Reading assignments for class; participants’ experience with equanimity meditation including preference and prejudice towards one’s self; willingness, know-how and capacity in applying the immeasurable; reaction to ‘experiencing the world knowing me just as I am’; judgement versus discernment; sitting in experience versus deduction and analysis. Commentary on the two types of experience: social/shared experience and individual/actual experience; being complete in the world of individual experience; how equanimity arises naturally in the world of individual experience; questions from participants on the two worlds of experience; meditation instruction for loving kindness.
Ken: This is our second class in this six-session course. We are going to spend one class on each of the four immeasurables. To begin this one, I want to do a little housekeeping.
In each of these classes, I’m going to try to do four things, in addition to our meditation. The first is to take up your experience with the practice: what worked, what didn’t work, rescue any of you who are at the verge of insanity, and so forth. The second thing is to talk about the particular immeasurable a bit. Also we will certainly look at the material from Uchiyama, from Refining Your Life, or From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment or it’s now How to Cook Your Life. I don’t know why they keep changing the title.
In each of these we’ll be doing one section from the commentary in Wake Up To Your Life. Today it’s on the three minds. After that the instruction in the next immeasurable. So, it makes a full evening. Our next class is on March twentieth. The reading material will be Chapter 5 from Uchiyama, and the sections on decay and corruption in Wake Up To Your Life on pages 294 to 300. And then the following one which will be a class in April—I can’t remember the date for that.
Student: April second.
Ken: Okay, for April second it’ll be Chapter 6 in Uchiyama and page 300 to 304 in Wake Up To Your Life, the first two sections of shredding patterns. Then it’ll be April sixteenth, right? April sixteenth is the next one, right?
Then it’ll be 304 to end of 307. And then it will be—sixteen, twenty-three—April thirtieth, I guess.
Student: So nothing from the other book?
Ken: Oh, sorry. Yeah, Chapter 7 [in Uchiyama]. Then the next one, is that May first? Or April thirtieth?
Student: April thirtieth.
Ken: April thirtieth. You can read the next chapter in Uchiyama, which will be Chapter 8, I guess. And then, from Wake Up to Your Life, it will be the section on transformation, which is 308 to 312. Catherine will have all of these down, and I’m sure she’ll send an email to everybody.
Catherine: I’m sending an attendance sheet around. Please everybody sign in, be sure I get everybody. I don’t know everybody’s email yet…
Ken: But you will soon.
Catherine: I will not be here the next two. And Lori’s going to be taking my place. I will be thinking of you guys in Egypt and Israel.
Ken: So, let’s begin with your experience of working with the four lines on equanimity.
If we could have the microphones all ready.
Okay, so. How was this? We have the wonderful group phenomena, you know: it’s the more people there are in the room, the less likely it is that anybody will step forward. Joe?
Joe: All right, I’ll bite. I found that I don’t want the people close to me to be free of preference and prejudice. I want them to like me above all other things. [Laughter] I’m afraid they won’t if they become free.
Ken: Well, what does that say about how you feel about yourself?
Joe: It says that I still want my emotional needs met, for one thing.
Ken: It says a bit more than that.
Joe: It says I haven’t finished the first part of the meditation yet.
Ken: Keep going. [Laughter] I appreciate you volunteering like this, Joe. What Joe is touching on, though he doesn’t know it yet, but he will very soon, is probably the most important point in an intimate relationship.
Joe: Which is?
Ken: What does it say about you? You don’t want those close to you to be free of preference and prejudice, because you…
Joe: Well, they’re serving as objects in my universe.
Ken: Well, I don’t know whether they are. There’s nothing in that which implies that. Well, a little bit. But I think you’re being too harsh on yourself.
Joe: Whew. Good.
Ken: But you get to try again.
Joe: Well, it means…
Ken: May I ask you a question?
Joe: Yes, you may.
Ken: If they were free from preference and prejudice, how would that affect how they feel about you?
Joe: Well, they would feel differently, I would think.
Ken: And what do you, what do you think they might feel?
Ken: Or should I ask, what are you afraid they might feel?
Joe: I’m afraid that they will see me just as I am.
Ken: Oh, I don’t think so.
Joe: Just as I think I am.
Ken: Ah! And if they see you just as you think you are, what’s going to happen?
Joe: Well, they’ll drop me like a hot potato. [Laughter]
Ken: So what does this mean about how you think of yourself?
Joe: That I’m droppable. Like a hot potato.
Ken: Yes. You’re quite droppable. Okay. And the reason I say this is very important in terms of intimate or close relationships is that in order to be in a relationship in which love is present, we have to have confidence in ourselves that the other person can love us just as we are. You follow?
Ken: Because, if we don’t have that confidence, we can never trust that what we’re receiving from them is really there. That makes the relationship kind of difficult.
Ken: Anybody? Is this striking any chords in anybody? Okay. Thank you, Joe.
So, there’s a person you’re leaving out of this meditation.
Ken: Yeah. Who might that be?
Joe: That I’m leaving out of this meditation?
Joe: I’m not sure in what sense. I’ve covered me, I’ve covered those close to me. I’ve covered those I’m indifferent towards.
Ken: You’ve covered you, have you?
Joe: Well, as I said, not as well as I should have before moving on. But we only have two weeks, so I’m kind of rushing it. [Laughter]
Ken: Do you view yourself with equanimity?
Joe: At this point?
Ken: No. You’re droppable. [Laughing]
Joe: Oh, yeah, I drop me all of the time.
Ken: Yeah. You’re droppable. That’s how you view yourself. You’re very prejudiced with respect to you.
