Welcome everybody. Today I wanted to investigate Mindful Creativity, although I don’t think that’s exactly what I would name it again once I was thinking about it; [it was] the best I could do in the moment posting a little Facebook post. It’s a beautiful thing that I think we’ve all experienced at one time or another in our life when we’re lost in the moment, not on the cushion but out in the world, and it might be doing something that we love to do. It might be in a sport. It might be dancing. It might be something that we get lost in, and all of a sudden we’re not in our thinking minds anymore. We’ve connected to something a little bit deeper, and everything is happening very easily and effortlessly without fear. Really, we’re just moving. We don’t even know how we’re doing it.
You know I used to — in the newsletter I was talking about, I mentioned this last time too, I was raised motorcycle racing and that’s when I first experienced this. I started at a really young age when I felt like I wasn’t even thinking–it was just happening. And in a very real way, when we’re talking about this meditative absorption, this equanimity; it’s very similar to this state. It’s almost like a selflessness state when we lose our self and therefore we could connect with something else. And with this losing of the self, we start to experience and understand that we actually are an expression of the creative. We are an expression of creation. We are the expression. We are an expression. When we get out of the way, we realize that we are this dynamic, organic, spontaneous, moment to moment expression of what is. There is an overlay of the thinking, conceptual mind that thinks that we’re actually doing it, we’re actually doing something, we’re actually creative or something like this but [in reality] we are creation. And when we get out of our own way, we can actually start to flow into that. We could actually be into that, we just are that beingness.
I would say that it takes — it’s like this interplay of trust and fear. I’m going to read a passage on this, but I would say it’s more trust because this trust automatically diminishes fear if we trust in ourselves. I was watching a basketball clip. The point guard took the ball and he just drove to the basket with so much fearlessness, you know. There’s are three defenders and he’s just driving to the basket and he can’t know what’s going to happen. He can’t know if he’s going to be able to make a shot or do what he thinks he’s going to have to do to get through these three defenders but he just, like, he just bolts in there. The defenders start to converge on him and he gets to the first two and he’s about to take his shot and the third defender comes over and is about bounce the ball away and at the last second, when he sees that, instead of taking the shot he goes around the defender, passes it to his teammate and his teammate takes the ball and dunks it. It all happens just like that [snaps fingers]. And I was thinking, “Wow! What trust in his own capability and what fearlessness and what creativity!” I mean it all happened. All of those things had to come together for him to do that–just to be in that flow.
We’re looking to find that flow–being in the zone, but being that in life. You know, there’s a way that we could actually be like that, in the flow of right now. We don’t have to be on the basketball court or doing something like that. We could be like that. But we have to know that we could find it here. Let’s say we’re really stressed out with life. Let’s say home life, work life – we’re just under a lot of stress. What are some things that we could do to relieve this stress? You just name some things that we recommend for ourselves: practice self care to relieve some stress. What are some things that we could do?
Sangha member : Breath, exercise, sense your body, get out for fresh air, create something, just movement, get a massage.
Sangha member: Find a pet.
Cayce: Find a pet, yeah. Pet your pet.
Sangha member: Talk.
Caye: Talk, like talk to a friend, yeah, get on the phone with a friend. Very good idea. What else?
Sangha member: Tea
Cayce: Get a cup of tea. Take a vacation.
Sangha member: Take a walk.
Sangha member: Accept.
So when we’re looking to things that we could do, there are some things in there where we’re coming into the moment. Then with some things we’re separating ourselves from the moment. This is not good or bad but we have to look at this. When we’re under a lot of stress we often want to get away. There’s this subject-object; there’s this separateness. We want to relieve ourselves from this situation so we want to go out and…All these things are good. Even to sit down and meditate is a separateness like, “Oh, I need to go back in and withdraw myself into myself” or go out and exercise or go out and talk to a friend or take a little vacation and/or…all these things. Then there are other things that came up like “accept” and “move into your body”. You see these things that we’re doing in the actual moment of chaos. Finding the still point right then and right now. Like that basketball player: he actually moved right into the chaos with absolute trust and fearlessness.
A lot of times we cannot leave our life. These tools are for life and we cannot leave them. The most stressful times are when we feel like we can’t leave because maybe we really can’t leave. We have to be able to find this something. You know, in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, The Full Catastrophe Living, the guy said, “Are you married?” He said, “Am I married?” He says, “I’m married with kids and a house and a job,” he says, “I have the full catastrophe.” You know, but how do we live the full catastrophe with a sense of peacefulness? As a sense of creative expression, like, “This is it, you know, this is our basketball game, this is it.” How can we find this?”
There’s a Tibetan term that they use, it’s called “Play Mind”. They say that without play mind, nothing is possible. We can’t do anything right without play mind; we can’t have a business meeting. We can’t even have a conversation with a friend without play mind. I’m going to read a little bit about play mind here. This is the key. The key for us to come back into this flow is to have play mind.
“Fish play in the water. Birds play in the sky. Ordinary beings play on the Earth. Sublime beings play in display.”
So this is a magical display. The book title was “Magic Dance” by Thinley Norbu. This is the magic dance. This illusion is magic. “Magical display” is what we call the world. It’s like the illusion that we’re playing in–the Maya.
“One person’s play is another person’s seriousness and one person’s seriousness is another person’s play. To adults, adolescents seem playful, but to adolescents, their own phenomena are serious. To adolescents, children play seem playful, but to children, their own phenomena are serious. This is because all deluded beings with divided mind have separated phenomena into gross and subtle elements thinking their play is serious because they believe it to be true.
When children are immature and cannot connect their subtle element minds with their gross element toys, they become serious but they are unable to understand how things work, they develop a frustrated anger habit which they carry into their adult life changing the object of their frustration from a toy to a person. If from birth they would recognize that play is playful and not serious and the gross and subtle are inseparable, children and adults would never have frustration or anger.
Separation is always the cause of frustration, whether it’s between parents and a child, friend and friend, husband and wife or teacher and disciple. When we cannot connect with each other because of our previous habit of dividing subject from object and gross from subtle, frustration and anger result. When we feel this frustration and anger, we must try to dispel it, not by further dividing the object of our frustrated anger, but by practicing Dharma and by meditating.
Even without meditating or using any Dharma conceptions, spiritual qualities exist from the beginning. Spiritual energy is like a young natural forest which can be burned away through frustrated anger like fire. When frustrated anger becomes heavier and heavier, light spiritual energy diminishes like smoke. After the fire, both gross element energy and subtle element energy are exhausted and only the great ashes of empty sadness remain. Then lacking support from ordinary gross elements and from inner subtle elements, our minds become weak and sorrowful.
But, through play, spiritual energy can be sustained, so we must not think that play is always bad. Whether or not our rigid mature minds reject play, everything is still the display of the natural secret essence of the elements. If we are serious and rigid, our subtle elements become congested and cannot reflect the wisdom display. If our mind is calm and vast and playful, we could always recognize the essence of play. In open space, there is never turbulence between the gross and subtle element…
Without play mind, even if we see beautiful things we cannot make contact with them because we have fear and miss the target through our lack of confidence. Even if we write, everything is a mistake because we have fear and miss the target through our lack of confidence. Even if we read, we cannot absorb the meaning because we have fear and missed the target through our lack of confidence. Even though we are entertained by friends, the taste does not linger because we have fear and missed the target through our lack of confidence…
If we have play mind, we could see through meditation that all phenomena are like magic, then wherever we go we are comfortable. If we come from a higher standard class we could do low standard work very easily without self-righteousness or discomfort. If we come from a low standard class we can communicate easily with high standard people since our mind is vast and playful. Whatever class we come from, there is no contradiction between high and low standards because our mind is open and relaxed and we see all phenomena as a display of unobstructed Wisdom Mind.”
Play Mind. So, we’re going to do a Play Miind meditation.
[Listen to audio for meditation]
So, we’re going chat today about self-compassion. Last week, we were talking and at the end I told a story. I was with some students and I was joking with them, but they didn’t know it. I said we’re going to meditate for three hours. They looked at me like I was crazy and at that moment I thought, “oh man, if I would have said ‘we’re going to go dig a ditch’ or something, they would have been happier to do that.” I was asking them, “what exactly is it? Why don’t you want to sit with yourself? I’m not saying to do anything. We’re going to actually just sit. Just going to actually just be. What’ so scary about that?” I said, “if we sit here and I put a screen in front of you, you’re gonna be totally fine, right? We could watch a movie, no problem.” But if you look inside–if you’re just with yourself for three hours–to some people, that is very scary.
Why is that scary? I was at InsightLA for our facilitator training for teachers and Trudy was telling us about a story. It’s in the New York Times; I looked it up. In this study they had people go into a room and just sit with themselves. They asked them when they came out, “how was that?” There were no distractions although they were able to bring in their cell phones and whatnot. They said, “how was that?” They said, “I didn’t like that at all. That wasn’t good.” In fact, some of them cheated. Some of them said, “oh, I actually looked at my cell phone.” It wasn’t just young people. They did this with all age groups, and they all had a difficult time. Then, they shocked them. They gave them a little electrical shock. And they asked, “how was that? Was that awesome, or what?” They said, “no. I didn’t like that either.” They said, “well, would you pay not to be shocked?” They said, “yea, we would pay not to be shocked.” They said, “ok”. They put them back in the room with the shocker. What do you think happened? They shocked themselves.
It’s really sad, isn’t it? It’s very sad. It’s funny, but it’s sad. They’d rather be distracted by something they don’t like than just being with themselves. How many of you can relate to that? I know I can. How many times do we do something just to distract ourselves, but we actually know it’s not going to create sustainable happiness. In fact, on the other side of this activity, we might even feel worse, but we’d rather do that than just kinda hang out.
Just our little vices, you know. Like, we’re home alone or something, eating bad food, watching endless TV shows on Netflix. These things somehow distract us, but they don’t feel good. Yet, the saints and sages of all times just say “know thyself”. You’re it. You’re the most amazing thing in existence. In fact, nothing else can give you what you already are. Yet, we really can’t sit with what we are because we don’t like what we think we are. These little fragments that we’re grabbing on to–what we think we are. We don’t like what we see. We don’t like the beliefs about ourselves. Our self-identity comes up in silence, in stillness, in meditation. If you sit down and meditate, these things come up. And it’s a self-identification with “I don’t like what I see”. I don’t like me. I don’t like me. I don’t like what I’m finding in there. And so it’s this judging of our own suffering. This is an inability to take care of and actually hold ourselves in an entirety, and, of course, to accept and love ourselves. We need to do that so we can get beyond this surface-level mind.
We need to go beyond the surface, agitated level of the waters to see our own depth. When those surface-level things come up, we attach our self-identity to them, and then judge ourselves just for that little piece that’s arising. We can never really know what’s beyond that. When we dive deep into the waters of self, what do we find there? When we abide in that state, how do we feel? Well, of course we could feel really amazing then, but can we even get over just the surface-level stuff that’s coming up, that’s arising?
There’s an amazing amount of study that’s been done in recent times on self-compassion, and it’s been spearheaded by Kristen Neff. She’s a professor at the University of Texas. She’s written books on self-compassion. I really recommend you visiting her site, selfcompassion.org. You can see some of the studies that she’s done. It’s really amazing. It’s really amazing to get our minds on board with how important this is. A lot of the things that we’re going to do today are based upon her findings.
When we talk about self-compassion, a great way to start this investigation is, “how do we have compassion for others?” Looking at somebody who is homeless, for example, we first need to have awareness, to have mindfulness. Let’s say we see this person on the street. We need to actually be awake and notice, “wow, look at this. This is somebody who’s struggling.” Awareness–mindfulness–is the first component of compassion. The second is some heart opening, right? Some opening of the heart. Some kindness. Not only do I see that this is happening, but I care for this person suffering–opening up to that. The third thing, which Kristen Neff has laid out step-by-step as a way to look at this deeper, is to see the common humanity in this. The common humanity of suffering. See that this person is suffering, but this person is just like me. I might only be a few steps away from that situation too–the common humanity. We can do this with self-compassion, too. This is really, really a beautiful aspect when we have self-compassion, and we look at our own suffering. By connecting with that common humanity, we can open up to having more compassion for others. We see that suffering is a part of existence. Obviously, without suffering, we wouldn’t have happiness. We realize that suffering is a part of all of our lives. Coming in contact with our suffering, we’re more aware, and can be more compassionate that this is something that we all share. It’s not only me. When we feel this suffering, we feel isolated, and we feel alone. By actually remembering the common humanity of suffering, we could say, “wow, I’m not the only one suffering. Everyone suffers in some way.” We can use these tools and them around onto ourselves.
We have to be mindful of what we’re saying and doing to ourselves. We all have that self-critic, right? That little know-it-all that is really quick to point out all of our negative traits and maybe very slow to point out the positive ones. We need to notice, “wow, did I just say that? To myself?” Sometimes we say things to ourselves that we would never say openly to another person but we think it’s okay to say to ourselves. We need to ask, “Wow, did I just say that?” Then, to open up into kindness for ourselves, obviously, is the next step. We have to expand to be able to hold it. Then again, like I mentioned, remember the common humanity of it. Sometimes we even judge ourselves for suffering: “Ack, get over it. What the hell am I doing still suffering like this?” Very harsh.
