Death: Friend or Foe
Teachings | Training
Contemplating death may seem like a morbid exercise yet this practice not only helps you accept the changes you experience throughout life but brings richness to your everyday experience.

Introduction Download

Value of contemplating death and impermance; accept change and not hold on to what’s time has passed; sit in the whole mess; meditation: “Everything changes, nothing stays the same.”




Section 1

Welcome to the spring retreat. I called it Death: Friend or Foe. When I was in high school, we studied a poem which was called Victorian House by a Canadian poet. I can’t remember his name, but I always remember one line from the poem which says, Death for man is his greatest adventure, if he lives through it.

And actually there’s a lot of meaning in that. And I’ve found, over the years, that probably the most valuable thing that you can teach a person is how to die. Because, when you teach a person how to die, you actually teach them how to let go, how to accept change, and how not to hold on to something whose time has passed. But it’s a tall order, because we’re programmed on many, many different levels to resist dying, to avoid death, etc. So, on the one hand, death can be very beneficial. On the other hand, it can be highly problematic.

By way of beginning, what I’d like to start with, is hearing from each of you: your name, how you came here, and what you’d like to get out of the retreat. And we can just go in a circle. Eli, if you’re comfortable, you can start.

Eli: My name is Eli. I’m from Phoenix. The first question, I think, on the acceptance application that Ken sent out, really brought a smile to my face. It was, “Why is it that you are coming to the retreat?” Something to that effect. And what struck me almost immediately was, for the retreat experience. It could have been entitled anything, I think. The opportunity to be in a place like this in silence for a few days was something that I felt I needed and wanted. And I think that need and want was in recognition that I had, a bit more than a year ago, by choice, gotten back involved in business activity, and in part, I rationalized, I think, perhaps—

Ken: Eli, if I may, could you just keep it to a sentence or two?

Eli: Oh, I’m sorry.

Ken: And I wasn’t clear about that, so my apologies. Otherwise we’re gonna be here all night.

Eli: Well, I think I’ve said it, really.

Ken: Okay. But what would you like to get out of the retreat?

Eli: I would like to learn more about living with more kindness and joy, as Roger Ebert said in his piece.

Ken: Okay. Sophie?

Sophie: My name’s Sophie, and I’m from San Francisco. I think you addressed it, the reason that I’m here. I think if I have the opportunity to practice what it would be like to die, that there’s a possibility that I’ll do it well. I just had a brief experience a few weeks ago, of saving a guy who was drowning in the bay. And it was interesting. I have taken CPR and how to do life saving, and hadn’t done it for a while, and there it was. I knew what to do in the moment. So I’m hoping when that happens to me—the situation of dying—that I’ll know how to do it.

Kerry: Hi, I’m Kerry, and I’m glad I didn’t go first, and I appreciate Eli’s comments. They’re somewhat in tune with mine because I think I would have come here regardless of what the focus or the theme of the retreat was. I like the idea of Death: Friend or Foe. And I think, I’m assuming it will play along the lines of death and impermanence, but I’m not sure about that. My introduction to death and impermanence was Ken’s book, and I spent some time with it several years ago and I’m looking forward to revisiting it.

Melissa: I’m Melissa, and it strikes me that based on what you just said, if I don’t learn to die, and all of these things that go with it—letting go, accepting change—that trying to hold my life together just may kill me. [Laughter] So that’s why I’m here, and that’s what I want to get out of this retreat.

Jill: I’m Jill from San Diego. I haven’t done death and dying with you, Ken, so I wanted to do a retreat with you, just to have the experience of doing that. And, over the course of the last week, it’s popped in a lot that I really hold onto things and really hold onto things very tightly. So I would like to practice letting go.

Charles: I’m Charles. I’m from upstate New York. I’ve done one retreat with you, Ken, before, and listened to some of your podcasts. And there are some issues that I’ve been wrestling with for a long time about what is really important to me, and what my priorities are. And from what I’ve heard and read from you and other people about meditations on death and impermanence, I think there’s a chance that they might help me get more clarity about those things.

