• November 22, 2020

    We are so conditioned to make efforts. We think we can make efforts to change ourselves. We want to affirm and we do so with the pushing force. And what does that do? Look into it. You can see that it defeats itself. Can you jump over your own knees?

    Let us go by way of the negative, shall we? A somersault rather than a jump.

    Let’s consider fixation. What could be more ‘me’ than fixation? I’m always compulsively thinking about something so I miss much of what’s going on. My attention is forever being attracted to something or other, either because I like it (and therefore cling to it), or dislike it (and therefore avert it, push it away). My attention may skip from one thing to another but is it not always fixated one something, somewhere?

    What would it be like to be unfixated? Well, that would mean seeing/hearing/sensing everything around me. Immediately my affirming self jumps to the fore. “I can do that,’ says me. Wrong step. Let’s start again. If I am not clinging or averting, what is going on? What is the gesture that is neither? A gesture that is neutral, unattached.

    I have such a gesture, one that does not arise automatically, a conscious gesture therefore seldom arising. This gesture is releasing, allowing everything to be exactly as it is without my engagement.

    My eyes are open. I see. I notice that I am looking at something and my field of vision is narrowed. Can I release this something and temporarily see everything?

    There are two steps…noticing the fixation and releasing it. Affirming that I can see everything is not a step, it is a fixation.

    Can I learn to notice and release fixation? Find out. There are many fixations, of thought, of sensation. Can I notice and release them all as they arise? What happens if I do?

    Here’s the real secret. Skillful releasing offers up a direct perception of emptiness, not the emptiness of depression but rather the emptiness of pure consciousness, consciousness unattached and able to sense/glimpse itself. In Buddhist terms, you have experienced Sunyata and the spontaneous response is very joyous, a momentary freedom known as the first Bhumi. Bet you didn’t see that coming. No one does.

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  • May 15, 2017

    I find that I am fighting depression a lot of the time and it makes it impossible to do this work.

    Depression is the end point of a chain of causation. You may think that you know why you are depressed but the reason that you repeat to yourself in the thought loop at the end point of depression may be more the result of the depression rather than the cause.

    There are always completely rational reasons to be depressed but we are not always depressed. So, my point is that you need to get behind the obvious reasons you give yourself for depression states and observe the chain. Noting the beginning point is one key.

    Perhaps for you the beginning is some form of self-judgment or criticism. Perhaps there is a particular situation you are unable to respond to effectively and this failure sets you on a downward path. At the end point, you may be saying to yourself that life is not worth living but you probably did not start there. When you have reached the end point, you will probably not be able to find a reason that would make life worth living because the state of depression is sufficiently closed and lacking in energy that your thoughts are not reliable.

    It seems to me that depression is inextricably linked to expectation. It reflects an inability to accept what is. It’s a triumph of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” over the possibilities of the moment. I failed in the past and I will fail in the future. I am a failure. This is depressing, is it not?

    In our work, the method of dealing with these fixations is impartial observation of our postures, gestures and sensations. Perhaps this is not yet possible, due in large part to judgmental thinking. So, let’s start with that.

    An old business acquaintance once advised me: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Many of us hold ourselves and others to a standard that cannot be met. Too many expectations. We do not accept good. Good is not good enough.

    My Buddhist teacher once said that, without respecting samsara, the world of confusion, one cannot possibly discover the awakened state of mind. Samsara is the entrance, samsara is the vehicle for nirvana. In the words of our work, my ordinary life, my sleeping life, is the means of my awakening. Therefore, Rinpoche said, one can say that a violent character is good. It is a wonderful thing, it is something positive. Although at first I may be perplexed and wonder what is good in it, if I somehow get beyond the fascination part of it, I begin to feel good; I begin to realize that I am not just a “sinner” but that there is something good in me.

    It is exactly the same thing when one practices meditation. A person may begin to detect his own weaknesses. It may be in a mild form, such as a wandering mind or planning for one’s future, but do not oppose what is occurring, accept it, see it as good, as though one were sitting precisely in order to think these things over rather than to practice meditation. Seeing it as good provides a wonderful opportunity.

    If I am meditating at home and I happen to live in the middle of a busy street, I cannot stop the traffic just because I want peace and quiet. But I can stop myself, I can accept the noise. The noise also contains silence. We must put ourselves into it and expect nothing different from outside, just as Buddha did. I must accept whatever situation arises. As long as I do not retreat from the situation, it will present itself as a vehicle I can make use of it. It says in the Buddhist scriptures: “The dharma is good in the beginning; the dharma is good in the middle; and the dharma is good at the end.” The dharma is not a vehicle for self-criticism.

    It is the same with our work. Observe what is, not to find fault or to improve upon it, but just to see it. Good will come of this.

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  • May 5, 2017

    I understand that we are fragile as humans. Doesn’t that mean that we should try to create a safe environment where we don’t have to fight against negative influences?

    It is rational to value physical safety and to take reasonable precautions to preserve it, recognizing that perfect safety is not attainable. Psychological safety is another matter. In a sleeping world, there are negative influences everywhere. You cannot protect yourself from them. The problem is not in the environment. The problem is in you. So-called triggers cannot be eliminated by managing the behaviour of others. If your ego is fragile and sensitive, there is no end of possible so-called micro-aggressions. The answer is to be less fragile.

    Ego fragility…let’s call it identity fragility…is the first target of work on self. What triggers reactions in you? Find out. Observe the sensations, physical expressions, emotions and thoughts that arise. Learn to observe them impartially. What does impartiality mean? It means that you do not justify or defend any of these reactions. They are programmed reactions. They have no psychological validity in themselves, they are not special in any way and they have no significance that needs to be rationalized or understood. Nor are these reactions failings you should feel ashamed of. They are simply conditioning, which every human has. The moment you judge or justify them, you are identified. The aim of this work, if we can put it into one sentence, is to dis-identify.

    Therefore, triggers and micro-aggressions are welcome evidence that work on self can proceed. Not work on others, where they must refrain from triggering you, but work on impartial observation of yourself, which in time will free you from unnecessary reactions. Let me be clear that impartial observation is the work of voluntary attention, not the little voice in your head that tries to explain everything.

    Attention is the key. Your circuitry has been compromised by life in this world. Impressions have imprinted themselves on your nervous system. Certain experiences in the present now trigger a reaction from the past. You can engage in therapy to explore the origins of this programming, understand it and forgive yourself and others in order to move past judgment and justification. Or you can expose your reactions to wordless impartial attention and let it gradually remove the charge from your nervous system. In so doing, you may discover compassion for yourself and others. I leave it to you.

    Does impartial voluntary attention have the power to erase my fixations?

    Yes. The essential issue is identification. If your engagement with the fixation is to defend or condemn it, you are identified with it and it has power over you. You become its slave. This is because the fixation is being observed by your personality which is not separate from the observed although it pretends to be. The fixation is you. Can your personality surrender itself to being observed, leaving the false seat of authority and exposing itself to impartial attention along with its fixations? Who, then is the observer? Why, attention itself.

    Voluntary impartial attention is by its very nature dis-identifying. It proceeds without the interference of the thinking self. This form of attention is a higher form of energy than the energy of the fixation. Attention is able to reorganize and free the energy of the fixation. This process may require repeated exposure to accomplish its task but like wind and water it can erode even the hardest material.

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