Patience; participants’ experience with meditation on impatience; impatience arising from feeling weaker than what opposes you; anger conditions quickly and deeply; essential gesture: compassion creates a sense of ease; classification: patience when interacting with others, patience with self in spiritual practice, patience with fear of no-self; primary characteristics; developing patience with self; working with anger; patience with ending reactive patterns; patience which allows us to know just how things are; meditation assignment: work more deeply to experience what one seeks to avoid by exiting into impatience. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 14.
Okay. May thirteenth? 2008. This is class number 30 in the Then and Now series dealing with the perfection of patience.
So the exercise that I left you with was…when we are impatient, we tend to…I said there’s usually something…we get impatient because there’s something we don’t want to experience. And I asked you to explore that a little bit. Or a lot. So what was your experience with this? Chuck.
Chuck: Well, you had mentioned that there was fear in there, and I didn’t…I didn’t experience any fear.
Chuck: But I experienced, sort of going between the hungry ghost realm and the hell realm. The hungry ghost realm, meaning I want more and more time. Sort of as much time as I could get, because it seems like everything is crowding in on me. And the whole…hell realm because everybody’s in my way.
Chuck: And it’s especially, and then time seems to…the time you’re in this thing seems to be longer like you’re in a grocery store line, and people have to check the price of the thing, and then somebody has to write a check, and this that and the other, and show their coupons and pretty soon…. You know, when you get out of there you’re thinking several hours have gone, but it’s a matter of five minutes or so.
Ken: Right. Now, what is it you don’t want to experience there?
Chuck: The then and now.
Ken: The what?
Chuck: The…I guess it’s whatever it is right then and there.
Ken: But what is it? I mean there you are—I think this is a very good example—you’re waiting in a grocery line and some guy has hauled out five hundred coupons and now he can’t find his membership card…
Chuck: [Laughs] Yes.
Ken: …and he’s decided to pay by cash and he’s counting it out in pennies. On the other hand, you who said that you were just going to pick up something in the grocery store, and every second, every penny that he’s counting out, is making you late for another appointment.
Ken: So that’s the situation. Now, what arises in you that you don’t want to experience there?
Chuck: Well, all this frustration. And it’s funny…it doesn’t happen if you’re not in a hurry.
Ken: Oh for some people, just waiting at all makes them impatient.
Ken: They just want to be taken care of just like that. But, that’s for you, if you’re not in a hurry, then you don’t have…you don’t get impatient so much.
Ken: But when you are impatient, what do you…you know, there’s all this agitation.
Ken: But what are you actually agitated about?
Chuck: Well, basically, I’m agitated because I have to wait.
Ken: Keep going.
Chuck: Well, it…and it…it feels like real suffering, you know…
Chuck: I mean…a lot of this doesn’t feel like real suffering. This waiting…
Ken: Feels like real suffering.
Chuck: …for the person to count out his pennies is really suffering!
Ken: Well, why…what is suffering about that for you? I mean, there are other possibilities here. You could just watch him, and think, “That’s so neat. Look at the way he’s turning each penny.”
Chuck: [Laughter] And look at all these different color pennies!
Ken: I remember I was in a farmers’ market once. I was buying some flowers, and I was in a bit of a hurry. The person I was buying the flowers from—they were cut flowers—and he got some paper, and his movements were really, really, slow. And at first I began to get impatient. But then I noticed the care in every one of his movements. And then he took a piece of string, and he cut it, and then he gently wrapped it around the paper and the flowers, and he tied the knot in the most exquisitely beautiful way. I just ended up being quite fascinated with this that I just let go of all of my impatience. So…what don’t you want to experience?
Chuck: The whole thing.
Ken: Okay, I’d like…this is very important, so I would like you to work with that a little bit more.
Ken: Okay? Anybody else? Cara. And then Randye.
Cara: No, I was just going to ask how you would react if you were behind the man with all the pennies and the…? When you’re in a hurry.
Ken: Well, I…I make no bones of it. Sometimes I get impatient. And what I don’t want to experience, it…it varies from situation to situation. If I feel like I’m going to be late for something, which was what I was…the scenario that I was presenting Chuck with, then what I don’t want to experience, is shame and embarrassment.
Cara: At…at being late? Or…
Ken: At being late.
Cara: …losing your temper?
Ken: No, at being late, and that’s why I’m impatient. And if I say, okay, this is the situation, there is nothing I can do about this. If I experience shame and embarrassment from being late, it’s probably not the end of the world. You know, the sky isn’t going to fall, the earth isn’t going to crack open and swallow me. And so I open to that experience.
Sometimes, I will, this really is going to sound stupid, it’s going to cause everybody to lose total faith in me, is that…
Cara: [Whispers] No.
Ken: …you know, I just hate feeling that unimportant.
Cara: You mean like out of control?
Ken: No, no, no. Not out of control, but there…now I have to wait in line, like everybody else. Well, and it…pardon?
Student: Don’t they know who I am?
Ken: Yeah. And it sounds stupid, but that’s what’s going on: “No, you’re just an ordinary person, just like everybody else, nobody special.” Grrrr. What about you?
Cara: In that scenario?
Cara: If I were there, I would be, I think it would be completely contingent on what my mood was. Like if I just, my day had been. But, I would feel frustrated, because I would feel like I was not in control of the situation.
Ken: There you go. So that’s what you don’t want to experience. The lack of control.
Cara: And I would feel like, the person with all the pennies was being inconsiderate. And wasting the time of all parties, and was actually trying to exert control over everybody else. So I mean, I would psychoanalyze the entire situation until it was my turn.
Ken: There you go. Okay. And that’s how you get away from experiencing that, “I just don’t have any control here.”
Ken: Yep. Randye. You were going to say something.
Randye: I really enjoyed watching first off the frequency of the impatience…
Ken: The frequency, the frequency of the impatience.
Randye: Yeah. it, it comes up a lot. And particularly driving.
Student: Welcome to L.A., Randye.
Randye: Yeah. A new experience for me. Been on the subway too long. But what I’ve found, after a couple of days of watching this, is that I realized that, it is not as much a conscious…I’d gone into it expecting it would be a…impatience would arise when something blocked something that I want to do. And more often than not, it wasn’t. It was nothing but pure, conditioned, mindless habit.
