing your own voice—every time you sit down. He said, “I’ll never write a book—too intimidating.” I said, “That’s what it’s like.”
So we’re busy because we don’t know who we are or what to do. That’s why we…things like…and you see this every time somebody gets bad news like they’re fired and what do they do? They go back and start working at their desk furiously. ’Cause it’s just to make themselves feel like they know what they’re doing. You know they know they have to leave later that day or whatever. It’s terrible.
So air dakini. Now, air dakini’s in green, fire dakini has a ruby flask, left that out, and fire is connected with spring in the seasons. The air dakini is with summer and why? Well we don’t have a lot of them here but if you go out to Huntington you get a few more. You get these really leafy, deciduous trees. I was just up in Canada, everything was in the summer, you have leaves and when the wind blows, it’s just everything’s moving, you know, so much…everything’s green.
So, and air is about activity so the activity dakini is in front of you now. Now this is a person you know that whatever she decides to do it’s done. You just know that about this person, and this is one really effective person. You ever run into this kind of person? Okay. What do you feel when you run into this kind of person?
Student: Well when I decide to do something I do it. I mean I identify with that.
Ken: Okay, great.
Student: I specialize in busyness.
Ken: But I’m talking about effective action.
Ken: So you run into person and they’re just able to make things happen. Betty? You know someone like this?
Betty: Yes I know a producer person like this.
Ken: Okay, so when you run into this person what’s this like for you?
Betty: There’s a great feeling of being taken care of actually.
Ken: Yes, and then they turn to you and say they give you something to do. What’s that like?
Betty: Well I can do it.
Ken: Yeah but do you notice the little intimidation there?
Betty: Yeah I can that.
Ken: Yeah because there’s no fooling around here.
Betty: No you can’t.
Betty: There’s no this and this.
Ken: No that’s off the table. Okay. You know if they give you something you know that they can do it just like [Ken snaps fingers] that and now you’re on.
Ken: That’s it okay. So that’s the intimidation you feel when you look at this person. It’s like, “Okay, there’s no screwing around here.” And you make the decision to move into that level of effectiveness in your own life. That’s what that’s about.
Well it’s important to taste this stuff. Okay? I mean are you getting the sense of the dramatist person that I hear, Joe?
Joe: I need some more energy drinks I think.
Ken: No, no, no that’s the opposite way ’cause you’re looking to get something from the outside with the energy drinks. You’re looking for it to touch this inside. Okay. You do and it requires that.
So you say, “Okay yes I’m willing to step up here.” and she pours this elixir into you, comes to the throat ’cause action begins with speaking. You know.
There’s an old joke, business joke. Four frogs on a log. One says to the other three, “On the count of three they all jump into the water, right.” First frog says, “Sounds good—it’s a plan—yep I’m on board.” First frog says, “One, two, three.” How many frogs were there on the log? Four. Execution is more difficult than making a decision. [Laughter]
So this is a person who executes—she just gets things done. And you’re saying, “Okay I’m going to step into that.” She makes things happen and she’s really, really good at it. And so she pours this elixir into you and then I go [Ken takes in breath] and you can feel all of the parts that just fill up the time doing stuff that is just stuff. And I’ve come across this with several executives that I coach. I say, “Why don’t you do this?” “Because doing this kind of lower level work makes me feel useful.” It’s not their job but they do it because it makes them feel good, and it really causes a lot of problems, but they’re doing it to define who they are. It’s a complete waste of time.
So you feel all of this stuff. So here’s the reaction cycle: you have this busyness, and underneath that busyness is the feeling that I have nothing to stand on. Nothing to say who I am, and underneath that there’s the fear of being destroyed or annihilated. Okay?
Student: One more time underneath—
Ken: Underneath that feeling of nothing to stand on is the fear. And so there’s this feeling of just falling you see and the fear there is. “I’m going to be annihilated. I’m going to be destroyed. I’m going to cease to exist.” It’s exactly what’s going on there. And so what do you do? You get out of that by finding something to do. “Oh the room needs sweeping.” [Ken makes sweeping sounds] You know?