Joe: Oh, yes. Indeed.
Ken: So that’s where you start. You can’t possibly view others with equanimity…
Joe: This I know. Yeah. Yes. Yes.
Ken: Okay. Good. We will continue.
Who else? Please. What’s your name?
Ken: Oh, you’re Sarah. Okay.
Sarah: After the first night that I really focused on May I be free from preference and prejudice, and I really, really got it, and I had oceans of equanimity, just oceans of it, but the next morning around 10 o’clock I got a phone call, and somebody really pissed me off and I lost it totally.
Ken: Never happened to me. [Laughing]
Sarah: Not one drop.
Sarah: So, I decided that there are two things that really bother me: people who are greedy and people who are stupid. And this person was both greedy and stupid. So that was my judgment and I was really annoyed, and then I got annoyed at myself for being annoyed. Where’s my equanimity then? It’s gone. And you know, like that.
Ken: Okay. So what did you do with all of that?
Sarah: I laughed at it. I thought it was really funny.
Ken: What did you learn?
Sarah: That because I think of something, that doesn’t mean that it’s really there. If that makes any sense to you.
Ken: Oh, yes. That makes sense. And where do you go from there?
Sarah: Just sitting down and doing it again. I try to find the spot where I get hooked, or find where my button is that gets pushed.
Ken: Yeah. The Chinese say if you want to learn something, do it 10,000 times. Have you done this 10,000 times yet?
Sarah: No. And that’s only the first part of it. Honestly, I didn’t really get to people that really bother me a lot.
Ken: No. It’s a very short period of time, and the point of this course is to become acquainted with these practices, not to master them.
Ken: To get some practical experience, so you understand them not only intellectually but also how they actually work. Then you do them over months or years, depending on how far you want to go. When you first encounter something, yes, it’s like falling in love. You know, with all of these wonderful feelings. To train so that this is how we actually experience and relate to the world is a very, very different matter and requires consistent practice over a period of time.
You say you want to catch the buttons, find the buttons that catch you. Well, those are actually pretty easy to find. The disconcerting piece is that once you find the buttons, you know exactly why you’re being caught and you still get caught.
In a class I did last fall, I talked about three qualities that we need to develop here. Willingness: willingness to engage this kind of work. Know-how: that is, knowing how to engage it skillfully. Call it skill-building, if you want. And capacity. It’s the last one that most people don’t appreciate. It takes time to build capacity. It’s work.
I did a short course in rock-climbing last year. In rock-climbing you’ve got to have the willingness. You’ve got to climb up this wall or whatever. I wasn’t doing it outside. You’ve got the heights and things like that, but you’ve got to be willing to fall. You’re going to fall on a rope, it’s okay, but you got to be willing.
Also, there’s a certain amount of skill. You learn how to use the core muscles and the muscles in your legs. But you can know all of that, and you can be willing, but there’s also a simple matter of sheer strength that you need. A certain amount of arm strength, not as much as one ordinarily thinks, but some, and a certain amount of stamina in the body, and things like that. This is capacity. You’ve got to have all three. It’s very, very clear. Rock-climbing is very good for that. It makes it very clear.
The comparable capacity in meditation is attention. You’ve got to build that. And you build that by doing it again and again and again and again and again. You’re building it. That’s why we practice. Without consistency, it doesn’t matter how well you understand this stuff. Intellectually you can understand totally precisely. If you don’t actually have the capacity, it’s not going to be there when you need it. So, anybody else? Priscilla.
Ken: Could you hold the microphone like this? Otherwise, it doesn’t record.
Priscilla: I’m not used to talking to a microphone.
Ken: Yeah, I know, but we’re all getting used to it.
Priscilla: When I read the verse, the third line was the one that made me the most nervous. May I experience the world knowing me, just as I am. Before I start my comment, I found it most interesting as you repeated it, you went through once and then May I see things just as they are. And then going back to the beginning again. I found the repetition of the verse really useful, because each time it kind of layered on itself. I liked that part about it.
But, I kind of fell apart a little bit. I really can’t say I had a lot of fun. I began to feel really uncomfortable. I can’t tell you exactly why, but a few things came to me. One day, I left and the feeling that I had was how I used disdain. First of all, how it was used in my family and aimed at me. How…and I just touched on my own disdain for myself. It went on from there to how I use disdain in my relationships with other people, for example with my girlfriends, how I may look at others and use that as a way to distance myself.
But the most interesting thing that I found about my behavior was that when I might comment on someone’s character defect to a friend of mine, I feel like I am doing them a favor. [Laughter]
Ken: That reminds me of a Peanuts cartoon. Lucy…
Priscilla: I caught myself there, and I told a friend of mine that. That I actually feel like when I tell you this about people, I’m doing that other person a favor by saying something behind their back, never mind the imprint that I’m leaving on my own brain by saying it. It was just an observation that I had. And it’s just a lot of observations. And I think the last time I went to bed at night and wanted to revise things I said and did during the day was when I was a teenager. And yet I found myself doing that several times in this two-week period at the end of a day like, “Why did I say that?”
Ken: Well, this is very good. I don’t think anybody ever promised you that this was going to be fun, did they?
Priscilla: I had no expectations, honestly.
Ken: Good. But it sounds from what you’re saying that it has brought a higher level of attention to how you conduct yourself in the world. That’s a good thing. Very good. Keep going, if you wish.