Ken: Say a bit more. What was that? What’s the habit?
Randye: It was…
Ken: Of just getting impatient?
Ken: Ah ha.
Randye: A little bit slower driver, doesn’t quite, you know, move when the light turns green as fast as I want. I’m not in a hurry, I’m not late for anything, I don’t have to be anywhere, I’m coming home from work, I’m just going to hang out at home.
Randye: And the impatience still came up. And it really was a more physical, a conditioned response. Which is really interesting to watch that come up.
Ken: And what do you not want to experience there?
Randye: Trying to figure out what started the conditioning. Part of it was, indeed what you just said about the not wanting to be late. You know, it’s horribly embarrassing to show up for a meeting late. But then the point when I realize, well, I’m not late. I’m not going to be late.
Ken: And I’m still impatient.
Randye: And I’m still impatient, and that’s why I started thinking about, it’s not what it started as, as what it isn’t now. It started as one thing, now it’s become nothing but a mindless conditioned habit.
Ken: I agree with you. I think it’s a very good point. I’m still going to say, that there’s something quite specific that you don’t want to experience, which is why there’s all the agitation. The agitation takes us away from something.
Randye: The obvious answer, when I started looking into that, is what I don’t want to experience, is the present moment…
Randye: …whatever that moment happens to be.
Ken: No. It’s more that there’s a physical experience which is happening, which is unpleasant and uncomfortable, so we go into our head and start generating all of the impatient stuff.
Randye: I felt it more in the body.
Ken: Yeah, okay. So there’s a physical agitation…
Ken: And…but there’s something underneath that.
Let’s hear from some other people. Joe.
Joe: I had this experience a few months ago that I started recognizing one. I meant the judgment that people were not…were behaving selfishly. And I came to the realization that what I actually meant by that, was that they weren’t paying enough attention to me.
Ken: [Laughter] Okay.
Joe: And I found much the same thing with this. Depending on the stimulus, the…the physical reaction can be wanting to jump out of my skin at one extreme, to mild discomfort at the other extreme. And it always, one way of expressing it is not wanting to, being bored with the present moment, or being somehow not willing to experience the present moment. But what I think what the core of that for me is, my sense of self is at risk, and that’s what I am not willing to…
Ken: Okay. These are all true in general, they are not specific enough. Because, yes, you’re quite right, your sense of self is at risk. That’s up here. I want you to get down to here because there’s a very specific feeling there, which you feel that if you experience that, it puts your sense of self at risk.
Joe: Well, if you’re talk about the physical feeling.
Joe: Are you talking about the physical feeling?
Ken: Well, let’s start with that.
Joe: Just wanting…let’s go to the extreme one then. I’m just not feeling that I can’t bear to be within my own skin.
Ken: Yes. Now. That’s…you want to jump out of that. What are you jumping away from? Feel it. Don’t…you’re not going to get at this through analysis. No, there’s something there. You know, there’s something that I just want to jump out of my skin. Well, that’s pretty strong. So what is arising inside you that would cause you to get out of your own skin?
Actually, this happens quite fast. We suppress this stuff, or we cover over it. And this is why I asked you to do this, is because it is those uncomfortable feelings which tip us into anger. Like that. [Claps hands] They’re really, really fast. This is how we get into the hell realm. So, you know, I don’t want to take a lot of time in it this evening, because we need to cover some material. But I’d like you to continue to explore this. Maybe this is the assignment. Art, do you have anything here? Elena, do you have anything?
Art: For me it was just that lack of control. That…that frustration of…of feeling I’m…I’m…I’m not in control of what’s going on.
Ken: Okay, Elena?
Elena: To me, at the end of the tension and all that, there’s the sensation that I’m not…that there’s something lacking. And that I’m not important enough for whoever.
Elena: Depending on the situation. If it’s just me meditating and being impatient because I’m meditating. There’s…it’s still the same thing, I want to do something else, so I can, you know I can show somebody that I can do that, or I can do this.
Ken: So there’s a very definite sense of self wrapped up here.
Elena: Most. Yes.
Ken: Lynea, anything?
Lynea: I kind of have a question.
Lynea: So, I feel like the physical sensations, and the emotions they come up so quickly and so fast, and can be so visceral, that I’m…even the process of trying to name them, feels like I’m short-circuiting, being in it. So as we are talking about it, I’m feeling like, I know when it happens, I know what it feels like, I can even move to rest with it, but to try to name it, feels like I’m exercising, pushing it away.
Ken: Yeah. I…I think the key there is that it’s really, really, fast. So you’re playing catch up with it. And, you know, as soon as you try to name it, it…it’s already, you know, it’s 10 yards down the track, you know.
What this means…this indicates…is that one has to do this again and again. Because one simply doesn’t have the capacity of attention, and that’s what I am getting from everybody here. The capacity of attention to actually be able to “touch” that feeling. And some, it’s that feeling of out of control: “I…I can’t do anything about that.” And that is threatening to a sense of self. And sometimes there’ll be other…other feelings. Almost always they’re going to produce some kind of anger.
But this is what I want you to explore because being able to rest in that feeling is going to eliminate impatience from you. Because that…that’s what produces it. Closely connected with the lack of control is the whole issue of agency. And I’ve been reading a book, which I’m not terribly happy with, but it has some good stuff in it. It’s called The Illusion of Conscious Will. And it makes a reasonable case—not an air-tight one, but a reasonable case—that at least one very significant contributing factor to the sense of self is the propagation of illusion that we actually decide and intend what we end up doing.
Student: Manifest destiny?
Ken: Not really manifest destiny. Like we do something, and then we come up with, “Well, I really intended to do that.” Even though it may be a reaction. Something like that. And there is a fair amount of research which is somewhat supportive of it. You know what I’m talking about?
Randye: We’re not rational creatures. We’re rationalizing creatures.
Ken: Creatures. Yes. Yeah. So we rationalize it.
Randye: We do and then we rationalize afterwards.
