Teachings | Training
The Four Ways of Working and Relationships Download
The effect of eye gaze in meditation; four ways of working: power (based on coercion, demands), ecstasy (connection through opening), insight (seeing into things) and compassion (being present with another’s pain or when another is in pain); which operate in our close relationships?; three bases of relationship: mutual benefit, shared aim and emotional connection.
August twenty-fourth, morning, in Des Moines, New Mexico.
Any questions about technique or practice points? Leslie?
Leslie: I was wondering if you could talk about the use of gaze, and particularly eyes closed, and then different levels of gaze.
Ken: Yes. When you’re working with things like the four immeasurables—those kinds of practices—the positioning of your eyes is probably not so important. You’re generally just going to let the eyes rest. And I’m not even sure it makes a big difference whether you’re using eyes open or eyes closed. Generally, in Mahayana schools one meditates with the eyes open, and Theravadan eyes closed. But that’s not universal.
When you’re experiencing dullness, one of the instructions is to raise your eyes and look up a little bit. It helps to clear the mind when you are experiencing a lot of activity. And then when you want to relax, you lower the gaze and just let the whole system relax. That’s generally the case. When there’s dullness, you want to bring more energy into the system; when there’s activity, it means there’s tension in the system, so you want to relax.
Yesterday, we talked about just recognizing. And in that just recognizing there’s a shift in which mind, or heart, or experience—whatever word you want to use—is clear and open. In the beginning it’s relatively short. As you begin to stabilize this, then you mix it with experience. So that you look at a tree, just recognize seeing the tree. Or you look across the valley. You’re actually mixing that open clear awareness with experience. And this brings a very awake quality to everything. Also—I was going to talk about this anyway, so it’s good that you ask—you’re starting the process of being able to maintain or move into, which would be better to say, move into that empty clear awareness in activity.
One of the things I was going to say this morning was that when you are going for a walk, do the same thing. You keep dropping into that empty clear mind as you’re walking. And so you begin to experience everything, and then you can do it when you are eating and in more and more activities. It’s a little harder to do it with sound, but you can practice it. It’s even harder to do it with conversation. That takes a little bit of practice. But we’re not doing a lot of conversation, so you can work on that later. Practice until you can experience everything that way. This gives you a basis of clear open awareness permeating your experience.
Again, I want to emphasize: don’t try to hold onto this. It’s a case of opening or dropping—whichever way you want to consider it—and resting there. And when it dissipates it dissipates, don’t try to bring it back. Do it again. That’s that business of returning to it rather than trying to hold onto it.
You can also practice with the eyes wide open. Some people find this very effective with when they’re practicing. Now, don’t do this with the sun shining in your eyes because it won’t be good for you. But what you are doing here is letting a great deal of light come in so the mind naturally becomes very bright and very clear, and you’re resting in that clarity. Is that sufficient?
Leslie: Yeah that’s helpful, and I wanted to ask a supplementary question.
Ken: A follow-up question?
Leslie: Sometimes I’ll notice my eyes going back and forth, like one’s wanting to be the main one then the other one, and I’m sort of going pulling, pushing back and forth. And what I’ve done is tried to let go of that and just then be more aware of the opening to whatever the experience is in front of me. And then it seems like the gaze evens out, when you do.
Ken: Yeah, I think that’s good. Rather than try to fix the eyes a certain way, you rest and let the eyes sort themselves out, yeah.
Leslie: The other question was that I generally notice that emotional material is better worked with with my eyes closed. I don’t know if you have any comment on that.
Ken: Depends a little bit what practice you’re doing, doesn’t it. If you’re resting in open experience and emotional material comes up, experience it with the eyes open. You won’t be able to work with it the way that you’re used to. That could be helpful.
Leslie: Except what I notice is that I don’t have much emotional material when my eyes are open, like at least not in practice, maybe in daily life. But…
Ken: Then it’s not a problem is it?
Leslie: Well that’s right, maybe you’re just kind of like hiding out.
Leslie: It’s hiding out perhaps.
Ken: If you’re ascending, we’ll track you down. [Laughter]
Leslie: It does seem like, I don’t know, physiologically, and I’ve read it somewhere too, that your limbic system becomes more open with your eyes closed.
Ken: That may be. As I say, if you’re ascending, we’ll track you down. You know, you’ve seen the movie Up?
Ken: Oh my, you gotta see Up. Any other questions? Larry.
Larry: As one rests in this open experience, as you described the pointing-out instructions last night that the Karmapa gave you on your retreat, as one begins to do that in the short intervals, what are the signals that one isn’t just spacing out or going into momentary reverie?
Ken: What are you experiencing that gives rise to that question?
Larry: Well, the pointing-out instruction, as I understand, is look and as soon as a thought arises, relax. And so as I would look, there may be no presence of thoughts or emotional energy, but I’m not sure that I am going in the right direction. I don’t know…
Ken: What do you experience when you look?
Larry: The sensation of looking—the visual pattern.
Ken: Look at your mind.
Larry: Pardon me?
Ken: Look at your mind. What do you experience?
Larry: I can’t articulate it without using the overused word presence. [Laughter]
Ken: You’re on the right track, keep going. [Laughter]
Larry: But there are no warning signs to this kind of reverie that is so common in our Western expression of, you know, going into a reverie; you go into this zone.
Ken: Yes, I understand, but when I asked you to look at your mind, you didn’t say, “I’m experiencing reverie,” did you?
Larry: No I did not.
Ken: Okay, so it’s not a problem yet.
Larry: Yet. [Laughter]
Ken: Yeah, when there is we’ll work with it.
Larry: All right, thank you.
Ken: But right now—there. So that’s it, you know. Okay?
Student: This is just a logistical question about the qigong.
Student: Did I miss it this morning or is it yet to be…?
Ken: A qigong lesson?
Ken: No, we will do one probably around four this afternoon.
Student: Four, okay.
Ken: Okay, so let’s close here. Breakfast should be shortly. Thanks.
August twenty-fourth, evening session at A Trackless Path, Des Moines, New Mexico.
Okay, last night we talked at some length about mahamudra practice. I made the reckless statement that I was going to talk about mahamudra and relationship, but we didn’t get to relationship. To begin with, I’d like to take up any questions that may have come out of last night’s discussion or out of your practice today on mahamudra. So, floor is open.
No answer came the stern reply! No questions? Nothing? That makes my life easy.
Okay. Relationships. Big topic of course. But all of us have chosen to live life in the world and to practice living and working. Almost everybody here has a family. So it’s a world of relationships at home, at work, friends socially, and so forth. To quote Zorba the Greek: “Wife, family, work, career—the full catastrophe.”