In regard to your comment about telling people stuff that’s doing them a favor—Lucy says to Charlie Brown: “I’m going to do you a favor, Charlie Brown. I’m going to tell you all your faults. Get a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On second thought, get two sheets of paper.” [Laughter] Okay.
One more comment, somebody, about the practice. Raquel. Where’s the mic? Yep, there we are.
Raquel: I felt like on the cushion just saying the words of the last two lines brought me really present and there. The first two lines I felt were really helpful off the cushion. I had all these experiences where I was having judgment, prejudices, preferences. And every time it happened, I could quickly recall the line and rest there.
So, I hate flying, and I was on the plane, and I always think I’m going to die. I often look to the person who I am sitting next to and think, “Great! Do I want to die next to this person?” [Laughter]
Ken: And what difference does it make?
Raquel: Well, all of the times that I think I am going to die, I haven’t yet. So, I need to grab them, and I don’t know them. Anyway, it’s this whole thing. [Laughter]
So, I look to the person. And she just—I didn’t think I had anything in common. I just thought, “Oh, god, this is not the person I want to sit next to and die with.” I recalled the line, and rested, and felt a little bit better. Then in a few minutes, she turned to me and just gave me this smile—we were in a lot of turbulence in a storm—she gave me this smile as if to say, “Yeah, doesn’t this suck.” You know, it just turned on me.
With the very first line about prejudice, I actually felt like in the last Tuesday’s class I sort of learned that there’s almost another step. We had a situation where we were all sitting here and as always the janitor, a Latino man, came in and he does his vacuuming. He’s trusted amongst all the people of the building with computers and equipment, but several of us had the thought, “Is our stuff okay?” Then we kind of talked about that afterwards, and recalling the line. But I think with the issue of prejudice there has to be an extra step because we often have excuses or think that it’s justified. So we don’t recognize it as prejudice.
Raquel: So we kind of went through that.
Raquel: Anyway, it was interesting.
Ken: Right. Any questions? Kate.
Kate: I had one little question. It’s the third line. May I experience the world knowing me, just as I am. I started reading the line as “the world is what’s knowing me just as I am.” And then, there was a time where somehow it shifted in my brain and I read it as, “May I know me just as I am, and experience the world in that manner.”
Ken: That’s not how the line is intended.
Ken: Let’s make it a little immediate, if that’s okay with you?
Kate: [Chuckling] I know what that means.
Ken: I know you know. That’s why I just wanted to check. Okay, we’re about 25 people here. What would it be like for you for everybody in this room to know you just as you are?
Kate: I think for me it would be a combination of things.
Kate: I mean there’s something about that that feels very relieving to me.
Ken: Okay, so relief is one thing?
Kate: Relief is one thing.
Ken: And we’ll come back to that.
Kate: But then I’m certain there would be things that would come up.
Ken: Such as?
Kate: Such as something that I’ve said or done that I’m not proud of.
Ken: So there would be shame?
Kate: And then there would be shame.
Ken: Okay, so there’s relief, shame, what else? Anything else?
Kate: Well, probably there’d be a feeling of vulnerability. But there’s a sort of discomfort to that, like it’s a little bit too vulnerable.
Ken: Follow that one a little bit further.
Kate: It is probably just another way of saying shame.
Kate: Well, I guess it could also be fear. I mean, fear of judgment, fear of rejection.
Ken: I think there’s another component in there, too, though. Nowhere to hide?
Kate: Nowhere to hide. Right.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. What’s the relief?
Kate: The relief is in not having to worry anymore about what might happen if they saw me as I am.
Ken: Yeah, that’s one thing. And isn’t there also a component of not having to pretend anymore?
Kate: Exactly. Like, there is no more facade to hold up. There’s no self to hold up, right? No self-image to hold up.
Ken: Yeah. Right. Mask you put on. Okay. But that’s not how we go around the world, is it?
Ken: No. Okay. Good. Darryn, did you have a question? There’s a microphone.
Darryn: It was a similar question dealing with the same line. So, I’m just making sure this is what you have in mind. My experience, when we project it toward others: May all beings experience the world knowing them just as they are.
Ken: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah, that would be the transformation.
Darryn: The world meaning all beings?
Ken: Everything, yeah. Everybody and everything. Yeah. Because in that there is a seeing through all of the facades. A seeing through in which there is no judgment. Can you pass it back to Catherine, please?
Catherine: And you’re also having faith that the world can see you, just as you are. That occurred to me.
Ken: Well, I think that we go around most of the time lacking that faith.
Catherine: Lacking that faith.
Catherine: I have a question about the judgment one. When I would say that to myself, I would go back and I’d say, “When was I without judgment—at all?” And I would imagine myself lying in my bassinet, looking out, and just seeing everything without judgment. And then I thought, “I’ve gotta ask Ken. At what age do we start judging?”
Ken: Well, I would say we start judging pretty quickly. You know, milk, no milk. [Laughing]
Catherine: Preference and prejudice, probably start us off, right?
Ken: But when we’re very small, and we look out at everything, we may be free of judgment. It’s because we don’t know how to interpret things. And we’re actually learning. As we learn, then we get things nicely slotted away: does this work for me, does this not work for me. What we’re doing here is not going back to that infantile state where we are learning how the world is. But we’re undoing what is often a felt need that the only way we know how to function is to judge, which is actually not true.
It’s one thing to discern and appreciate differences. It’s another thing to form emotional judgments about things. And that’s a distinction that we often don’t make. Whenever we see something, we have an emotional judgment about it immediately. And seeing one thing as different from another is different from judging. Okay?
Catherine: Thank you.
Ken: All right. Now. Go ahead Lynea. Okay.