Ken: And the sense of self, or at least one important component of it, is the gigantic rationalization of things we actually end up doing.
Cara: Does that mean that the entire seminar on will that we did is now null and void?
Ken: The entire seminar we did on?
Cara: What did we do, on money and then on…
Ken: Money and Value?
Cara: Yeah. Money and Value. Setting an intention and like…
Ken: No, it doesn’t mean it’s null and void. I may have to go back and look at it, some parts of it.
As I say, I don’t agree with everything that he’s saying because it validates in the following way: by forming an intention, we actually start the process of aligning different parts of ourselves in a certain direction, and then actions start to happen, which is a manifestation of that.
Cara: I mean, what about, not so much the grocery store scenario, because I think that that, like the immediacy of being like stuck in a line, or stuck in traffic, or, you know whatever, like those split-second things that make us impatient. But what about when you have situations in your life, like you’re overarchingly impatient. It’s like you…
Ken: Such as?
Cara: Like, “I want to be a baker now. I want to be a pastry chef now. I don’t want to be in this stupid class, with these stupid people, doing this stupid stuff that I don’t need to learn how to do. I want to be a chef now!” You know, and that…that’s like the…the voice that I hear in my head when I’m feeling impatient about what I’m doing, like, and then, you know, the converse voices: “You are wasting your time.” You know, and all of that, I think at the root of it, in many ways, is impatience.
Ken: I would say that impatience is the manifestation of something else. And that would be good for you to explore.
Randye: In a different situation, I notice that our expectations…
Randye: …are a significant component, for me, of impatience. When I walked into the dentist office yesterday, expecting half-an-hour wait, I wasn’t impatient when in fact, I got a half-an-hour wait. But if I had walked in expecting a five-minute wait, then, at minute number six, the impatience would have gradually grown and built into the anger.
Randye: And so, it’s a mismatch between the expectation and the reality.
Ken: And so now you’re getting at, what we don’t want to experience, is that mismatch.
Randye: Yeah, my experience is omnipotent, omniscient and should always come to pass.
Ken: Yeah. It should be always how I’m thinking it is.
Ken: Yep. I agree.
Okay, lets turn to the text. Can you? Oh, we’re going to have to go fast. [Ken drops something.] Oops. All right.
Okay. You’ll notice that Gampopa takes anger to be the primary form, impatience manifests it.
If an ethical man is impatient, he is roused to anger. [Guenther, p. 173] So, that’s usually how impatience manifests—in some form of anger, irritation, maybe as mild as frustration. But it’s all moving in that [direction]. So, it’s very, very connected with the hell realm. There’s a sense of opposition. Now, one of the things, that comes up here is, we only get angry when we feel weaker than what is opposing us.
I love saying this to CEOs.
Student: To whom?
Ken: CEOs. Who get angry, you know, some CEOs get angry a lot. I say, you only get angry when you feel weaker than what’s opposing you. They hate that part. “But I don’t feel weaker than anything! I got all the power here. Why should I…? Rrrrrrrrr!”
Student: …pop a Xanax…
Ken: …or something or have an aneurysm or whatever.
But it’s great fun. Because, when I lead them through it, and what I do first is say, “Look, if you are feeling stronger than something, that’s opposing you, do you get angry?” And they go, “No.” They just push it over, it’s no big deal, there’s no need to get angry because I’m stronger. And then the wheels start to turn in them. They say, “Ahhhh.” So, when we’re impatient, we are experiencing opposition from something that we feel is stronger that us. And this moves straight into the lack of control and all…and the threat to the sense of self and all of the things that we have been touching on. I’m going to say, it’s that feeling of being weaker than, that what we want to avoid. That’s what I mean about drilling down a bit further. Do you follow, Joe? Yeah.
And there we are, I like to be able to see people when I am talking. Thank you. Yes?
Joe: It’s also true of parents.
Ken: Oh, yes! You know, because here’s this child, and the child is doing something, and they…they can’t make it do what they want! And they feel weaker than. And they just get so angry. Yep. Absolutely. It’s not, you know. What do you do there?
Joe: Well. You could either act it out, or you can recognize it and not act it out.
Ken: Yeah. Good. Randye?
Randye: What about feeling weaker than time?
Ken: It’s not really time.
Randye: I go to the airport to pick someone up. I get there early, the plane arrives perfectly on time, I’m totally impatient waiting for that time to pass.
Ken: Okay, that would be good for you to explore what you are actually angry at. What do you feel you’re opposing there. It’s not time.
Ken: Well, that’s something for you to explore.
Okay. Now, we launch right into wonderful mythic language.
Anger, indeed, destroys the basis of the good and wholesome that has been accumulated through hundred thousands of aeons.
All the liberality and Buddha worship
That has been practiced and accumulated
As merit through thousands of ages
Is destroyed in a single burst of rage.
[Guenther, p. 173]
The…a bit intense isn’t it? Well, this is poetic language—highly poetic. What is it trying to convey? Anybody? Cara?
Cara: I don’t hate my cooking class and everyone in it, I just want to clarify that! I hate that this is recorded! [Laughter] Can’t just like say something and it’s like there for all eternity!
That you can have all of the generosity and…and the moral virtuousness in the world but if you’re impatient then you’ve got a long way to go?
Ken: I don’t think so.
Cara: I have to tell you, honestly, I had a lot of trouble with this chapter, like some of the things it says about like, reincarnation, impatience, and retaliation…
Ken: Yeah. I want to try and get at some of this. What I think it’s saying here is that anger really conditions fast and deep.
Cara: Don’t you think that in part here is because we live in such an immediate gratification society and that…
Ken: Well, this was not written for an immediate gratification society. This was written a thousand years ago for a very different society. And here it is saying, that in that society, it conditions really, really deeply very, very quickly. That’s what I think it’s saying. So even more so here.
So, instead of saying,
through hundreds of thousands of eons, we should probably say,
through millions of eons. One moment of anger and you’ve wiped out millions of eons of good karma. It gets a bit terrifying. But, I think it’s a way of saying, you’ve got to take care with anger, because it just really sets things on edge, sets things deeply in you. And I had an experience of this. Not my anger in this case, but somebody else’s.