Now, some years ago the assistant to one of the executives that I coach was a young Indian woman, who had made a short documentary about the Kumbha Mela, which is a Shaivite festival in India that takes place at the confluence of the Ganges, and I can’t remember the other river [Yamuna]. It’s a two-week festival that occurs only once every several years [twelve]. And at this festival there is something like 10 or 11 million people over a two-week period. I mean, here in this country, we can’t imagine that large a crowd.
So, she has clips of all of the Shaivite sadhus. I just found it very interesting to watch, because this is exactly how Buddhism started. Buddha had come to a level of experience or understanding and attracted followers. This is what happens in India. And these were people who gave up civil and social life in order to pursue practice.
In this documentary there’s a clip of probably between one thousand and two thousand Indian men who are all naked. They’re only wearing ashes and things like that, because that’s what the Shaivites do. And they’re all ages, from all different sectors of Indian society. Some of them obviously were from very wealthy families, some of them were very poor. And all of them are formally giving up social and civil life in order to pursue their spiritual practice. They live in very small communities and survive on begging, doing the rounds every day, which was part of the Buddhist monastic tradition, and still is. And I just found it fascinating watching this because, “Oh, this is like stepping back in time!”
The reason I’m mentioning this is that Buddhism is a religious mendicant tradition, at bottom. That’s how it started. And the whole thesis underlying Buddhism, from its inception, is a life of renunciation, so you can focus and develop—focus your attention on the deepest questions you have about life. And as such, it was part of the Indian tradition which saw that as a young man, you’re a warrior or plied your trade. And then when you got everything established, you took a wife and raised a family. And when you reached a certain age, then you gave all of that up and then entered the religious life. Robert Bly used this as the The Red, White and Black—the three stages of life in men. And for women it’s White, Red, Black. Different order.
Now, on that basis, as Buddhism spread out of India and as the economic and political and social conditions in India changed, Buddhism adapted to a certain extent. And certainly it took very, very different forms in different cultures: Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Russia. And when you look at these different forms of Buddhism, they actually have probably greater differences in form than Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
But they preserved this core remarkably well through all of these different cultures. In all of these different geographical locations, there has been a very, very strong monastic tradition. And in Tibet it took over the country. One third of the male population were monks. That creates a certain economic imbalance, which is why Tibet developed into a theocracy.
It didn’t reach anything like that proportion in China. In Japan, they ran into some political problems and so the celibate monastic tradition was kind of ruled out of order. And the priests were forced to marry. And so you get all kinds of funny things happening in Japan.
But these themes remain very, very strong. In Sri Lanka and Malaysia, the monastic traditions continued very strongly. Over time, the people who practiced in this tradition were part of the social fabric and became elders and advisers. This happened definitely in Southeast Asia, and Tibet certainly, and to some extent in China and Japan. So people would go to them for advice, and they served a very definite social function.
Lay communities built up and developed around these and supported them. Some of them were pulled in to performing marriages and things like that. But in Tibet, there wasn’t any Buddhist marriage ceremony. That’s only been made up in the West. If you were getting married in Tibet, you went to the local lama and he might do a White Tara empowerment for the couple—that was getting married. But the lama was never invited to the wedding reception for a very simple reason: the lama was celibate. To invite him to the wedding would be a bad portent for the couple: no children!
So, when you talk about Buddhism in relationships, in terms of work in the world and in our families and so forth, there ain’t much stuff. There really isn’t much stuff, and you don’t find that much in the sutras. In preparing for this evening, I pulled out Longchenpa’s 30 Pieces of Advice. I got the Tibetan, by the way, and I’m happy with my translation. And I went through the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva. It is very, very clear, the direction that these things are pointing.
Simplify your life so you can focus your attention on your deepest questions about life. That’s what they’re talking about. So, you take a look at Longchenpa. He’s wonderful about this. Yeah, on page 28, no actually go to page 27, because this is where he really does it. You start near the top, the second stanza:
Managers, assistants, directors, and such
provide the infrastructure for both communities and religious institutions.
But your involvement in such matters gives rise to worry and concern.
Limit your business—that’s my sincere advice.
And let’s see, yeah, at the bottom of page 26:
Although you think you’re serving the welfare of beings
by acting as a guarantor, witness or advocate to help settle others’ disputes,
Your own opinions will inevitably assert themselves.
Don’t be concerned—that’s my sincere advice.
There is a group—I think it still meets—of Buddhist teachers, most of them nationally known, that meets in the Bay Area. I don’t know how frequently. I was part of that many, many years ago. But I got tired of making the trip up from Los Angeles. One day, just being the kind of person that I am—that’s why I get thrown out of things—I brought this along and just gave it to them all. And every one of them, as they started to read it, just turned green. And one of them, I remember, he just looked and said, “This is my life!” Because he was doing all of these things.
You collect a lot of pledges from the poor
and use them to build big monuments, help the needy, and so on.
The good works you do cause others to live badly.
Goodness must be in your mind—that’s my sincere advice.
So, it’s very clear what Longchenpa’s pointing to, you know. Let it all go. Don’t look to have any position in society or any of these affairs. Simplify your life in the extreme, so you can focus your attention on what you feel is truly important to you.
Now, this is not what any of us have chosen to do. There’s a lot of good advice in here, but it’s oriented in this specific direction. And if you go to 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, the second one, “Attraction to those,” stanza number two of the practices, that is, after the first two introductory ones:
Attraction to those close to you catches you in its currents;
Anybody have any familiarity with that one? Okay?
Aversion to those who oppose you burns inside;
That ring any doorbells?
Indifference that ignores what needs to be done is a black hole.
Now you get the advice or the practice of a bodhisattva:
Leave your homeland.
How many of you have done that? Milarepa is famous for saying, and it’s true, “If you want to give up anger, leave your homeland.“ Leave your native country. If you really want to`get away from anger, you’ve got to get out of your native country. I’ve done that. I’m not sure I got out of anger, but I left my native country.
So, you can see where all of this is pointing to.
I’ve been reading a book that was recommended to me by my friend and colleague, Stephen Batchelor, called Philosophy as a Way of Life. It’s by [Pierre] Hadot, who’s a French academic who’s studied Greek philosophy, Greek and Roman, very, very deeply, and a lot of other philosophy, too. The Greeks approach this home matter very, very differently. Philosophy for them was not an abstract study or interest. It was an ongoing questioning of how to live. People who studied with Socrates or Plato later—I really think Plato screwed things up badly—and the Stoics, the Epicureans, etc., they were encouraged to live in Zorba the Greek’s world—the full catastrophe. How do you actually do this?
I have a friend who studied in India for many years. He was very, very highly trained and was a monk for many years. He had earned a very considerable level of respect from Tibetans for his intelligence and the quality of his practice. And he had a very senior position in one of the Western institutions that had come out of that particular lineage. And he met a woman, fell in love, and gave it all up. I feel very fortunate to have had a few conversations with him. His reason, apart from falling in love, was very simple. ”I’ve learned all this stuff, let’s see what it’s like in practice. How you actually live it.“ And in this respect, he is very much more in the tradition of the Greek philosophia than the tradition of Buddhist renunciation.