Lynea: To what extent is it useful to understand what we’re experiencing when we get to something? As opposed to just experiencing it and sitting with whatever is going on.
Ken: How does the understanding come about?
Lynea: Sitting with and experiencing whatever is going on.
Ken: [Laughter] Yes, behind my question was, is it something that arises spontaneously, or is it something that is the result of deduction or analysis?
Lynea: I think what I’m getting at is that going toward some of these, you can end up with some overwhelming experiences. And then, I feel like you could be with that material forever long, and whatever is going on prevents deduction and analysis.
Ken: Ah, okay.
Lynea: So does that mean that there is a lack of capacity there? I don’t know.
Ken: No, no. Deduction and analysis are actually, I would say, somewhat counterproductive here. When you’re sitting in the experience, and an understanding of it arises, then at least some part of it has let go, usually. How important is that? Far more important is knowing that you have the capacity to experience all of the discomfort, or to stay present in all of the turmoil. That is far more important, because that’s what one is going to be negotiating in one’s life. One may not see into, and understand everything that’s going on, but if you can actually stay in the experience of it even when it’s very, very volatile, then you won’t be reacting. Okay?
Ken: There’s one over here. Question? Yeah, Carol.
Carol: That third question for me was interesting, because my first thing was, you know, if other people saw me as I am, what would they see? Well, they’d see a caring and loving person caught up in the fray and tilting at windmills. That was my sense of it. And then I thought, well, you know, there was acceptance involved in that. In a way I guess it’s my own acceptance. But it seemed like it would be acceptance on the part of others, too, because others have the same capacities that I do. You know? So it just seems like it would have that quality to it.
Ken: Yeah. I’m going to go from there into Uchiyama. I don’t think Uchiyama is particularly easy. Maybe it’s just because this book speaks to me, but I find this particular book probably the most illuminating on what it’s actually like to live in awareness. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind I think is very good, and it’s very, very helpful. But there is a different quality here, I find.
I want to spend some time discussing a topic we have discussed before, but drawing it out a little more deeply, hopefully. Starting with this third line in these verses: May I experience the world knowing me, just as I am. The world here is all people. Here we have to distinguish between two very, very different interpretations of experience, and that’s what Uchiyama is talking about in here. In the middle of the paragraph, the main paragraph on page 39,
We have become so accustomed to the world of giving and taking, that we assume it is only normal to trade with another, and we lose sight of that life wherein trading has no bearing.
Now, a friend of mine showed me a paper that a person called Peter Drucker wrote I think in 1949 or so, a long time ago. Peter Drucker, who died very recently, last year, was one of the great management and business gurus of the twentieth century. In this paper, which is a commentary on his thoughts about Kierkegaard among others, he talks about distinguishing society and the individual. He says things such as:
Existence in society requires that society’s objective need for survival determines the functions and the actions of the citizen. But existence in the spirit is possible only if there is no law and no rule except that of the person.
And here is the sentence that caught my attention:
In society, there can be no freedom except in matters that do not matter to society. But because man must exist in the spirit, there can be no social rule, no social constraint, in matters that do matter to the individual.
I found it was at least a parallel, maybe not exactly the same as what Uchiyama is talking about in this chapter.
He’s writing at the middle of the twentieth century, right after the Second World War, and the horrors of Nazism and Communism, when these very idealistic systems produced suffering on a scale that had never been encountered by humanity before. And once and for all put an end to the optimism of the nineteenth century where it was thought that reason could triumph and create, you know, a reasonable world. Well, we know now that that doesn’t happen.
Though we are still, if anything, even further enslaved by the notion that we have to find fulfillment through activities in society. And this permeates the modern corporation, you know, this finding fulfillment through your career. The upshot of that is that we become work-slaves, where the corporate and the institutional interests subvert even our own spiritual inclinations. And you see this wonderfully in firms that have their employees singing hymns of praise to the company as part of their daily ritual. You know, work as religion.
Ken: Oh, yeah. It’s not uncommon in Asia at all. It’s only America’s ridiculous individualism that prevents it going further here. [Laughter]
Student: We have company softball teams.
Ken: Yeah, well actually there are more subtle and more insidious ways than the softball team. It is the attitude—and the propaganda—that we’ll provide you with a job which will be totally fulfilling to you. You know, which you can be.
Student: General Electric has an induction video that—
Ken: Something along these lines?
Student: Well, even worse. I mean it is so frightening. It is bald in its telling you that we are the alpha and the omega of all things. And it’s designed to rile you up in this thing, and then it hits you over the head with, “You will be loyal. You will sign this loyalty oath. And you will do the things this way, this way, and this way.” It’s brilliant, actually.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. In terms of advertising my favorite one is one I came across many years ago. I don’t know whether I still have a copy of it. It shows your average guy in his late twenties, early thirties, and he’s surrounded by golf clubs, and scuba gear, and computers, and all of the paraphernalia and clothes and everything like that. Behind him there’s a big Ford truck. And he’s sitting in some kind of half-assed meditation posture. And the caption is, “Joe knows that to be one with everything, you have to have one of everything.” [Laughter]
We are completely immersed in that society, and not only are we immersed in that society, any suggestion, or any idea that there can be a life other than that world of shared experience, of interaction, of trading, is pooh-poohed, scorned, relegated to the notion of poetry, myth, meaninglessness, etc., etc.