Too long to go into the details of the situation. But I had a disagreement with somebody, and this is a person I’d known for many years, and who I’d actually turned to for help. And, he got so angry with me, that I felt charred. You know, like burned. And so I waited, you know, five weeks before I called and tried to talk about the situation because his anger just was so intense, that I felt that burnt. Do you follow? Yeah.
And…okay. If that’s what anger can do to me, what can it do to inside us? Somebody else’s anger. We’ve all felt that from somebody else but, our own anger is doing exactly the same thing inside us. And so it has a very, very deep effect on us extremely quickly. In that sense, it’s violence, if you follow. Joe.
Joe: I’m a little unclear as to the dynamic that he, and you, are suggesting here. Is the suggestion that anger is a result of, a possible result of, impatience acted out? Or is it…
Joe: Yes. Okay.
Ken: Yeah. And that’s what’s being described here, that anger is the manifestation of impatience. Like, your child does something and you lose your temper. And, well, every parent has probably experienced that to some extent. And it can have a very, very profound effect on the child.
There’s an occasion of it we were talking about it in where I lost my patience with somebody at a retreat. And it had a really, really profound effect on that person. And it was not remediable. My anger had been that strong at that point. And that was a real lesson for me. That was where I had burnt somebody.
So, that’s what I think is being expressed by these lines. You know, I wouldn’t take these too literally because, you know, who knows about the thousand eons, etc., etc. But, it’s just, this is how powerful anger is, and why patience is such an important quality to cultivate.
Randye: I actually read that a little differently. Maybe in a little more literal sense but in the idea that anger and compassion, generosity, liberality, are incompatible. That if I’m in a state of rage or anger, none of the good things I have developed within myself are present at that time—they can’t exist together.
Ken: That’s totally true. And I think that’s a completely valid interpretation here, also. In the Vajrakilaya Tantra, there’s the phrase in Tibetan zhe sdang rdo rje khro chö. Zhe sdang rdo rje is vajra anger, which is an epithet for compassion, actually. Khro is another word for anger. Chö is the word for cut. So vajra anger cuts anger. And in his commentary, Kongtrul says exactly what you’re saying, that anger and compassion are as mutually incompatible as heat and cold. You can’t have something that’s hot and cold at the same time. It’s either hot or it’s cold. And there’s either compassion or there’s anger, you’re not going to have the two together. That’s right.
Now, when we go through the next section, I want to point out the subtlety in the progression here.
I’m in Guenther, top of page 174, and we have three or four quotes here. The first one is,
His friends get tired of him, and though he entices them by liberality, they do not stay. Oh, sorry, no, I want to start in the middle, a third of the way down:
On the other hand, when we have patience, we possess the very best of the good and wholesome. And then we have this quote:
There is no evil like malevolence, and no austerity like patience.
And then we have the next quote:
He who earnestly overcomes anger, is happy here and elsewhere.
And then we have the third quote:
Anger is not the path to Buddhahood! To think so, always develops benevolence, etc.
And so what Gampopa is doing here, is he’s hitting at three different levels. One level is, just in terms of practice in this life:
There is no evil like malevolence, no austerity like patience. So, this is how…how we live.
The second quote is about—in the context of Gampopa—future lives. What is the result of anger? In the sense of how does anger evolve? He who earnestly overcomes anger, is happy here and elsewhere. When you’re free of anger things evolve in a good way.
And then the third quotation, has to do with spiritual practice, you know, coming to full awakening, and that you can’t be angry and awake at the same time. Vajrayana people might differ with that, but we’re not going to go down that road tonight.
But what I want to point out is that what looks like just a mass of quotes, and if you look at the ones arguing against anger earlier, you will see that they are actually talking about different levels and different contexts of practice. So there is a sequence in these that we wouldn’t ordinarily notice. I just wanted to point that out to you.
Then the next section.
The essence of patience is to be prepared for every event. What does Konchog Gyaltsen say there? Okay, what does Konchog Gyaltsen say?
Cara: Do you mean the definition?
Ken: Yeah. Can you hand the mic over to Cara please?
The definition of patience is a feeling of ease. The Bodhisattva Bhumi says: A mind without confusion and with only a feeling of ease accompanied by compassion—in brief, one should understand this as the definition of a bodhisattva’s patience. [Gyaltsen, p. 207]
Ken: Okay, so this is quite different in tone. The Tibetan is…sgom pa. (Which is going to mean a lot to all of you guys.) And they’re both right, but in different ways.
The way that I understand the Tibetan phrase, it means, the essence of patience is not reacting.
Now, one way of not reacting is to be at ease. And I think Konchog Gyaltsen’s is closer to what the Tibetan is really aiming at. But a not completely absurd interpretation is to be prepared. Not in the sense that you have everything externally all lined up, which is how we think of it, but to have the internal resources so that you can actually meet whatever arises. And I think, in that sense that it means be prepared. But I think Konchog Gyaltsen’s translation to be at ease is more to the point.
Then the next thing is, well, just on the same subject. You notice the mention of compassion here. Really deep compassion, interestingly enough, puts you at ease because deep compassion allows you to be with the pain and suffering in any situation. And so you don’t react, and you don’t get trapped by your own expectations, you don’t have the threat to the sense of self, and all of that.
So the connection between compassion and ease is what’s being brought out here. Which is not how a lot of people would ordinarily think of compassion. And this is why it’s good to read this stuff quite carefully, because it reveals interesting little things like that.
Then, the classification: meeting a harmful person, experiencing misery, and is ready to investigate the nature of the whole of reality.
Well, this is what’s expanded upon. The first type of patience is very much about interacting with others. So when somebody insults us, or is unpleasant to us, or something happens that’s inconvenient, can we actually meet that with mindfulness and attention. That’s the first level.
The second is, when we practice, we encounter a lot of internal material. We encounter the processes which create suffering inside us, in our experience. And being able to tolerate that and not react to it is the second level of patience which is applied very much to our actual practice and spiritual development.
The third goes a step further than that. And that is when you begin to see how things actually are, these are profoundly threatening to the conditioned sense of self and our ideas of how the world is.
