Negative Mind States

Common sense, but worth remembering... or before we realize it, we are trapped in a vicious circle.

Negative Mind States (from 37P 02: 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva 00:52:05.40 - 00:55:08.00)

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And this is pretty basic Theravadan stuff, but it's just true. In the Theravadan tradition one of the ways you stop is that you become aware of negative mind states and you just make a point of tracking negative mind states. Don't try to change them. You just make a point of tracking, being aware, "When am I in a negative mind state." Now it's a very interesting little thing to do. When you are aware of being in a negative mind state, when you are aware of the negative mind state, are you in the negative mind state? No. You've started to step out of it. Now you're just aware of it. And so in this approach in the Theravadan the idea is you start reducing the amount of time you spend in negative mind states. And that by itself creates a condition for other more constructive states to arise.

Someone asked me once, why the 37 practices? I don't know how he arrived at 37 except that the only time 37 crops up in Buddhism are the 37 factors of enlightenment. I can't remember them all but I remember the first eight. The first four are the four foundations of mindfulness and the second four are called the four right efforts. There are other names for them.

Now the four right efforts are very simple. The first one is reduce those things which are making things worse. The second one is, stop those things which are making things worse. The third one is start doing things which make things better. And the fourth one is reinforce those things which make things better. You see it in the traditional thing, it's worded a bit more obscurely, or a little more Victorian English usually in translation. But when you think about it it just makes such wonderful common sense, so why wouldn't everybody do that? Do we? No! We continue to do things which make things worse and lo and behold, things get worse [laughter].
Thanks Ann for the transcription!


Kinds of Relationships

With over 30 minutes not a clip any more, more like a whole talk by itself - but full of information.

Kind of Relationships (from ATP06: A Trackless Path (retreat) 00:30:20.00 - 01:01:08.00)

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Balance in a Relationship

Balance in a Relationship (from Relationships and Emotional Reactions (talk) 00:04:59.00 - 00:10:01.00)

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And I'm making a distinction between knowing and understanding. Knowing is a mystery. And if you think about it, we can take any object, a stone, a flower, anything. To know it is to experience it completely, whatever it is. And that's a mystery. We can go into that in infinite depth. And as soon as we say, "I understand this," it's like applying a label, and you may observe that as soon as you apply a label to something you actually stop knowing it. Now you just relate to the label.

So here you are in the relationship; know your experience completely. And when we know our experience completely, certain things happen. One is that we know it's an experience, that it just arises seemingly out of nothing. It's there. Secondly, we know that it's an experience, it's not what we actually are, it's just something that arises. So there's a certain "Oh this is like everything else," in a very simplistic way. And when you know it, you know everything about about in all its particulars, how it's different from everything else.

And when you know something completely you also know what to do. That's a knowing that arises not usually through a conceptual process, but it just arises. And all of you had this experience where you were struggling, "What do I do in this situation, what do I do, what do I do?" And you sort of let go and there it is. And in that letting go, you've actually joined with the problem so you've moved into a closer [unintelligible] and there it is.

So this is the essence. It's at the heart of your question, I believe. That by knowing your own experience, the experience which gives rise to that question: "How do I maintain boundaries?" It's pointing to an experience that you're having. And when you know that experience completely then you will know what to do. Because there isn't a rule here, say "This is how you maintain boundaries."

Every relationship--I don't have anything handy for this--but imagine there's a ruler balanced on my finger. Okay? Now does that ruler stay still? No, it's constantly moving up and down. That's a relationship and the relationship is never actually in balance. It's constantly moving. So you correct the imbalances in the relationship and then it moves a little bit the other way and so it moves back and forth. That's what makes it alive and dynamic. What happens is sometimes the ruler gets stuck like that--a seesaw. Now it is stagnant in an unbalanced way. And that's where disdain and resentment and all of these kinds of things come about.

So there isn't a rule about how to maintain boundaries in a relationship. When that question arises it points to an experience in you which is a manifestation of imbalance in the relationship. So by knowing that imbalance and by moving into the experience of that imbalance completely you know what needs to be done to balance it, and that's what you do. And then the next moment it's something else. Okay.


Time and sense of self

This short segment from Then and Now is a favourite of mine:

Time and Self (from TAN13: Then and Now (class) 01:03:00.00 - 01:05:12.00)

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Ken: Okay, so what was my question before? Why the hell and god realms appear as such large periods of time. Anybody? Peri?

Peri: Well, when I'm suffering, time passes very, very slowly.

Ken: Well, what about the god realm? You have to go a little bit further; you're in the right direction, but it's not quite about suffering. Who do the Gods think about?

Peri: No one but themselves.

Ken: Right. This is the point. When your attention is focused on yourself, the more highly developed or more explicit the sense of yourself is, the more slowly time passes, subjectively speaking.

So, when you have a headache, it seems to last forever. Depression: time really slows down, everything drags by. So when you're preoccupied with a sense of self, then time seems to pass very, very slowly.

What if you're having fun? What if you're completely engaged in something? How quickly does time pass?

Student: Fast.