So, this evening I’m going to give what is probably a completely chaotic account. I’ve given some thought to it over the last day or so, but I don’t have a nice outline or set of notes to follow. So if it is a little chaotic, then please bear with me. I am going to talk about relationship in a fairly general way first—some of the things that I’ve come to understand about it. And I’m not just going to talk about intimate relationships, but begin with much more general view.
The framework I’m going to use for this is something that some of you are familiar with. Most of you who have read Wake Up To Your Life will have come across this because it’s interspersed—though not dealt with really explicitly—in that book. And that is the four ways of working: power, ecstasy, insight and compassion. Is anybody here complete strangers to that? Okay, that’s good.
So, power relationships. Any of you see the movie, Saving Private Ryan? It’s probably one of the better war movies. It’s pretty rough. But Tom Hanks’ character is leading this squadron behind enemy lines trying to find this Private Ryan. And there are internal tensions.
The nature of relationship in the army is you do this because there’s a man over you with a gun. The same thing operated very much in the Russian Army in the fight against Nazi Germany. Russian troops, who had zero armaments, no rifles, no bullets, nothing—were ordered into battle. And the first thing they had to do was to find a rifle and then find ammunition. And if they turned back they were shot. That was it. Twenty-three million people were killed in those battles—huge numbers.
So, that’s the essence of a power relationship, which can be summed up in the phrase: ”If you don’t do this, things will be made very uncomfortable for you.“ That’s the essence of a power relationship.
Now, I’ve deliberately made it very explicit by referring to the military. Because that’s where it is most explicit. Because much of what happens in the military is making people do what is contrary to their ordinary way of functioning, certainly their social way of functioning, and for better or worse, you know, and that’s a whole ’nother discussion which we don’t need to go into this evening. But any time there is a coercive element in the relationship, that is a power relationship.
How many of you have said to somebody, ”If you don’t do that, I will be disappointed in you?“ That’s a coercion. A lot of people don’t recognize it. And what I find also interesting is that many people don’t know how to be in a relationship unless there is a coercive component. And what that produces is a hierarchy: one has the power and the other is lower in power.
However, coercion works both ways. Person on the top coerces the person on the bottom, who thinks, ”Oh, he has all or she has all the power.“ But that’s not quite the case. Because the person on the bottom can do something, but not quite the way that it was meant to be done, or not quite at the pace that it was meant to be done. And in doing so, they are making things uncomfortable for the person above them. This is also coercion. And when it gets extreme, you get into sadomasochism; Julia’s lovely phrase from the other day, masochistic submission. Yeah. That’s characterizing a relationship in which one person is accepting the coercion, and deriving some kind of enjoyment or pleasure from it, or some kind of benefit, shall we say.
You get this in the business world all the time, again, for better or worse. It can be more extreme or less extreme. But people are made to do things, or their life is made uncomfortable for them. And you get it in a lot of other areas of society. Cults are coercive. Many aspects of our society, such as grad school, the medical industry, an unfortunate number of nonprofit organizations, etc., all work on the same principle. It’s very widespread.
So, that’s one kind of relationship and one kind of dynamic. It probably is a good thing, when you have some spare time, to look at your relationships and to see what extent that element is present. That may be a little disturbing, but it’s probably a useful thing.
Now, the second kind is ecstatic relationship. This is typically love. It involves opening—the relationship is about opening, or it comes about through opening. So there’s a very different tone from the power relationship—very different. There’s an opening and a connection through opening. Where the dysfunction arises is lack of boundaries, and slipping into addiction. You need that opening and the energy that comes from it.
So, in the spiritual domain, you have teachers—not necessarily even teachers, just people—who have a tremendous amount of energy, and they just pour it out in terms of loving-kindness. And you get large numbers of people flocking around just soaking it up and basking in it and so forth. Darshan, is that what it’s called?
Ken: Okay. They’re not infrequent in India, but it happens in many, many cultures. You get some people who spend their life going from one of these things to another—they become addicted to the energy. And that always brings out the other side of addiction, which is impotence—that, ”Without that, I can’t do anything.“ This frequently comes up in relationships with artists, because part of the artistic sensitivity, part of the artistic curse, is that you’re very open—that’s what powers the art. So a lot of artists struggle with addiction issues. And if you look back over the course of history, you see that there’s a very, very long string of artists who have died of various forms of addiction—some of them quite young.
Let’s put the problematic aspects aside for a moment and just look at the dynamics.
In the power relationship, the aim is to get something done, because that’s what power is about. In the ecstatic relationship, it’s about opening. And all of you know through your own practice and through your own experience that opening to another person or just being open is a very wonderful experience. And that opening may come through love, it may come through devotion, it may come through cultivating loving-kindness, as we do in various practices, and it may come in various other ways.
Because that opening raises energy, there is a sense of freedom, and one experiences the world a different way. Hence the phrases, ”Falling in love,“ ”Experiencing the world through rose-colored glasses.“ Everything seems very alive or is very alive in a different way. There’s a vitality, a vibrancy, a richness, an enjoyment to life and to your experience of the other. And this is the basis of love relationships—friendship and marriage. There’s a desire to open completely so that you feel at one with the other, and this of course leads into sexual relationships.
So that’s that kind.
Then there are insight relationships. Now, the quality of insight is that you see into things. The typical insight relationship is a spiritual teacher and student, psychologist and client, mentor and possibly even coach, these kinds of relationships. And you see just from the way I’m setting that up that only relatively occasionally are they peer relationships. I had the very good fortune to have a peer-insight relationship with a good friend. We’re still friends. But over a sixteen-year period, we worked together because we recognized that each of us had the keys to unlock where the other one was stuck in the spiritual practice. And so it was a very, very fruitful relationship.
There are instances in the Tibetan tradition where there were certain teachers who had that same kind of relationship. What happens in an insight relationship is that things are being pointed out. What is going on in inside the person is being pointed out, so the person can work with it in some way, free themselves from those reactive patterns, or what have you. It’s that quality of looking into.
Now, when you’re on the receiving end of this, your experience is of being cut. Being cut. Is this familiar to anybody here? Okay. Now, why would you allow someone to cut into you?
Student: Because you’re tired of your patterns.
Ken: Because you’re tired of your patterns. Something like that, because you feel in some way this can be helpful. And so what is very important in the insight relationship is the trust you have in the other that they’re cutting into you for your benefit, not for their own.
There are plenty of instances where you see people cutting into each other, into people, for their own benefit. You know what we call these people? Manipulators. They see the person and they know just how to get them to react in a certain way, for the manipulator’s benefit. That’s an unbalanced, exploitative aspect of the insight relationship.