In fact, I was having a conversation earlier today with a person that I’m recruiting for a web site that is set up. He’s a teacher and he’s dealing with this panic of no-self. This is exactly where patience comes up, in that, here you see, that there is no thing there. And one thinks, “Oh that’s so great.” But on another level, it’s terrifying, because it raises the question very profoundly, “Who am I then? How am I going to function!?”
And some people, when they hit that, they feel like their whole life has been taken away from them. Other people, the experience is like they’ve come home. And so there’s a lot of variation. But as we penetrate more and more deeply into the nature of things, we find that it gets emptier and emptier. And it’s like, I mean everything that you take as meaningful in your life comes up for question. And patience is a very necessary quality for meeting these kinds of threats to how we are used to thinking of ourselves, and life and everything. So that’s the third kind that he’s talking about.
Now, let me move into Shantideva’s description.
In Shantideva’s The Bodhicaryavatara or Entering the Way of Awakening, it’s the chapter on patience in which he discusses mind training in detail. And I’ve always found that interesting because, again, it makes the connection between compassion and patience. But it’s also a way of training patience—by taking in and accepting the suffering of others. When we accept and understand the suffering of others, we are naturally more patient with other people.
And in a lot of the business coaching that I do, when somebody is infuriated at somebody in another department because they are not doing x, y and z or something like that, and tempers flare all over the place, it can be very irritating. They’re usually involved with a whole bunch of assumptions about that other person. And, what I often do is, go through and help them see how that other person is looking at the situation. Or may be looking at the situation—what’s important to them. And once they understand where that other person’s coming from and the difficulties that person is facing, then nine times out of ten their attitude changes, and it becomes one of co-operation. “Okay, I see he’s got to consider those things, so what can I do to help that because…” And that moves things forward. But this inability to see what’s happening on the other side, is what brings about a lot of impatience. You follow? Is this making sense to you?
Cara: But in the black box training that we did, or the example that you used…
Ken: Yep? I love it. My tools get thrown back at me all the time! Continue.
Cara: I had to post the picture on the web site yesterday, so I was looking at it.
Ken: I threw them all up there…
Cara: The ones that I took that I had to put them on Facebook.
Ken: Oh, okay, I put them up on the social network site, because somebody asked me to put them up there, too.
Cara: Yeah, yeah, yeah, [unclear] that’s cool. I guess you can download from there, can’t you? Wow, technology. Instant gratification, again. But…but in the black box training you said, it’s none of our business to theorize or anticipate what is motivating somebody else to react the way that they do to a situation. And that we are only responsible for our own behaviors and reactions.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. Two different levels of practice here. Okay. I’m talking about people that aren’t trained in meditation or awareness at all.
Cara: Like cultivating an empathy instead of…
Ken: Yeah. Right. Now, when I was teaching that stuff in the Who Am I workshop, this is for people who have a practice. And so now, they are much more attuned to their own experience. And if you’re going to use the black box approach, you have to be totally present in your experience, because all the information is actually there, if you are willing to pay attention to it.
But that means being very aware of what’s going on in your body. Very aware of the emotions that are arising. Because it’s primarily in those two things. It’s not in the stories; the stories are just projections nine times out of ten. But, when you have anger coming up, because somebody’s not doing what you want them to do, and you pay careful attention to what’s arising, well actually this is exactly what Shantideva talks about.
Understand that those who harm us are not masters of themselves. [Guenther, p. 175] Okay? And this is going to be a part of what you get out of the black box approach. Okay. This is an experience in here, it’s just something that happening to me, how do I meet this experience? And you’re not putting blame on the other person, right there. So there’s no sense of…you lose the sense of “they’re doing this to me” right away.
And then, when we really pay close attention—this is something that I rely on over and over again in my own life—if somebody’s directing negative energy at me, there is a reason. There’s something in me that’s there. And it may be just the fact that I’m there. But often there are subtle things that I’m doing, which make it possible for that person to express the negative energy to me rather than to somebody else. And so I always look for, “What am I contributing to the situation?” And I often will find, and maybe I’m only contributing five percent to the situation, but I find that five percent. And sometimes that will just change it right there. But it certainly, looking for that, stops me from moving into anger at the other person. Okay?
And this next one,
To realize that there’s no difference between one person having certain faults, and someone else having other faults, you know, well, that’s another part of the same thing. You know, “I could be that person, angry and upset, or refusing to co-operate,” and so this comes out of the empathy. And I put myself in that person’s position. And I see what would come up in me: “Oh, okay.” Then again there’s more patience from that.
I have a harder time with
(g) To understand them as benefactors. [Guenther, p. 176] It’s true, they are, and there are many situations in which things have happened that other people have done, which have really, really upset me. And then I’ve worked with that upset. Just, you know, “Why am I so upset about this? What is going on in me?”
And that often takes me very, very deeply into certain aspects of emotional conditioning. Which, now, because I’m so upset, I can use the energy of the upset actually, to really go into it very deeply, like to power the attention. And the result of that is that I get clearer, not just about that situation, about something much bigger. So it ends up being a great gift. I still have have a hard time feeling gratitude. Randye?
Randye: I had a funny paradigm shift a few weeks ago about anger and about that feeling that someone has done harm—as the benefactor. In the mid-’90s, I was at an event that the Dalai Lama was at. And he was being interviewed about China, and one question the interviewer asked him was, “Are you angry at the Chinese?” And he looked kind of puzzled for a moment, and then he just shrugged and he said, “No. Anger, to what purpose. There’s no purpose to anger.” And that’s…
Ken: I heard him say something like, “Why would I be angry at the Chinese? If I’m angry at the Chinese, I lose sleep, they don’t.”
Randye: Yeah. And you know that’s been a mainstay for me for more than a decade. And I was talking with a friend of mine and I repeated that incident. And he looked at me and he said, “Anger is nature’s way of teaching us to learn from our mistakes.”
Ken: That’s not bad. Another thing that I’ve heard about anger is, anger tells you a boundary has been violated. It’s the natural intelligence of the universe telling you that a boundary has been violated.