I’m going to read something from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“When the mother hears her baby crying, she puts down whatever she has in her hands. She goes into its room, and takes the baby in her arms. The moment the baby is lifted into the mother’s arms, the energy of wisdom already begins to penetrate into the baby’s body. The mother does not know yet what is the matter with the baby, but the fact that she has it in her arms already gives her child some relief. The baby stops crying. Then the mother continues to hold the baby in her arms. She continues to offer it the energy of tenderness, and during that time the mother practices deep looking. A mother is a very talented person. She only needs two or three minutes to figure out what is the matter with her baby. Maybe its diapers are a little bit too tight. Maybe the baby has a touch of fever. Maybe it needs a bottle. Then, when the understanding comes, the mother can transform the situation immediately. It is the same thing with meditation. When you have pain within you, the first thing to do is to bring the energy of mindfulness to embrace the pain. I know that you are there, little anger, my old friend. Breathe. I’m taking care of you now.”
I’m going to read that last part again:
“When you have pain within you, the first thing to do is to bring the energy of mindfulness to embrace the pain. I know that you are there, little anger, my old friend. Breathe. I’m taking care of you now.”
See how this might be slightly different than how we have been conditioned to treat things that arise–like, anger–within us? See the difference of non-identification? I should say “non-self-identification”. See how we are accustomed to, when things arise, saying “wow, I have so much anger in me instead of I am so angry.” See the difference here? I love the word “embrace”; “embrace the pain.” No attachment, no aversion, no pushing this away. Allow it to arise and meet it like you would a dear friend. Hold it like space would hold billions, trillions of stars, billions of galaxies. The space could hold it all. No self-identification. This is not me. I can open up. I can embrace this like a dear friend. Embracing it.
In that moment, it completely transforms, right? We use mindfulness, love, and compassion. Whatever we look at disappears. Whatever we love melts away, right? Until we love something, it cannot leave. Until we can truly love something, it cannot go away. We cannot push it away. We can’t will it away. We cannot anger it away. Whatever we push away, we feed. Whatever we love, can be allowed to go on its own accord.
One of the obstacles to this self-compassion is that we think that being easy on ourselves is going to turn us into slackers in some way. A lot of us think this. Of course, a lot of these things I’m saying, I’m just being general. But in our culture, we think that we have to be hard on ourselves–go, go go. And we think that the harder that we are on ourselves, the better that we’re going to do, the more that we’re going to achieve. We all know achievement equals happiness, right? So we’re all going to be happier if we just push ourselves, and don’t let ourselves get away with anything. That’s really going to make the difference.
Of course, there have been studies done on this. Does positive reinforcement help? Or does negative reinforcement? In actuality, it is highly motivating for ourselves to nurture and to forgive ourselves, and to say things like, “yea, you know what, you might’ve made a mistake, but that’s okay. I knew you were doing the best you can and I really believe in you to do better the next time.” Kristen Neff uses the example of a child coming home with bad grades. If the parent says, “Oh my gosh, I cannot believe you are that bad at math. This is just horrible. There’s no reason for that,” they might get such a complex about math, and just say “oh, I must be horrible at math. I don’t even want to try.” Of course, if the parent says, “I didn’t know you were struggling that badly. What can we do to help? Can we get you a tutor? I know you must be good at math, if you apply yourself. Let’s give it another try.” There’s such a big difference there. We can bring this into our meditation practice.
One thing that I hear over and over again is that meditation somehow falls into this category of like a workout routine or or a diet plan–we’re good sometimes. “Oh I’m doing good”, “I’m failing now”, “I meditated three days a week and then I didn’t, and I feel so bad about myself.” We’re missing the point. Meditation is a beautiful, amazing experience of just noticing self. A couple weeks ago I said, if you really enjoy sunbathing, you’re not going to go, “wow, I haven’t sunbathed in like two weeks. I feel so bad about myself.” If it’s something that you really enjoy doing, it’s not something that we should be hard on ourselves about. It’s, “oh, I’m just back”. We judge the judging. Don’t judge the judging.
We call this the second arrow teaching. The second arrow. We have an arrow come in called suffering and then we judge the suffering. We judge ourselves for doing something silly. This is the second arrow. Let’s say we set a goal and we miss the goal. We feel this suffering arise. Then we’re angry at ourselves that we did that. Now we’re angry that that anger’s there, or we’re frustrated that frustration’s there. In that very moment we can actually just hold it. We can just embrace it. It’s arising. It’s here. It’s already here. It’s a brand new, fresh moment, and it’s already here. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s here. So when that anger comes, we can actually make more anger, or we can just be with what is. Just right there. Just hold that.
Sometimes we can feel this in our body. Clench your fists nice and tight. What kind of feeling do you get when you do that? Hardness. Tightening. Tension. Now, go ahead and open. Like that. How does that feel? Relief. Softening. Ease. “When I did this I realized I was holding my breath when I was doing it.” And what if we just extended it out like that? How’s that feel? Opening. Inviting. Embracing. Free. Ok. Hands down.
Part of this self-awareness is obviously the body aspect; we do this in our body. The fight or flight response kicks in. It’s contracting. The fight or flight response kicks in when we’re dealing with ourselves but we can’t run from ourselves. We’re actually bringing this fight or flight response on within ourselves. Have you ever thought of a thought that’s actually not happening right now that gets you worked up. Yea? All the time, right? You know, the mind doesn’t know the difference. The same physiological things will happen in the body. Even just by thinking. We can test this out. We can do this right now, actually. If you take your predominate hand and visualize a lemon wedge in your predominant hand right now. You can close your eyes and visualize it. And the bring that lemon wedge to your mouth. You’re about to bite into it. What’s happening? “When you said lemon I really start feeling the sensations of it”. There’s no lemon in your hand! And there’s no saber-toothed tiger that’s running after you. But our mind doesn’t know the difference.
It’s programmed into our minds, very deeply, very primitive back to our reptilian brain: that fight or flight response. All that pre-frontal cortex, all that stuff does not get ignited; those really nice decision-making qualities of our advanced brain. When we’re in the fight or flight response, none of that is engaged. That’s why long-time meditators have more grey matter in their brain. Because that portion of the brain in meditation is actually accessed more and more. When we’re in that fight or flight response, the blood is rushing away from the pre-frontal cortex. It’s rushing away from our digestive system. It’s rushing away from our reproductive system. It’s going into the large muscle groups of the body so we can outrun that saber-toothed tiger. Actually, this is supposed to be a short-term response. Just outrun that animal. Just save yourself. It’s for survival. It’s not supposed to be taxed again, and again, and again. The hormones that are released, they call for sugars, they call for carbohydrates–really fast energy. When we don’t use those up,because we’re not actually chased at all, the body is still calling to replace those. What kind of food do we want to eat after a stressful day? Comfort food: carbs and sugar. The body is literally calling for that. It’s not a coincidence.
We’re going to do something called a “self-compassion break”. This is how we can actually take those three steps of being mindful, opening up to kindness, and remembering the common humanity. There’s a practice we can do called a “self-compassion break” that we can do pretty much any time that we feel that we need it. First, we’re just going to investigate some physical postures that we can do. We know that when something happens, we actually embrace ourselves. If something traumatic happens, we go “oh my god”, and then we go like this–you see someone grab their heart when they see something traumatic. We actually touch ourselves to embrace ourselves.
We’re just going to go over a few different options of how we can actually caretake ourselves physically. The first one is putting your hand on your heart. Just feel into the tonal qualities of these as we go along. And then maybe adding the second hand. And then just maybe reaching over and grabbing your shoulder. Not grabbing, but resting your hand on your shoulder. You can add the second arm. And then maybe practicing some things that we can do even in public, without people even knowing. Or even in a class situation or something. Just holding your own hand. Just grabbing your own hand. Just holding your own hand. And see what it feels like when you bring the intention of holding yourself in this way. In a nurturing way. Thinking back to that mother holding her baby. Holding yourself like that. With that intention. Even if you’re just slightly holding your hand. How does it feel to do that with that intention of care-taking for yourself?
Next, we’re going to think of a situation in your life that’s causing you some stress, some anxiety, (maybe not choosing the most stress and anxiety). It’s like a practice–we’re not biting off more than we can chew. Choose something that does cause a little bit of discomfort. Maybe it’s a slight worry or concern. Maybe it’s something that somebody said to you that you didn’t feel comfortable with. Allowing your eyes to close. And allowing that situation to arise in your body. In your mind. And then with mindfulness, just allow yourself to say, “this is suffering”. Just mentally acknowledge that suffering is present. You may say something like “ouch” or “this hurts” or “this is stress”. And then remember that suffering is a part of life. Maybe think to yourself, “I’m not alone. Other people feel this way too”. We all struggle in our lives.
Next, choose a physical gesture. Maybe the hand over the heart. You can go ahead and do this now. Go ahead and put your hand over your heart or choose a gesture that really suits you–even one that we didn’t try. And then you can use some phrases. I’m going to say some phrases. If they resonate with you, fantastic. If you want to use your own, fantastic. Just mentally you can say to yourself: “May I give myself the compassion that I need. May I accept myself as I am. May I forgive myself. May I be strong. May I be patient.” For the next few moments, maybe just ask yourself what you need to hear from yourself to feel cared for. Maybe you can add to these phrases whatever comes to you.
Time for Practice
This is part two on the topic of resilience. The title of this talk is “Time for Practice”. It’s always time to practice. It feels like with everything that’s gone on in the past year that now, more than ever, is a time to practice.
Why do we practice? To be centered, for peace, to remember, so we don’t go crazy, for lovingkindness, for freedom, to feel a part of, for insights, to build a relationship with ourselves and others, to end suffering, to feel better. I had a teacher who said, “We practice so we decide what we want to think about- on a relative level. On an ultimate level, to find out what we are.”
What is our practice? Pausing, watching, being mindful, breathing, counting to ten or twenty before responding, coming back, being purposefully happy and kind without any reason, paying attention without judgement, having no expectations, being here now, letting go, relaxing intense situations, being okay with not knowing, feeling the flow, loving for the sake of loving, sensing, being. A lot of times when we think of practice, when I ask people how their meditation is going, they say, “Really bad! I haven’t been meditating that much.” Which refers to the formal practice–being on the cushion. But listen to what we’re saying: letting go, being patient during tense situations, loving. How much does that happen on the cushion? How much of it is informal? How much of it can be done in any situation throughout our life? For me, practice is also what we touch during our formal or deeper practice, like going on retreat; when we practice and come into connection with something. This could be a short time, many times. It could be that informal “feeling the flow”; paying attention on purpose to the present moment non-judgmentally. What are we when we’re not following the thoughts and emotions? Really focusing on tasting each moment.
I was talking to a long time spiritual friend of mine, one of my deepest spiritual connections. He’s an African-American man from Louisiana. When I was a pipe fitter in South San Francisco, they were remodeling a Whole Foods. We were building it from the ground up. He and I were demoing a piping system beneath the flooring. We were talking about something and I started to move towards the topic of spirituality. We were both tiptoeing around the topic and finally he said to me, “Have you ever heard of Kundalini?” I said, “Yeah!” That was it. We were best friends from then on. I was talking to him yesterday. He is somebody who, in my opinion, carries and embodies peacefulness. He is a phenomenal man. Things come to him before they happen. He was sharing with me that he doesn’t sit much anymore. He never really did. Before he fell asleep he would get into a very meditative state and that’s where the depth came from. He is someone who when I look at him, when I’m around him and I talk to him, I know he’s already there. It’s already integrated into each moment.
For myself and for others, I’ve seen us tippy-toe in the conceptual and comparing mind for way too long–into the readings, the books, spiritual materialism, dogma–when none of that really matters! This is not about buddhism, teaching, or the technique you’re doing, because none of it exists in truth. When we say it’s time for practice, it’s time to already know beyond belief. When we’re talking about who’s right, who’s wrong, what technique is the best–that’s called belief. What do you believe in? It doesn’t matter what you believe in. What do you know? People talk about paying attention to the present moment non-judgmentally. That’s not mindfulness. Those are the instructions for mindfulness. Mindfulness is your experience of that instruction. Until we taste it we’re just bouncing around, lost. We need to actually taste it to know where to go. It’s a place of refuge within each and every one of us. That’s why we say we practice to find that place of refuge: to know that in the chaos of the world–whether a shooting or political chaos–that there is a place of refuge where the ultimate truth is that everything is okay as it is, with me, in this moment. Whether we’re working, relaxing, arguing, in pain, in pleasure, that there is a place where we can go and feel safe and loved. That place has no words, no dogma, no religion, no instruction. There’s nothing that can describe it. You can’t tell anyone about it effectively. We need to come home to that as often as we can so we can remember what it feels like. The process is the practice.
The best meditation is non-meditation. Drop the meditation. Drop the technique. Drop the meditator. Drop the expectation and rest in trust.
I work at a depression and anxiety clinic. This week has been an interesting week where the events that have been happening have affected many of us. Today we can do a practice that the Tibetan Buddhists have been doing for thousands of years called “diaphragmatic breathing” in yoga. It’s wonderful for the parasympathetic system. At an esoteric level, it brings us back into center by collecting our chi, prana, life force. When we have anxiety, we leave the roots of the tree and sway with the wind.