Ken: Time flies. Very, very quickly. So when you're not feeling any separation, there is no sense of time. So the relationship between time and sense of self is very close. And that's what those large numbers are referring to.

I'm trying to show you how to read this text.


Practicing Right View

This podcast has helped me to understand why I'd never really connected much with teachings about the Eightfold Path and why I'd been mystified about how to practice it. I've confused the results with the method, just as Ken describes. What a sense of joy to actually be able to connect with these very primary teachings!

Right View (from EFP01 00:09:20.70 - 00:20:54.00)

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The key in Buddhism is this quality we call attention, and one way of thinking about attention is that it's the ability to direct energy. There's energy in our system and it's going all over the place usually. And when we sit and rest in the experience of breathing we're actually encouraging the energy to move in certain ways. And we experience that as attention. And attention is not a conceptual thing. It's an emotional energy, and so forming a relationship with attention allows us to develop a very, very different relationship with our emotions. And that is key to this.

So how I regard the Noble Eightfold Path is a description of the areas of life in which we are enouraged to bring attention, and by bringing attention into those areas of life they start to change. And they change in ways which, when you read accounts of say, right view, then it will be like that. Let's take a look at right view because it's the first one.

Now, view here is nothing fancy, it's just how we look at the world. And right view is usually described as having faith in the three jewels; buddha, dharma and sangha, accepting karma as a working principle, accepting the four truths, and not seeing things in terms of matter or mind, or those extreme positions. But if we try to actually do that, I mean how do we do that? It's very, very difficult.

What I want to suggest is an alternative. How do you look at the world, right now? [aside about placement of microphone] We're sitting right now, how do you view the world? Anybody? Just right here, right now, what's happening? How do you view the world? How do you view yourselves?

Well, do any of you view yourselves as something that exists in its own right? Hands up, come on. [Ken snickers] Basically all of you are doing that, don't give me this. You know. That's how we ordinarily view ourselves. But if we bring attention into that, we see that it doesn't really hold.

How many of you have experienced a situation today where you had mixed feelings about something? Ah good, we've more response there. Now, if you are a single entity how can you have mixed feelings? You either feel this way or that. And I run into this all the time with people. Some people say to me, "Well I feel this way about that. I feel happy about this but then I feel...no then I'm not so happy about it. And you know part of me is really..." They always say part of me. "I am really sad but I'm...I'm angry." And they get all confused because they view themselves as a single entity, and yet they have all of these different feelings.

One of the things we get from the technique that's being developed recently called focusing is to change the vocabulary slightly to instead of saying "I" say "part of me." Say "part of me feels this" and "part of me feels that." Then there's no problem having all of those different feelings because if we shift from looking at ourselves not as one thing, but as being composed of many parts, then things become very simple. You can have all of these different feelings and even more. And now you don't struggle with them in the same way.

Now, this business about karma: a lot of people say that it involves belief. Well, I don't think it does. [said sweetly] For me karma is simply a way of saying that what we say and do and think, or everything that we say and do and think has actual consequences in our lives. What we say and do and think sets in motion processes in us that affect how we experience the world.

So if I'm angry all of the time, and I harbor anger and I tell myself that I'm angry then I will inevitably come to see the world in terms of opposition. And that's going to affect how people relate to me and how I relate to others. And if I feel needy then I will inevitably experience the world as not supplying what I need. And I'll be motivated to take shortcuts or even to steal to get what I need. That's going to affect how people regard me and how I experience the world. And these tend to become self-reinforcing patterns.

On the other side, if I give generously, if I give things to people then people like to be around me. So I'll have lots of companions and we'll all have a good time together. If I make a point of speaking gently then I won't be offensive to people. Again people will respond to me in a certain way. Just describing how the way we think, the way we talk, the way we act shapes our experience of life. There is really nothing more to than that.

This business about faith and the three jewels: well it's helpful here to have a proper understanding of the three jewels: buddha , dharma and sangha. Buddha is the emptiness of--let me not bring in too much Buddhist vocabulary right now. Buddha points to the fact that we can't say what we are. That when we look at what we are it's completely open. [Aside about sound system] Buddha refers to this open, ineffable, indescribable quality of experience.

Dharma refers to the clarity and vividness with which experience arises. And sangha refers to the fact that experience arises without any restriction. Now that 's just how things are for us. So not to have faith in buddha, and dharma and sangha would in a sense be to contradict the fact that we experience things. Doesn't make any sense.

So what I'm trying to point out here is that when, in the course of our lives, check in, bring attention to: "How am I looking at things right now?" For instance, when we find ourselves opposing or in conflict with somebody, ask ourselves,"How am I looking at that person?" And if it's our partner or our child at the moment that we're in conflict we're probably not looking at them as they actually are. We're viewing them differently. We're viewing them in terms of what's being projected by our own emotions. In another words, we've fallen into--quotation marks--wrong view.

And so just by this simple act of bringing attention to how we're looking at things in each moment we'll find that the way that we're looking at the world begins to change. And it changes into the various qualities that I've described. We don't get that way by trying to look at the world that way. We get that way by paying attention to or bringing attention into how we are looking at the world in each moment. How we are looking at ourselves. This make sense to you? Okay.