Randye: Yeah, and to recognize that aspect of anger as a positive, as a tool for learning and changing…
Ken: But this all is predicated on not acting out on it.
Randye: Feeling it.
Randye: Okay, that’s a good distinction.
Ken: Yep. Because if you’re acting the anger out, all of that stuff’s out the window.
Randye: You’re experiencing it, recognizing it…
Ken: Recognizing it.
Randye: To say, “I’m not going to make the same mistake again.” You know, with this person or someone like this person.
Ken: Yep. You see the big danger, and a lot of the wording in here, is that people can feel that, “Okay, I can’t possibly get angry because I’m going to wipe out good karma of a thousand eons, and it’s a really big sin,” etc., etc. And it says, you know, “You should do this, and you should do that.”
And so, people will take that and they will suppress their anger. That’s not what’s being talked about here. Because if you suppress the anger, then it goes into the body and creates a lot of problems one way or another. And actually just builds up and then blows up in a big way very often. When they are talking about cultivating patience, it means the first bit of patience you have to cultivate is to be able to tolerate your own anger.
I mean, my old office partner when I was in this building, he’s a great guy. But he’s an extremely angry person, and he won’t mind me saying this, he’s told me I can tell the world. But when he first started working with me, he was the kind of guy that if you cut him off on a freeway, he’d follow you home and punch you out.
Ken: Yeah. It’s not a particularly cool thing to do these days but, yeah, that was the kind of person. He would just get really, really angry. And, I had him meditating for years on taking and sending, and things like that. And little by little, we’d chip away, and I remember once he was in his office, I came to see him and he said, “Ken, it was so much easier when I just got angry! I never had to feel any of this stuff. It’s horrible!”
And I thought, this is great, what progress. He’s now actually feeling his anger, rather than dumping it in the world. That’s a huge shift. But all of the things about being able to learn from anger etc., they’re all predicated on being able to experience the anger and not act it out. Because if you act it out it’s…
Randye: That helps, because I have been holding these two, the Dalai Lama and my friend’s philosophies in conflict, for about the last three or four weeks.
Ken: Yeah, I can understand. Do you have something…?
Art: Is there a distinction between acting it out and expressing it? This weekend, I was really angry over something. And, I mean such to the point, where somebody would ask me a question, and it would be 60 seconds, 90 seconds, where I just sort of sat there and processed what I was feeling before I was able to respond.
And most of the responses were, you know, sort of very, I mean it was clear that I was angry, but, you know…but I mean, there was a sort of an intelligent conversation in a give-and-take during this. But there were a few times where it was like I would go, “grrrr.” And you know, just vocalize it, and, you know, not say something in a calm even tone.
Now is there a difference between that, rather than you know, really acting out of the frustration of the moment, and really acting on it, and yet somehow being able to genuinely express to the other person, that this is what’s going on.
Ken: Well, from what you were describing there, you were practicing patience. Was it the perfection of patience? No, not quite. [Laughter]
Art: I can give you somebody’s numbers. [Laughter]
Ken: But that is a very definite practice of patience, and in the context of this, I’m going to distinguish three levels. Okay?
The first is, when somebody says something or you’re in a situation, and you just get angry and the anger spews out. Okay. You weren’t doing that. No. And that’s, like when the anger spews out like that, that’s when people get burnt, you know. And I’ve burnt people in the past and I’ve been burnt. And I’m sure everybody here has had some of that in both directions. So you weren’t doing that. As you say, you were sometimes, taking 60, 90 seconds, which in a conversation is a very, very, long time…where you were feeling the anger, and feeling the anger to the point that you were now able to talk, usually in a relatively calm tone. There might have been an edge in your voice, but you weren’t spewing. Okay?
Sometimes, the level of anger exceeded your level of attention. So it came out as a grrrr, or real edge in the voice. So that was the expression of anger that’s where you’re at the edge of your ability. So, there are two levels: one is spewing, and another is being able to experience the anger so that when you’re speaking, there’s still an edge but, basically you’re speaking relatively calmly.
The third level, which I imagine you’re able to do sometimes—but probably not as frequently as you might have liked—is, you could actually talk about the problem, without anger.
Art: Well, not very natural, [laughs] but, yeah, on occasion, yeah.
Ken: Well. This is very good. Now, sometimes, we have to sit with it for a day or two. Or maybe even a month or two, or maybe even a year of two, if it’s really something. But, and then you can come to the person, and say, “You remember when you said that? Okay. That…that hurt. I don’t like going there with you. I don’t think it’s good for our relationship. And I just want to bring this to your attention, because I value our relationship and it really doesn’t work for me.”
And then the other person has a choice of whether they ignore you or abuse you or listen to you. And you’re gonna go from there. But that’s talking about the actual problem, without the anger. And all of that is predicated on actually experiencing the anger oneself, so that that charge isn’t going into the conversation.
Ken: Okay? That help?
Art: Yes. Thanks.
Ken: But, you know, we’re not perfect, so, sometimes it’s going to be like that.
Elena: One question. If you do what you just said, this third possibility, you might also experience, I guess, the moment you think about it, before you actually say that to this person. Something else, I suppose, meaning that, you know, you move from anger to a deeper feeling, whatever it is, right? And so it’s actually that one that is going to help you go to the person and…
Ken: Yeah…yeah, that’s right.
Elena: Just—just to get the process.
Ken: Yeah. And often we get impatient and angry because we don’t want to experience the hurt, or the fear, or whatever, because all of those can come up in different situations. If we actually experience the hurt and the fear, then we discover, “Oh, I can experience this and the world doesn’t end.” Now we can talk about the situation without the charge.
And sometimes there are very important things that need to be addressed. That is, the action was inappropriate, it was offensive, whatsoever. And now you’re just, setting boundaries, or whatever, or giving a person feedback. That because it’s done without the charge, it often increases the probability that it’ll be heard in a good way. Okay?
Elena: But, you would do that even if you knew that the person you were talking to is not gonna get that?
Ken: That was a question?
Elena: Mmm-hmm. Yeah. It was a weird question, but it was a question.
Ken: Okay. Two things there.