Find a meditative posture. When you inhale, expand the abdomen away from the spine. Then have a slight pause for the breath to oxygenate the blood, because if we do it too quickly without pausing we may start to feel light headed. On the exhalation allow the abdomen to collapse back down towards the spine. Slight pause. Repeat this cycle.
The mind itself can be placed on the abdomen or on your hand. This is a body meditation. Around the area of the naval experience the expansion and contraction of your abdomen. We are used to breathing with our chest–we’re shallow chest breathers–so this may feel uncomfortable to some. This is how we would breath as babies. Also, because we live in Southern California, we’re not used to pushing out our belly. We’re used to holding it in. Just let it release. When the mind wanders, bring it back with kindness to the expansion and contraction of the abdomen. This is a great practice to use counting. One inhalation and one exhalation counts as one circulation of breath. Doing this for five circulations, concentrate on each cycle, one breath at a time. This is a practice we can do during times of high stress. If you do it enough, you’ll catch yourself breathing like this.
When we are feeling anxiety or agitation, we are stuck in fight, flight, or freeze. It’s very easy for the primitive part of our brain to tell us that we’re in trouble even when we’re not. It’s part of our survival make-up. When we get an email from the boss, same thing happens: sabertooth tiger reaction. Science has figured out that there is a way to go the other way. Have you ever noticed yourself stressed out and anxious but nothing really is going on? Maybe you’re thinking of something in the past or future, but right now you’re actually safe? We need to find a way to let the wholeness of our being and brain know that we are ok.
One way to go back the other way is compassion. We get oxytocin from compassion. It’s a chemical in our brain that lets us know we are okay even when we are suffering. If a child is sick, mom brings the child soup. The child knows she’s suffering but also knows that she’s taken care of.
Mindful Self-compassion Break has four parts. The first part is acknowledgement that this is a moment of suffering. If we look at it the same way we would look at someone else suffering, would you walk right by? No, you would meet their suffering. Often times though we don’t meet our own suffering. We go into distraction. We hide it. We’re not there for it. The first part is just to acknowledge that this is a moment of suffering.
The second piece is to know that you’re not alone. When we suffer, we contract, which is the opposite of what we should do. We move inward for many different reasons–we don’t want to be a burden, we don’t want to do anything, we feel depressed. But suffering is part of the human experience. Everybody suffers. There’s a connection in suffering because nobody is immune to it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you are in the world, how much money you make, everybody suffers. And there are people suffering just like you in this very moment. You are not alone.
The third step is to self-soothe. Hugging releases oxytocin. We can self hug by placing our hands on our heart and the same chemical releases. To the best of our abilities we want to evoke that same nourishing, nurturing quality that you’d have if you were with another. Bring the warmth into it. You can do ninja self compassion if you’re in a public place, such as rubbing your hand on your leg. Then talk to yourself. You can say: “This too shall pass. May I be patient. May I be kind.” The best time to practice is to practice when we’re okay. That way it’s readily accessible when we really need it.
How can one establish a longstanding gratitude practice? Pick three new things everyday. Be specific with details. It is very important that we are keenly aware of how the brain works. At 0, we can practice deeper meditation. If we’re on the negative side of the number line, let’s say we’re in depression, really feeling down, we can practice something different like a gratitude practice to help us get back to baseline. Sometimes we need medication to help us get back to baseline and support it with our practice. The neural pathways that we create through our practice everyday are very important. If you walk down the neural pathway of sadness everyday, the mind is trained to be sad. When we go to sleep, our brain checks in on itself and looks at the pathways that were used each day. Whatever was used is strengthened. So the more stressed we get, the easier it is to get stressed. Gratitude practice is taking control and saying, “Hey, brain, don’t forget that everyday there are awesome things to be grateful for, even though on the surface it might’ve appeared to be a bad day.” Keep those paths open.
In a depressed brain the imaging we see through diagnostics is blue. When someone comes out of depression, we can see a much more active brain that lights up with the release of neurotransmitters. In meditation, we are accessing neural pathways of compassion, loving kindness, joyfulness, and happiness. It takes effort to keep walking down those paths, until the brain wakes up one day and knows that everything is okay, like an enlightened mind would be. Matthieu Ricard wrote the book “Happiness” and shared the studies on a Rinpoche. In the book it discusses when they bring in signals to his brain, they only go to happiness or compassion. Babies can be screaming for an hour and the input goes to compassion. They’ve established a superhighway to love and compassion. They would light of firearms and 99.9% of us contract. They used slo-mo to capture reactions of these enlightened beings. When the firearm goes off, not only do they not contract, they actually expand into it. When it goes off, they lean in in curiosity. This is so deep that it goes beyond primal instincts of survival. When a being knows that it can ultimately not be harmed, that it’s not its body, this is the part of safety we can feel beyond all harm. The body will contract but the enlightened mind will not be harmed. They asked Suzuki Roshi, “How much ego is healthy?” We live in a relative world, we need ego. He said, “Just enough not to walk in front of a bus.” Just enough for that bodily self preservation. We want to feel the safety of the ultimate truth.
There’s time for practice and time for play. Play is not emphasized in our culture and sometimes there’s shaming of play. Animals play. Nature plays. Enlightened beings play! Smile! At the clinic I work at the physician prescribes smiling–ten minutes, twice a day. It’s a prescription. Activating those muscles release happy hormones. Practice is dose dependent. We have to keep doing it over and over again, just like a taking a vitamin. We can do it many ways though, sit, practice gratitude, diaphragmatic breathing, smile, play, dancing, exercise. When we have a healthy maintenance program for ourselves, we can be more resilient and will not be paralyzed by suffering.
If we want to do good things, we cannot be under the covers. We can be empathic but not so sensitive that we cannot take action. We need people who are resilient. Meditators are the people who go in war and grab people because they see they’re beyond just this body. This is what we’re looking to touch. We need to take care of our brains and recognize that it can go into trauma quite easily. We need to move into self compassion training, diaphragmatic breath, to let this being know, “dear one, you’re okay. It’s going to be okay. There’s nothing to fear.” Allow this love to arise from within and subdue the brain. Go to the rational part of the brain. Tell yourself it’s okay. Then we can sit in deep practice and be with ourselves, which can be challenging.
Ethics: The Quickest Way to Joy
Today’s topic is ethics. I’ve been surrounded by ethics. I had a Buddhist chaplaincy training on Friday and we had a beautiful retreat yesterday expressing ethics through artwork. At the Tibetan Buddhist Centers, we would never put ethics as a topic of a retreat because no one would show up. The mind cannot be stable, though, without ethics. This is the foundation and it is the end of the path. The stability of mind and inner quiet allows us to act in a way that is beneficial for our long-term happiness. What can we do to get into this spaciousness where long-term happiness arises naturally?
The first piece to explore is what is it? What is ethics? Is it 5 Precepts? Respect? Right action? Generosity? Doing the right thing? Moral compass? Code of conduct? No harming? What is it within us? We see this happening in our daily lives. For example, when I turn on the shower sometimes, I’m not aware that there’s a spider and all of a sudden I realize the spider is getting wet. I turn off the water and take the spider outside. Or the other day when I was driving, I saw this elderly person crossing the street and he tripped and fell. So many people came to serve him. Nobody knew him but everyone came to the rescue. Why do we do that? Because we are compassionate beings. Sometimes we think of ethics as a code of conduct, yet spontaneously it is already within us.
We do this naturally but through more care and mindfulness, we can probably do it even more skillfully. With more care and mindfulness, we realize that ethics is different in each situation and each space. Take this space–a meditation space. Even if you’re here for the first time, you get a sense of what the appropriate actions are. There’s a restaurant code of ethics, a hospital code of ethics. Part of it is the mindfulness we bring into each situation and with each individual. If you have dinner at someone’s home, you try to get a feel of their family dynamics. There are ethics that are appropriate for them. And it takes more mindfulness and care to know what is appropriate for each dynamic situation.
What is holding us back from accessing that dynamic compassion and care? It is multifactorial. When that elderly man fell and people rushed to him, there was a sense of interconnectedness. On what level did they connect with him? There’s an understanding that we are all connected; that we’re trying to be happy more and to suffer less. Part of it was that people did not want to see the old man suffer, and it meant something to them. It was important that he didn’t suffer. As the bodhisattva vow suggests–“may I attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings”–there’s this recognition that I’m not free until everyone is free. How can I be truly free if others are suffering? There’s no truth in that. When we lose sight of interconnectedness, we become selfish or self absorbed. This can take a lot of awareness and practice. We have two types of awareness: the normal relative level awareness is outward, and inner awareness, which we rarely access. This inner awareness is where the interconnectedness lies.
As Urgyen Rinpoche used to say, “The only difference between enlightenment and non-enlightenment is the direction that you’re looking.” If you’re looking this way you’re in Samsara, if you’re looking the other way, you’re in Nirvana. It is that simple. An example of outer awareness is listening to a sound in the environment. Inner awareness is where you are hearing the sound. Inner awareness is knowing that there is a knower and what is known. Usually we are aware of what is known, but very rarely do we spend time with the knower of what is known. This is a very important piece. We are remembering who and what we are by letting go of what we are not and arriving into what we are. We are not thoughts, beliefs, and body sensations. We are not an unchanging, permanent self. If we are trying to overthink ethics, it’s not going to be very dynamic. It has to be spontaneous and be accessed through inner awareness. They say with emptiness, compassion arises naturally–just as awareness is there waiting. We tend to forget and need to come back. It’s the same with love and compassion, which are spontaneously arising from uncultivated space.
How do we access ethics? On a relative level there is the paradox of cultivating until we realize this is who we are. We practice metta–loving kindness, compassion–until it becomes second nature. How do we access it? Through awareness. How do we sustain awareness? Practice! The practice is strengthening our ethics. When we move into our practice, we have all the hindrances that makes things challenging. We’re all lazy. “I’ll practice later”. When I was living in Santa Cruz, there was this amazing teacher who had just come from Tibet and my friend invited me to see him. I was living at a Buddhist center where I already had access to amazing teachers and this new teacher was an hour and a half drive away from me. So I was very lazy and I didn’t see him until seven years later. It took me that long to meet this great teacher who is now very established. Diligence, patience, and discipline leads to meditative concentration, which leads to wisdom, which leads to insight, which leads to the insight of interdependence, which leads to spontaneous compassion arising.
It is important we know the whole structure that mindfulness is derived from for it to be sustainable. Mindfulness is not sustainable without the knowledge of ethics. Paying attention is different from mindfulness. A thief pays great attention. However, a thief is not practicing mindfulness. He’s not practicing non-judgmental compassion with awareness. All of these things have to mesh together. When we look at our practice, a lot of the time we think, “how is our sitting going?” It is important to take time–a week, a month, 3 months, a year–and practice a virtue. It is common for longer practitioners to take a year and just practice on right speech, for example.
There’s a story of two monks, one very volatile and the other very mellow. The very volatile monk was trying to instigate the mellow monk. The volatile monk hit the mellow monk’s head with a stick. The other monk just looked at him and said, “Thank you! I’m practicing patience right now, and you’ve given me the opportunity to practice patience.” The moral of the story is that he was practicing patience. It was absorbed in his awareness and he was focused on it. With every opportunity that came to him he came back to patience. Stuck in traffic? Patience. Someone’s not so skillful at work? Patience.
When people ask how your practice is going, your sitting can be going well but maybe you’ve been very angry. Maybe you’re not cultivating the other pieces. We have to look at the whole picture and give all the elements their attention. I always remind myself that the Buddha taught 84,000 teachings. He only taught one thing, which is non-grasping mind. That’s it. All of the teachings support just one thing: the non-grasping mind. It’s important to note that it took 84,000 teachings to support this one thing. We need to use our own wisdom to examine. We need to ask what it is that we need to focus on. Maybe I do need to take a week and practice right speech.
Do we know what we live by? What do we come upon in times of stress and challenge and what do we come back to? It’s important to revisit these concepts. Awareness practice might be external or they might be through internal experiences. Always place your true awareness within.
Becoming Your Own Best Friend
Happy Thanksgiving. Hoping gratitude and thankfulness won out over commercialism. I’m very grateful to be here with all of you.
The topic today is how to become your own best friend. The first thing that Buddha said, the most important thing to becoming your own best friend, is to close all your social media accounts. He talked about the comparing mind, which is brutal and always present. It is very difficult to wiggle out of the comparing mind with all the opportunities to compare-whether it be social media, entertainment industry, etc. I happened to come by an article about A-list actresses and plastic surgery. Almost everyone has had plastic surgery! Even Megan Fox, who is absolutely beautiful as is, had plastic surgery after the first Transformers movie. Taking pop culture as an example, what part of her said she wasn’t good enough? She was successful in her career at that point already, yet there must’ve been some comparing mind that told her she wasn’t good enough. It’s within all of us–a part that is not totally content, not fully loving and accepting of who we are.
