Imbalance and relationships; entering vs observing emotions; experiencing a broken heart; patterns as addiction; various forms of obsessions and remedies.
I think it was John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Most people when they’re confronted with a new perspective, or new information, and have a choice of accepting and assimilating it or proving why it is wrong, most people waste no time getting started on the proof.”
Consider how much effort you put into arranging your life internally more even than externally, so that everything is nice and ordered and in the right place and doesn’t cause any disturbance. When we do that, when we try to establish an order that doesn’t exist, we introduce imbalance. And so that whatever comes out of that is out of balance and requires further effort. And the result is suffering for ourselves and for others.
How different life is when we stop trying to make that effort and we are willing to experience just what arises. Not trying to order it, or reframe it, or structure it so that it is acceptable, which basically means, it doesn’t disturb.
Yesterday I talked about obligation as the obligation to maintain the balance that maintains the relationship. What is a relationship? A relationship between two people means that they relate to each other. Not to what they want to be there, not to the picture that they carry inside of themselves or of the other person, but to what is actually there. Anything other than that and it’s not a relationship.
And if there’s a relationship so that you’re relating to the other person and you’re in touch with where you are, then you are going to be aware when there is imbalance in the relationship. And realistically speaking, there will always be periods of imbalance in a relationship and relationships can survive them. But they can’t survive long periods or continuous imbalance. So in that awareness of imbalance there will also be the awareness of whether it is threatening the relationship. And that is the boundary point and that is the point at which obligation arises.
Now at such a point, things aren’t usually very tidy. There’s uncertainty and various other feelings within oneself—fear, anxiety, perhaps feelings of being disrespected, not being appreciated. In other words, there’s a lot of stuff. And the tendency for many people is just to push that under the rug and continue with the relationship. But doing so actually endangers the relationship. So here is where it is important, vitally important, to be able to stay present in both the external situation and the internal situation and implement your intention. Which is to address the imbalance in the relationship. That is to fulfill your obligation. And fulfill one’s obligation.
What this involves, necessarily is experiencing what you don’t want to experience, feeling what you don’t want to feel. This is where sacrifice takes place. You sacrifice what doesn’t want to feel, what doesn’t want to experience, and you sacrifice it in order to be present.
So, this evening in your meditation practice, feel what you don’t want to feel. Feel what you try not to feel. It’s right there. Feel it. Experience it. And go further. Feel what is seeking not to feel. Feel that part of you that is trying not to feel anything. Or not to feel a particular thing. So there’s both feeling what you don’t want to feel and feeling the part that is trying not to feel. They’re different.
Art: [Unclear] How useful is going to the body for feeling those parts that you don’t want to feel?
Ken: That is one of the more reliable methods that I know of. Of halting the operation of what is trying not to feel. Because the body doesn’t lie. The body doesn’t cooperate with that. The body registers. In this sense, the body is always awake. So when you go into the body, it’s right there. You may only get the physical sensations ’cause everything else is blocked. But now you are moving into what is.
I had quite a vivid experience of this, oh, about fifteen years ago when there was a serious crisis, at least it seemed so at the time, in the Buddhist community. And my position in Los Angeles brought me into contact with some of the senior people in the particular community in which this crisis was arising. And I was on the phone with them, and we were having a discussion about the situation. I was quite concerned. From here up I was completely calm. Voice was fine, just carrying on a conversation like this. And I happened to be in my study, my apartment and sitting like this in a chair, and I just noticed that my knees were going like this. And I went, “Oh, you’re a lot more upset about this than you’re letting yourself register, Ken.” And I was. So I started paying attention to how I was really feeling, not what I was allowing myself to feel. Follow?
So go into the body. It’s a very good way. It’s right there. And all of you have enough experience and practice to be able to do this. All of you have enough ability to make an effort to feel what you don’t want to feel, and to feel the part of you that avoids feeling, tries to avoid feeling. And you just experience it, you don’t try to do anything with it. This is where The Binding Three, that I gave on the first day, the first evening, I think. Things like “follow the gesture,” that’s the first step, just follow the gesture. Don’t make any adjustment, don’t make any change, just experience it in attention.
So that’s your practice this evening. Continue with the opponent’s world with child, cutting the opponent. Do that at least once in the sessions this evening, but make this effort. Feel what you don’t want to feel. Feel the part of you that doesn’t want to feel.