But where it is a balanced relationship and a healthy relationship, the teacher sees where the student is stuck. This could be a high school teacher, doesn’t have to be spiritual teacher—I was just using that as an example—and is able to show the student where they’re stuck in such a way that they can move forward and learn.
Implicit in this is that it’s about the person. The relationship is for the benefit of the person whose stuff is being pointed out. And there has to be that confidence, whether you translate that as faith, or trust or whatever you want—doesn’t matter. You know what I’m talking about—that this is being done for your benefit.
A friend of mine studies with another friend of mine and he’s pretty rough. I mean he’s really, really direct and not particularly gentle, but extremely effective. And she reported on one interaction, which was really hard, but she said, ”I saw in his eyes that all that he wanted was to help me become free of suffering, so it didn’t matter what he did after that.“ There was that level of trust. She could just see it. So that’s really important.
Then there’s compassion relationship. [Ken sighs] Compassion’s tough. It’s tough because you don’t have any control. You all know from your work in compassion that compassion means being able to be present with another person’s pain. Or to be present with that person when they are in pain.
When we see someone in pain, particularly if they’re someone we care about, what’s the impulse? To fix it, to get rid of the pain. Doesn’t always work, does it? Because as soon as we move into that, we’re going to take care of that person and fix their problem. We actually are becoming dangerously close to moving into a power relationship. Only when we can actually be with that other person when they’re in pain does the possibility of actually being helpful to them open up. As long as we’re needing to fix the pain or remove it because we’re uncomfortable with it, then we’re either in a power or insight relationship. We’re either in coercive or manipulative relationship.
And when someone you care about is in pain it tears your heart out.
Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story—I really like this story—of a woman in a Vietnamese village who was very disturbing to everybody else in the village. She was a very angry, short-tempered woman with a great deal of devotion to Amitabha. And she would sit in her house and pray at the top of her lungs, you know, destroying any sense of tranquility or peace in the village. And she was just brutal and vicious with anybody who spoke to her.
After a while, the village elders realized they had to do something about this and they met. We’ll call this woman Mrs. Phan. And one of the elders said, ”I’ll take care of it.“
So the next day he waited till Mrs. Phan was praying to Amitabha Buddha and went over to her house and knocked on the door. Knock, knock. Nothing. She just continued praying. So then he knocked a little louder. The only response was an increased volume in the prayers. Finally he knocked very loudly and says, ”Mrs. Phan, please come down I need to speak with you.“
There was a crash as she slammed her rosary on the floor. Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp. Door’s flung open. ”What do you want? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of my prayers? Aargh!“ And after she’d finished her tirade, the village elder looked at her and said, ”I’m so sorry to disturb you Mrs. Phan. And I’m so sorry to upset you this way, but I’ve only been knocking at your door for five minutes. Can you imagine how Amitabha Buddha must feel?“
Well, Amitabha Buddha, of course, is able to be present with other people’s pain. He’s the archetype of that. You find this expressed in Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezi.
And being present with the other person when they’re in pain involves one of the instructions of mind training: ”Don’t pick up what isn’t yours.“ If the other person is in pain, that’s their pain. You be with them in their pain, but you don’t make it better for them. Now, that’s not the actual instruction. That’s my commentary on it. Let’s see if I can find it.
Oh! George was meant to put that in. Damn. We meant to have the mind training instructions in here. Okay, so I can’t look it up right now. But it’s worded a little differently in the mind training sections. I’ll look it up and get back to you on it because I have it.
Ken: No, that’s the other side of it and that’s just where I was going. The other side of this is, ”When something unpleasant comes to you, don’t slough it off onto somebody else.“ That’s very important.
How many of you experienced somebody being with you, just being with you, when you’ve been in pain? What’s that like? Anybody? Julia.
Julia: It’s amazing. I just had two experiences of that. One before this surgery I just had, where somebody who’s a fellow practitioner came and sat with me before I went into the operating theater. And then another friend, who’s a very deep Catholic practitioner, sat with me when I had a very adverse reaction to the anesthetic. And I was shaking for almost 24 hours. He was just in the room and just sat with me and held my hand. That’s all he needed to do. Nothing to be said, just to be there. It was incredible.
Ken: Yeah. Anybody else? Gary.
Gary: What I experienced was the comfort was silence…
Gary: …and I found an opening between us in that silence. And I expected it to be interrupted or closed, but the other person continued just to be present. And it actually softened me quite a bit. And it was just the quality of the opening that struck me in terms of the level of compassion that I received.
Ken: Yeah. Anybody else? Leah.
Leah: Well, I think I told you about this experience, or at least a part of it. It was in a workshop setting. And we were partnered up. It was a practice in listening and compassionate presence, actually. The exercise was to share something that you’re struggling with. And when my partner went first, and just to listen to her, it a was a relief to me also.
And then when it was my turn all I got out was the words, ”I’m struggling.“ And I just cried the rest of the time. And there was a few moments where I tried to speak and tell her. But then I just cried more. And then the next thing you knew the gong went. It was a great gift.
Leah: It was so, so helpful…
Leah: …of her.
Ken: These are all very good examples. So, that’s a true compassionate relationship. The alternative, where you’re trying to fix it or the opposite of that just withdraw from it, that’s very different.
I want to go and pick up one piece that I left out with respect to power relationship. And this is on the positive side. By using power to push someone, you may get them to do more than they felt they were capable of. So they extend their capacity or develop a skill or something that they didn’t know they had. And there will be an experience of joy on both sides. I imagine most of you can think of instances where you had that kind of thing where someone was pushing you, but pushing you in the right way. And something you discovered: ”Oh!“
So, there’s a freedom, a capability, an increase, and it’s celebrated. That’s a very important aspect of the power relationship.
Okay, so that’s a very general framework. And let’s just pause here, because I’ve given you quite a bit of material. Happy to take up any questions you may have about any of that before going and talking about how this might actually look in certain kinds of relationships we experience in life. Any questions any you would like to ask? Rob.
Rob: Well I’ll make a comment on the last things others were talking about. My wife and I, after many years of trial and error—with a lot of error—have learned to mostly sit with each other when we’re in pain. And I’m talking about really big things like family members dying and so on. And what I find is that when she does that, it helps me to open to my own pain and my own experience, and she just allows me to do that. That’s what I heard others saying. And the same is true for her. And yeah, it’s a real gift. Even in that there can be a kind of joy, in a way.
Ken: Yes. Yeah. Thank you.
Julia and then Joan.
Julia: Yes, on one thing that I thought is worth mentioning in relation to ecstasy is there is that confusional aspect of power with ecstasy—like somebody trying to get somebody else to open to them.