I’ve had a fight with my girlfriend many, many years ago, and in the middle of it I just got up, went to the sink and started doing dishes. She said, “Are you walking out on this fight!?” I said, “Absolutely.” “Why are you doing the dishes!?” “Because the soap and the water make me feel good. It’s calming me down.” [Ken laughs] I was just doing something so I didn’t have to feel all of that nothing to stand on, didn’t know where we were going, etc., so I wanted to ground myself.
So that fear of just falling—that’s the open space. Now this comes up again and again in meditation practice, particularly in the practice of insight and vipashyana, because you’re looking at the assumptions which form the basis of experience and you’re saying, “There’s nothing there.” So in that level of meditation one really gets used and needs to get used to this idea of just falling, and falling and falling.
Ken: Okay. Because that’s what you’re experiencing and so you just sit down and you just start falling. And if you have that experience all the time when you’re practicing that’s—your practice is in good shape. So you get out of that by starting to do something, and then another thing, another thing, another thing and now you’re just end up in a whirlwind of activity and they’re torn apart by that. And there are several people I coach and students I work with I say they’re just whirlwinds of activity and I just say to them, “You know you can do anything you want, but you just can’t do everything.” But they’re in this whirlwind of activity so they don’t have to face the question, “What do I really want to do?” ’Cause they don’t know, they don’t know who they are or what they really want in their lives so they fill it up with stuff.
And so in this whole reaction cycle you open to this, the elixir’s pouring into you and you find, “Oh, I’m just here and I don’t need to do any of this stuff. I know what to do.” Now how many of you have been caught up in a whirlwind of activity, somebody stopped you and made you just say okay, “What really needs to be done?” and you sit, and you find it and you go, “Oh this is all I need to do.” Have any of you had that experience? Yeah. Okay, that’s what were talking here.
Student: Do you know John Wooden’s thing?
Ken: Microphone please.
Student: I just read this one of John Wooden’s teachings is, “Activity does not equal effectiveness.”
Ken: That’s right. Yeah and that’s what I say people say, “I’m just trying to be efficient here.” I said, “Yes, efficiency and effectiveness are two different things. If you’re effective then you’re probably going to be efficient but you can be very efficient and get nothing done.” So that’s exactly right.
And so now it moves into the realm of effective action and it’s one of the reasons people consult with me because fairly often I’m able to say, “Okay in all of those things that’s what you need to do.” And they go, “Oh, that’s all?” “Yeah, usually that’s all. Do that then things start to flow in a different direction.”
So, by opening to your experience of confusion—and the whirlwind and everything like that—you find an awareness which just knows what to do and that’s why it’s called effective pristine awareness. And so what’s at the throat? The sword. A sword is a very effective instrument. [Ken makes cutting sound] You only have to use a sword once. Did you ever see the movie the Seven Samurai?
There’s a kind of a sad scene but there’s in it where two samurai have met and one is a really, really expert swordsmen and the other person says you know, “Lets do a duel.” Says, “Okay we’ll do it with wooden swords.” And so they duel and they face each other, and it’s just one strike. And the person who’s challenged him says, “Draw.” and the other person says, “No you lost.” “I don’t believe you will do this with real swords.” And the guy says, “Okay.” And it’s exactly the same thing and you see this scene of them—this is how Kurosawa shoots it—and there’s just one strike, and for a moment both are standing there, and then the one who challenged falls down and the other person says, “Such a waste.” But he’s able to make that one cut and if you want to read about this there’s some very interesting stuff in the Tales of the Samurai [Asataro Miyamori] because most of the sword fights were just one cut and it was over. And so when you approach a situation the effective action is, “What’s the one thing that needs to be done here that changes everything?” You find that and you do it. A lot of people, they don’t want to do that one at all. They don’t want to go near it. So that’s effective action and sword at the throat, invite all the energy in, everything turns to light.
Now you get to the void dakini. Void dakini is really the most difficult because it has to do with everything. Now the void dakini, you know, she represents space and everything takes place in a space. So you know we have this space in this room which allows furniture and us to be in this room. That’s physical space. We have space in sound. It’s called silence. Silence is the space in which sound occurs. Okay?
We have space in movement. It’s called stillness. Stillness is the space in which movement occurs. What we do time and time again is we put these as opposites. We say form and space are opposite. No, this physical space is space which allows form to be there. And we say silence and sound are opposite which is not the case. What happens is when we hear a noise we stop hearing the silence. The silence doesn’t actually go anywhere we just stop hearing it and it’s a different way of experiencing your world when you listen to the silence whenever there is noise. You’ll find it changes the way you hear things.