How can we move into a state of self-acceptance? Out of all the relationships we have in our life, this relationship with self is one we have to work out. Other relationships we can maybe work on, maybe not, but this one we definitely need to work out. If there is someone you can imagine avoiding, because there might be conflict, you can get by with that outside of yourself. But we can’t do that to ourselves. It’s like not wanting to come home. You stay out and entertain yourself because your home environment is not nourishing or healthy. If we want to come home to ourselves, we talk about meditation and learning more about ourselves.
How can we rest in meditation if we don’t want to come home? We have to work it out. If there is someone you have conflict with, it may be a good idea to dialogue with them to achieve a sense of repair. Sometimes people say, when you don’t get along with someone, that you just need to get to know them better. The same concept applies to our relationship with ourselves. There may be pieces of ourselves that we’re not proud or happy with, but if we get to know ourselves a little bit better, a little bit deeper, we might find that we are actually pretty good people. Maybe the things we did we did out of difficulty with holding the first noble truth: that suffering exists. Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves for not being able to hold the suffering of life because how we react to these situations is often times what we are not proud of; we react in a manner that brings upon even more suffering. When we cause more suffering to ourselves or others, wisdom can grow, but only when we can meet ourselves with loving friendliness, forgiveness, and kindness. If we meet ourselves with shame and guilt, then there is more and more self hurt.
Luckily, meditation gives us the opportunity to unravel ourselves, yet with an explicit intention to meet this unraveling with a non-judgmental compassion and awareness. When we sit to meditate and look within ourselves, we are setting the intention to meet whatever we find with non-judgmental compassion and awareness. This is the piece that is different from reacting with harsh judgement. Our very hurt is self-compassion. Our avoidance of hurt, our coping mechanisms, all arise from aversion to suffering, which is driven out of compassion. The definition of love is wanting self and others to be happy. The definition of compassion is not wanting self or others to suffer. If we are not careful, aversion to suffering can manifest as a surface emotion such as anger.
To befriend ourselves we need to understand the qualities of a good friend. They are kind, present, understanding, non-judgmental, honest, trustworthy, and accepting. How many of these qualities can we say we offer to ourselves? Or do we meet ourselves with the harsh inner critic? Reflect on how these qualities land within you. How can I be more kind to myself? Present for myself? Understanding to myself? Trusting of myself?
When we practice this form of metta on ourselves, we have to remember that it takes work, just like all relationships take work. There might be someone or some being in your life, an animal, friend, significant other, with whom your relationship feels effortless and comes with ease. You would never want to harm them in any way. For example, I would never want my cat to have any negative suffering thought. If I could take away the suffering thought from her, I would. Yet, the only way to suffer is to believe in a suffering thought. With ourselves, we not only believe them, but we also encourage them and enhance them. We do it all the time. This conviction of loving oneself takes a intense amount of effort and intention. If I cannot love myself and accept myself, how can I do that for others? How can I be of service to others? How can I want to come home? How can I find sustainable happiness? We are all here in this practice because we want to look inward and do the work. There’s an innate truth to removing self-hate to find self-love.
The next step is finding forgiveness. Jack Kornfield likes to say, “Forgiveness is giving up hope of having a better past.” Forgiveness is not condoning our actions or the actions of others–many times it take the form of actions. It is the acceptance of how things are. We are imperfect. In our ability to love ourselves and others, we are imperfect. Yes, with practice in finding our Buddha nature, hopefully we can eventually find that place of of peace and acceptance.
A good place to start our forgiveness meditation is to pick a situation or person that is of intermediate impact. Not to the extreme. Hear how the phrases land on you and feel the energetic impact of forgiveness.
In any way that I have harmed you knowingly or unknowingly, in thoughts, words or actions may I ask for your forgiveness — as much as is possible at this time.
In any way that I have been harmed by you knowingly and unknowingly in thoughts, words or actions may I ask for your forgiveness — as much as is possible at this time.
In any way that I have harmed myself knowing or unknowingly in thoughts, words or actions may I forgive myself — as much as is possible at this time.
In any way that I have been unable to hold the suffering of how things are, within me and within the basic nature of life arising, may I forgive myself — as much as is possible at this time.
Be Buddha Now
We had a nice movie night last night, watched the Dharma Brothers. In the film, they held a 10-day Vipassana Retreat at a maximum security prison in Alabama. The results were phenomenal. The power of 10-days of looking within. Today the topic is Be Buddha Now. We’re examining the mind and the belief systems of the mind.
The mind is very powerful. If we look at the five elements, we have earth, wind, fire, air, and water. These elements exist without consciousness. They don’t know nor feel. We have these elements in our body: bones resembling earth, blood resembling water, breath resembling wind, temperature resembling fire, and spaces resembling air. We can have these elements within our body yet without the mind, they can’t be recognized or known. We have the senses and sense organs- eyes, ears, tongue, skin. But without the mind we would not be able to access these senses. So as you can see, all phenomena that we process need to have mind to be perceived. The mind is so important and so powerful.
There are two elements of the mind that can be limiting factors. If everything that can be experienced has to be experienced through the mind, the mind becomes a filter system. In spirituality, there’s the analogy of water resembling the mind. It can be muddy, have ripples, be colored, or be clear. When the mind is still and clear, then we can see truth and see things as they really are. One aspect of the mind is that it can become limited in its scope: what it can see, what it believes, what it can be familiar with. Here is an excerpt from a book called Mind in the Waters and it’s about studying dolphins and whales; fascinating perspective from one of the scientists:
A Feeling of Weirdness
“In this paper I would like to discuss a very peculiar effect which we have noticed in the laboratory while working with the bottle-nosed dolphin. This effect is an example of the peculiarities of a creative process which occurs in this particular kind of scientific research, but which may also occur widely not just here. Stated tersely, if one works with the bottle-nosed dolphin day in and day out for many hours days and week, one is struck with the fact that one’s current basic assumptions and even one’s current expectations determine within certain limits the results obtained with the particular animal at the particular time.
This effect was first noticed in our work in 1955, 1957, and 1958. As I became more convinced of the neuroanatomical ties and complexities of the dolphin brain, I noticed a subtle change in my own attitude in regard to possible performances on the part of these animals. To one like myself trained in neurology, neurophysiology, and psychoanalysis, a large complex brain implies large complex capabilities and great mental sensitivity. Such capabilities and sensitivities can exist of course in forms we have not yet recognized.
The working hypothesis of advanced capability raised our index of suspicion and in turn sensitized us to new sources of information. It was a subtle preparation of the mental climate which allowed us to listen to some rather queer noises that the dolphin was producing in the laboratory, hence we reviewed them very carefully on the tapes. Because of the possibility of a very large brain capacity and because of musings about the possible areas of achievement already realized in the species but as yet undiscovered by us, our minds began to open.”
You see how he’s saying that because we started to analyze the possibility of what is possible by these animals, we began to discover things that we would have otherwise never discovered. They began to open up their minds to these possibilities.
Like us in our spiritual pursuits, we too must open up our minds to the possibility of what we might be. If we have an idea of what we are, then we cannot supersede that. We have to take off this limiting belief system. They say that we cannot recognize anything outside of our consciousness as it is. Everything is filtered through our consciousness as it is. If we look a the consciousness of infinite love, what can be experienced? What can be experienced if we actually live in this consciousness?
We know from the saints and sages, that their experience of reality is very different than our experience. I look at it as a REV limiter in a car. An engine can go 200 miles per hour, but if they put a REV limiter on it, then that constricts the motor’s ability to go beyond that RPM and reach that speed. Sometimes, if you’re driving really fast, the car will start to stutter. This is because it’s bouncing off the REV limiter, which is actually retarding the spark of the electronic system and the car cannot reach its full potential. If you take of the REV limiter, that same vehicle may be able to go 200 miles per hour. We know we are these grand expansive beings yet we have a self imposed rev limiter. We have these limiting factors.
A lot of times we hear stories of awakening where the teacher says, “You know you are the Buddha, you are Christ, you are Krishna.” Sometimes the student believes that whole-heartedly. This is one aspect of the mind that we have to be very careful with. Buddha sat down to say, “That’s it, I’m going to be enlightened!” He believed he could be enlightened. A lot of time we think that it will happen the next lifetime.
The second aspect is awareness itself. The mind can only become aware of things it pays attention to. We know that with the mind and with consciousness, we have the opportunity to become aware of something but not unless we put our attention there. As we sit, there are outside noises. But if we don’t place our attention on them we can’t hear them.
Have you ever been in a room with an annoying sound but you don’t hear it, but then once mentioned you can no longer block it out? The senses are already picking the information up. But you won’t register unless the mind is picking it up too. This is mindfulness. We become mindful and awake. When someone is talking but your thoughts drift to another place, it isn’t like your ears stopped hearing. You simply redirected your attention. Where we shine our attention to is most important.
Conditionally, we shine our light on what we are not, instead of what we are. We know that we are Buddha nature. Just like the mind can perceive external phenomena, awareness can perceive enlightened aspects of itself it we look. That is what meditation is. Meditation is moving from looking at our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations as what we are and instead looking into who’s looking. We cannot be what is impermanent. All the things that are arising, staying a while, and falling away cannot be us. We are looking outside-this is Samsara. When we are looking inside, this is Buddha nature. When we turn and we look, just that looking inside.
If we can look inside without any limiting beliefs. Without the meditator, without meditation…just being. This is using the mind to see Self. Looking without limiting beliefs allows us to rest in our true nature. This is how we can use the mind to see our true Self.
Bringing Love to Life
Hello and welcome everybody. I see some new faces today. My name is Cayce. I am the instructor for Inside LA. Welcome to Inside LA Long Beach. As I like to say, I’m a student that happens to be teaching. And thank you all for coming out today. We have an amazing car show happening in Long Beach and you decided to come here. So I’ve been away for three weeks. This is the longest I think I’ve ever been away from the Sunday sit in over two years, and I was at a retreat. And one of the teachers there she does a lot of work in the prison system. And they were looking at emotions and the value of emotions, and she asked the prisoner, “What is the value of the emotion of sadness?” and they meditated on a while and one prisoner came back and he said, “The value of sadness is that it shows me the importance of what I have lost,” shows me the importance of what I have lost. And I was thinking about that when I was away from the group, I was feeling sad and it showed me the importance of having spiritual friends and having a container to practice that is safe and loving, and accepting. So I’m glad to be back and see all of you.
So we’re going to be talking today about “bringing love in to life”. I forgot how I wrote it on Facebook. Bringing love to life is what we’re going to be talking about. So this has two meanings: bringing love to life, brightening up love, bringing it to life, breathing life into love, but also bringing love into every aspect of our life. And this is really, really important, you know…A friend of my own some gas stations and he would tell me, “You know, gas stations are a nickel and dime business; you don’t make much money on the gas, you make money when people go to the convenience store inside the gas station and they buy a little something.” And the cultivation of love is like this; it’s kind of a nickel and dime business, is that we just have a little bit, we get a little bit at a time. And this is really important to think of it like this, because sometimes we can maybe make a big deposit into our bank of love, but if we don’t manage our money right, if we don’t manage our love right we could end up still being depleted.
So let’s say if we do a meditation retreat on loving kindness and we spent two weeks or something cultivating loving kindness, yet we haven’t really made a stable effort to make kindness part of our life, so…I don’t know how many of you have gone on retreat and you have a little honeymoon period, you’re back from the retreat and for about the next three days you’re just glowing, you’re like…I’m probably enlightened right now, you know, I’m feeling that good, nothing can touch me, you know, this is amazing. And in about four or five days you’re like, “Hmm,” chick in the armor starting to show itself, and then two weeks out of it you’re like, “Uh, what retreat? I can barely remember anything.”
So we need to cultivate the habit of loving kindness, compassion all the time. There is a great saying that there’s two ways for enlightenment to happen: one is to sit with the mystery until it consumes you and the other way to go about it is to eat the mystery bite by bite until it fills you up, so the more the wisdom practices are sitting in the mystery until it consumes us. But with loving kindness, compassion we could eat the mystery bite by bite until it fills us up. And it’s not really a mystery, is it? Love? It’s not really a mystery; it’s right here, it’s the day to day love. When we look into the heart practices the Saints don’t ever talk about this an earthly love, it’s the love that’s actually right here, it’s a tangible day to day, petting an animal, saying thank you, saying hello, saying good job. Those little things can make a big, big difference.
So what keeps us away from this love? We could break this down to pretty much it’s the ways that we feel divided or we feel separate. So they’ve done studies on frustration and anger, and this is really where we feel a lot of division and we get frustrated, we get angry and it boils down to not getting what we want, right, we’re going somewhere. There’s this is idea of we need something and something is in our way. They’ve done studies with young children, probably not the most moral or ethical studies, you know, just these little babies and they just put a toy in front of the baby, and as a aby is moving towards the toy, they just take their hands and just put then like this and they automatically, just a few months old, starts to cry. So when something is in our way, then automatically we feel frustrated. How many of you are thinking of traffic right now? When something is in our way from getting what we want, right.