Rory: I find this interesting because when I was reading the chapter, at the end I came to work as well. There is this part, and I know I’m jumping ahead, but at the bottom of 44, it talks about work and the bodhisattva spirit. And I thought about my own work these days and what it means to bring my whole self to my work. So if I’m not doing that, then what? You know, am I developing my self, you know, am I…you know because I’ve found over the last two weeks, that I’m bored. I know I’m bored in my work, but I’m not bringing my whole self to the workplace everyday. So where is the injustice there, to me, to my students, to…?
Ken: Let me come to that. Okay?
Ken: Ordinarily, we think of exchanging with others. That’s the world that we are conditioned to. Octavio Paz, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, describes very eloquently the transition in childhood, when you move from the world of individual experience, or just what you actually experience, into the adult world of shared experience. It’s like you’re being torn away. I think in a certain sense this is what Dylan Thomas’ poem Fern Hill is about.
We forget that world, but we can never find completion. We can never be whole in the world of shared experience, because it is constructed. The world in which the possibility of exchange or trade of any kind doesn’t exist. Okay?
Let’s take something very prosaic. What’s your experience of this? Okay? You have a certain experience. I’m holding up a white card. Okay? Share that experience with me. This is California. Share the experience! [Laughing]
Student: I’m seeing…
Ken: No, share the experience. In fact, fine, I’ll give you five bucks for that experience. Have I got a deal?
Student: I guess.
Ken: Okay. There is no way you can give me your experience. There’s no way at all. It’s impossible. You can try to elicit the same experience in me by hook or by crook. But you don’t know whether it’s the same experience.
I got into trouble recently on this one. I got a call from someone saying that he wanted me to participate in a film being made about how the vision of non-duality is the same across all traditions, and it’s just the words that get in the way. I sent him an email back saying, “I’d be delighted to participate in your documentary, but I think you should know that what you take as a fact, I regard as a question.” Fifteen minutes later, I got a phone call. We had a discussion and he said, “But it’s obviously the same for everybody, because they talk about it.” I said, “Well look, you know you bite a strawberry, and I bite a strawberry, and we have no idea whether we are having the same experience. How much less so can we know if we’re having the same experience of non-duality.” So he didn’t include me. [Laughter] After our phone call, he wrote back and said, “I think you’re right. I don’t think you’re suitable for this project.” [Laughter]
So, this is very, very important, because if you believe that you can get a certain experience from me, you won’t be fully in your experience, and vice versa. You follow? You won’t embrace or open to what you actually experience. You’ll be looking…constantly looking to get something to make you complete. There is no possibility of that. You cannot get anything from outside of you to make you complete. It’s actually much easier than that. All of you are complete in yourselves. We all are. We don’t know that. Could you pass [the mic] to Leslie, please.
Leslie: You know, this takes me back like 15 years ago or something when I was talking to you about how I was always trying to figure out the meaning of life.
Leslie: I said that I would have these periods where I’d go for a long time and then suddenly it would occur to me, “I still don’t know the meaning of life.” After I started sitting, I stopped thinking about the meaning of life. And you said, “Now, well, that’s because you’re doing something about it.” Or something to that effect.
Leslie: And I think that maybe this is what you are saying.
Ken: It’s along similar lines. Yep.
Leslie: Well, that only took 15 years to figure out.
Ken: Some of us take a little longer than that. I want to move to Rory’s question now.
In order to know our own experience, we have to die to the world of shared experience. Not permanently, necessarily, but at least temporarily.
And forget about connections, and relations, and trading, and getting things, and all of that. And if you forget about all of that, then it becomes possible to open and experience whatever is actually arising—right here. And as soon as we do that, we don’t feel so incomplete. It actually happens quite quickly. There’s kind of a rest that starts almost immediately. And if you move back into the world of shared experience—[Ken snaps his fingers]—now you’re back into the rat race again. So you can experiment, going back and forth.
Rory talked about the classroom, right? What would it be like to go into your classroom and say, “This is my experience. This is just what it is. No judgment.” And you relate to everything that arises as, this is my experience. What would that be like?
Rory: Well, funny you should say that, because that happened today with 18 12-year-olds. Just to try to bring them into the present to begin a conversation with them about why they’re not present. Or they are so immediately present that they’re so interested in each other that to have a conversation was difficult, because if they couldn’t connect to what the conversation was, then they would disturb the person next to them. But that was them being in the present moment so that they could connect to the person next to them.
Ken: They weren’t being present. They were looking for a…
Rory: For a distraction, right.
Ken: To avoid the feeling of disconnection.
Rory: So then, I put them in a round table because they always look to me as the teacher to acknowledge what they’re saying to be okay. And I don’t like that because that’s who I am as a teacher. I would rather them listen collectively to each other than to espouse wisdom on how they’re learning, and whether I think they’re doing a good job. And what happens is a discussion like this today—and this is where I think I do bring myself fully to my job—in talking to these 12-year-olds about why teachers teach for the future and not for the present. That’s where I feel very whole in my job as an educator.
Ken: Right. So when you’re fully in your own experience, then the questions disappear, don’t they? Okay. That’s what Uchiyama is talking about, bringing your true self. He uses the terms Self—capital “S”—but he’s not saying there is a thing. He’s just using it as coded language, saying to be fully in your experience. When we’re fully in our experience that way, there’s no sense of expectation or goal or future being set up.
Rory: Right. And then I have to bring myself to a room like this where there are people who are questioning these kinds of ideas. Because in a school where I’m of…one…
Ken: That’s right.
Rory: It’s like I go in the next day thinking, “Okay, will I hear from an administrator? Will I hear from a parent? Will I hear from the other kids?” You know? So I come here and work that out. And it’s okay to work it out with kids on a daily basis, as well.