Give the person the benefit of the doubt. That’s actually a form of generosity. You may think there’s no chance, but when you take that point of view you’re making an assumption about the person. So if it’s at all feasible, and it’s not going to be dangerous to you, then give them a chance, and say, okay, here’s this. Then you find out. And if you’ve been through this a couple of times before, you know that there’s no chance, then that’s the next bit of patience. Is accepting that that’s how things are.
You’ve tried it once or twice, and they are just not interested, they’ve made it really, really clear to you, then you know that there’s very little point in going. So, you say, “Okay, that’s how the situation is, I need to be able to accept that.” And then you decide whether you want to engage that situation or not. That make sense?
Okay, let’s turn to the next section. It goes through all of these different things, basically explanations, or different ways of working with anger. You go through here, you find the ones that work for you. Because there are about 10 different techniques here. And some of them will work for some people and others will work for others. I mean…
So somebody hits you. And one of the arguments here is, “Well, that’s because you have a body. If you didn’t have a body, he wouldn’t have anything to hit.”
Well, you can’t fault the logic. But that may not be a particular technique which works for you.
Or, “I didn’t move with the blow.” You know. “If I could move with the blow, then I wouldn’t have been hit.” And actually that is a form of martial arts training. A form of martial arts that I was trained in, you were trained that as soon as you felt contact, you started moving with it. So that if somebody hit you, it’s very unlikely that they were going to do any damage. Because you’re already moving with it. And so it never made any substantial contact. And there are martial arts, where you are actually trained to do that. And if you get hit it’s because you weren’t moving—you weren’t completely present in the action.
Now, is this an appropriate method, a way of approaching things for someone who’s been physically abused by a parent or something like that? Absolutely not! I wouldn’t say, “No, this is your problem—you have a body,” that would not be appropriate in those circumstances.
But these methods that are being presented here are about training our way of meeting situations, to enrich our spiritual development. They’re not about balancing things out in society and making everything nice. This is not at a social level. This is all about an individual spiritual training level. Do you follow? And that makes a very big difference. For instance, if we look at (b) on page 175 (that’s in Guenther):
To analyze the evil of our actions is to remember the harm I am now suffering was caused by similar action on my own part.
Now, we’ve talked about karma as evolution. And so this is a way at looking at our experience. That when something unpleasant arises, this is the fruition of a process of evolution, which I set in motion I don’t know when. But it allows you to relate to the action—not as something that is being done to you, but as something that is arising in one’s own experience. It also allows you to relate to it without a sense of opposition. Okay? And now that creates the possibility of patience. That’s how these instructions…that particular instruction might be intended.
Take another one at random:
To examine the usefulness (of harmful persons), this is (f) on page 176, in Guenther again.
To examine the usefulness (of harmful persons), means that we must be patient with them, so that evil becomes purified…
Oh, this is terrible English! What he’s talking about, and this is a tough one, is that when somebody is angry with you, you think, “Okay, all my stuff is up. This is an opportunity for me, to experience my stuff.” And so you just open to all of the anger, irritation, frustration, disappointment, shame, guilt, you know, you name it. And it’s just a big mess.
But you all know from your meditation practice, by this point, that when you open to that stuff and experience it, that’s what makes change possible, because now you’re no longer driven by it. And that’s what it means when it says
evil purified. It’s not that evil is purified. Actually, your own patience is being purified, it’s what’s being refined. You’re taking energy out of the reactive processes, by just being…I mean exactly the way that Art was describing in that incident. I mean, it may not have felt like it, but you were actually cultivating a lot of patience there, you know.
Art: If you say so. [Laughs]
Let’s turn to page 178, where he’s talking about the second type of patience, which is basically tolerating the rigors of practice.
Now, what are we doing in practice? We are—I mean there are many ways that we can describe this—but, basically, we’re moving in a different direction. We’re no longer letting reactive patterns call all the shots. And the consequence of that, is that we’re going to experience the operation of the internal—of these internal and reactive patterns—and…but not act on them.
Now there’s a fair amount of research, which is established pretty solidly, that shows basically we’re addicted to
reactive patterns. They operate, and when we don’t act on them, we actually are going through a kind of withdrawal. Which is, in terms of the chemical processes in the body, it is very, very similar, if not identical, with the process of withdrawing from a drug addiction. And, that’s suffering. Okay.
And having the patience to endure that suffering is what allows us to become free of the reactive patterns. But it is actually like stepping out of an addiction. And for this, we have to keep coming back to our motivation. If we’re running with anger, or we’re letting anger take over, we’re not really in our experience. And our intention in this practice is to be able to experience whatever arises.
Now, we lose a whole heap of choice about that, because there are all kinds of things we can no longer do: all those things which take us out of our experience. And again we need the patience to experience all of the frustration that’s inevitably going to rise from that. So, this can be quite demanding, but that’s what this is talking about.
And then the third is, ready to investigate the nature of the whole of reality. What does Konchog Gyaltsen do with that one, Cara?
The Third Classification, Patience in Understanding the Nature of Phenomena. The Bodhisattva Bhumi says:
Aspiration for the eight subjects, such as the good qualities of the triple gem and so forth.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Guenther lists the eight topics in one of the footnotes. This is patience which allows us to know how things actually are.
By way of analogy, how many of you have killed the messenger at one point or another? Somebody comes along and tells you this is how things are, and you just get upset and you kill the messenger. Okay, you all know that one?
Well, here the messenger is telling us what life is really like, what life is actually about. Okay. We do actions, they start a process of evolution which creates problems for us if the actions are negative. There isn’t a single thing that we are. There are all of these parts that operate all over the place and determine what we do. And we just think that there is an I running the show, but there isn’t any I. And the only way that we step out of this multi-dimensional slavery to these reactive patterns, is by coming to know—very, very directly—that we are not a thing and to stop that whole process of identifying with this or with that, etc.
This is tough stuff! This wipes out everything that we’ve been conditioned to believe about ourselves. It’s frightening because it calls into question everything that we value and have come to know. And not killing the messenger and actually opening to how things actually are, is this third kind of patience. This make sense? Okay.
The rest is the usual stuff that we’ve had in the other chapters. The refinement, or
the purification is supported by sunyata and compassion—compassion and emptiness. [Guenther, p. 179] These go hand in hand here.