So we have this idea that we’re going somewhere, especially in life, that we’re going somewhere and if something is going our way, then that’s going to cause us anger and frustration and especially division. But we’re actually not going anywhere. We can look at in the different ways that we’re either moving towards or away from love, that’s it, we’re either moving away from love or towards love. We’re actually not going anywhere, we’re going to end up with this magic ball of happiness. We have this idea that we’re moving towards a perfect, perfect combination of life’s circumstances where it’s going to be all blissful and happy forever and ever. People say things, “I don’t know when my life’s going to begin. I can’t wait for my life to come together. We can define my passion in life.” Nobody’s going to come together so perfectly. That really doesn’t happen quite like that right, everything’s impermanent and we’re process, or life is a process, we’re not going anywhere. Maybe on alternate level they could say that we’ve actually never been born, like, we’re not going to die, we’re a process. Everything is always in flux, but on a relative level where we really want to go is back into love, this is where we really want to go, those things that we really want that people may be in our way of, are stopping us from. We really just want to move back into love. This is the wholeness that we’re looking for. Even on our way home from work, we just want to be happy, we want to get home so we can be happy, already.
So there’s this idea that we’re going to go somewhere and we’re going to get happiness. Everything that triggers happiness is triggering something that’s already inside. What if we did it the other way around where we just decided to be happy and decided to be loving and then see what happens. I was working with a client who is an extremely beautiful young woman and she has severe social anxiety and when she was telling me this story I was just — my heart just went out to her because I thought, “Wow, I would have never thought in a million years of a young woman like this who seems so self-assured and just really beautiful to see that she would have this social anxiety.” She was going out with a new group of friends and she was saying the whole day she was almost sick to her stomach.
So she ended up going out that night and it wasn’t as bad as she thought that it could have been. But one thing that we’re working with is that the people that she was meeting, I bet she made them nervous, and I bet what they were thinking, like, who knows what they were thinking? And we’re all looking for this love approval and appreciation, and if we’re sitting with other human beings and we’re just sending them love, that’s it, we’re just sending them love and kindness. I mean, how many of us have spent most of our lives just wanted to be paid attention to? I mean, how loving is that if you could sit with somebody and just look at them and just be with them and just listen? Just that. And we don’t need to put on this big show and try to fit in, all we need to do is to love somebody just by listening, just by being there by being present, attentive. Gosh, what a gift? Could you imagine how much reciprocal love we would get if that was our attitude, go in and not trying to fit in, but allowing somebody else to fit in because we’re all thinking the same thing, we’re all thinking in social environments “Am I fitting in?” We don’t really look so much to others and try to judge them so much; we’re really judging ourselves all the time.
So it’s really the opposite of what society is telling us. Society is saying if you get this and it looked like this and you get this job and you wear these clothes and all that stuff, and then people are going to like you and then you’re going to be happy, you’re going to super cool. It’s awesome. But really what happens if we’re this pillar of love already and we go out in the world that we’re smiling and we’re kind and we’re compassionate and we listen? I’d like to embarrass Tenzen here for a moment. Tenzen is amazing. He’s this incredible, incredible young man and he has spent years and years volunteering for all these amazing projects. Everybody loves Tenzen. I know this. I love Tenzen; everybody loves Tenzen. We love Tenzen because he just gives. Every time I talk to Tenzen he’s giving in another way; he’s making food for the homeless, he’s bringing dog food for the homeless dogs, he’s volunteering with Justin Rudd’s group, it’s really incredible. Tenzen has lots and lots of friends. I was at his birthday last year, I think – just this table…Amazing–at this restaurant, it’s incredible… incredible. And he just gives all the time. It’s a great example.
So another way that we divide…The Buddha said if you want to be happy then abandon things that you do not own. Abandon what you do not own; it’s quite deep, actually. So we think of material things like things that we don’t own, just abandon. That means talking about attachment, of course. But also too, not only the material things, but abandoning… I mean, what do we really owe? For real, what do we really own? Do we own even our bodies? Do we own our thoughts? I think there’s this interesting thing that happens in child development with all of us and all children. There’s this is amazing word that causes so much frustration and anger. It’s amazing; this word’s called “mine”. And we see in children how arbitrary it is. It’s like somebody gives them a toy and they’re like “Mine.” And then somebody tries to take it, it’s bad news, right? But then we grow up and we have a lot of division, it’s between – it’s mine and yours, that’s it, that’s the division and don’t mess with mine. It’s mine, it’s my country, it’s my husband, it’s my wife, it’s my son, it’s my daughter, it’s mine.
So I thought maybe we’d do some meditations on these two things, on where do we think we’re going, where we need to go to find this happiness? We’re all on this pursuit of happiness. And also a little bit of meditation on, what do we own? So just settling in to a comfortable position for you. You’re maybe just coming aware of your body. Your body is sitting on the cushion, your body is sitting on the chair. Just feeling the weight of your body as it’s just allowing your awareness to collect in your body. And then moving your awareness to your heart’s center, whatever that means to you, it could be your physical heart or the center of the chest, it’s wherever you feel kindness arise, compassion arise. And if it helps for you, you can even put your hand on your chest. And with self compassion for yourself – it’s really important to keep this compassion as we look within – allowing to come to mind a situation or something in your life where you feel like you really need to get somewhere and there may be people in your way. This could be something small like something at work your position at work, or maybe people or traffic, that’s a good example. It could be something in your house where something needs to be done just a certain way. It’s a minor something holding you back from getting what you want, you’re feeling frustration, separateness.
And again, with self compassion is looking and it’s okay to feel this way, we all do. Just notice how this makes you feel when you feel this frustration. And then thinking of those others involved – remembering that they’re just like you trying to get something too they believe this can bring them more happiness, love, connection, approval. And then maybe open yourself up to the possibility of feeling love right where you are instead of needing this thing or situation to work out in a certain way, just opening up to maybe feeling that as life is right now as you are right here. And then bringing this sense of love into this next inquiry. Seeing if it’s possible to abandon the attachment of what you don’t own. Remember we don’t own the people in our lives, most importantly we could start there. We have free choice, can we love them anyway? And we’re born with this body, this body is as it is, we don’t need to self identify it as a possession; we just need to love our bodies just the way that it is.
These emotions, too, they just come and go and spring up from nowhere and they fall back into the mystery of loving emotions just as they are. And if we look into all of our minds, we all think we’re crazy monkey minds thinking of all this crazy stuff all the time. Thoughts come and go from nowhere; we don’t own them. We could say “my thoughts” but we really don’t know. So this inner critic, may be just in these in love and compassion it’s way to.
And the next, looking at how we can connect. First of all, we can connect because we all suffer, doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, where you live in the world, at some point in our lives we all suffer. Think of all the people we think we’re in the vision of coming into some common ground; we all suffer in some way. You maybe think of people you know on the outside it looks like they have it all, maybe their parent is dying, and their job’s in jeopardy, you never know.
And our last one is obvious, how we connect is that we all want love. And some of us go about this in maybe some ways that we’re not so skillful, maybe we’re not trained in the proper ways to receive love, how to get love in a healthy way and maybe revisiting the situations with people in your life that may be holding you back, really connecting to these situations with love. And if there is a person involved, that person may be suffering in his or her own way and is really just looking for love, then extending this visualization not only to those difficult people, but just the day to day people in your life. What would be like to walk through a day in your own life, really with your heart looking at each person as if they may be having a challenging time or looking for love, would you listen more, smile more, offer to lend a hand? See yourself driving, everyone’s trying to head home to their families and loved ones, their pets. Maybe they’re hungry or tired for a long day. See yourself sitting in kindness.
And lastly just notice how you feel in your body, maybe it’s tangible, maybe not so much, but just thinking of kindness, love, compassion. Might make you feel a certain way. Just remember we have not gone anywhere, nobody has given us a gift, not done anything except looked into what was already there. Right there inside each and every one of us. So maybe what we’re looking for, we already have.
Buddhist Women Saints
So welcome once again to the inside LA Long Beach Sunday Sit.This is a celebratory day for us. It is a two-year anniversary and I want to bring…So this is our two-year anniversary of coming here to sacred roots. So we’ve been Sunday Sit here…yeah, every Sunday two years. So quite amazing. And yeah, so thank you to all of you who make this happen and they make this community, which is the most important piece. And thank you too Wendy for coming on board to as many of you know Wendy and I share the responsibilities and that’s a lot of work and a lot of love and awesomeness.
Wendy: As I say, when Cayce likes to answer all the emails or write emails, he writes just love, he should really write just love and elbow grease. It’s not just love.There’s so much hard work on his behalf to create a community and selflessly and without, you know, just very with humility, he’s really put so much hard work into this community and this sit. So I say thank you to Cayce for all that hard work.
Cayce: Thank you. Yeah, so today we’re going to talk about women in Buddhism. And a lot of different layers to this. I really didn’t know how to approach it. I think I just want to tell you my intention first of all to share in this. And my intention is sharing about women and Buddhism is that it’s kind of one of those things that we just need to talk about, we need to be aware of. And I think this goes for maybe a lot of different religions, and Buddhism is no exception that there is a discrepancy in the celebration and inequality of women in Buddhism.
And we’re at a time now where women teachers, women nuns…It is so fruitful right now for all of us and we should really take advantage of it because historically, this hasn’t been the case. And so I want to just talk a little bit about the history of it and in bringing that awareness to the table how we could really take advantage and make sure it doesn’t happen again — take advantage of the time that we live in. That’s quite amazing. For me, personally, very close to my heart, most of my closest teachers are all women. I definitely have teachers that I consider—they might be a guru or whatever, that might be a male—but most of the download of knowledge came from Tibetan Buddhist nuns.
When I lived at centers for just about six years, and in those centers we had five directors, all of them women, that ran the centers. And most of the teachers were Western Tibetan Buddhist nuns. And we’d have these amazing Lamas come in, these male Lamas come in and do these great teachings too. They come and go, but the resident teachers were women and they would teach all year long, they were just there teaching the whole time. And the beautiful part of it, they were teaching in a language that I understood not going through a translator. Most of the Tibetans would go through a translator for one.
They lived, they spoke my language, lived my culture – very relatable. And they had an amazing practice. Now, back historically this wouldn’t be the case, where they were fully ordained, they were given all the secret teachings Venerable Tenzin Chogkyi we hope to get here next year.When I first met her she’d just came out of six years of silent retreat – phenomenal, amazing. Venerable N??? did twelve years of retreat – amazing. Venerable Robina would come, and actually, she came a couple of times here in Orange County. One of the earliest ordained monastics in America; she was one of the first ever ordained monastics in the Tibetan lineage, so incredible knowledge. And historically, these individuals would not even be allowed to be or fully ordained. They wouldn’t be allowed entrance to all of the classical teachings. They wouldn’t obviously be allowed to teach – all these things, so we’ll talk a little bit about what happened there, but it’s important to know.
So one of the interesting things about this, especially in Tibetan Buddhism is that, when Buddhism came to Tibet, it came through the way a Padma Sambhava he’s also called Guru Rinpoche, and this is the eighth century Guru Rinpoche, I’ll just say that’s easy. And his first student was Yeshe Tsogyal, who was a woman and she became fully enlightened and she’s probably the most prolific and important characters in all of Tibetan Buddhism. So it’s interesting — and again, we’re going to go into a little bit about what happened but it’s interesting that.
The first embodiment of Buddhism in Tibet, specifically, came in this partnership between Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal, so there’s this just completely equal parts here, and then after that it became very male-dominated. And so Yeshe Tsogyal, she was born a princess. And at the time of her birth, there were many auspicious signs, just signs that people knew, that is being born was of special quality. And legend has it that by ten years old she was already full-grown and she was exquisitely beautiful, just amazingly beautiful. She was so beautiful that people would come from India, Mongolia and Nepal just to look at her, just to see her.
She was that beautiful. She was like an emanation too, and she already had cities which was some powers. She already exhibited some powers. And so, when she was going to be married off, you know, her father the king wanted to marry her off, she refused and one of her cities is – another technical term – it’s a form of yogi flying and Milarepa had this too. They could run really fast. So she could run really fast, it’s like this is flight of foot – that’s what they call like, flight a foot. It’s interesting, there’s videos of Dalai Lama talking about the yogi flying, have you ever seen this? He talks about Yogi’s flying through the valleys or Tibet when he was a kid. It’s really interesting. It’s a form of yogi flying. But she would run away. So she just run really fast, she’s run away. But eventually, she did marry a king and she stayed with him for a while until Guru Rinpoche came to Tibet. And when Guru Rinpoche came he clairvoyantly knew about her and so he asked the King if she can come live with him and become his student and the King agreed, thankfully. And so Guru Rinpoche took her and they went to do secret practices and he downloaded everything to her. And one of the cities she had was perfect memory.