Julia: And people sort of being energy-junkies off other people. So there’s that sort forcing-open aspect and that can be very…
Ken: That can be very confusing and problematic. Yep.
Ken: Yep. Thank you. Joan.
Joan: The part about compassion that I just keep struggling and struggling with is I’ve really learned a lot about stepping-back, not picking up what isn’t mine when I’ve recognized that it isn’t mine. Sometimes it gets kind of blurry, and I see something that I’m not sure whether it’s mine or not. And it usually has to do with a child or an elderly person, and not to do anything doesn’t seem right. But then I’m not sure whether I’m falling into my old stuff.
Ken: What’s something you can do to clarify?
Joan: Make an appointment with you? [Laughter]
Ken: Given that you live in Baltimore and I’m in L.A., that could be a problem.
Ken: It’s not too practical. I’m thinking of something you can do without me because that’ll be much more helpful to you.
Joan: Why I can sit with it.
Ken: Yeah, there’s a three-letter word, and it’s not sit. Ask.
Joan: But an example, with the child.
Joan: Ask who?
Ken: Well, it won’t be possible in all situations, but if there’s a child in pain—I’ll give you an example, actually. Before I did the three-year retreat I was married, and my wife and I ran a foster home for a year. We had a number of kids in it. And one of them was a 12-year-old boy who was a bit rambunctious. Basically a good kid.
One day there was a knock on the door and there was the 12-year-old boy with a police officer behind him. He’d been caught for shoplifting. And the store owner hadn’t prosecuted, etc., so that was good. And we notified the social workers who oversaw the whole thing and worked through it all.
His room was in the basement of the house, which had been redone, but that’s where he was. And it was pretty clear that he was suffering. And so he’d gone to bed, and I decided I’d just go down and I sat by his bed and basically didn’t say anything. I wasn’t really sure what to do—I was in my early twenties at this point.
And eventually said, ”Life’s getting a bit complicated and rough isn’t it?“ And he went, ”Yeah.“ And then I said, ”Is there anything I can do?“ I asked. And he just shook his head and said, ”No.“ But I could tell that he really appreciated me just being there.
So, there are many situations when, you know, he didn’t want advice. He didn’t want encouragement, he didn’t want support or anything like that. He didn’t want to be taken care of. So you can ask. Now, that won’t be possible in all situations, but if you aren’t clear about whether it’s appropriate to do something or not and it is possible to ask, then you can try that.
Joan: And I have done that when it’s possible.
Ken: Good. Yeah.
Joan: What if it’s not possible?
Ken: Then you make your best guess and live with the results—and that’s all we can do. Okay.
Ken: Other questions coming out of any of this? Leslie.
Leslie: The power relationship, when it’s not appropriate, sounds like another variation of the victim-perpetrator.
Ken: In the victim-rescuer-perpetrator—persecutor triad—definitely. The persecutor is working power, making life miserable for the victim ’til it moves. That particular dynamic crops up generally when boundaries are being violated. And it will arise actually in any of the contexts, but is usually associated with either addiction or with the control in compassion. But the particular way that it functions when you’re in the persecutor role, or the rescuer role, or whatever, could be either through power, or ecstasy, or insight or compassion. So it can have all of those flavors, yeah.
The big thing with that is to recognize it. Does everybody know what we’re talking about—this triad? I think it was first identified by Virginia Satir back in the late fifties. A dynamic that operated in where there was addiction in the family, and the way the two people would interact would go through a cycle where person-A would do something to person-B, which would make B feel like a victim, so A was the persecutor. And then when B was thoroughly victimized, A would become the rescuer and seek to help them. As they helped them, then B would become the persecutor for payback, A would become the victim, and then B would become the rescuer. And you just had this thing which spun around, and around, and around. It gave rise to a pseudo-connection, but there was no actual, real connection between the two people. And this just went on and on, and you could see this dynamic.
I had a really neat exercise—and then I forgot it. But it allowed you to see how this dynamic can operate, literally sentence by sentence. And you’ll see people who are in it and if one of them starts to step out of that particular dynamic, then the other spins even faster and faster in it. So you’ll hear it sentence by sentence, changing those different roles. But yeah, they can think and threaten with power, rescue with opening, or manipulate, or be tyrannical. All of that can enter into it. Okay.
Anything else? Other questions? Okay.
Let’s turn to relationships, which are very important to us. In our intimate relations—and by those I’m talking about close friends, and partners, spouses—the two appropriate dynamics are ecstasy and compassion. There may be a bit of insight, and very rarely, if ever, power. With friends, there may be a little more insight, because friends can do that. But in really close, intimate things it’s going to be primarily compassion and ecstasy. Why not insight? Because when insight is taking place, one person is becoming the other’s teacher.
One of my students—very bright guy but in this area very stupid—said, ”When my wife gets angry with me, I try to explain to her about non-self and she just gets angrier.“ [Laughter] I said, ”You’re lucky she doesn’t kill you.“
So, look at your own relationships in that way. All of us are intelligent. All of us, through our spiritual practice, can often see what is going on in the other person, sometimes all too clearly. Right? Why do we move to the teacher role? Anybody here guilty of that? Yeah, okay. Why do we move to the teacher role? It’s very simple—because compassion is so damn hard. Just to be there with that person with their stuff running and all the pain that’s involved is just really, really hard. We want to do something about it. We want to fix them. We want to tell them, ”You don’t have to do it this way!“ But what happens when we move into the teacher role?
Student: Gets worse.
Ken: Yes, because you’re cutting. You follow? Joan.
Joan: I say this after many years of marriage, that the only time in my relationship with my husband that insight is okay is when it’s asked for.
Ken: And even then you have to be very careful.
Joan: Right. Not to go on and on.
Ken: Pardon. [Laughter] Ah, you’ve tried that, did you?
Joan: I tried it.
Ken: Yes. It has to be asked for. And you better check that it is really being asked for, because you’re moving into the teacher role at that point. And to do so temporarily, for a short period of time, may be okay. But if it starts to happen frequently, a different dynamic is set up in the relationship. And one needs to be alert for that because that can actually change the whole relationship.
Valerie, you’re looking at me very intently.
Valerie: I guess I’m definitely guilty of the stepping out of bounds.
Ken: [Chuckles] Okay, just to clear the record is there anybody who hasn’t fallen into this trap here?
Valerie: But I guess what I’m wondering now is, you know, when you can see that the other person is making a choice, or whatever—doing, doing, doing the things that they do and you’re going to be in the mess that’s made. And this can take many forms.
Ken: [Laughs] Yep.
Valerie: At what point is it self-preservation? [Laughs]
Ken: Well, you raise a very important point this so I’m going to come at this whole topic at right angles to the way I’ve just been addressing it.