Ken: Pardon? What’s the point there?
Ken: Okay. Going through the practice as a ritual is a way to reduce the tendency to get lost in the reactions. So you just do, do, do. So you actually have the experience of implementing your intention. You do the elements, you take the sword, you enter the opponent’s world. You meet the child, you meet the opponent, you cut the opponent. You meet the child, you dissolve the opponent’s world. You meet the child in your power location. You ask each of the three questions. You’re right there. It’s a way of staying in the practice, in your intention.
When you do it, many of you have described, lots of different feelings come up. When you’re doing the resting meditation afterwards, resting in attention, you’ll recall what you didn’t want to feel, or what you brushed aside. And there are probably many things in your life. I mean, just in the pencil exercise that we did, how many of you encountered things that you didn’t want to feel? Nobody? Okay. They’re right there. Call them to mind and just rest in that feeling to the extent that you can. And so you learn now to stay present in what you usually avoid. And there’s information in that. There’s a lot of information in that, which is necessary information if you are to be present and do what’s appropriate in the situation. Follow?
Now. There’s a difference between entering an emotion and observing the emotion. When you observe an emotion—and this is something that is taught in many traditions of practice in Buddhism—the emotion is there, you are here and you can observe it. This is very useful, but it only goes up to a point. When you enter the emotion and stay in attention, the emotion isn’t there. You’re experiencing it. It’s not an object of observation, you’re experiencing it, you’re experiencing it in attention.
So…could we close the windows, is anybody else chilly? Yeah. Some of us were never hot. Thank you, Susan.
For instance, when in a relationship you sense that things are out of balance, what do you experience right at that point?
Ken: Yes. Anybody else?
Ken: Right. There’s anger, what was the other one? Confusion, fear, all of these erupt. But underneath those, what else is there? Pain.
Ken: Perhaps despair, but there’s pain. What’s the pain?
Ken: Yeah, but let’s not use that jargon at this point. Yes, Jessica. What’s the pain, Jessica?
Ken: Right. Another way of putting this is, you experience a broken heart, because at that point the person isn’t meeting your expectations. And so to relate to the person, to be in the relationship is to accept that what you want isn’t going to be met. Who you want them to be isn’t who they are. And you experience a broken heart. That is the result of sacrifice, it’s the experience of a broken heart.
Ken: Oh, if the whole relationship goes up in smoke that’s a whole ’nother thing. I’m talking at the point of recognizing that the relationship is out of balance. There is that,“Ah.” That’s the broken heart right there. Because you sacrificed your expectations of what you wanted the relationship to be and how it was going to fit into your world. And how they were going to be the perfect person in all those different ways, right? Doesn’t that break your heart?
Ken: Oh, it is very intentional.
Ken: And experience it. And it is very intentional because if you don’t do it intentionally, you don’t do it, and rather you just ignore what’s really happening. And you just say, “Well, this person isn’t really doing that,” or “That’s not really the situation.” Or you make all of these excuses. So you don’t actually address the imbalance and things. You know where things go from there. Yes?
Ken: It’s none of those.
Ken: It’s not acceptance or surrender in the sense of resignation, “I’m just going to, you know, I’ll go along with it”, because that’s ignoring what you’re feeling. It’s not graciousness, that’s a mode of behavior. You go right into the experience, “Oh.” And in that experience of the broken heart, in that experience of sacrifice, you move into presence. You’re letting go of how you want the world to be, and moving into the experience of what is.
Ken: You first experience “ouch.” Okay? And when you experience “ouch” completely you will know what needs to be done. You will know what you have to say, whether it can be moved into balance…back into balance. It may not be possible for it to be moved into balance, so then you experience loss. But without experiencing “ouch” you’re not present.
Question back here?
Ken: Yes. But a lot of us live in illusion a lot of the time. So there is a constant experience of sacrifice, because we keep making up a new illusion each time. You know, it’s going to be this way, it’s going to be this way, it’s going to be this way.
Student: [Unclear] sacrifice would make me whole?
Ken: This is making you wholly.
Ken: Yes. It’s making you whole in experience. That’s a nice play on words. Susan.