Its the same with movement. We think movement and stillness are opposites. No, stillness is the space which makes movement possible. So when you’re moving be aware of the stillness in every movement. It’ll change things. It’s a very good way to practice Tai Chi for instance.
This cup is completely useless if it’s full; I can’t put anything in it. So we ordinary think space and what fills it, and there’s quiet in the mind and we think of thoughts. And we think thoughts…thinking and quiet are opposites. No, the quiet in the mind or the stillness in the mind is what makes thinking possible. So when you’re meditating you find yourself forgetting the space of mind and so you get all caught up in your thoughts. This just means you forgot the space part of it. And so when you’re meditating just keep connecting with the space part don’t worry about the thinking it’s just movement in space. It’s no big deal at all—don’t have to do anything with it. And now the thinking will pull you in and usually through one of these five reactions and as soon as you become aware of it just come back to space and you know and doesn’t matter if thoughts bubble up, you rest. And as you actually rest and connect with space then you find a lot of things just sort themselves out.
So you have the space dakini and she’s blue, deep blue of high altitudes, high altitude sky. There is just infinite depth to this person—infinite depth—you can look into her eyes and you can see forever. Know anybody like that? Trungpa Rinpoche was like this. I had a short meeting with Trungpa and you looked into him and you just felt like you were looking into outer space. [Ken gestures] Extraordinary. And you [were] talking to him and it felt like you were talking into outer space. Just went out into nothing, So that’s what it’s like.
And you indicate that you’re willing to embrace that depth or that infinity of experience whichever way you…or both of them. And so she pours the elixir into you comes down to the crown of your head…no to this part right in the center of your head, basically where the pituitary gland is. And you experience the void, you’re filled with infinity of space, and awareness, and stillness, and you know all of the different dimensions of space, and silence etc. And of course you immediately become aware of everything that is all of the other elements. And that first manifests as a kind of dullness just a fog and underneath that is the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Now how many of you know when you’ve—’cause this happens to me all the time so I know this one very well—when you find a difficult situation you just feel overwhelmed and you just go dull, or sleepy or something like that? You know that reaction? Okay, that’s the void reaction. Just, “Ohh.” You know, and underneath that is the fear of being nothing which is the deepest fear in the human condition. We fear death but the reason to fear death is because we fear being nothing. You know we have this in Hamlet.
To be, or not to be and that’s what prevents him from committing suicide at that point because he fears being nothing. And whether you open to that we just go blank and that blankness is terrifying. Hit this all the time when I’m teaching people mahamudra or insight meditation ’cause they hit this blankness and they panic. It happens very, very fast and they just fragment and they usually go into their intellect which is a typical air reaction but sometimes they’ll do something else. But in the void reaction you just break up into pieces and every one of those pieces does a different element.
So maybe you’ve seen someone whose experienced a profound shock and they’re rigid, emotional, fiery, busy and they’re just a complete mess you know that’s the void reaction. And you just dissolve into nothing ’cause you’re broken up. It’s right in our language you know we have airheads for the air people, and we have you know stick-in-the-muds for the earth people and we have sleazy for car salesman because they’re doing water all the time—it’s all in our language. And so that’s the void reaction and you open to all of that which is a little uncomfortable, but you’re big boys and girls now so that’s too bad and you find in it the possibility of just experiencing everything, Everything. You become one with space and when you become one with space then everything that is taking place in the space is your experience. Everything.
So again you’re finding the experience of space in the reaction chain not as something that opposes it. That’s really, really important. I didn’t write about that in the book I agree. And that’s totality pristine awareness. And it’s a ring of light is a symbol for a circle is complete. Everything is there. You can think of the enso in Japanese calligraphy, you know those circles that Zen people draw—it’s the same thing. Just everything is complete that’s what the ring of light symbolizes. And now you just open to the totality of your experience. So, and then you rest there forever. [Laughter]
Now practically speaking you’re probably going to do best by working on one dakini at a time. So you do one. You start with the earth dakini and do that with some detail so you’re really connecting with it and then do all the other four dakinis very quickly—just go through the motions—so you end up with everything and then you sit in all of that unity. That’s good keeps the body in balance.