Delia: Hi, my name is Delia, and I’m from Pacifica, California. I’m here for much the same reason that people have expressed, but more specifically, I’m interested in this topic so that drew me very strongly to this retreat. And I’m currently in the fourth month of A Year To Live practice that is described in a book by that title by Steven Levine. Thank you.

Chris: I’m Chris. I’m originally from California, San Diego, recently moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. And I was very drawn to the title. I’ve had death and dying practice with the Unfettered Mind group, San Diego, and I wanted to explore it more deeply. And in the last 18 months, I’ve lost a brother to suicide, and I lost my job—I was laid off—and I’ve had a lot of loss. It’s been very awakening, and I just want to go deeper.

Janet: My name is Janet, and I’m from Pacifica with Delia and another practitioner. I’m also doing the Year to Live practice. I’m very interested in Ken’s retreats in general, but this particular topic is important to me because I feel like I have a lot of dying to do before I die. There are just so many things I hold onto very tightly. It’s very hard for me to just let things be. That’s it, I think.

Jim: My name’s Jim. I flew in from Columbus, Ohio. And, I’m specifically interested in this retreat and have been for quite a while. For many years of my life, I kind of romanticized death as a way to escape from a great deal of pain. And, at the same time I was afraid of living, and didn’t live very well, but I found Ken’s book by accident and I got to chapter four. And I worked the chapter four meditations very diligently, went through them a couple of, of times over quite a long period. And I found that they were really life changing, because they forced me to move into the deepest fears that I had had most of my life. And they really helped me to know on a kind of core emotional level that each moment might be my last and to feel grateful for what is in the present moment now. But at the same time, I’ve noticed since I’ve done them, I still feel, even…it’s almost like much more aware now of what holds me back from living. It’s like I feel my fears, and I feel the kind of resistance, and the frozenness inside more than I ever did when I was kind of living with very little awareness. So from this retreat, I really want to move into those fears even a little bit more deeply, and begin to actually live more fully now rather than just be aware that each moment might be my last. Thanks.

Ann: I’m Ann from Portland, Oregon. People don’t believe that—I’m originally from Australia—but I actually live in Portland, Oregon. I’m here, I guess, I’m interested in the topic, but more I’ve been dallying with Buddhism I would say for some years with a little bit of resistance, but I’m an avid podcast listener and I would reiterate what you said about the podcasts and the interactions with people. I’m certainly someone who has found that extraordinary. And I guess I wanted to experience it for myself and perhaps to reconnect a little more seriously with this practice that I seem to have trouble being sure that I want to completely commit to.

Roger: My name’s Roger. I’m from Vermont, and I’m here because of two things. One is—

Ken: Roger.

Roger: Oh. One is my meditation teacher that I’ve been working with for about a year and a half now, Josephine Spilka, who’s in a teacher training course with Ken. And she actually advised me not to do this retreat. She said it would be extremely destabilizing, and so far she’s right. [Laughter] The other reason is I read Steven Levine’s book and I was just…yeah, I think it just got me so scared, I just felt like I had to do something. I felt a real sense of urgency. So, that’s kind of why I’m here. So what I’m hoping…I’ve just given up on getting rid of the fear. I’m hoping that this work, there might be some way that I can learn to be with the fear more.

Mary: My name is Mary.

Ken: Mary.

Mary: And, I’m here because I have a terminal illness, and I call my cancer my friend. And I’m aware that my friend and I are going to be together until I die. So what I’d like to get out of this is, I would like the friend part of, “is death foe or friend.” And, I’m a nurse. I’ve been a hospice nurse for many years, and I’ve walked with other people so many times I can’t even remember. And I’ve read Steven Levine, and I’ve seen him, gone to retreats. It’s a whole different experience when you’re living it. And so, I’m here to get comfortable.