Ken: Yes. Because the relationship cannot work, and the recognition of that is painful, usually. And many people stay in relationships long after they’ve ceased to work. They’re in high states of imbalance and they say, you know, “I’m so miserable.” And ending the relationship, there are many ways the relationship can end, it may be that the relationship has to be redefined. And in a long-term relationship like a marriage, there’s a constant process of redefining the relationship. It isn’t a static thing. It isn’t just, “This is it” and it goes on forever.
Every time there’s any change or new element enters into it, everything changes. And so one person gets ill, now the relationship’s redefined. They get better. The other person is suddenly very successful in life. That changes the relationship. The relationship is redefined. Children come along. Children leave, grow up. All of these are points at which the relationship is redefined.
So ending the relationship doesn’t mean stopping interacting. It’s a recognition of what is right now and letting go of what was, and moving into what is.
When you continuously experience a broken heart, you will be awake and present. But most of us—
Student: Can I have a refund? [Laughter]
Ken: I would be doing a disservice to you if I gave you one. You know, you paid your money, you get what you get. I didn’t promise you a rose garden. All of you know that.
Now if you don’t experience that broken heart, then all of your effort is going into trying to make things this way, the way that you want them to be. And this becomes a kind of addiction. And as all of us know, in addiction, we don’t feel. So the way to break the addiction is to feel what is actually there. And patterns have all of the tenacity of any addiction. Which is why some gesture with power is essential in order to move out of pattern-based experience.
Ken: Yes. And if you don’t, then you are…all your effort is going to arranging the world internally and externally so that you don’t feel, you don’t experience what is. This becomes an addiction. And so you enter into a self-induced hypnotic state which you call life.
Ken: Ah, does a broken heart feel miserable? Peri?
Ken: Anybody else? Raw? Yup.
The other day I’m working with a couple of guys who are forming a consulting firm. They’re tough. And difficult communication. So at one point in this very long meeting we were having, I turned to one of them and said, “What are you feeling right now?” He said, “Alone and unappreciated.” I said, “Okay”. I turned to the other guy and said, “What are you feeling right now?” “Not understood and not valued.” I said, “Okay, I want you just to move into the experience of being alone and unappreciated. And I want you just to experience being not understood and and not valued. Don’t say anything else, shut up.” ’Cause they were just ready to talk. I said, “No, just do it”. Different energy entered the room.
I let them sit like that for a few minutes. And then I turned to the first one and said, “What does this feel like to you?” He said, “Real.” And the other guy went, “Wow, I was going to say exactly the same thing”. So that’s the experience of broken heart. You’re right there. Alive, awake, raw, present. Not necessarily miserable. The misery comes from the futile effort to try to arrange the world to fit into what you want. That’s misery. Leslie?
Ken: Yes. And the broken…it’s…the pain of what is in that situation, when you actually open to it. Now you’re in the situation, and you know. And you can address the imbalances.
Ken: Well, we do have things like that.
Ken: Just get, right, exactly. Kabir says, “What’s the point of rearranging the pillows if you’re just going to go to sleep anyway?” Good guys, these.
Okay. Now. There are various forms of obsession which take us over so that we don’t experience just what is. And these obsessions one can regard them as efforts to solidify different aspects of our experience. We try to solidify our emotions. And many people have been quite successful with that. And the result of having nice, solid emotions is that you get bounced around by them. The example that I gave on Wednesday evening about this individual who cooked this pizza from hell, what he said afterwards [was that] that all of his emotions were much less solid. By going through this experience and feeling all of the intensity he realized, “Oh, they’re just feelings. They’re much less solid”. So he’s not nearly as subject to being swayed and pushed around by the emotions. That’s the product of obsessing with emotions, or emotional obsessions, is they become very solid. They become real, they become hard and you can’t do anything with them.
Another area of solidity is the world that we experience around us, it seems very real and very solid. Another area is pleasure and power. Everybody tries to solidify those, it’s a way of trying to hold on to those experiences. And a fourth area is self-image. The idea of who or what we are.
Now in the practice of chö, which is the practice of cutting, these are known as the four demonic obsessions, and there are various remedies or ways to cut through them. I’m going to give you two sets. One is very direct and to the point, and the other are phrases, a set of four phrases that you can use to recall presence. Yes?
Ken: Well, I’m trying to deal with an organization, and regard the organization as a solid entity. Is it? No. It’s not. I regard everything that exists around me as existing in its own right, independent of me. That’s solidification of the world of experience. You follow? Pleasure and power are internal experiences. Okay?