So she had perfect memory. And so she transcribed all of the teachings and they knew together, her and Rinpoche knew that these teachings had to be unraveled throughout time, so not all the teachings could be disseminated during that historical time. This is eighth century, right, you need to roll it out. So what they did is they created this…Well, it’s called a Treasure Revealer Lineage. And so they had 108 Mahasiddhas, these great enlightened beings that chose to actually reveal the teachings throughout time. And Yeshe Tsogyal would transcribe the teachings and literally put them into stone or caves, and there’s also some teachings that she put into the ethers into the Akashic—into space, right? And these would be revealed throughout time. I know it sounds really mystical like, “really, dude?” but it’s actually is still going on today. So those beings, those 108 beings at that time, all agreed to incarnate – if you believe in such things-about that time and actually agreed to be present historically. And this is still happening. So I’ve met actual treasure revealers that are revealing treasures in our lifetime. So what happens usually is they’re meditating and they will get a vision and they will call upon the Sangha and say, “we have a new teaching coming our way and it’s over here,” and it’ll be a ceremony. They’ll come and they’ll go into a cave or rock and they will pull out a teaching. And a lot of times is written in what they call Dakini script. So she wrote it in a certain language, but it’s from Yeshe Tsogyal. I know it sounds fantastical but it’s true. And they will actually receive a teaching for our time. And a lot of practice that we actually practice in Tibetan Buddhism had been revealed in such a way, and it’s all because of Yeshe Tsogyal.
Sometimes she does come in a pure vision and she will disseminate it that way. So that’s a different type of revealing. It’s quite interesting. So what happened? So, after her for about 2,000 years, the Buddhist teaching has largely been transmitted through a male lineage. And how many of you know Tenzin Palmo How many of you have read this amazing spiritual classic Haven in snow. No nobody? Okay, you go home, on Amazon or whatever, order this book – absolutely amazing. So, Tenzin Palmo, she’s born in 1964 in London and she read a book on Buddhism and she knew that was it, she’s like, “I’m Tibetan Buddhist. I know it. I’m TibetanBuddhist.” And how many of you know Chögyam Trungpa? Shambhala? Ever heard the word Shambhala? So she actually met Chögyam Trungpaa nd he was a nobody back then and he actually hit on her several times, which he’s known to do, you know, he was crazy wisdom teacher. And he was actually trying to woo her too, he said, “You know, us Tibetan Lamas, we’re really powerful. We could do powerful things.” And she said, “Yeah, really? Neat.” And he’s like, “Yeah, we could make it rain. We can make — wherever you want, we can make it rain.” And she said that one day he did. He went to her house – I think it was her house. I think it’s in this book – it was raining just above her house, he’s like, “Look what I can do.” But she never fell for it, right. But she met Chögyam Trungpa he became an amazing Lama here in the United States – really incredible. And at 20 years old, she moved to India to become a nun. And before that she had ran into the Dalai Lama before she became ordained and he said, “Hello Ani,” and she didn’t have no idea what that meant and so after the meeting she was asking somebody, “But he called me Ani. My name is not Ani.” And he said, “No, that means you’re ordained. That’s what we call the nuns, like, Ani Las. The Dalai Lama already knew that she would become ordained. So she became ordained and she went to live and work with 100 monks. She was the only female practitioner, the only one. And she couldn’t even live with them. Technically, she had to live off property so she would work there all day and she wouldn’t work with him and she wouldn’t practice with them. She actually had to work as a secretary to her teacher and then go home at night. And then her Guru gave her a teacher that wouldn’t actually teach her like all the actual practices.
So there she was just getting more and more angry and she knew that if she was male then she would get all the teachings right. And so this dates back to the Buddhist time. In Buddha’s time one of the first ordained nuns in Buddha’s time was his aunt, who actually acted as his stepmother. And his aunt was ordained. The Buddha, when asked, he actually declined at first but then ordained her and she had like 500 followers – all nuns. And at that time he said that she would be ordained as long as she would adhere to what they call the Eight Conditions. And the Eight Conditions were very chauvinistic.They were like, “You need to sit behind the ordained monks.” And there was another one, this is an example of one of the conditions “A nun who has been ordained even for 100 years must greet respectfully, rise up from her seat, salute with joined palms, do proper homage to a monk ordained but that day”. Awesome, right? <sarcastically> Yeah, so most of the scholars believe Buddha didn’t say that, but like many of the texts, they were used by males who in power to sway to basically do what they want to do which is run the show, which is very unfortunate.
So Tenzin Palmo being in this – having such a zeal for the Dharma, she wants the teachings so bad she’s willing to do absolutely anything for them and she’s getting stung every single part of the way. She moves to India, she gets ordained, but she’s not getting the teachings. So I’m going to read you a little bit about what she’s going through here in her frustration, “I once visited to a nunnery where the nuns had just come back from hearing a high Lama teach. He had told him women were impure and had an inferior body. They were so depressed. And this was a very common thought. Their self-image was so low. How could he build a genuine spiritual practice when you’re being told from all sides that you’re worthless?
At one point I asked a very high Lama, if he thought women could realize Buddhahood and he replied that they could go all the way to the last second and then would have to change to a male body.” You can imagine that. “And I said ‘what is it about a penis that is so essential for becoming enlightened.’” “what is it about the male body that is so incredible,” she asked forthright as ever. “And then I asked if there’s any advantage in having a female form. He said ‘You go away and think about it.” The next I day came back and said, “I’ve been thinking about it. The answer’s no, there’s no advantages whatsoever. I thought – this is Tenzin Palmo -I thought one advantage is we don’t have a male ego. Urged on by her own and unhappiness and the blatant unfairness of it all, Tenzin Palmo began to research their reasoning for this loathing of the female body. Her findings were illuminating.
“The Buddha never denied that women can been enlightened,” she said, “in the early sutras the Buddha talked about 32 points of the body which would be to be meditated upon in death. The meditator had to visualize peeling — this is a very common teaching in Tibetan Buddhism. It’s a little gross, but just bear with it for a moment. He had to visualize cleaning the skin off to examine what was really there, that guts, the blood, the puff, the pus, the waste matter. The Buddha’s purpose was twofold: to you create detachment from our obsession with our own body and to lessen our attraction to other people’s body. So it’s a way of unattachment.
The idea is that one is less fascinated when one sees a skeleton stuffed with guts and blood. However, the writings later change when you get to Nagarjuna who wrote in the first century AD in Shantideva, “The object of contemplation has turned specifically to a woman’s body. The meditator now has to see the woman’s body as impure. The Buddha truly enlightened saw things as they really were. Others, however, use the Buddha’s insights to serve their own purpose. So rather than looking at our identification and obsession with the physical, the Buddha’s teachings were used as a means of arousing disgust towards women.
If you have a monastic setup, it is useful to view women as the enemy she added pointedly. The idea that women were dangerous wiling men away from sanctity and salvation by their seductiveness and a rampant sexuality. It was as old as a fable of Eve herself. Tenzin Palmo was having none of it. Really it’s not the woman who is creating this problem; it’s the man’s mental defilements. If the man didn’t have desire and passionate nothing the woman could do would cause him any problem at all. She said, “Once the Lama accused me of being seductive and causing him difficulty, I was aghast. I’m not doing anything, it’s your own mind I protested, he laughed and admitted it was true.” This reminds me of a Bevis and Butthead episode where Bevis and Butthead take this girl to court for sexual harassment and so she goes on, you know, she goes to testify and as soon as she gets up there they go, “Okay, she’s doing it again.”
Her presence was causing them — it was like sexual harassment right, just like this, just like her presence. So he was being skewed. And there was this meeting of this Lama, this really amazing Lama woman and she told – the Dalai Lama was there, a lot of the high male Lamas. She says, “I want you to all close your eyes and I want you to visualize yourself walking into a gompa,” which is a meditation room “and I want you to visualize that all the deities and all those golden Buddha’s that you see all around the room are all female. And then I want you to visualize that the entire lineage all female. And I want you to visualize yourself being told to sit behind all the women, all the nuns and you go sit behind all the nuns because your body is impure. The Dalai Lama, everybody, now open up your eyes.” And they open up their eyes their’s a whole new view on what is happening, right?
Now I brought the lineage tree. This is this is a lineage tree of Tenzin Palmo, her and I share the same lineage, Tibetan Kagyu lineage. The four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, one’s a Kagyu lineage. She’s a Kagyu nun. This is alineage tree. It’s all dudes and all men right. We have the Dakinis like the Yeshe Tsogyal here disseminating all the knowledge. The Dakinis are feminine deities and they actually have given the majority of all the teachings to the lineage we talked about a couple weeks ago. We talked about Talopa, Naropa, Gampopa, Milarepa. Well there’s Telopa, there’s Milarepa, Telopa, Naropa, Gampopa, Milarepa, and then the Karmapa and then all of the Karmapa’s to the present day Karmapa — it’s just like we have the fourteenth Dalai Lama, we’re on the seventeenth Karmapa, so it’s an unbroken lineage all the way and his heart sons we call them.
All the way down to remember me personally and to her, all the way down to our teachers, right all the way down. But they’re all male, right, other than some like Tara and whatnot, some actually deities. So this is kind of what they were up against. So at that point in time Tezin Palmo said, “I vow from this day forward, I’m never going to take a male form until I’m enlightened. I do not want your male body. I will reach enlightenment as a female that’s it and she’s probably enlighten but they can’t say it anyone they break the vows, once you take vows you cannot rebuild any of your insights, if you look at the Dalai Lama anyone who come they say “I’m a normal person. I have no realizations.” It actually breaks their vows if they say they have any realization at all. So always remember that when you’re in front of a Lama or anything, they’ll always say; “I have no realization,” it will break their vows.
So Tenzin Palmo went on and received all the teachings, it was one of the first ever in the…And the Karmapa, it was a sixteenth Karmapa at the time. We’re on the seventeen Karmapa. The sixteenth Karmapa gave her the full ordination and he would whisper to her, he said, “You’re in the first one, but there’s going to be many, many, many behind you. At all costs like never break the Samayas, which is like your rules between you and your Guru and never lose your ordination, like, do not ever undo what is done. So stay in that your whole life to be that example, like doom, always stay this way. And she really took that to heart. And then she was able to go into retreat and she spent 12 years in the Himalayas in a cave in retreat and she survived weather, just unbelievable. You’ve got to read the book. It’s incredible, but she surviving 30 below temperatures up there. And she was taught Tummo by… Tummo is the practice at an inner heat, you know, so really incredible.
[Listen to audio for the associated meditation]
We’re talking today about “connection” and being mindful of this connection in our lives, and are we moving towards a separation, or moving towards a greater connection? So it’s important to kind of see the things in our life that bring us more connection and to be aware of things that bring us into a more state of separateness. In Buddhism they have this really bad word that they translated. The word is “emptiness”. Wendy and I were just at Inside LA at a teacher – I don’t know what to call it – a teacher training thing just last weekend, and Trudy, the founder of InsightLA, she’s like, “Man, that’s such a horrible, horrible word, this emptiness.” Because even in Buddhist terms it doesn’t mean nothingness, there’s definitely something there. And if we look at the more India based schools, they talk about oneness and fullness and…yeah, this interconnectedness, this oneness is much more prevalent. And really like that much better in the Buddhist they’re talking about empty of a sort of a certain type of imputed existence, you know, this relative existence really, but when we get to the bottom of it it’s really full, and what is it full with? All the positive qualities of mind, divine bliss, love. We look at the things that we feel create separateness like fear. Fear is self-protection, and this is love. Fear is just great love rising. When we have fear, we’re trying to protect something, right, so this is love manifesting.
And so I think that this base of connectedness, we could trace it back to love, we could trace everything back to our sense of wanting to be grounded in more and more love and then the more that we tie ourselves into this loving presence, the more connectedness we’re going to find. I had a situation — I’m a caregiver for a 90-year-old, and I had a situation where she was struggling with something, and being that she wasn’t asking for help she was just sitting over there struggling and suffering, I became irritated right. And so instead of coming from a place of love, I came from a place that irritation and I forget exactly what I told her, but obviously I was annoyed. I was like, “Why are you doing this? Why aren’t you asking for help? And so instead of course her feeling my love, she’s feeling my irritation so this caused in her agitation and she said, “Oh, I’m just a nuisance, you know, you don’t need to help me,” all this stuff. And so I noticed this separation that I had caused, I felt very separated from her. She was in her own thought process; I was in mine, very disconnected. So I decided, you know, I once I recognized this, I kneeled next to her and then I kind of tuned in their place of love and I explained, “You know, actually, I want to help you. Being that you do not ask for help, makes me frustrated,” so I just explain myself. And I said, “Can you please ask for help when you need help so I can help you,” and I gave her a big hug. And then we were connected, we were connected again like that.
And so really it’s the waking up to this, because really what I wanted even from the beginning, I really wanted to — it was out of compassion that I was frustrated, right. I call it “wrong compassion” that I had allowed this become to attachment, because I was attached to her feeling good. So we always have to look at when we cross the line between compassion and frustration and anger. There’s always that fine line; compassion is great, but then as soon as we get attached to an outcome, then it could drift into anger or frustration or something, right, disappointment. We have to be careful of this. So this is the mindfulness part of it of “Wow, you know, I’m I really creating connectedness here or separation?”
And I happened upon an article in psychology today and the title was “Eight ways to turn loneliness into deep connection” and I thought it was interesting. And I’m just going to kind of go through them and we’re going to do it a practice, kind of a universal one from the Tibetan tradition after this, but I thought this was just an interesting kind of bullet points to work off of. And sometimes I feel like when I read psychology books or articles I think that I’m just reading Buddhism like now. It’s like it is converted. It’s like, ok we’re just going to do Buddhism, I guess.