Emptiness is knowing that what arises is just an arising. It does not exist—in fact—in and of itself. So, and it’s a way of coming to understand that we don’t have to oppose anything that is arising in experience, and that’s a big one. And compassion gives us a way of relating to whatever is arising, being able to be present with the suffering or the difficulty or unpleasantness that is there.
And when we do that, when we don’t oppose things, and we are able to be with what arises, then we create the conditions in which a natural knowing tells us, like, “This is what’s required in this situation.” And then we just do it.
And that actually, I mean, it really, in many cases, it is just that simple. That when we shed all of the projections, we stop opposing things, then what needs to be done, is often just very, very clear. And it’s usually the last thing we want to do. But that’s where the patience comes in again. Okay. That’s the situation, this is what needs to be done, and…and we do it. I think that’s about all.
The next one is the perfection of strenuousness. So I’m going to give you the same assignment. And you can work on that as your practice of the perfection of strenuousness. That is, when you encounter situations, which give rise to impatience, what is the specific experience you try to avoid by getting angry, or impatient or what have you? Yes?
Cara: In Gyaltsen it’s called
perseverance, his word for strenuousness.
Ken: Yes. Okay, so you are going to persevere in this exercise I gave you last time.
Cara: Just for those people playing at home.
Ken: Yep. Thank you.
Joe: Just so I’m clear on this. What you’re actually getting at, as getting in the way of experiencing something, is the anger. Not experiencing the impatience.
Ken: That’s right. It’s what moves you into the impatience. So there’s your kid…
Joe: Ahhh. You’re saying that the anger is before the impatience.
Ken: No, the anger is the expression of the impatience.
Joe: …of the impatience. Okay.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. But it’s not—anger is an exit from another feeling.
Joe: Right, so if we’re experiencing the impatience without anger?
Ken: Oh yes, but I want you to go a step further than that.
Joe: And get angry.
Ken: No. A step further in the other direction. [Laughter]
Joe: Oh, darn it. I thought we had carte blanche. Damn!
Ken: No, we’re trying to walk towards the source of things, not away from them.
Joe: Thank you for clearing that up.
Ken: Yeah. It’s a cool movie I agree. Fight Club. Weird movie, but good.
Joe: Can I say something that came to mind?
Ken: Well, just let me finish the point.
Joe: I’m sorry, yes.
Ken: So, I mean taking your kids is a very good example. They do something, and you just want to scream at them. Right? Yeah.
Ken: Okay. I mean maybe they’re balancing on the edge of a cliff.
Joe: I could name any number of things.
Ken: Yeah. Any number of things. For instance, if they’re balancing on the edge of a cliff, it’s very simple to know what the feeling is. You don’t want to experience the fear that they have that they’re going to fall. That’s why you’re screaming, because you…you don’t want to experience that fear! And you certainly don’t want to experience the loss of one of your kids. So, kaboom! It’s right up, but the only way that it comes out, you know, is not like, “Would you please step back from the cliff?” No, it’s like, “Get out of there!” Do you follow?
Joe: Yes, that’s a particularly clean one.
Ken: Yeah. Every example of impatience, there’s something like that. That’s what I want you to hunt around for.
Okay, Now you’re not going to get it by analyzing it. You’ll get it, and the way I want you to get to this, is by being in the experience of your body and the emotions that arise. And as we noted in the beginning of this class, it’s really fast. So you may have to replay the situation over and over again, until you can actually start picking up the body feelings, the body sensations. And it won’t be comfortable, because—and this is why Gampopa makes these points about how powerful anger is—because it’s really fast and it’s really powerful, so when you start hitting it, it’s gonna be a powerful jolt of a feeling. You know, this is not a trivial exercise that I’m giving you. But it is how you actually develop an ability in what I think is a very crucial area. Okay?
Joe: No just apropos of what we’ve been talking about, there’s a line from the play I’ve been doing in which something Buckminster Fuller wrote…he said, “We welcome each day our daily evolution, and we forgive, post give, and give all those who seemingly trespass against us. For we have learned retrospectively and repeatedly that the seeming trespasses are in fact feedback of our own negatives, realistic recognition of which may eliminate those negatives.” That’s apropos of recognizing that.
Ken: Yeah. That sounds right. It’s a little…is that how Buckminster Fuller talked?
Joe: How he what?
Ken: Is that how he talked? Or wrote?
Joe: Oh no, he talked like this [Nasal intonation] You mean is that what he sounded like? [Laughter]. No, the things he said? No, he wrote this; this is poetry he wrote.
Ken: Okay. Okay. Yeah.
Joe: It was “emotion recollected in tranquility.” [From Wordsworth’s definition of poetry.]
Ken: Okay. Yep. Randye, did you have something?
Randye: I was just thinking of an event. You’ve been saying all night that anger is a means of not experiencing something that’s happening in the moment, and I was thinking more in the past tense.
The event was, I go to feed my kitty cat, my kitty cat has vanished, I spend the next hour combing the neighborhood, calling for her, worried about her, to find out an hour later she’s been hiding under the bed the whole time. At which point I got instantly furious at her. You know…
Ken: That…that’s great.
Randye: It switched from worry over…
Ken: To kaboom.
Randye: …to the anger at her.
Ken: Okay. Now that’s a really interesting one to explore. And I would enc…that’s a great one to explore. Okay. In that moment of finding her, what did you not want to experience?
Randye: In that moment?
Ken: In that moment.
Randye: Because the hour of worry and concern.
Ken: Oh, that just built up the energy for it.
Randye: Oh, okay. Because it was a very fast shift.
Ken: Because yes, it was a very fast shift, but if you had looked for her for two minutes and found her, you wouldn’t have had the same thing. Right? So it was building, building up all that time looking for her. But there’s something you experienced when you found her under the bed.
That would be very interesting to find out what that is. Because then you explode in rage. That doesn’t make any sense! [Laughing]
Randye: I mean I had been worried about her.
Ken: Yeah. So, that’s a really good example.
Okay. Everybody clear? Okay. Let’s do the dedication.