Jean: Hi, my name is Jean, and I’m currently living in Detroit. I really wanted to attend this retreat. I find the, you know, the subject matter absolutely fascinating, morbidly fascinating. I used to think that I knew exactly what happened, you know, like when we died, which was a way of, like actually avoiding having to deal with death to begin with. And so I’m looking to work on two different levels. One is the sort of big level of just getting comfortable with the idea of dying and not knowing what’s going to happen. And the second one is that it’s just, you know, it’s time for a lot of shit to just sort of, like die its own death, like the little stuff, the day-to-day stuff. So, you know, like, I’m looking forward to perhaps being able to work through some of that stuff, too. Or at least how to do it for later on.

Judith: My name is Judith, and I’m from Alberta, Canada. And I found Ken through some friends—not close friends, but friends—and had a couple of conversations with him, and this was the first retreat that came up. So I decided I would sign up for it. And, it’s a topic that we all have to work with one way or another, so it’s a great topic.

Ken: Okay. Well thank you all very much. Elena, do you want to say something?

Elena: My name is Elena, and I come from Italy, but I am living in Los Angeles for the moment. Well this is my first retreat…pretty confused. I have no idea what’s gonna go on, but we’ll see. I started being a hypochondriac and being really, really fearful of pretty much anything when I was really young, so on the controlling of what I was thinking, it’s not really that I am scared, you know, of dying, it’s more that I am scared of living. That’s what I found out for the moment. And I would like to get into it a little bit more, so…

Ken: Okay. All of this is extremely helpful to me. Thank you very much.


Section 2

When I was in the three-year retreat, we learned probably 150 different forms of meditation, different meditation practices. I’ve never gone through and actually counted them. But I remember very distinctly reading a small section at the end of one book that was full of quite advanced practices. And there’s a series of quotations from different teachers in this particular tradition—the Shangpa tradition—and one of them has just stayed with me, really made an impression. It’s by a person called Kyergongpa Chökyi Senge, who lived in the twelfth century in Tibet. And this is not an exact quote, but it’s to the effect that there are three doors in practice: one is death and impermanence, the second door is compassion, and the third door is devotion/insight. They end up being the same door. And then he said a little bit about each one of those. And I found that over the years to be very true. If you look in the Theravadan texts, they explain that death and impermanence is the door for certain kinds of people and compassion is the door for other kinds of people, and devotion is the door for other kinds of people, and it goes on and on.

But we’re working with one of the great doors of practice. Or as they say in the Japanese tradition, “the great matters of life and death.” Because there are really only two things we know about our life. The first is, that we are aware. We may not be able to say much more than that, but we know that we’re aware. The second thing that we know about our life is that we’re going to die. Now, as Mary said, when our life is circumscribed, in very real terms, it’s a very different experience from knowing that we’re going to die. And Roger Ebert’s article that I circulated before, or had asked Laura to circulate, talks a little bit about, how it’s so hard to actually take in that we’re going to die. And I remember coming across a quotation from William Saroyan who said, We all know we’re going to die, but I really thought an exception would be made in my case. [Laughter]


Section 3

We also live in a culture which is extremely death averse, that tries to minimize the presence of death as part of life, really regarding death as the opposite of life. And this is significantly encouraged, or reinforced—maybe not encouraged, but reinforced—by the medical profession. I was talking with a doctor on the East Coast a couple of weeks ago and he said, “For us, death is defeat.” And so we have a way of approaching things in this culture where death is to be avoided at literally all costs.

One of the results of that is a very significant unbalancing of the structure of society and the structure of the whole economy. In fact, it is very, very far reaching. And it’s also quite unrealistic. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. With respect to life, birth is the beginning. This experience we have now is the middle. And the end of life, we call death. When you look at it this way, one sees that death is actually part of life, not the opposite of life. And many people find that when they take death as part of life, then they actually start living in a different way.

One of my students was a woman who had breast cancer and it went into remission for a while and then returned and metastasized, and she died a few years ago. But she kept saying to me, when I would meet with her, that she was very grateful because she died very, very much at peace. And in the last couple of years of her life, she really felt that she came to an understanding of life. And she knew herself well enough that she realized that she probably would never have come to that understanding in any other way. So, it can seem ironic, but she really felt a great deal of gratitude to the illness which killed her because she’d been a very successful executive, and very intelligent and resourceful, woman, but very much a type-A person. And, from her point of view, really had to be stopped in her tracks in order to start to appreciate what life was actually about, or is actually about.