So “give the emotion full expression,” was the first one. So this is basic mindfulness like when we really look inward nonjudgmental awareness and we look in and we give the emotion full expression, so that means we’re allowing it to be as it is, right. To have full expression, we’re not suppressing it, there’s no aversion to it, we’re allowing it to be as it is. And what are we doing right then? We’re connecting to ourselves; distraction and aversion lose us away from ourselves, and as soon as we move away from something, then we don’t have any possibility to nurture it anymore because now we’re pushing away. So the first thing allow emotion to have full expression So let’s say my example, I allow my frustration to have full expression. And this is not in the expressive way of acting it out – I want to be clear upon that, that full expression like, “Waah!” It’s not this; it’s to feel it fully to have an experiential taste of it, allowing it to be as it is. And we have wisdom there, because sometimes if something is too strong and too heavy is actually not wise to sit with it right away very fully, sometimes we do need to kind of calm ourselves down and in other ways that we could label distraction and that’s we have to use our wisdom there. But for the most part see if we could be with it.
The second one was “go into silence.” To transform this loneliness into connection is to go into silence, and again, when we’re going into silence we’re actually being with, going into silence and being with ourselves and being with what is here. And our goal here is not just to run away in a sense of our problems; we’re really looking to transform the suffering, to transform our suffering, to learn from it. And the altruistic view is that if we could learn how to transform our own suffering, then we could teach others how to do it too. This is like the end goal. So all of this is like what? It’s so easy to run away. I don’t know, it’s actually proven, not easier. I just read a little thing, I don’t know where, but it was that distracting ourselves from our suffering actually causes more suffering than being with it. Being with it and acknowledging it is actually…And we know through like a meditation perspective this is actually a way to complete freedom, but even in the moment actually being with it. It’s truly amazing. Feeling like we could love a piece of ourselves that really needs it. So amazing. We could be there for ourselves.
The third one was “Engage in Mindful Meditation”. All right. Paying attention in the present moment on purpose non-judgmentally. What a revolutionary thought? We don’t need to judge anything good, bad or indifferent; we could see it for what it is. And it might not be so scary when we really, really look, really investigate the substantiality of it. Really, what is it exactly? What are we running from exactly? A thought? Emotion? What are they? When we really investigate them, what are they? Are they a solid, as they seem to be? And furthermore, if we really look deep, deep into them, can we find the source of them and can we really feel experientially that it’s coming from a place of love. So if we look deep enough or long enough, we can get to that essence. And then we’re just abiding in love itself. There’s no problem. Everything is arising, abiding only back into love itself, but we have to look. If we believe our thoughts right away and judge them right away, then we get caught up in our belief of them and never get to really see the essence of them.
“Taking care of your body” was the next one; turning loneliness to deep connection – taking care of your body. And they talked about how we’re disconnected from our bodies. And of course, mindfulness a body was step number one; by taking care of our body becoming aware of our body. And this can anchor us very deeply with a sense of connection that we’re in our body, just feeling in our bodies sometimes. Sometimes we’re really revved up, just feeling anchored in our body. This is a deep connection, right. Our bodies connected to the earth, connected to the elements, right. The wind element is our breath. The water element – the blood in our body. The earth element – the actual substance, the flesh, the bone of our body. So we’re connected.
This is my favorite one which is “to serve’; want to turn loneliness into connection serve. And what we’re doing is we’re connecting with the universe so that universality…Does that sound right? Universality of suffering when we serve. We know that it’s so comforting, especially if we’re feeling this despair to serve because we’re saying, “Hey, I’m meeting you, I know you might not be having the best time or I’m going to go out of my way to help somebody else,” and this is a deep, deep, deep connection that we have that we all suffer in some way. And I’m using this very broadly, you know, the suffering is not just catastrophic suffering, but just suffering in daily life of a social anxiety or whatnot. So serving really opens us up to a deep sense of connection and also meaning, purpose. This is a great sense of happiness.
“Connect with nature” — speaking of the elements, we have the beach here and it’s just so incredible. I love when I get to meditate at the beach because it’s connection with the elements, we’re sitting on the earth. I was meditating at the beach one time and it was a little bit of a breezy day and I was sitting there on the earth and the sun was really warm that day so I felt a fire element on my skin. And then the wind, like I said, it was quite breezy so the wind was caressing my skin, the air element. And then the wind was picking up water from the ocean and it was sprinkling on my skin, the water element was there, then we have just the consciousness element, just element of being. It was all there. I felt so connected. It’s just all there within, without – amazing. And when we’re sitting in nature we see the interconnectedness of all things.
And this is really what we want to feel. You know it’s interesting the nature that they’re connected, you know, concentric rings when we’re in nature there’s something called concentric rings. I don’t know if people are familiar with this but it’s when something happens in nature and everyone hears it all around. It has this concentric ring. One little action really influences everything around it. So if a predator, for example, comes into the area, there are certain birds and certain animals who will actually alert the other animals, and I find this very interesting in the natural world because it’s very altruistic because by actually alarming the other animals, that animal is more susceptible to be killed, yet they’re warning all the other animals. Just quite interesting. You know, there’s another note on being altruistic, they did a study with bats, and the bats can only live, I think, it’s three days without food. And the group of scientists, they took these bats and there was a group of them that they took away from the group so they are malnourished, and when they reintroduced them back into the group the other bats took their own food and started to feed them because they knew they were hungry, which of course, by giving away their own food they were in trouble of starving themselves possible. And so even in bat, that situation, looking for connection, looking for connection.
The seventh one was “practice loving kindness meditation”; this is just Buddhism in psychology today. And we’re going to do a form of the loving kindness meditation together in a few minutes. I love this one too; fall in love with yourself. I think for me it’s a great definition of the spiritual path, we’re falling in love with ourselves. And to fall in love with ourselves, to fall into unconditional love with ourselves — just like loving somebody else, we have to love all of us, every nook and cranny. And to do that, it takes great courage, it takes great — it takes some effort, it really takes stability of mind, you know, this thing with concentration because we really can’t have loving kindness without Samatha, without concentration because we really can’t hold the light of our awareness long enough to really see ad enlightened all those little aspects of ourselves. Does this make sense? Because our mind wants to draw us away all the time, it doesn’t really want to look at everything. So we have to sit in the darkness and shine a light on the darkness until everything is illuminated. We have to illuminate everything with attention, and attention is love really. As soon as we make something up – let’s say we see a negative quality in somebody and we make a story around it and we impute that on that person and that person is just like that, every time we see them from now until eternity, they’re just like that. We don’t give them any opportunity to change and move and become something new. And we do that with ourselves “Oh, I’m just like this.” And as soon as we make up that story and we believe it, then we can’t really see our true essence again, we forget about the divine love again in ourself. So we have to have the stability of mind in meditation to really shine a light on all the different aspects of ourselves until we see it for what it is, you know, that thought or that emotion or that action or that past something, you know, holding the light on it, see it for what it really is is another manifestation of love.
So we’re going to do a meditation. And this is a very Tibetan meditation. It’s not… It’s kind of a hard one to pass on in the West here, but we’re going to give it a try anyway…Because I really like this sense of universal connection. They call it “seven point mind training” which I love too because the mind training is really hard training. In the West we call this you know “total heart practice”, it’s like heartfulness, mindfulness, same thing. And so the first thing that we’re going to do is we’re going to think about the possibility that all beings…And traditionally speaking this is how the instruction goes, if you meditate on the possibility that all beings may have been our mothers in the past. And for one, some of us in this culture even thinking that the mother was kind and loving, and all that doesn’t really work so sometimes people like, “I don’t want to visualize people as my mother “ in a kind way or something.
So I’ll kind of go into things you get more just to work for you, but first, the traditional thing is to look at — and of course, they believe in reincarnation so they believe that we have been incarnating for countless lifetimes and during that time all beings have cared for us and you could say that all beings have been kind to me in some way. I kind of fell for it, I like to think of it “all beings have been my mother in the past.” And mothers are infinitely kind, just to carry in the womb and then me think of it in the human form of all the nurturing that takes place afterwards. So all the kindness of a mother.
I have this amazing experience where I was hiking and there’s this deer. I came around the corner and this deer was really close to me, really close, like, ten feet of that wall and I was like, “Oh, wow, beautiful. Look at that deer. Amazing,” and I was just waiting for it to jump away, and it didn’t, it actually jumped towards me, like, a foot, just jump towards me a little bit and then bounded the other way a little bit. I’m like, “What’s this deer doing?”And it bounded towards me a little bit and then away. I was like, “Ah, something’s up.” And then I took a couple more steps and I looked and there was a baby right behind it. And this deer was trying to get me to chase it, you know, this mother was sacrificing its life for the baby. You know, it was sitting there protecting it, it was kind of looking to me like, you know, like, “Chase me,” it was trying to get out of the way. It’s quite amazing and I thought this is the energy of the mother that I’m thinking of. It would sacrifice itself for the young.
So yeah, the first thing is I think that all beings have been our mother in the past. This is actually the second step. This is one of the core philosophies as we go through; I’m going to guide us through it after this, but… So, if that doesn’t work for you all, I think, “You know what, all beings are kind and they’ve been kind to somebody, whether it’s me or somebody else, all beings have kindness within them.” So we’re looking for the universal kindness. And I have a story; my friend spent – he was a Tibetan Buddhist monk – and he spent a long time in retreat and he would do this practice a lot, and he’s by himself in the retreat, and so a little ant would go by and he would, “Oh, mother sentient being. Oh, my mother…”like this little ant, you know, it just have so much devotion for this little ant, really feeling that this ant could have been a precious mother in the past. How beautiful to think, like, why not, right? And again, sense of connectedness. We can connect on a lot of different levels. This is one way to feel a sense of a connection with all beings.
Hello, welcome everybody. So I just want to say thank you to Soleil. It’s very nice and to Kylie. It’s beautiful now. As many of you know my name is Cayce and I’m an instructor for InsightLA. I was at a InsightLA teacher training yesterday. I’d like to say I’m a sharer and one of the InsightLA instructors says, “I’m a student that happens to be teaching.” I like that. I’m a student that happens to be teaching. So we’re going to be talking today about the great “I am” and I’ll go on and explaining this unexplainable thing and…Well, I can’t explain if it’s unexplainable, but we’re going to be pointing to that. We’re going to be pointing to the experiential taste of this great “I am”.
I just think it’s amazing every time we come together for a Sunday Sit, it’s usually gorgeous outside has it is today and there’s a million things that we could be doing, and we’ve all come here to sit and then we look silly. We just didn’t do anything for half an hour, we just sat there doing nothing. We live in Southern California and we could be out doing anything, and you’ve come to do nothing. Sit there, you know, in a room lights turned off and look inside.
So this is revolutionary, right, revolutionary. For one, we’re stopping; that’s a revolution. I don’t think anyone checked their cell phone, even though Soliel and I had checked the time because I forgot my little clock. So we’re the only one. So we didn’t check our cell phones for half an hour, that’s amazing. We stopped, that’s amazing. And then we’re actually looking inside. Why? I mean, somebody who didn’t know meditation, what are they doing? I’m sure all of us would maybe like meditators say oh, why do you meditate? What do you do? Nothing. Why? I don’t really know. But this is kind of what we’re going to talk about today is why, like, what are we looking for? We’re obviously looking somewhere else out of the norm for an understanding, a happiness, a contentment or something, we’re looking for something, and we’re not entirely confident that it’s out here. If you’re in here and you’re looking in here, then you’ve tasted a little bit that it might not be out there. So we’ve come to at least that point that it might be somewhere else.
And so we’re looking at this discovering of what is it. And really we’re looking at who am I? What am I? What is it? This metaphysical question, why am I here? What am I doing here? So we’re looking for these answers. And so last we talked about delusion and we call this delusion a wrong view. And when we have a wrong view of existence we actually think we might be here for something but it’s actually not that. We think we’re here to accumulate more money and have the right partner and the right job and then that’s going to bring us gratification, happiness. That might be one reason why we’re here – for the stuff outside of ourselves. One idea of why we’re here. But then, there’s something else because we’re g and look at something else. But we’re discovering what is this something else?
This right view can come with an understanding the root of this is the understanding of the true “I”. So we have the little “I”, the Ego I and then we have the true essence “I”, the capital. And we could affirm this by “I am”. And one thing that we’re alluding to here is that this false “I” for lack of a better word, it really sucks to live as a small I. To be attached to the small I is not really that much fun. We call this the aggregates. These are the components in Buddhism they call the aggregates.
They’re components of the false I. And the false ‘I’ that we usually say this is me — so everyone point to themselves say…This is what we usually do “this is me”, right. And if you have played this game before you say, well, where exactly is it? And we go like this, is it that part of the flesh because everyone has a little I right here or something. Is a little man in there or a little woman. There’s a little I, you know, in there. There’s no brain surgeon that went into the brain and said, “I found it. There’s the I. There they are.” The heart surgeon never found it – never found the I.
