From: A Trackless Path 9
Full transcript (Available soon)
I want to talk a bit about something which a few of you have heard me talk about directly and probably a few more have picked up on the podcasts. I'm going to add a couple of dimensions to it. And this is the topic of mind-killing. And this is, in a certain sense, an elaboration of comments I made earlier on institutional thinking. The main emphasis I want to put and what I want you to bring attention to in your own work is how this operates inside you. Everything I have to say also applies to organizations, institutions whether they're families, workplaces, governmental systems, nations, media, what have you. But I want to put the emphasis on how this works inside us. 
Now there are six methods which I got from a book by Noam Chomsky called Manufacturing Consent. And in some work that I was doing not too long ago, I came across another four which go back a lot further than Noam Chomsky, which go back to Francis Bacon. So I want to discuss these 'cause they all operate. 
The first six come in three sets of pairs. The first pair is marginalize and frame. Now George Lakoff has written quite a lot on framing. He has a couple of big books on it but the two that are intended for popular audience are Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate and The Political Brain. I've read them both. I think the Don't Think of an Elephant is actually clearer than Political Brain but Political Brain touches more points. 
When I say to you, "Don't think of an elephant," what do you think of? 
Student: An elephant. 
Yeah. And what framing refers to is how a topic is framed. And you can frame topics in a lot of different ways. And each frame will allow certain ways of thinking to proceed and certain kinds of questions to be asked. And will not allow other kinds of questions to be asked or even other ways of thinking to be entertained. I'll give you an example from my own experience. 
Having read and studied a number of texts in Tibetan Buddhism about the importance of posture in particular the seven points of posture of Virochana I became convinced--this is an example of framing--that you couldn't meditate unless you use that posture. Most of the other people in the retreat didn't have too much trouble with it. But I did. And I managed to make myself extremely ill trying to do this. 
Of course, I didn't stop there. I continued to insist on trying to meditate that way. And it wasn't until my body just really just was lying in pieces around my apartment that I thought well maybe I should try meditating in a chair. That's how deeply that frame set in me. And so one of the things I'd like you to explore is what frames do you present the whole notion of practice to yourself. What does it allow and what does it not allow. Now very similar to Paul's question earlier, and it's one of the reasons I was pushing him a bit on that, is that you get into this, "It's this way or this way!" And so that's what's allowed. You can either go this way or this way. That's it. And you can't see the other possibilities that go in other directions. And that's why studying these frames, becoming aware of them in ourselves, can be quite important. 
And I'll give you a couple more examples. Many years ago a Buddhist teacher that I knew a bit moved to LA. And I invited her to come to a retreat that I was teaching at Mt. Baldy. Now her background was in Theravadan and Zen. Actually Rinzai Zen which tends to be fairly strict. And she would see people at Mt. Baldy reading in the dorms. And they weren't Buddhist books. She'd see people going jogging at lunchtime. And jogging at a retreat? Right, Nancy? Unthinkable, isn't it! And we'd do these insane interactive exercises in the afternoon where stuff I'd make up to illustrate various points. And early on she just said, "Ken, what's going on here?" 
But in the meditation hall she came to appreciate, from the energy, there's some pretty serious practice going on. And at the end of the retreat, she came to me and said, "You treat people like adults. You don't treat them as children to be kept in line. I thought that was really weird when I first got here but it works." And you can feel the frame operating there. You know, this is the way it has to be done. And all of these other things aren't allowed. And it works for some people but it doesn't work for everybody. 
And she's absolutely right as you can probably tell from this retreat. There's nobody standing with sticks, whips, or machine guns saying, "You have to practice now." And yet it's pretty evident that there's a lot of serious work going on. And when we sit together, there's a lot of energy in the room. And I know from the work that, conversations I have with you in the interviews, that there's very definitely non-trivial emotional material being met. So the work's taking place. So this is another example of frames. And internally we think whenever we find ourselves thinking things have to be done a certain way or this is the way that you're meant to be or something like that, this is the operation of a frame. 
Now many frames developed because they supported practice. But it is good, I think, from my perspective to question, "Is this actually supporting practice or is it doing something else?" Another technique which is used, and it's quite closely related to framing, is marginalize. In marginalization, ideas or perspectives that threaten the operation of the system are dismissed as unimportant or inconsequential. So one of the ways that that can play internally: "My body's in pain when I'm meditating. That doesn't matter. Keep going." And what it does, it kills the possibility of actually listening to your body. 