Another way of looking at relationships is according to the basis of the relationship. In one of the simpler schemes—which as far as I know comes from Chinese sources, but I don’t have an actual reference for it—there are relationships for which the basis is mutual benefit; the basis is shared aim; or the basis is emotional connection.
A mutual benefit relationship is one which consists of a single transaction or a series of transactions. But outside of those transactions, there is no relationship.
So: buyer-seller. You know, you go to the corner store or you go to the hot dog vendor, and maybe you’re a regular customer. Go to the dry cleaners, you know. You give him the clothes, he gives you clean clothes back, you pay him some money. It’s a transaction. There isn’t any other relationship outside of that transaction.
Doesn’t have to be money—it could be mutual admiration. You know, I admire you, you admire me. We both feel good—fine. There are a lot of relationships between people that that’s the contract. And when one person stops admiring the other, there’s all hell to pay. [Laughter] Or when one person looks for a deeper thing, then the whole thing falls apart.
One of my coaching clients should have known better because he works in Hollywood. But he started to date this actress—he was just so attracted to her. And I said, ”You’re nuts!“ He said, ”I know, but I think it can work, Ken.“ And then something came up in which he asked her to enter his world. Didn’t happen. That was the end of the relationship right there. [Chuckles]
So, it can be mutual admiration. This is one of the reasons why I think the whole school of psychology called Transactional Analysis is so wrong, because it sought to reduce emotional connections to a series of transactions. And just takes the emotional life out of the relationship. Really bad stuff. People who come up with this stuff should be shot.
Student: Is that a power statement?
Ken: Pardon? Is that a what statement?
Student: Power statement.
Ken: Power statement? No it was an anger statement. [Laughs]
Okay, shared aim. You enter into a shared aim relationship to do something with somebody that neither of you can do by yourselves. Raising a family is a shared aim relationship. Start a business. Get legislation passed. Social action. Lots of examples. But these typically require more resources, more manpower, more energy, more time, whatever, than a single person can bring to bear.
Doesn’t have to be equal amounts, but both people must have a say in the shared aim, because if one person has all the say—guess what—it’s not a shared aim anymore. It’s that person’s aim and the other person’s working for them. So degenerates to a mutual benefit.
In a shared aim, people agree on what they’re trying to do and then set about doing it. It’s a deeper relationship than just mutual benefit. And it’s probably the proper domain for most nonprofits. It’s also the proper domain for all the professional relationships. That is lawyer-client, accountant-client, teacher-student, doctor-patient. These are all, properly speaking, shared aim relationships in which the shared aim is the growth or protection of the welfare of the person who’s the client or patient. So if it’s a doctor-patient, the shared aim is the patient’s health. The doctor’s reimbursed for time and effort, but [the patient’s health] is the aim of the relationship.
There was a very good article in The New Yorker a couple of months ago by Gawande Atul on what is wrong with the health system in this country. And he does it by exploring the reason why health care costs are constantly increasing. There are two things. One is, doctors are paid by procedure, so it’s in their economic interest to do more procedures. And those doctors who view their patients as profit centers naturally do more procedures. So, they’ve reduced the shared aim to a mutual benefit, and that’s what’s driving the health care costs. And that’s not being addressed at all, unfortunately.
You have a comment, Julia?
Student: I strongly disagree.
Ken: Yeah, but no. This is in America, not in Canada.
Student: Well, I don’t know about there, but I think it’s more to do with the patient wanting the maximum—everything that’s possible. As I hear it, people come in to their doctor and have a sore shoulder…
Student: …and want an MRI today.
Ken: Okay. Yeah, there’s also that. Julia, did you have a comment?
Julia: I did want to say that one of the things that Obama’s been talking about is changing the basis of that.
Ken: He has, oh.
Julia: So doctors are rewarded for keeping their patients well.
Julia: Rather than for treating them.
Ken: Yes. That’s encouraging. I hadn’t heard that.
So, when an attorney takes a case on contingency, it’s now been moved to a mutual benefit relationship. And that’s why you get very different dynamics operating in contingency cases compared to a fee case, which can work right against the interests of the client.
Teacher-student relationship, therapist-patient relationship. When the teacher or the therapist is trying to get something for themselves other than reimbursement for their time—and whether it’s political connections, or social connections or whatever—then that distorts the relationship.
The third kind of relationship is emotional connection. I find this is best summed up with the following: ”I’m not with you because I want to be happy; I’m with you because I want to be with you.“ And that applies to friends, it applies to partners, it applies to spouses.
I was giving a guest lecture down in Orange County where a friend of mine does a program on attention for business schools. He usually asked me to come and give the second-last lecture on difficult conversations, etc., and I usually talk about this stuff. So I trotted out this line, and one guy at the back of the class went, ”Oh my God.“
I got an email from him the next day. He said, ”That line changed my marriage.“ He went back that evening, apparently, and said to his wife, ”I’ve been killing myself trying to make you happy. I quit. I just want to be with you.“ It just opened up a discussion which completely changed the dynamics of their marriage. And moved it from what, I guess, was a kind of mutual benefit thing and revitalized or reconnected on the emotional. They just wanted to be together, and they started looked at actually creating life of just being together. That’s why you have in the marriage vows: for richer or poorer, for better or worse, etc., etc. It’s not about being a certain way, it’s about being together.
So that’s very important, and the emotional connection relationship, of the three, is much the deepest. You’ll very rarely find people willing to give their life for a mutual benefit relationship. You will sometimes find people who are willing to give their life for a shared aim, you know, defending country, dying for a cause. And you’ll very frequently find people who’ll give their life for someone for whom they have an emotional connection. That’s how important it is. So, this is a different way of looking at it.
One other piece on this just to complete the picture. What undermines a mutual benefit relationship is an aversion to risk. When you give your clothes to the dry cleaner, you don’t actually know what’s going to happen to them. You could follow them all the way through the whole thing, making sure everything happens, but then you might as well just be cleaning them yourself. So there’s some risk involved. And the person who you give money to, your credit card or whatever, he doesn’t know that that’s actually real money. There’s that element of risk and trust. You can’t have a mutual benefit relationship if you’re completely risk averse. And it’s recognized very much in investment. A person who shoulders twenty percent of the risk gets twenty percent of the reward or the profits, and the person who shoulders eighty percent gets eighty percent.
What undermines a shared aim relationship is a need for control. And that’s what all the problems in nonprofit organizations are usually about.
What undermines an emotional connection relationship is the desire for continual happiness. It just doesn’t work that way.
Okay, one last piece on this. This principle applies to all forms of relationship: For any form of relationship to last, it has to be basically in balance. Now, ”in balance“ doesn’t mean that it’s static.
Student: I’m sorry I didn’t understand. In…
Ken: In balance.
Student: Oh, imbalance.