Section 4

Now, one the things that I’ve come to, through my own exploration, is that in the big scheme of things, I don’t think it’s possible to say what life is actually about. That is, there isn’t some universal thing. I’m always reminded of the story of the master—I heard this from the Chinese tradition—who’s dying, or who’s ill, and his principal student comes to him and says, “Please master, before you die, tell me the first truth.” And the master says to him, “I will, but now is not the time.” And the illness progresses, and the student becomes more and more nervous and anxious, and goes to him a second time, which is really stretching Chinese protocol and says, “Please master. You’re growing weaker, please tell me the first truth.” And the master looks at him and says, “I will, but now is not the time.” And the illness progresses, and the master is extremely weak, and it’s clear that death is very, very close. When the student swallows all his social inhibitions, goes to the master a third time and says, “Please master, tell me the first truth.” And the master looks him straight in the eyes, smiles gently, and says, “If I tell you the first truth, it will become the second.” and dies.

Now there are many, many ways to understand this story. And I think one common way is that there is some experience or understanding which cannot be put into words, which is the first truth. That’s one way of understanding the story and, of course, what happens then is we all want to know the first truth, right? Well, that’s one way of understanding the story. I’d like to offer another way. Maybe there isn’t a first truth in that sense. Maybe what the master was pointing to was that each of us has to find our own way of coming to terms with this experience that we call life and all of the apparent contradictions and confusions and aspects that it presents to us. And that’s what I’d like you to explore in the time that we have together this weekend.


Section 5

Originally this retreat was meant to happen, oh I think a year ago. But then, for various reasons, I decided to do a power retreat and we were going to do this retreat last fall. But then there were fires here so we couldn’t do the power retreat so everything got shifted. And one of the reasons is that a lot of people had said, “There isn’t any retreat on death and impermanence on the podcasts, and we’d really like one.” I said, “Okay.” Unfortunately, or fortunately—and you will be the ones who decide that—my own perspective and understanding of practice has shifted quite significantly over the last year, so I couldn’t teach the traditional death and impermanence meditations. I want to approach things, and I want you to approach things, somewhat differently. In the Tibetan tradition, there are very specific ways of contemplating death and impermanence. In Wake Up To Your Life I used what are called the five phrases or five sentences on impermanence: everything changes, nothing stays the same; think of how many people have died in the past; reflect on how you could die at anytime; consider what happens when you die; and consider what happens after you die.

I came across this, actually fairly early in my studies, but in the three-year retreat [sneeze] excuse me, sorry, I found it a very good framework for contemplating death and impermanence because I could remember these five things. In The Jewel Ornament of Liberation—which is one of the main training texts in the Kagyu tradition—you find a nine-point reflection on death and impermanence. There’s also another one, which is in the same genre but used primarily in the Kadampa tradition, a 27-point one. It’s more detailed.

These are all reflective, analytic ways of meditating on death where you think about, reflect on, very, very specific topics, and absorb this. But you’re actually thinking about these things as we did in the three-year retreat. And that’s a very good way. But it’s not what I’m going to suggest to you, at least not right away, anyway. The way I want you to consider exploring this topic is to take just these five sentences. And I’m not sure we’ll get through all five in the time that we have, but we’ll start with the first one: everything changes, nothing stays the same. Now, in a sense that says it all, right there. Everything changes, nothing stays the same. And rather than going through, as I described in Wake Up To Your Life, you know, the geological, and environmental, and biological, astronomical, and all change, physical and verbal and change in our body, cells, and aging and all of that, changes in the course of our lives, you know, which, I laid out a fairly methodical approach there, which some of you have already done. What I want you to do instead is just take this sentence, Everything changes, nothing stays the same, and hold it in your attention. Not actually thinking about it, or analyzing, but just holding it.

Now, what happens when we hold such a sentence? Everything changes, nothing stays the same.