Ken: There you are. Nice and solid, isn’t it? Really, you can hate that, but you’re dealing with it. What’s it composed of? People in relationships and those people in turn are sets of patterns that are interacting in a certain way. Microsoft, you see, is a very smart company. When it detects a competitor in a certain area, it doesn’t attack the product. It attacks the creative urge of the person who created the product and destroys that. That’s how it wipes out its competitors. And that’s stated strategy in the company.
Ken: No. They find out what drives that person, and then they work to oppose that, make that creative urge and that sense of inspiration and whatever futile for that person. So they kill that person. I mentioned this to—
Ken: Yeah, you’re an artist, right? You enjoy making paintings. You enjoy teaching. If I wanted to eliminate you as a competitor, I would destroy your love of painting.
Student: How can you do that?
Ken: It would depend on circumstances. That will be the subject matter of tomorrow. Okay? I mentioned this to another CEO and he went, “Oh, I knew they were good, but I didn’t think they were that good.” [Laughter]
[0:40:45.5? – 0:42:25.5]
Leslie: [Unclear] I’m trying to understand here. [Unclear]
Ken: Well, the exercise we did this afternoon. Now everybody knew the setup. Everybody knew what the rules were. How reactive were people? Very. Their emotions were pretty solid, weren’t they? Not much transparency. That’s solidification.
Ken: When it becomes, when you do not see it as it is. You see it as something real, existing in its own right. Nothing exists in its own right. So people say, “I can’t do anything with my anger.” Anger is pretty solid. “I can’t help it.” Those kinds of phrases are all a person speaking because whatever they’re feeling or experiencing is solidified in their experience. They can’t do anything with it. It’s solid, it can’t be changed.
Ken: Yes. Yeah. That help? Good.
So, with respect to emotion, loving-kindness is how you remedy or dissolve the solidity of reactive emotions.
Ken: Loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is radiant warmth. And all of you know this. You go into the presence of someone who is warm and open and you feel that radiance. You can’t hold your reactivity in that person’s presence. Your emotions become much more manageable. A friend of my mother’s was such a person. She was just amazing woman, once my mother said, she once said to me, “If you ever commit a murder, you come here.” She would be received with warmth and understanding, etc., etc., etc. And you just can’t hold that. And so cultivating this capacity for loving-kindness in oneself is very, very important.
To counteract the solidity of the world, use equanimity. Everything that arises is, in the end, just an experience. Not good, not bad, just an experience.
The story from the Chinese tradition, if I can find it. [Silence]
A farmer lived with his son on a few acres of land. They were not well off but did have one horse, a good horse, with which they were able to plow the fields. One day while they were preparing its paddock, the horse escaped and ran away. When the neighbors heard about the loss of the horse, they came around to commiserate. The farmer would have none of it. “What makes you think this is a disaster?” he asked, and he sent them away.
A week later the horse returned with a wild horse accompanying it. The farmer now had two horses. When the neighbors heard the news, they came around to celebrate. But again the farmer would have none of it. “What makes you think this is a blessing?” he asked.
A few weeks later the son was thrown from the new horse while breaking it in, and badly broke his hip. He healed up to a point, but although he was still able to help his father, his activities were limited. Again, the neighbors came to commiserate, and again the farmer asked “What makes you think this is a disaster?” The next month an army came through short on…
[Tape cuts out]
Things are just what they are, one doesn’t know. And carrying that sense of equanimity into all experience is the way to break, or undo the solidification of the world.
The solidity of pleasure and power? This moves you into a sense of superiority, peak experiences. You break this through compassion, which puts you in touch with the pain of others.
And the solidity of self-image? Is joy. Unalloyed joy in being. Joy that doesn’t need any self-image to support it. And when you have that kind of joy in just being, not in being some thing, but in just being, then you have a radiant presence which takes joy in the being of others.
Another way to work with this—four emotions. The phrase is “The trouble is, I believe my feelings.” Feelings are not facts. They are sensations which arise, and they have a lot to say about the world. “Everybody hates me.” “I’m the best in the world.” “Nobody understands me.” “Nobody can touch me.” These are all expressions of feelings, they aren’t facts. But when we believe them, things get very solid. So the problem is, “I believe my feelings.” So whatever trouble I’m experiencing right now, it comes because I believe my feelings. I believe what my feelings tell me.