Ken: Now, what does this have to do with equanimity? Any feeling of specialness, that you are superior or inferior, this is a form of pride. And pride is the antithesis of equanimity. When we open to the world of experience, our own experience, there is no specialness. The idea of being special actually becomes absurd, because there’s no basis of comparison. We just have this experience.
So this is how we access or experience equanimity. Basically, Uchiyama is talking about the level of the mind of awareness. The verses that I have given you are about accessing equanimity principally at the level of mind of emotion. And the process of repeating the phrases and having these reactions that come up as many of you described, different ones with each line, and experiencing those reactions in attention. And so they become just experience. This is how one disengages or dismantles one’s enmeshment with them so that it becomes possible to experience the higher level of emotion of equanimity. And not just the reactive emotions of preference and judgment which we ordinarily use to negotiate our lives.
Going back to the question that was posed earlier this evening, this doesn’t in any way remove the possibility of making discernment. Seeing the actual differences between things, you know, it’s like saying, “Well this piece won’t fit in this hole because it just doesn’t fit.” It’s not because it’s bad. It just doesn’t fit. That’s a very different kind of thing.
But that clarity of discernment only comes when we’re freed from the emotional judgments of preference and prejudice. So, what have we got here?
Ken: 8:06—9:06. Yeah. Okay. Those are the principle points I wanted to cover. Any other questions on this before we turn to loving-kindness? Steve, then Priscilla, and then who was over here? Kate. Okay.
Steve: Could you clarify a little bit? You said that I can’t give you my experience, but could you clarify what the world of shared experience is?
Student: Could you repeat the question?
Ken: What is the world of shared experience in contrast to the world in which we cannot trade experience? Okay. What’s this?
Ken: Okay. Book exists in the world of shared experience. I can give you the book; you can give me the book. We can talk about it, etc. Okay?
Steve: Symbols? Symbols we use to…
Ken: They’re symbols, but they aren’t just symbols. They’re constructs. Now we take the next step. You experience seeing this book, right? Can you share that?
Steve: I can describe it.
Ken: You can describe it, but can you share that experience with me?
Ken: Okay. That’s the difference. Janaki, you don’t like this?
Janaki: Well, it’s not that I don’t like it. I understand this. But let me relay something.
Janaki: An experience that I had. Maybe you can shed some light on it. I was giving Nava instructions on how to use the gong to time meditation periods on retreat. We were sitting together, and I was showing her and explaining to her about the kind of connection and the feeling and some of the subtleties of it. And we went back and forth. And she did it repeatedly, and we were absolutely together. And then, at one point, she hit the gong with all of that. She knew it, and I knew it. And at the end of that, we looked at each other and said, “Well. In the world of no shared experience!” I mean that’s exactly what we said. So, can you comment on that?
Ken: What did you experience?
Janaki: I experienced a connection to the moment and to what was happening…
Janaki: …both in what I was doing and what she was doing.
Ken: Mmm-hmm. What did Nava experience?
Janaki: Well, I can’t speak for Nava, but I know what she said to me.
Ken: Yes. But that’s the point.
Janaki: Yet at the same time, there was a shared perception or there was a shared moment.
Ken: No, that’s how you’re interpreting it. You experienced a moment of connection with the present. That’s what you experienced. But just as you said, and you have certain qualities and it had a certain openness, and clearly from the way you are describing it, something was quite meaningful to you. And I suggest that the meaning didn’t come from outside the experience. The meaning was the experience itself.
Janaki: Yes, it was. But she said…we actually said the same thing.
Janaki: Now, I know everybody sees a different rainbow, and I know about the world of shared experience, but—and then there is this.
Ken: Yeah. But you notice that when I said, “What did Nava experience?” you correctly said you can’t speak for her. Okay. So this is a mystery. There’s something you can know, but you cannot put it into words. Okay? And as soon as you try to put it into words, it becomes something else. Okay? Priscilla, you had a question.
Priscilla: First, to comment on what you are saying, that ultimately, there is separation. There is no shared experience, because ultimately, there’s separation.
Ken: I think I just said there is no shared experience.
Priscilla: Right. And there is no shared experience. First of all, it almost seems like a matter of semantics to me. Because ultimately, there is a separation always. If there is no shared experience, there has to be a separation.
Ken: Your point?
Priscilla: Okay. That’s all. All right so, no comment from you on that?
Ken: I want to hear the whole bit before [laughing]…
Priscilla: Well, if I am put in a position to argue the point, I might argue some of Daniel Goleman’s points in Social Intelligence.
Ken: Which I haven’t yet read. Yeah.
Priscilla: So that would be where I would go with that. Which I am not choosing to, unless you want me to.
Ken: I…I haven’t read the book yet, so I…
Priscilla: Well, may I make a basic comment on that then? One of the things that he talks about is that when they connect people’s brains with what scientists measure brain waves with—if I watch Peri go and fill your glass with water and bring it to you, there’s a part of my brain that doesn’t exactly enact the glass, but works…
Ken: Yeah, okay.
Priscilla: So that’s an argument toward shared experience. As I watch her pick up the glass a part of my brain is also activating my hand picking up the glass.
Ken: It’s not an argument toward shared experience. It’s an argument about resonance.
Priscilla: All right. Okay, I agree. I see the point. Okay.
Priscilla: My question was, you said when we are actually in an experience…
Ken: Could you hold the microphone so that your question…
Priscilla: When we are actually in an experience, I’m not quoting you exactly, we’re freed of expectation from there. Do you remember saying that? My question is just why? I am not sure I understand that.