Well, parts of us say, “Yeah, yeah, big deal. So what, we all know that.” And other parts of us say, “Yeah. That’s true.” It’s almost like a little awakening. Other parts of us say, “I don’t believe it,” or, “I don’t want to deal with that.” Now maybe that’s just me, but that’s what tends to happen. Does this operate for anybody else here?

Okay. So, in your meditation practice tomorrow morning, that’s what I want you to do, is take the sentence, hold the sentence in attention, and experience all of these different parts. How do they relate to it? What do they have to say about this? Now, the key here, of course, is the holding in attention. And as many of you have probably heard me say before, keep coming back to the body. So when you take the sentence, Everything changes, nothing stays the same, what happens in the body?


Section 6

Well, every one of those parts has a physical expression in the body. So that’s what’s involved here, is opening to the range of physical sensations associated with every one of those parts. Some of them get angry, some of them are curious, some of them frightened, some of them relieved. I don’t know what you’ll experience. For each of you it will be different, probably. But in this way—by opening to everything that arises in connection with this sentence—you’ll find a way to experience that. And it’ll be your way. Some of you may be dominated by fear, some of you by anger. I don’t know.

And as you take such a simple sentence and sit with it this way, you may find the implications sink in.

Everything changes, nothing stays the same.

So there’s a kind of unfolding or an opening that can occur. You may find parts of yourself that really resist strongly, or harden up, or run away. Open to all of those experiences, too. You don’t have to chase after the parts that run away, just say, “Oh. Three-quarters of me just exited from the room. That’s interesting. Hmm, not much of us left here.” Maybe part of you throws a temper tantrum, or has a panic attack. Okay. In all of this, you’re working with a very big field of attention.

I think many of you will be familiar with what I call the backdoor instruction:

Body like a mountain. Breath like the wind. Mind like the sky.

That’s applicable here. A mountain doesn’t exert any effort to rest. It just rests, it’s there. The wind cannot be controlled. So you just let the breath come, and go. And the sky can include everything. So you can include everything in your experience. Now, realistically? You’re gonna get distracted and confused and disoriented. That’s going to happen. Okay. But as all of you know, there always comes that moment of recognition. So when that moment of recognition comes, you come back to the body, come back to the breath, come back to attention, and then come back to, “Everything changes, nothing stays the same.” Some of you may feel, “Well, I hold it and nothing happens. I’m not getting anywhere.” Well, I think it would be good for you to remember the saying—I think it’s from a German person in the eighteenth century—When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers. So if nothing’s happening, enjoy it, cause it won’t always stay that way. If you can just hold that in your attention, and be at peace with it, good. Let it sink deeper. Let the sentence be like a stone which takes you down into…deep into the waters of your experience.

So this is a different way of practicing from thinking about this. Resting with the sentence and all of the feelings, physical sensations, everything that comes up with respect to it. Not rejecting anything, sitting in the whole mess. And see how that is for you.


Section 7

You may say, “Well, what are the signs of progress? How do I know whether I’m doing it right?” Do you want the good news or the bad news? I have no idea. [Laughs] This is a process of exploration. All I can tell you is how to explore and, to a certain extent, how to maintain the quality of attention that allows you to explore. After that, it’s your exploration.

During the retreat, we’ll be doing interviews and, in those interviews, you’ll bring me your questions, insights, and challenges. With respect to the questions, I’ll do my best to respond in a way that is helpful to you. With respect to the insights, you’ll probably find it very irritating ’cause I will just push you a bit further. You know, you want the pat on the back and I say, “No. There’s a bigger cliff right there.” The pat on the back is really just a push. And challenges, meekly, my intention is to find a way to help you meet them, and I’ll do what I can there. But you will meet those challenges because they’re yours. Any questions? Or comments? How does this sound to you?


Section 8

Melissa, how does it sound to you?

Melissa: Daunting.

Ken: Daunting. Okay.

Student: Sounds like a worthwhile way to spend some time.

Ken: [Laughs] Why do you say that? What about this sounds worthwhile to you? Or raises the prospect of it being worthwhile?

Student: For me, having a place and a time set aside to really let myself sink into the work, so it’s not this little dipping in and coming back to life and dipping back in. I like the image of the stone.