The solidity of the world we counteract by regarding everything as a dream. Just appearances arising in a dream. Not in the sense that we just don’t care, but they’re just things that arise. We have to relate to them, but they don’t have the same kind of solidity that we’ve usually invested. Solidity of pleasure and power we counteract by taking and sending.
Student: By what?
Ken: Taking and sending. Technique of taking in the suffering of others, and giving to others the pleasure and power and goodness and fortune that we experience. And we counteract the solidity of self-image by observing that this suffering is my identity. And so, practically speaking, just say “yes” to every experience. And this is your practice for this evening. Whatever’s arising. There you are in meditation, your mind’s going 100 miles a minute, your stomach is churning with anxiety, and your knees are killing you. “Yes. This is what I am experiencing.” And you just move into the experience. Don’t observe it. Move into the experience itself and rest there in attention. Take down the barriers so you’re just there.
Well, that’s not much, but that’s all I have to say. [Laughter] A couple of questions. Jeremy?
Ken: When you solidify pleasure and power, you separate yourself from the pain of others. So you separate yourself from others’ experience. Compassion undoes that separation.
Ken: Judy, what were you doing this afternoon?
Ken: Totally oblivious to Joe’s pain. Right? Yeah. That’s what happens. What do the wealthy in our society try to do?
Ken: Yeah. They isolate. So they don’t have to be in touch with everything else. That’s solidifying pleasure and power.
Ken: Ah. When they’ve found a new relationship. Yeah. Just…right.
Gail, you have a question? Okay. Clear about your practice this evening? Feel what you seek not to feel, feel what seeks not to feel.
Ken: Yes, that’s the second stage of the practice.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. But as you go into the body, you’re going to feel the operation of what doesn’t want to feel what’s going on in the body. Now experience that. So, in a sense, it’s experiencing the resistance to feeling. Okay?
Ken: You do it one time this evening. And if you want to continue it in each section, that’s fine.
Ken: Yes, and do this with the primary meditation. Move into what you don’t want to feel. Make it the focus, expand the field, so you move right into the experience of it. Now, this afternoon there were plenty of things coming up for people that people didn’t want to feel. So you’ve got lots of raw material right there. Okay?
Ken: If you in exercise four, when you face the opponent, there’s usually lots of things you don’t want to feel at that point. Move into that experience. And then cut. When you’re facing the child, and you’re telling the child, they’re not going to survive, they’re not going to get their emotional needs met, there’s nobody to be. Lots of things you don’t want to feel in there, because you don’t want to feel any of those things yourself. Right? So, I think there’s fertile ground. [Laughter]
Ken: Yes. And you’ll see fear when you yourself are present, have moved into presence in the opponent. Because the opponent, remember, is just what is in you. You’re putting it right there, but you’re facing in you what you usually don’t face. An when you actually face it, that is, you experience it in all of its confusion and reactivity and terror, etc., then something shifts. And that’s the point that you see fear or shift in the opponent’s face. But you have to look right into the opponent’s eyes. You are fully there, engaging them. Okay? Right. Leslie?
Ken: If you move right into presence and you feel everything that’s there and you can be present with it, what do you experience? Do you need anything from outside at that point? That’s contentment. That’s true contentment. Remember, the point of our practice isn’t about freedom to do anything. It’s about freedom from a disturbed mind. And the only way to be free from a disturbed mind is to be able to be present in whatever arises in experience.
Joe, you had a question?
Ken: The internal material, yes.
Ken: You may…you’ll start picking up some of that at the level of field. Yeah. Last question. Yeah?
Ken: Yes. Yeah. You’re going to do it. And as you do it, feel everything that arises. That’s the practice. It’s to do it and feel everything that arises. A lot of people think of ritual as doing something to the exclusion of everything else. When you do ritual that way, there’s a kind of rigidity. The true masters of ritual are completely relaxed when they do it. They do it utterly precisely. But they’re also completely relaxed because they experience everything, whatever’s going on. And that’s what [unclear] mean.
Good. Okay. We’ll stop here for dinner. Please observe silence during dinner and afterwards give us a chance to settle down after our exercise this afternoon. And we’ll meet back here at seven o’clock for meditation and Iîll continue the interviews at that time.
Student: Happy birthday to Jean.