One of the aggregates this components of the false I form, so when we attach the I to the form we might be in a little bit of trouble because the form is what? Always changing, it’s impermanent. And we know we have a problem already because we say something funny; we say “my body”.So now we have big problems already “my body”. But if we hit our finger with a hammer and we say i’m in pain. A moment ago you had a body, but now you’re in pain – big problems here. Who owns the body? Who owns the body? So we say things like “my mind” so this is another component. We’re made up of mind, body. We say oh, maybe I’m up here.We say funny things like my mind. Who owns the mind? We don’t say this is my cell phone and then I am my cell phone. The next moment we don’t say, oh, you know, if we hit the cell phone, drop the cell phone we’ll “Ouch.” So moment ago we own something and then the next moment we are that something.
How about your emotions? This is another component so that we’re made up of you hurt me, you hurt me, right, you hurt me. Not an emotion arising in the universal conscious mind but you hurt me – self identification with something that’s impermanent. My emotions – but we say my emotions. Even consciousness gets us in trouble. This belief, these concepts, we call this mental formations gets us in big trouble ideas, beliefs, get big trouble. We go to war over beliefs. We can kill somebody over a belief. We can kill ourselves over belief. Somebody is going to take their life today because they believed a thought. From Thich Naht Hahn – so true, so powerful “Our thoughts are weight a thousand pounds.” My thoughts – but when we self-identify with a thought – man, when they’re us. Like, that – dangerous and impermanent. So everything that’s impermanent cannot be us. It’s impermanent, it’s coming and going. We cannot be what comes and goes – it can’t be the true I.
I’m going to read a little bit from Vivekananda on this, the passing of “I”s, and the attachment—how we attach ourselves to this I.
“Some people are so afraid of losing their individuality. Wouldn’t it be better for the pig to lose its pig individuality if it could become God? Yes, but the poor pig does not think so at the time. Which state is my individuality? When I was a baby sprawling on the floor trying to swallow my thumb, was that the individuality I should be sorry to lose? Fifty years hence I shall look upon this present state and laugh just as I now look upon the baby state. Which of these individualities shall I keep?”
We’re trying to lock ourselves in the box of this moment I am. An athlete, bashing his self-identity or her self-identity to being an athlete. They have an injury, what happens? You take the label of the athlete away and what are they left with? A void of that, because they self identified with an athlete; trying to hold that present moment has the “I Am” I am that. But we’re shifting and changing.
So what we do in Buddhism is we have a negation process—“I’m not that”. We call this emptiness training where we find the substantiality of those aggregates. We look really deeply. This is one thing that we’re looking at very deeply inside, oh, what is that? Where do our thoughts come from? What’s a thought? How heavy is thought? How light? What texture? What shape?. Where does it abide? Where does it go? It’s you. Our emotions of you, you know, all these things as I have a fixed location, all those things. So invested in a substantiality of that one by one, and when what we call it we say we found the emptiness of it, which it doesn’t exist in and of itself, it’s dependent arising, it’s dependent on us saying that it exists.. Everything that we see in this collective I it takes a label to be exist.
We’ve gone over this. There’s no phone in the iPhone. There’s no piece of anything that you could take out that the iPhone is not going to exist any longer. And there’s no I, there’s no fixed I in these aggregates, these components of self. I’ll read one little thing from Lama Zopa. And I love how he talks about — he talks about himself in the third person which is great, because I never heard him say this. It’s funny. So he was giving a talk and he says, “In the same way this body is not Zopa…” So he’s talking about himself , “…and this mind is not Zopa — none of these five aggregate—form, feeling, recognition, compounding aggregates or consciousnesses—is Zopa. Even the whole group of these aggregates is not Zopa. It is the base to be labeled Zopa. You cannot find Zopa nowhere on the group of all these aggregates on the association of this body and mind. But it doesn’t mean that there is no Zopa. Zopa exists in this hall. There’s no other reason that there’s Zopa in this hall except that these aggregates, this body and mind are here.” So in relative reality, we’re all here, because we have labeled it such.
This is how we communicate in relative reality. It’s the only reason that it is believed that Zopa is in the hall. Again, what Zopa is is extremely fine, extremely subtle. That subtleness is “I am”. And what we mean by this is I am aware. So dzogchen and some of the schools, they will say – instead of saying I am which is from other schools they will just say awareness. Because awareness is what’s left behind. When we let go of the thoughts and emotions and the body sensations all these things, what’s left? Awareness is left. I’m awake . What Buddha say when he was enlightened and he came upon the first people they say are you omniscient? Are you enlightened? Are you a guru? He just said, “I’m awake. This is it. I’m awake.”
If we say, “I am” and stop with this; it’s not the ego “I am”. It’s saying I am awake. I seek acknowledgement of your own awareness. I saw a comedian it was so interesting that. This was in his skit. It was so profound and had nothing to do with this, but he just threw it in there. It was like out of the blue. He was talking about the gun laws or something like that, and all of a sudden he says the most profound thing; he said just this, he says, “You know, I am is all we got.” He says, “I am is the only truth.” He says, “After that, it could be all made up.” He said,
“For example, right now I think that I’m here on stage talking in front of 20,000 people in this big auditorium. This is what I think.” He said, “but it could very well be the case that I’m in a mental institution right now staring at a wall thinking that I am a comedian standing up and talking to all these people.” And this is true in a very real sense because “I am” is the only common ground that we can all agree on. There’s not one single thought that you and I and all humanity could ever agree on, there’s not one belief. Because it’s relative reality. It’s relative to your mind.
In my mind, there’s no single truth in this dream. Only I am as known for real. Your I am is my I am. Your awareness is my awareness – unfettered, uncontrived awareness. And this is beyond mental formations which is another aggregate. What I mean by formation is anything that we think we are we cannot be. And this is the tricky part about when we go deep into meditation and we have these real blissful amazing experiences that seem so far out of this reality that it must be another reality. Yet, it’s only in no mind that this reality exists. If there is still a subject-object, there is still something having an experience. We’re not there yet.
This statement of “I and other”. See, just if we stay with “I am” – and it’s little confusing, but “I am” is just the awareness part. It’s not “I am other” it’s just that, just this is it. It’s undivided. As soon as we divide ourselves with a separate little, small ‘I” having an experience, that there is even a meditator having an experience, we have divided ourselves. How can we experience oneness when there is somebody being one? It’s not one, it’s not two, you can’t have a oneness experience and have a person or an entity or a feeling having it, right? It just is “is-ness” it’s is-ness experience it itself. There’s a great Zen saying that all the Buddhist teachings – and this goes for all the teachings – are there to take us beyond thought.
So what good is it that we hold on to all of those concepts and beliefs and teachings? All the techniques and teachings are there to throw away at the end. We have to throw away everything we know to know. You have to throw it away. It’s a means to an end. The teachings get us here to look inside. And then the techniques help us settle the mind and then we let go. Then we become. Then we become what we are seeking. We stop the seeking to stop and become and trust. Just like we’re all trusting here today by closing our eyes and looking within, an amazing trust in our own Christ consciousness, our own Buddha nature. So amazing amount of trust. What are we looking for you know? We must have some kind of intuition already just to do this and not…
Let me read something else. I totally forgot what I marked. I don’t know if this is even relevant. This is from the Zen teachings of…[Charles do you know how to say his name?] Huang Po, I never heard his name. It’s amazing. Life and teachings of Huang Po. “The original Buddha nature is in highest truth devoid of any atom of objectivity. It is void, omnipresent, silent, peer. It is glorious and mysterious peaceful joy and that is all. Enter deeply into it by awakening to it yourself. That which is before you is it.” Let me read that again – “that which is before you is it. Right here, in all its fullness utterly complete. There is not beside – means there’s nothing besides this. Even if you go through all the stages of Bodhisattva’s progress towards Buddhahood one by one when at last in a single flash you attain full realization, you will only be realizing the Buddha nature which has been with you all the time. And by all the four stages you will have added to it nothing at all.” This is a subtraction problem. We’re not adding anything to anything; we’re already it. This is it. I am. This is it.
I was living at a center and there was this Geshi and that really learned Lama and it’s a really hard training to become a Geshi. Michael Jackson had just died and they did a movie about his last tour it was called This Is It. That was in the name of the movie. And he heard that title and he was saying Michael Jackson Rinpoche. He was saying, “This is it! This is it!” Any all day long. I’d see him and say, “This is it!” He was so – I mean, he really wanted us to get it—this contemporary link, you know, that we could get it, that this is it. When nowhere to go – this is it.
I am. I am that I am, like, in the Bible “I am that I am”. I am the feminine. I am the masculine. You know, the teachers will say this, “I am that I am. This is relative reality and ultimate truth all in one. I am that I am. I am masculine, feminine. I’m a dual nature of relative existence. All things form into this material form and I am that-ness. I am the non dual nature of all existence. I am the nothing. I am the everything. I am that I am. Like that. In the Bible, “Moses, tell them ‘I am’ sent you.” Just that. We are God. We are the that-ness.
I’m going to going to play a little thing and I have no idea if this is going to work, but I’m going to check it out.Even physically I don’t know if this is going to work. So we’re going to all hang on to this same piece of thread here. I’m going to go ahead and take that and then just pass it along. Actually, I think it might work to go in a rose and then it’s going to wind like that. And then back to Zoe.
You notice there’s no stop and go, like, we’re waiting for this but we’re not waiting for anything. Everything’s already begun and it’s already done. Awareness, there’s no beginning or end to awareness. Where did your awareness begin? Where did it end? Where does it end? You notice awareness, every time you check into it uncontrived, it is just hanging out waiting for you and it’s waiting for you to remember. This is what mindfulness means, Sati, it means to remember the Pali sati mindfully — it means to remember. You notice it when once you remember awareness it’s already there, and you don’t need to do anything to make it there. And this is the I Am. You do not need to do anything to make yourself whole.
When we let go of what we’re not, we arrive at what we are. Let go of the aggregates. This is the unattached that Buddha talked about. Let go of attachment to the body. You’re not the body. Let go of the attachment to the mind; you’re not the mind. Let go; let be. Papaji says, “If I can get you for just for one moment; just for one moment let go of everything you know. You’d get it just like that; just one moment.”
We’re all going to tie a knot but before we do—So notice we’re all holding the same string, and this string represents the truth. It represents Buddha nature: your buddha nature, my buddha nature, Christ Consciousness, universal mind, whatever we want to call it, right, ultimate truth, this is it. Now, notice on this endless string, and it is endless, even though the roll – it’s endless in our – this is endless. Is that we could put this knot…We’re going to tie a knot and we could put this knot anywhere we want on this string. We’re just deciding. So just acknowledge that we’re going to decide. And so to make a knot in the string we could just double it up, put your finger like so and you know you just wrap it around your finger. And you could tie the knot however you want but just tie it around your finger and then just put the loop in and just tie a knot. And allow your fellow knot tie-rs if it’s not happening for you.
So notice that you tied the knot. Now we could agree that even though you tie the knot and you might have done an awesome job or maybe you didn’t tie a knot yet. Do we need more slightly some…You might need help tying your knot, that’s all right. Everyone have there knot tied. Now do you agree that even though it might be difficult it might be very difficult in fact but you can eventually untie this not if you had to. You could eventually untie this not, you agree? So you’ve created this knot and you could untie this knot. And we also know that in a very real way that even though you tied this knot, this is in knot is not in any way separate from the thread itself, it’s in no way separate from the thread; it’s made of the thread wholly and completely, agree? Yeah. Not different.
Also, you tied this knot, but the word knot could also mean not, as in N O T, like, it’s not there. This is a coincidence I’m found while trying this thing out. Even though we have a knot, it’s not.. It’s not-knot. Just a cool coincidence. But also too we can say that there’s not a knot there. Let’s say if we had a small knot in the string, we’re going to say grab me the string with all the knots. We could say that this is just string. It is just string. That’s it.
So why don’t we just, maybe just close our eyes for a moment and maybe still hold the string. And of course, this is an analogy for this I think that we think that we are, We think that we’re this individual knot and we might be tied up a bit in delusion and wrong thinking that we cannot see out of this knot that we’re tied up into. We cannot see the string. Just allow yourself to maybe feel into this connection point this own individual I, this own individual knot, but also see how that’s connected to not knowing but to the others just like you that think that there is a knot. We’re all this one stream of awareness represented here in this string. And allow your consciousness, allow your awareness right here and now to maybe flow through this very string, this physical, tangible string and just connecting to each other feeling the universality of our own awareness, consciousness. Notice that this awareness itself is not fixed in any location whatsoever.
Feel free to move within this awareness. Awareness – I am. Just leave it at that. We’ll be letting go of this string analogy here for a moment and just rest in this. Bask in the experiential answer of who’s meditating, who is looking. Don’t follow that thought, who owns that thought? Experience the answer. Let go. Surrender. Nothing to do. Nothing to achieve. No where to go. Throw away the map. You’re already at the top of the mountain. This is a. Yes, this. Notice you could do nothing at all, not even grasp a thought and still be. What is this beingness that’s still there?
And this is not something that’s found in a cave o a mountain, in long retreat, it’s right here. It’s so close we don’t see, it’s right here. Don’t need to make any ego around it. There’s no one like me. There’s no one like Cayce. It’s just this. So simple.When we’re free of the aggregates, no attachment to the components. Not wanting to make a better me, but just that, just awakening to this. So simple. Its most un-profound thing ever; the most profound thing that’s so un-profound. So simple. Just that. We over think it, over analyze it, over strive. Just this. So maybe we could release the string.