Ken: Mmm-hmm. Okay. Anybody else? Jim.

Jim: I’m not sure how to pose this as a question, but when I think about that everything passes, and everything changes, and nothing stays the same, and a lot of things seem to get worse and worse and worse over time. And I don’t like that fact, and I don’t know how to deal with that sometimes. “Why do these meditations?” is perhaps the question.

Ken: When you say things get worse and worse and worse, are you talking about your experience in meditation or are you talking about things in the world, or both?

Jim: I think my capacity to stay present with things in the world is much greater, but it seems like the amount of pain and suffering, and the very fact that I look in the mirror and I see that I seem to be aging every day. That this is challenging and difficult.

Ken: What makes it challenging? It’s very interesting, you see, because looking in the mirror, seeing that you’re aging…you’re probably not the only one here who—[laughter]

Jim: Yeah.

Ken: Suggests there’s a part of you that doesn’t like what it sees. That fair?

Jim: Yes.

Ken: Yes, I have this little magnet up on my refrigerator: In every old person, there’s a young person saying, “What the hell happened?” [Laughter]

Jim: Uh-huh. Exactly.

Ken: So this is a very good example. Thank you. Because there it is:

Everything changes, nothing stays the same.

And now there’s another part of us saying, “What the hell is this!” And, okay, now you open to that. What happens here is that we tend to identify with these parts and say I am this, and then I am that. And we think we’re being quite consistent, when we’re actually moving from completely different personalities and worldviews without ever noticing it. So that part’s up. You’re now in touch with the part that’s saying, “What the hell’s happening here?” So how do you experience that part physically?

Jim: How do I experience it physically?

Ken: Yeah, the part that’s saying, “What the hell’s happening here. Everything’s changing. I’m getting older. This isn’t what I signed up for!” How do you experience that part physically?

Jim: The pain for me is, when I look at the mirror, I still imagine myself as like a 15-year-old or a 17-year-old. It’s at a late teenager when I’m just about ready to go out into the real world. And then I look into the mirror and I see that I’m losing my hair and it’s turning grey and my body has slowed down. I can’t run as well, I can’t stay up late at night. All the things that I used to do, I can’t seem to do any more. And I don’t remember as well, there’s more confusion. It’s just a whole long list of—

Ken: Yeah. So all of that stuff runs out—

Jim: But I’m still holding onto the idea of who I was when I was younger and life seemed very hopeful and—

Ken: Okay.

Jim: purposeful.

Ken: Now. The part of you, what I want to get at—this is very important, and will be very helpful to everybody here. The part of you that is holding on—how do you experience that part physically? What are the physical sensations associated with that part of you?

Jim: I feel a tight physical kind of constriction. Holding. And that’s what I was talking about earlier in the introduction. I feel like I’m much more aware of how much I resist change and how tightly I grip onto everything that I was before.

Ken: And I’m going to recommend to everybody here that rather than use the word I, use the word, the phrase part of me, because this will help break the identification. So part of me holds and is tense and contracted. So now you get to experience that. But if you say, “I am this,” then it actually restricts what you can experience. If, however, you say, “Part of me is doing this,” then there’s a larger realm of experience in which that particular experience is arising. And what happens when you do that? Okay, you say part of me is saying, “What the hell’s happening here?” and you feel all of those physical sensations, that tightness and constriction, and now you just breathe and experience it.

Jim: Part of me has also done this meditation, these meditations, and there’s a sense that I do have some choice of movement and change. That I don’t have to simply stay frozen. That I can choose a different set of actions even though another large part of me has felt so frozen for so long.

Ken: Yeah.

Jim: There’s at least some seed of awareness in part of me that I can act differently or function—

Ken: Mmm-hmm. So you keep…

Jim: Again, I can’t stay away from I.

Ken: So you keep including those parts. Is there part of you that’s scared of change?

Jim: There’s a big part of me that’s afraid of change. Yes.

Ken: Okay. How do you experience that part? How do you experience it in your body?

Jim: I feel it from a pulling away, and a desire to escape. Part of me feels kind of a shriveling inside and a desire to escape.