Ken: No, in balance. Okay. Yes, important distinction there. Balance doesn’t mean it’s static. If I asked you to stand on one foot, balance on one foot, all of you could do that but none of you would be absolutely still. There would be constant adjustment. Now, maybe one of you are really skilled and could stand absolutely still for two or three seconds—probably not much more than that. That constant adjustment is what gives life and vitality to a relationship.
Things happen between two people in the world, or whatever, and it’s moved slightly out of balance, and then it moves towards balance, and it’s out of balance, and so it goes like this [Ken gestures]. There’s constant movement and it gives life and vitality.
Any of you remember being on a teeter-totter or a seesaw as a kid? How much fun was it when you were totally equally weighted and you just sat there still like this? No, the fun is doing this. [Ken gestures a static balance] Going up and down. And it’s the same in relationships. People who are good at relationships are very good at detecting imbalances and moving things back towards balance. They aren’t concerned with making sure everything is perfect all the time. Do you see the difference?
If you want to make things perfect all the time, you’re going to end up like the teeter-totter that just sits like this. But if you’re skilled in detecting imbalance, it moves, okay? Moves back, now it moves again, it moves back and forth. It’s a live relationship and it evolves and all kinds of things, possibilities, come out of this.
No relationship can endure if there is a continuous imbalance or an ever-present imbalance. Because what this means, if we go back to the teeter-totter example, it’s like one person’s up here and one person’s down there. Nothing’s moving.
There’s a structural imbalance when, let’s say, one person is getting more out of the relationship than they’re putting in, and one person is getting less out of the relationship than they’re putting in. Okay? What does the person who is getting less out of the relationship feel?
Ken: Resentment. What does the person who is getting more out of the relationship feel?
Ken: Well, yes but what does he or she feel for the other person? Disdain. Because they know at some level that they’re taking advantage. That’s always present. You have resentment and disdain. No relationship can survive where those two are present over a long period of time. And this is why it is very important to address imbalances in the relationship as they arise, as they become detected.
Now, the problem here—and I could use another word for ”problem,“ say the opportunity—is that every time you address an imbalance you put the relationship at risk. You have no idea what’s going to happen because it’s going to lead to some evolution in the relationship. It may lead to the end of the relationship—you just don’t know. But another principle comes in here: relationships which don’t evolve generally die. And if you look at marriage relationships—and just what you were saying earlier about your experience with your wife—something has evolved over time.
That’s the sign of a healthy relationship. It’s a relationship in which things can and do evolve, and so the relationship actually changes and the dynamics in the relationship changes. And it becomes richer and becomes something very different from how it may have started and what the expectations were.
And necessarily, in any kind of long-term relationship, there are going to be stages which are very difficult, because there will be something that needs to evolve and one or other, or both, parties actually don’t know how to negotiate that. This can be in business relationships, can be in shared aim relationships, can be in emotional connection relationships. These are very, very general principles. A lot depends on the willingness of the parties involved to say, ”Is this relationship important to us?“ ”Yes.“ ”Okay, then let’s find a way to make it work.“
You know, in the business world that will sometimes lead to completely redefining the relationship and the basis of the transactions. In the shared aim relationship, it may be that you recognize, ”Okay, we can’t continue with this. This aim is unrealizable. We’re just bashing our heads against a brick wall, but we work very well together. What else can we do?“ And they move in a new direction. And in a marriage or friendship, find that something else becomes possible.
Henry Ford once said, ”It’s a very wonderful thing when a business partnership becomes a friendship.“ It’s movement from mutual benefit to emotional connection. It’s a very sad thing when a friendship becomes a business relationship because it’s in the opposite direction.
But things can evolve in either way, and it may involve recognizing that the basis of the relationship has changed. This happens, of course, when a couple with a family divorces. The emotional connection is gone, but the shared aim of raising a family is still there. And it may be that people meet with the intention of doing something together and find that they have a very strong emotional connection—and so it evolves in another direction.
So, what I’m trying to give you here are principles that I’ve learned in the course of my own work in these areas, which I found clarifying and helpful. As you notice, they don’t give you any specific advice about what to do in specific situations. But they do give you ways of thinking and looking at situations which may point to, reveal to you, what can help you negotiate a particular stage in a relationship. So again, very happy to take any questions, and if you want to make them fairly specific about specific situations, then we can explore how these principles might apply to it to the extent that we can.
Claudia: I have a comment and a question, both. Having been very guilty at times of falling into the teacher role…
Ken: With people you’re close to?
Claudia: Yes. In making the shift out of that into a place of compassion and just being with the person, I have experienced that in allowing myself to be with that person I discovered that the way the person was working through their suffering was not the way I would have wanted them to work through it. But in fact, there was something quite amazing about the way it worked for them. And in just being there and not getting in the middle of it with them, it allowed them to develop their own path through it. And it gave me something incredible back, because I gained so much insight in watching that and observing that and being, you know, just present with that, that it really has caused me to look at things in a very, very different way many times now.
Ken: I think that it’s a wonderful experience. Thank you for that comment, because that’s precisely it. They may have their own way, and you don’t just teach them your way. Yeah, great.
Claudia: And my question is that what you’re giving us are general frameworks. Relationships, especially close relationships, shift around a lot, and it seems like to me that power elements come into almost every relationship at some time. They slide in and…
Ken: You’re quite right. They slide in often because of old family or family of origin stuff, etc., and that’s why one needs to be alert for them. There are a couple of things we can throw in here. In the teacher-student relationship it’s very important that both teacher and student are there volitionally. It’s the only way it can work. If there’s a power element, then the person can’t actually grow; they’re being made to do something.
Claudia: Well, yeah, and the student can be the power element.
Ken: Yes I’ve experienced that a few times. You know, ”If you don’t teach me this way, I’m leaving.“
Ken: To which I usually say, ”Okay.“ I’m not going to teach them that way.
Claudia: I haven’t experienced that a lot with students. Not in teaching meditation, but in a classroom I have.
Claudia: A number of times. It always used to catch me by surprise, but it would happen a lot, actually. And I got so I could sniff them out within maybe two lectures, who they were. But in certain kinds of relationships—shared aim, for sure, and the emotional connection aspect for sure. When the power comes up, sometimes I have tried to pull it up to the surface to discuss it. And sometimes that works, depending on the foundation in the relationship. But sometimes I have found that that is not very effective because it triggers anger and some other things, and there’s sort of a deterioration in the relationship once those power elements are sort of identified.
Ken: Yes. When people’s coercive methods are exposed they usually respond in rage.
Claudia: But even if it’s the other way.
Ken: Or that they’re insisting on being coerced.
Ken: Yes, they still respond in rage.
Claudia: Yes, because some people like that.
Ken: Well, yes. Now you’re into the sadomasochism that Julia mentioned.
Julia: And it can be subtle.
