Thursday, March 18, 2010

Releasing Emotional Reactions – Method One, Bare Attention (Part 2)

Transcript of a podcast talk by Ken McLeod, RER03, accessible here.
Studied at Luminous Mind Friday night, March 5

We all start off with gaining ideas. But as our practice matures, we see it’s not so much about getting something from the practice, but that the more we are in the experience of what is, the less suffering arises for ourselves and other people.

Our tendency is to postpone experiencing unpleasant things. We would prefer to postpone them forever. (“Does never work for you?”)

It’s that attitude that creates imbalance in the world of our experience. The effect of that imbalance, especially if it persists over time, is the creation of patterns of behavior that create suffering for ourselves and others.

This is a technique which allows you to move into a more full experience of what is arising.

This morning I spoke of two metaphors of working with this:
1. Experience a fraction of the feeling.
2. Use distance as a way of experiencing the feeling.

A third way to think of this is:
3. Your breath is a rope. It gives you something to hold onto as you lower yourself into the feeling. If you can’t go further, stop there and experience it.

As your capacity to experience that increases, you can move deeper and not lose attention. When we join with the feeling, the feeling completes its reason for being and releases, and we find ourselves just present in a way we may not have experienced before.

The irony is, if you approach this practice with the intention to work through or dispel the feeling, you won’t get anywhere, because you have brought expectation into the experience.

Story of Milarepa

Milarepa saw 5 demons in his cave going through his stuff. He thought, “Well, I’ll have to get rid of these. They are probably manifestations of the local spirits. I haven’t been paying enough attention to them." So he sang them a song of praise. They ignored him completely.

"Hmmm. These are tougher demons than I thought. Well, demons are manifestations of disturbed states of mind, so I should meditate on compassion." And he sang another song to them, this time about compassion. They looked up from their activities and glowered at him.

"Okay, these are really tough demons." So he invoked a wrathful yidam to cut through things. The demons looked at him and laughed.

"Hmmm. Something’s not working here. Oh! My teacher said that whatever arises is simply a manifestation of my own mind. So I can engage them. Fully. Okay, guys, let’s get it on!" So he rushed into the mouth of the first demon. And it disappeared.

That’s how it is with our feelings. As long as we’re trying to get rid of them, they’re going to be there. So you say, Okay, this is what I’m experiencing. Let me experience it.
Then they let go because they’ve fulfilled their function.

But there’s an extraordinary human tendency to avoid feeling anything. So bring the feeling close enough that you begin to feel the disturbance of the feeling in you. That’s where you rest.


What you’re looking for is the edge. If you go beyond the edge, you fall into chaos. If you don’t go to the edge, nothing changes.

You go the edge and rest your attention right there, with whatever is arising. As you develop more and more capacity, you can move deeper into the feeling without getting lost. But you have to find where your edge is for you.

If it all goes away, then rest right there. If it arises again, work with it again. Work with whatever arises.

We’re working with these difficult feelings so we can rest, present and open.

Key: Don’t try to make it into anything else.

The question isn’t, “Can I let go of this.” It’s “Can I experience this?” It’s a disturbance in your life because you keep pushing it away.

Think of your feelings as really hurt children.

Two qualities are needed:
Courage: to endure what arises in experience
Faith: the willingness to open to whatever arises.

Faith is also described as faith in our fundamental nature, which is no thing at all.
We can trust whatever arises in experience because there is nothing to defend.

It is a practice of learning to be in the uncontrollability of experience.

We’re developing the capacity to know or experience completely -- because this is all we can ever know.

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