Ken: Okay.

Jim: It’s a sense of being at the edge of the cliff and not wanting to jump in, jump over.

Ken: Okay, and that’s what you’re going to open to—

Jim: Right.

Ken: in the practice.

Jim: Okay. So this is why I paid all this money to come out here to do.

Ken: Yes. As I was saying to somebody on the phone today, I can either give you the California expression here or the English expression. Which would you like?

Jim: Can I have both?

Ken: Or you can have both, too. Which do you want first?

Jim: Ahhh, since all of me seems to be in California, I’ll say the California expression first.

Ken: Enjoy. [Laughter]

Jim: And since in the past, I was in England?

Ken: Good luck. [Laughter]

Jim: Okay, someone else can take the mic now.

Ken: Thank you, Jim. Okay. This is very helpful. Does this give everybody a clear idea of how to work with the practice? Okay. That was very good. Okay. Now any other comments or questions before we close for this evening?


Section 9

In terms of how you practice here. In the early morning, we’ll be doing a half-hour, two half-hour sessions—they’ll actually be slightly longer than half hour—and then in the mid-morning, we’ll be doing three half-hour sittings punctuated by qigong, and in the evening we’ll be doing three half-hour sittings.

I’m going to suggest that you alternate. One half hour, you just rest in the experience of breathing or, if you wish, the experience of open awareness. In the other half hour, you rest with Everything changes, nothing stays the same. I find that that going back and forth is very helpful to people because pushing something all the time, you can get tired and things can go stale. So we’re going to be working with the rhythm of pushing—just the way that I was pushing with Jim—okay all of those parts. And then the next half hour, you just rest. And which you do more of, I’m going to leave up to you. You know yourselves.

Now, a couple of things here. Don’t do therapy with any of these parts: don’t try to make them feel better; don’t analyze them; don’t have a debate with them. [Laughter] As soon as you do any of that stuff, you’ve moved out of your experience. You’re just opening to the experience of them. They may have a lot to say. And they may say it in a lot of different ways. You just experience that. If you find yourself getting lost in conversation with them, which will probably happen, as soon as that—that recognition—come back to your body and just the way I was working with Jim, “How do I experience these parts physically?” So you’re always grounding the experience. There’s the fear part which is probably constricted. There’s the angry part which will have its own manifestation. And there may be another part which is like, “Well this is kinda cool.” There are always new possibilities. So there may be a part of you that’s excited. How do you experience that part in your body? What are the emotions associated with that part? So it’s a constant opening. One part isn’t better than another so, a certain practice of equanimity here. Some parts may be very afraid, so you don’t push them. Some parts may say, “This is intense suffering for me.” Okay. So it may be appropriate for you to say, “Okay. If that’s the case, we’ll just stand right here. I’ll be right here. We don’t have to go any further.” You get the feel of how to work with this?

Okay. So that’s what we’ll do, and I’ll think of something else to say tomorrow morning at nine o’clock when we get together for teaching. Now, what we’re going to do in the afternoons, no actually, maybe we’ll do this in the mornings. Yeah, I think it’ll work better this way. What we’re going to do in the mornings—because we’re a smaller group than usual, this creates this possibility—is have a kind of group discussion. But it’ll be a different form of discussion. We’ll put a microphone in the center of the room. I’m gonna throw out a question. And we’ll go round in a circle. So if you’re starting, Ann, you’ll go and take the microphone, when you’re ready, and answer the question. And then you’ll put the microphone back. And then when you’re ready, you’ll go and get the microphone a second time, and you’ll pose a question. And then it’ll be Roger’s turn. When he’s ready to answer your question, he’ll pick up the microphone. And when he’s finished answering that question, he’ll put it back. And then when he’s ready to ask a question, he’ll go and get it and ask the question. And we’ll go round the circle once this way. And after that, anybody, when they feel ready to answer a question will go. But when you answer a question, you put the microphone back and you sit until you come up with a question. So we’ll have a full hour, or a bit more, for this. It’s a contemplative conversation. We’ll see how it goes.