Ken: It can be very subtle, but what’s going on there is it’s the only way they know how to feel a connection. And in the scheme of things, that’s balanced, usually, by compassion, where over time, by just being present with them in their pain and not accepting or exerting the power element, they begin to have that experience. And so something new can evolve. But that’s about the only way it changes.
I mean you can see this in international relationships all over the place. You know.
Other comments or questions? Julia.
Julia: A question was raised earlier about a situation in which something’s going on that needs to stop. For instance, a sort of chronic imbalance in relationship, for example. How do you distinguish in your frameworks between power and the setting of a boundary around an imbalance?
Ken: Very good question. I think this speaks to Claudia’s point. When you stand at a boundary, you are exercising power, and this takes us into a whole other area which we’re not going to treat in full tonight. I’ll give an example from my teaching.
Had a person, student, who was the kind that Claudia was describing. If I wasn’t making him feel like he had to do it, then he didn’t feel there was any real connection. You follow?
Ken: And that’s where I set my boundary. I said, ”I’m not going to make you do anything. You come to this relationship volitionally. You’re here because you want to learn and you think I may be useful in that process. But I’m not going to make you do anything.“ That was my boundary. I didn’t do any more than that, then he decides whether to meet that or not. You follow? Does that…?
Julia: So the distinction you’re making is there is no coercion of the other. There is just a statement which is clarifying about the situation.
Ken: Yeah, you stand at the boundary and what happens happens.
Julia: Is that sort of magnetization?
Ken: It may definitely move to magnetization and destruction, but it can start off as…
Julia: Just taking it—you’re just going to stand in your place.
Ken: Yes, okay this is where I am and you say, ”Can we talk about that?“ ”Yes we can talk about it.“ You talk it out, so it’s pacification.
Julia: Yeah I see, yeah, thank you.
Gary: To take your example one step further—in setting that boundary, how do you also bring compassion to bear? Because in some sense, there’s going to be some pain…
Ken: Oh yeah.
Gary: …in setting that boundary.
Ken: This is the relationship between compassion and power, and it’s very important. When you’re exercising power, you do no more than is necessary because there is pain. And you stand in the experience of the pain as well. So you’re there. In this case, ”I’m not going to make you do anything, okay?“ There’s pain right there, because I know and this other person knows that’s going to require a different kind of relationship. And I’m willing to be with them in the pain that they experience in stepping out of the only kind of relationship they know. You follow? So that’s the exercise of compassion there.
Gary: Does that also involve a sense of emotional connection, the way you’ve described it?
Ken: Not in the sense that the relationship becomes one of emotional connection. This is very definitely a teacher-student relationship. However, is there stuff operating emotionally? Absolutely. Because the person with whom this was taking place struggled inside—didn’t know how to relate—and I was willing to be present.
Now, I have to tell you in this particular situation, it was extremely painful for me, too, because this person was adept at creating coercive situations in which either I was being pulled into coercing him, or he was trying to coerce me. And so all through this it was just like, ”Ugh,“ because I was trying to be in the teacher-student relationship and not pulled into an authoritarian, coercive, you know, ”You do this or else.“ Which the other person he would have been much more comfortable with. I found it very, very difficult. But it did actually evolve in that direction so I’m quite happy about the result. But it was not easy. Okay?
Particularly when relationships are going, are evolving, into a new dynamic, there really is pain. Because you’re letting go of expectations, hopes, and certain kinds of connections, while other kinds of connections, and other directions and other possibilities form. And there’s both joy and pain in that process. Just how it is.
Okay, other comments or questions? Now just for my edification here, any of you find any of this useful? Okay so give me a little feedback here on how you’re finding this useful. Tom, and then you, Pat.
Tom: For my relationship with my wife, the part about the teaching relationship clarified a lot of problems that I’ve been having, so thank you so much. [Laughter]
Ken: Occupational…what is it?
Ken: What’s the term I want?
Tom: We’re a…
Student: Occupational hazard.
Ken: Occupational hazard, that’s right.
Tom: Yeah, we’re both professionals and we love to teach each other…
Ken: Uueehh! [Laughter]
Tom: …and it’s just like…it’s like death.
Ken: Ow! [Laughter]
Pat: I think, as a teacher, it’s so easy to not be able to pull out threads of different relationships that you’re having, so even with my colleagues, the idea of insight is there. It’s there every day, every day as we co-teach. And it’s a beautiful thing when it happens, but the cutting is cutting.
Ken: Yes it is.
Pat: And to acknowledge that is really important.
Ken: Yeah, go a little further with that, because you mentioned you’re in co-teaching situations. Because you’re both employing insight in your co-teaching, in any co-teaching situation you’re going to emerge from that cut and bruised.
Ken: I mean, even when there was no intention to hurt each other, you’re still going to emerge from it cut and bruised. And it’s good to talk through that afterwards.
Pat: And I think in a co-teaching experience what you mirror is your relationship.
Pat: So, in front of your students, you know, you’re taking off your clothes layer after layer after layer.
Ken: Yeah, yeah.
Pat: So it’s a process of being cut in public.
Ken: I think you ought to work on your co-teaching skills, there. [Laughter] Because I probably haven’t done as much co-teaching as you, but…
Pat: I don’t mean in a negative way. I mean, in a very…
Pat: …positive way I feel that…
Pat: …the connection is palpable.
Pat: And the cutting is a dialogue in a….
Ken: I see, yeah. Okay. Because in the co-teaching I’ve done, I actually take quite a lot of care to keep the cutting that’s going back and forth this way to a minimum.
Ken: For two reasons. When you have that kind of partnership, it provides a very, very powerful positive atmosphere, so the possibility of learning for people is greatly enhanced. And also the point that you mentioned earlier: it’s a model for relationship. And people are inspired or warmed by that in a very good way, because when you have two people teaching, the projections onto any one are greatly reduced, so people can actually learn what they’re meant to learn instead of thinking it’s this magical person up there.
Pat: Absolutely, and I think at the beginning I was so afraid of contradicting my partner that I would try to hide anything that would happen that didn’t seem like we were the same person. But now I think it’s interesting.
Pat: It gives people the chance to know themselves better as we know ourselves better.
Pat: And so the cutting is done with care, and with love and with respect.
Ken: I’m just thinking of my colleague Michael Conklin. We’ve co-taught together a few times. We were teaching up in Seattle together, and I said something and he just went, ”You promised not to say that, Ken!“ [Laughter] And everybody like, ”Ueeh!” So it was a lot of fun.
Okay. Comment, Gary?
Gary: We’re about minute and fifty…
Ken: We’re done are we?
Gary: An hour fifty minutes.
Ken: Yeah. Okay, We’re done. Okay so I’m glad that you may have found this helpful. We’ll have opportunity to pursue this, any questions or comments, in the days ahead. Okay, I think we’re done. We’ll just do a few minutes meditation to close.