After a few weeks then you move on to the water dakini, and now you’ll do the earth dakini very quickly and then you spend the time on the water dakini, and then you do the other three after that and you gradually move them all. And this is building facility with each one of them step by step. That’s what’s important, you know.
I have to leave fairly promptly because I have a dentist appointment, yay.
Student: So I have a question, so—
Student: …because I like precision or something I mean when you say work on the earth if we sit for half-hour or should we sit for forty-five minutes? Do you do twenty minutes on the earth and then go through the others quickly or?
Ken: Okay, you’re going to spend fifteen minutes just resting with the breath, let everything settle down.
Ken: Then go through the earth dakini, well you’ll have to see, in the beginning you’ll probably just go through it once and it will take you, you know, five or ten minutes, probably ten minutes to go through it the first few times. And then you just go through the other four and then you sit will all of that unity, you know all of this symbols in their centers and then you just sit with that and rest for the rest of the period. As you gain the facility with the earth dakini you’ll probably find yourself being able to go through it two or three times.
The point here is when you’re doing this as you’re learning it just walk through it. Use crib sheets or whatever you learn, memorize the material very definitely the sooner you memorize it the more it becomes part of you. And just walk through it—it’s going to feel mechanical at first and then gradually it’ll start to build up a flow. And don’t worry about it feeling mechanical, it always does, that’s just part of the learning process. And so you do that and then gradually you’re going to feel more facility with it and that’s good. And as you gain more facility then you’re going to actually start touching into the experiences.
And you don’t want to go so fast that you don’t touch into the experiences. That’s important. As long as you’re touching into the experiences. But the point here isn’t to work through the experiences, that’s not a good way to work. You’ll end up in a mess of confusion and conceptualization if you do that. It’s each experience and touch, touch, touch, touch, touch. Be in the whole mess of it, when you’re in the whole mess, the whole reaction chain, then sit there and keep opening to all of the dimensions. You know you’ll feel yourself pulled here, pulled there, distracted and the thoughts, associations coming up and just keep coming back to the whole mess until you gain some sense of, “Oh, I can just be in this.” and then feel the jewel at the appropriate center, or the symbol at the appropriate center and then just invite all of that energy in you know. So you’re actually working through a script. Okay? Does that help?
Student: Yeah, thank you.
Ken: All right other questions?
Student: Would you just—circle of light I got it—union, this quality of unionness on the void last one just say something about that.
Ken: You’re completely in your experience—you’re one with your experience.
Student: But isn’t the whole idea of the the whole thing?
Student: Okay. Thank you very much.
Student: Two things for you. I feel you should say again what you just said you hadn’t written about just in one sentence.
Ken: Oh, don’t feel that the pristine awareness, or what you find in the experience is in opposition to the patterns. You’re finding it within your experience of the patterns. It’s by going, opening completely to the experience of patterns you find in that a space in which the pattern is taking place and that space is the pristine awareness. So in the earth you know you’re feeling, “uuuaahhhhhaa” you know and rigid, and tense and all of that and you open to all of these different experiences and you find, “Oh, I can just be here.”
Ken: Oh. And in the water you’re going like this, “uuuuuuuuhh” and you’re trying to get away from it and you’re being pulled, and tugged, and washed away and things like that and you open to all of that mess and you go, “Oh, I can be clear here.”
And in fire instead of consuming experience you can just know. You know and I mean this comes up with love all the time. Rather than trying to reach for love, let yourself know love. Makes a little different. You feel?
Okay and with air it’s okay, feel all of the stuff, “Oh, I know what to do.”
And with the void you’re a million pieces all over the place, “Oh, I can just be here.” Which is exactly what Buddha did at the moment of his enlightenment. He touched the ground and said, “I’m here.”
Student: So in a lot of ways were again talking about both balance on the one hand and presence to, being present to whatever is actually happening on the other.
Ken: Yeah and finding clarity, knowing, stability or balance, whichever word you want to use effectiveness in the experience not trying to find these things and bring it to the experience.