Ken: Much more fruitful than an explanation is for you to experience it. So right now, look around this room with a sense that everything you see is your experience, and is nothing other than your experience. You may be inclined from there to try open to the totality of your experience right now. So you might try to experience everything, all at the same time. All the different elements in here, the different colors that everybody’s wearing. All the different things hanging on the walls. Sounds, everything—it’s all my experience. Open to all of it, all at the same time. And then include in that everything you experience in your body, and all of the thoughts, and feelings, and emotions. So there’s all this experience inside and outside. All of it. Now when you do that, what do you experience? Complete, incomplete?
Priscilla: Pretty complete.
Ken: There you go. Thank you. Now try doing that all through your life. It might make a difference, right?
Priscilla: That’s the mystery.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. Kate, you had a question.
Kate: Well what I’ve really been struggling with, working with, is the word preference. I can actually imagine, even though I’m a far ways from it, I can imagine knowing things without judgment. In terms of not labeling this good and this bad. And I can imagine knowing them without prejudice, which sort of means the same thing to me, I mean, basically, labeling it good or bad. However in terms of preference, if I was in equanimity, if I broke my leg or was in pain I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t prefer not being in pain, that I wouldn’t have a preference for one over the other. I don’t know if I’m misunderstanding what preference means in this context or if in actuality, if I were ever that enlightened—I know that the two experiences would be different. I mean, I realize that; I’m not going to ever, like, break a leg and not feel pain if I’m enlightened enough.
Kate: But how I could not prefer comfort over pain is hard for me to…
Ken: Yeah. It is pretty hard, I agree. But there’s a knowing [pause] in which there’s no reaction to what arises in experience. And if there’s no reaction to what arises in experience, then there’s no preference. It is hard.
I give you two instances. No, three. My teacher detested oatmeal. And he was staying on my parent’s farm. We made oatmeal each morning, took it in to him. He never ate a scrap of it. I didn’t know that. In Tibet, oatmeal was regarded as horse food. My mother also made these quite delicious oatmeal-laced cookies. Rinpoche didn’t know they were made of oatmeal. He loved them! [Laughing] I mean he would literally eat a whole batch in one sitting. He said, “These are delicious.” We never told him. [Laughing] That’s one.
In the three-year retreat, I injured myself quite badly doing the Tibetan yoga. I won’t describe the movement. Basically tore this muscle away from the shin. It was unbelievably painful. I won’t even try to describe just how searing the pain was. Fortunately, we were doing practice on illusory body at this point. We didn’t have doctors, treatment, or anything like that. There was nothing to do, except every lunch hour I’d go and soak it in absolutely boiling hot water, because it was the middle of winter so it was the only way to get healing going. But during meditation periods, there was only one thing going on: that was hurting. So there was nothing to do but to open to the experience of pain. Couldn’t ignore it—not a chance. Not infrequently it got to the point that it was just a very intense sensation. That was it. Very, very intense burning sensation. But there was no longer any reaction inside.
Number three: After he’d been tortured extensively by the Spanish Inquisition, John of the Cross, whose body was completely broken by the torture, was summoned by his superior who basically said, “Whoops, we’re sorry. This wasn’t right, so we’d like to make it up to you the best we can. The only thing we can do is say, ‘Where would you like to spend the rest of your life? Which monastery? Any monastery in Spain.’ It’s your choice.” And John said, “I’d like to go to that monastery.” And the superior said, “Why do you want to go there? The abbot hates you.” And John of the Cross said, “Yeah, I know. I’ve still got a few things to work on.” Okay?
There is a knowing that knows experience. But there’s no reaction. That’s what this practice is about. It’s what all our practice is about. It’s always there. It gets covered by our projections. We forget it, from our distractions. We don’t want to know it, because to know it is to be no one, to be no thing. But it’s there.
Student: Is the reaction either attachment or aversion?
Ken: Or indifference.
Ken: Yeah. Attraction, aversion, or indifference. Yeah. That’s right.
Student: So, would it be that to be free from preference I would feel things as being maybe a pleasant feeling or an unpleasant feeling, but I wouldn’t want to attach to the pleasant?
Ken: Yeah, that’s right.
Student: Or push away the unpleasant?
Ken: Yeah, you wouldn’t have to do that. Yeah. Okay. Let’s turn to loving-kindness.
Ken: At the level of emotion, loving-kindness is simply the wish that others be happy. In keeping with the way that we’re approaching this, we engender that wish for ourselves. The meditation process is exactly what we’ve done with equanimity, except you’re going to work with these four lines. And I suggest you do the same thing. For the first week, just work with them with respect to yourself. Then, next week, start extending them. So you get the feeling of that.
May I be happy, well, and at peace. What happens when you say that line?
Ken: So, relaxation that takes place. Anybody else? There’s the microphone. Okay. Anybody? Darryn.
Darryn: Sort of a reaction of regret.
Ken: Yeah. A reaction of regret. Because it’s a pretty short step to seeing all of the ways that we’re conducting our lives so that we are not happy, well, and at peace. This is where we get caught up in the world of shared experience, right? Because in the world of our actual experience, how available is being happy, well, and at peace? It’s pretty available.
Next line: May I open to everything that arises.
What’s that like? This is very important. The reason we react in any situation is because we aren’t able or aren’t willing to open to what’s arising at that moment. And so we react either to take it over (which is attraction) or to get rid of it (which is aversion). It’s by cultivating the ability to open to whatever arises that we eliminate the need for reaction.