A number of people have come to me from various forms of Theravadan training. And this isn't universally true in Theravadan training of course, but frequently enough that I've run into it a number of times. Where emotional material has come up and they've been told, "Ignore it. It's not important." That's an example of marginalization. And sometimes, yeah, it's a little bit important. So in terms of internal processes, when you find yourself saying to yourself, "Nah, that's not important" or "That doesn't matter." And get curious about that sometimes. You've heard me talk about the small stammering voice that is asking the questions. Well, this is usually how the small stammering voice is treated. "Nah, don't worry about that. Not important." Marginalization. 
The next pair is seduction and alignment. Seduction says, "If you want to realize your dreams do this." And what's happening there is the system is presenting you with the illusion of realizing your dreams to get you to behave in a certain way. I had a very good friend who, by her own admission, loves to live in the story. And I've known her for many years. She's been very helpful to me. But when she dies she's gonna be Snow White in the glass case. And people will come from miles around to...[Ken giggles]. This is the dream. And it got her into really, really serious trouble a couple of years ago. Really serious trouble. And it's been very difficult for her since because now she knows she can't live in the story. But she's had a very successful life up to that point from living in the story. But it's all about this internal operation of seduction. 
One of my students, a stockbroker, and he was in a group I did in Orange County on basic meditation. And he came in one meeting and said, "You know, I just got another award, you know, for some very large amount of sales." He's a stockbroker. "And it doesn't mean very much to me. I can't figure out why." So I looked at him. I said, "Congratulations." He said, "What?" I said, "Congratulations." He said, "Why?" "Now you know. They lied." He said, "What are you talking about." "Weren't you told that if you sold this very large amount of stocks you would be happy and feel fulfilled. And your life would be rich. And everything like that." He said, "Yeah." "Do you feel that way?" "No." "So you know. They lied." That's the dream. That's what seduction's about. You're presented with the illusion that your dreams are going to be fulfilled. If you behave according the the demands of the system. We do this internally to ourselves all the time. 
Alignment in one way isn't as extreme but in another way it's more extreme. With alignment it's you're told you have to do this in order to survive, in order to exist. And I run into this many, many times with people. That they're doing something and I say, "Well, why don't you stop doing that? It's not working for you." And why don't you do this instead. And they say, "Well, I wouldn't know who I was." Their very definition is locked up there. And it's a prison. And it kills the ability to see other alternatives. You run into this very frequently in people who've worked in a single job for many, many years. And it becomes their raison d'etre. So seduction and alignment. 
And then you have reduction and polarization. In reduction, complex issues are reduced to a single emotional issue. So a person comes. Says, "I'm having a lot of difficulty doing my practice. My body hurts, etc. My mind's all over the place. I'm not sure this is the right form of practice for me, you know, doing this complex visualization, etc. It's really hard and I just can't hold the image, etc., like that." And the teacher says, "Well, you want to get enlightened, don't you?" One single emotionally charged issue. Anybody experience something like this? That's reduction. 
And there are many other forms. Very often we'll do this to ourselves internally. And it eliminates any possibility of discussion and negotiation, exploration, etc., etc. This, I mean this has happened to me many times, actually. I remember one teacher that I was talking with saying I was having a difficult time with certain meditations. And I found that resting with the breath just really helpful. Reply, "There's no breath in the bardo." Reduction. 
Okay. Polarization. It's a little different from reduction in that complex matters are split into just two choices. And the limiting of it to those two choices prevents any other discussion or any other consideration. So, right and wrong is one way to polarize things. And it precludes any possibility of a nuanced discussion or even a nuanced response. So it's this or that is polarization. 
So, those are six methods. And as I've said, look at how these operate inside you. In particular, look at how patterns or a particular pattern presents things to you. Does it say, "Do this and you will know happiness beyond your wildest dreams. Or is it saying, "This is right and this is wrong. You can't think about anything else." Or any of these other four.

Note:  The correct title for the second book by George Lakoff is, The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain

More on mind-killing in this article on the Unfettered Mind website.