Ken: So, and this is very good. While you’re doing this when you’re doing the earth element, earth dakini you’ll see the section on 226 Observing Earth definitely do that at the same time. You can have very…you know where is earth out of balance in your life? Where is it in balance? This is going to be a total inventory on your life you go through all of these things. You know and I mean there are many more dimensions to it than I’ve, I just gave a bunch of things as suggestions.
But earth is what provides support and structure to your life. Water is emotional connection and where things flow. Traffic, cash, you know you name it, water anything that flows. Fire is passion you know what makes things light up. And air is movement, activity. Void is your attention to space. So you know you work that in your daily life and you have each other’s shoulders to cry upon so that’s fine. [Ken chuckles]
Student: Yeah, we’re really good at that.
Student: Thank you Ken.
Ken: You’re welcome. Other questions?
Student: So do we pretend even if we don’t feel it that we don’t?
Student: Thank you and is so we’re dismantling our reactive emotions in these spaces essentially. We’re going there to do that? Is that?
Ken: What are you trying to get at?
Student: I don’t know dude, the title is called Dismantling—
Ken: Yes I know but [laughter] the book’s out of date you can throw it away now. [Laughter] That was…this is Wake Up To Your Life 1.0. I’ve been teaching you Wake Up To Your Life 2.0 today.
Don’t think of dismantling.
Student: Just experiencing?
Ken: Just experiencing because I mean because you want to change something it’s very simple. Anything you want to change bring attention to it. I’ve worked with a number of people on getting out of debt. First thing is track all your expenses. You bring attention. “I don’t need to spend five bucks on Starbucks everyday.” Now they’re just saving 25 bucks a week [Ken snaps fingers] like that. And it comes from bringing attention to it. So you’ve got all of these reactive patterns. This is a way of bringing attention to them. As you open to that experience which is bringing attention to it.
You don’t have to do anything you find that space in the experience. Now the reactive pattern is just experience, it’s just stuff and you’re functioning in a different way. So yes it does dismantle them but it isn’t by you taking them apart. They fall apart by you opening to the experience and it’s very important that you put your effort into opening to the experience—not in taking them apart—because taking them apart or the desire to take them apart is just another reactive pattern. [Chuckles] I’m cutting off lines of retreat here in case you hadn’t noticed. [Chuckles] It’s a good question. I’m sorry it’s this is outdated now. [Laughter]
Student: One last question?
Student: So you gave images for earth that are fall, you know water is winter, fire spring, passion, summer air. What is an image for void?
Student: Space. Could it be desert too?
Ken: No that’s fire.
Student: Space. Okay, thank you.
Ken: Yeah, space. Just [Ken speaks with space in his voice] infinite, infinite space. Sky is your image for—
Student: Okay, okay.
Ken: Where is it? You ever been up to Glacier Point in Yosemite?
Ken: Oh okay that’s a good place—
Student: Seen pictures of it.
Ken: Yeah well you go up to Yosemite and it’s just like the whole Yosemite Valley and it’s just like, “Haaaahh.” or you go up to the top of Half Dome same thing. You go, “Haaaah.” it’s just like all this space. Yosemite’s a very good place to do that because it’s good, but Grand Canyon is also good I like Yosemite better for that. But if you can go to someplace like that. And it’s a very good exercise is to go to a place to get the feel of the elements. So go down to the ocean sometime when you’re doing water and just sit and watch waves for an hour or two. You know and just watch, Or go up the coast where there are waves breaking against the cliffs that’s also good. So you just and you just watch it you know. Go and sit on…go up to Vasquez Rocks or something like that and there’s you know rocks. Earth. Or sit, you know, sit in the middle of a field, a meadow or something like that, Trees: their all about earth. Or the trunks of trees I’m thinking of. Fire you got the sun of course but also you know a candle or you know just sit in front of a fire. Watch how the flames, you know, just watch what the flames do. So you really get the stuff viscerally into your body and then go to a place where there’s just big open view. Eagle Rock actually up in Topanga that’s not bad. That’s an easy climb. That’s not a bad place to do that. And so you just go and, “Okay, this is space.” You know there’s not much to it. Okay?
Ken: Good. All right. Okay, you’re cooked. [Laughter] We didn’t get much meditation done but I hope this was helpful.
Student: Very helpful. Thanks [unclear].