May I experience the world wishing me happiness and peace. Janaki.
Janaki: Oddly enough, the first and third lines elicit a kind of discomfort for me because it seems awfully selfish.
Janaki: And in my experience of the practice, it isn’t directed inward. So I’m having a little bit of a strain there.
Ken: Well, this particular approach to the four immeasurables actually applies the principle in mind training—start the sequence with yourself. It’s not that we’re actually wishing this. We are using these lines in order to be able to come in touch with what prevents us from knowing this. So, May I be happy, well, and at peace. Well, an awful lot I’m doing which prevents me from doing that. Are you with me? May I experience the world wishing me happiness and peace. How often do I regard the world as an enemy when it isn’t an enemy? How often do you regard the world as an enemy when it isn’t an enemy? Occasionally?
Janaki: Occasionally. My particular self-loathing doesn’t include that particular kind of paranoia.
Ken: Well, I would disagree a little bit. It’s the internalization of that paranoia, self-loathing.
Janaki: Well, it doesn’t matter. That’s irrelevant. That’s words.
Ken: But May I be happy, well, and at peace. That kind of runs counter to the self-loathing, doesn’t it?
Ken: Self-loathing is always a learned behavior. It never occurs naturally. We internalize someone else’s negative image of ourselves. And we were taught, usually in that connection, that trying to feel good about ourselves was selfish.
Janaki: I’ll just start a dialogue there. And that is pointless. But from what you are saying, the way I, we, experience that third line is more like accepting.
Ken: Yes. And don’t forget that in the second week, you are going to be saying,
May those close to me be happy, well, and at peace.
May those close to me open to everything they experience.
May those close to me experience the world wishing them happiness and peace.
So it doesn’t stay confined to ourselves forever. What’s it like to be loved by the world?
Janaki: First word? Excruciating.
Ken: [Laughing] Okay. That’s good enough.
May I appreciate things just as they are. That also bites quite deeply, doesn’t it? We want things to be other than just as they are. We want them to be the way I want them to be. Not just as they are. Okay. First Steve, then Darryn.
Steve: How does “May I be happy, well, and at peace” differ from the preference that Kate was talking about, about “May my leg not be hurting?”
Ken: Well, there, there is a definite preference. May I be happy, well, and at peace. As I say, we use these lines in order to come in touch with what prevents us from experiencing being happy, well, and at peace. In the knowing that I was referring to earlier, there’s peace, there’s well-being. There’s no reaction to pain or pleasure. So in a very profound sense there’s happiness, but not…not a relative happiness. And you can use these lines to elicit a sense, an echo of that. And that’s a very, very different quality from saying, “I just want this pain to go away.” You follow?
Steve: Not exactly, but—if I am wishing to be well, why am I not preferring to be well?
Ken: It is not about changing what you experience now. It’s changing how you experience it. If you are happy, well and at peace, what happens when pain comes up?
Steve: In theory, you would just experience it.
Ken: Yeah. You are less likely to react to it. On the other hand, if you are unhappy, feeling sick, or very disturbed, what happens when pain comes up?
Steve: That’s what happens.
Ken: That’s what happens. It gets worse, doesn’t it? Yeah. Do you see the distinction? Okay. Darryn.
Darryn: I’m just wondering if you would care to comment on the…that there’s a subtle difference between the fourth line of equanimity, which is, May I see things just as they are, and the fourth line of loving-kindness which is, May I appreciate things just as they are.
Ken: Yeah. That’s right.
Darryn: And is that for us to experience? Or do you have anything you could tell me why that is loving-kindness?
Darryn: Also, it seems like the same, it’s a loaded question in terms of by appreciating something you’re not just experiencing it? It’s a qualitative difference.
Ken: There is a qualitative difference between seeing things just as they are and appreciating. There is a more intimate relationship with appreciating. And that’s why it’s loving-kindness. Okay.
One point: on the first line of the joy meditation, take out the words, success and. I decided I didn’t like those. So, May I enjoy the fulfillment of my aims. Also, you’ll find on the website, there’s a pdf file now with these meditations, and along with them, guidelines. HYPERLINK If you go to the page which has the class description on it, you’ll find you can download a pdf file from there. If anybody’s interested. Okay. Yes?
Student: Any chance that we could get a copy of the chants in a pdf file?
Ken: We’re going to be getting a pdf file of the chants up on the website, but not just yet. Sean?
Sean: Are these verses by degrees? Is each one, is by what you just said, equanimity, loving-kindness. Is compassion also deeper than loving-kindness and then joy deeper than compassion? Or are these completely equal then?
Ken: Are these by degrees? Yes and no. They’re more different facets of things. And the reason I say yes and no is that there is a progression, but the progression isn’t absolute. You can work through the immeasurables in two or three different progressions, actually. And they all work. They have different intentions, and I describe that in Wake Up To Your Life.
So, yes, there’s a steady deepening of experience. But it doesn’t mean that compassion is always deeper than…well, actually, in some sense compassion is the deepest of all of them. But really the way we’re working with them here is that they’re all different facets. And so seeing things just as they are is one way. And then, appreciating things. And then you move on to acceptance. And then enjoyment. There are very different flavors in each of those and all four are important. Okay? Some people can enjoy things, but they can’t see them clearly.
Ken: Some people can enjoy things, but they can’t see things clearly. Okay? And we’ll be getting into that one next time when we’re discussing decay and corruption, how they interact with each other. Okay?
So, we’ve gone considerably over. My apologies. Let’s conclude here with the chants.