07 Sep 2012
Just as in physics where matter in the universe may be considered crystallization of the energy in space, tactile sensations may be the congealing of energies in the space of the body and mental events may be crystallizations of energies in the space of the mind. It’s important to know stillness and movement in field of perception as well as stillness and movement of your own awareness. Examine whether feelings of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral are absolutely or relatively so.
Meditation: transition from full body awareness to settling the mind.
1) full body awareness. Focus on the tactile sensations arising in the body. Identify your affective baseline (neutral) and note any fluctuations of pleasant or unpleasant. Simply observe both tactile sensations and feelings moment by moment without distraction or grasping.
2) settling the mind. Let your eyes be open, with gaze resting vacantly. Turn the full force of your mindfulness to the space of the mind (thoughts and images) and the subjective experiences. As before, identify your affective baseline (neutral) and note any fluctuations of pleasant or unpleasant. With introspection, ensure that breathing continues to be effortless. Recognize when awareness is still and when awareness is carried away.
Meditation starts at: 11:40
This morning we return to shamatha. And we’ll spend the first part of the session, really in the shamatha mode of simply attending to (but without any particular investigation) — attending to the space of the body, the tactile sensations that arise or emerge — these elements again (bearing in mind the Tibetan term [for] “element” really doesn’t say “element” at all, it says something [like] an “emergence,” an “emergence” of earth, water and so forth.) So we’ll attend to on the one hand, the emergence of these various sensations associated with the elements. But then also the coloration of our experience of what is appearing to us and by colorations, it means: how are you experiencing it, in terms of are you experiencing it in a pleasant way? In an unpleasant way or neutral way? In dependence upon that, then we say “that was pleasant” and “that was unpleasant.” It’s really quite interesting, I think. How something is very much tied, totally into the subjective process and then we just flip the finger out and say, “you’ve done it, you made me happy, you made me unhappy, you’re pleasant, you’re unpleasant.” [It is] quite interesting. Stupid, but interesting. So we’ll observe both: the appearances and the way that we experience those appearances. And, it’s quite interesting. A little parallel quickly:
You remember I mentioned the zero point energy of the electromagnetic vacuum? I spent a couple of years studying it. And I did the mathematics for it as well. Because the question is posed: if in empty space itself there is energy (that is, the very energy of space itself and not something you add onto it), what’s the density of that energy? How much energy per cubic centimeter? And I did the equations (I mean I didn’t do fresh ones, I followed those of great mathematicians and physicists before me) and it turns out the energy density of empty space is infinite. And the physicists (especially in experimental physics) go “well that’s very nice, but we can’t do anything with that, we can’t measure it, I mean we don’t have any system to measure infinite. Really big, yeah but infinite, no.” And so the theoretical physicists got in there and they were aware of something and that is (setting aside general relativity theory), in all other branches of physics, quantum mechanics and so forth, the amount of energy in a particular system is relative. It’s not an absolute. So you set the benchmark. And you say: “Okay let’s say it’s this.” And then, having set that, then you can say, “okay more energy, less energy.” So what they did is, they took those equations and they normalized them. Instead of “infinite,” they said “okay let’s say it’s zero.” Or “no let’s say it’s finite.” And so you can have any one of those three. Well, I mention that because number one, I think it’s interesting. And also, this whole notion in quantum field theory that all configurations of mass energy – we’re talking about galaxies, the whole Universe, cell phones and so forth – that all configurations of mass energy are actually nothing other than configurations of, crystallizations of the energy of empty space. Quite interesting… So might it be (I mean looking for poetic metaphors or analogies) that all of the sensations arising in the body are actually simply crystallizations of the energy of that space of the body itself, congealing into earth, water and so forth? It’s a question, maybe a kind of cool question.
(3:48) Then we shift over to the space of the mind, the space of the mind, again being not merely a vacuity, but a space (now poetically speaking because I’m not speaking physics, but first person experience of the mind), that space of the mind being saturated by a kind of energy, like in science fiction the “holodeck,” that it’s empty and yet you’ve turned it on so it’s ready to form into all kinds of forms. Of course you know, it’s science fiction. But holograms, holographic images are not science fiction. So there you have the energy field and there with lasers and then suddenly out of that space you have formation of forms, three dimensional forms that you look at from different sides, it’s really quite beautiful.
(4:30) And so as we’re attending to the space of the mind, then we may view all the appearances, all the events as crystallizations, formulations, configurations of that space of the mind of those appearances. And now, there’s the way we experience those appearances and that has to do with feelings. Are you finding them pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? And so I mentioned yesterday (as Miles reminded us), that the first challenge in settling the mind in its natural state is to distinguish between stillness and motion. So this means getting the taste, knowing for yourself in your own experience, what’s it like when your awareness is simply still and unattached? Like a flame, like a candle unmoved by the wind. If you look at the candle, you’ll know when it’s just straight up and then you’ll know when it’s flickering, when it’s movement and that means it’s been caught by the breeze. So what’s it like to have your awareness be like an un-flickering flame, still, luminous and at the same time illuminating the comings and goings of the mind? So that’s one distinction to be drawn: the stillness of your awareness and the movements of the mind.
But then as [UNKNOWN] pointed out yesterday, as we attend to the space of the mind sometimes we see all the cockroaches, we see the images, the thoughts and so forth and so on. But other times, as intently as we attend to the space of the mind, we just don’t see any movement. We just don’t see anything. So that’s another thing to distinguish. When (as you are attending to the space of the mind) do you detect (at least relative) stillness? When do you detect motion? So even in shamatha, it’s discerning, it’s not just kind of sitting there in a kind of trance. Anything but [that]. So stillness and motion within the field, stillness and motion of your own awareness: when is your awareness in motion by way of grasping? When is it still by way of releasing of grasping?
(6:30) And then a final point, and it’s really an important one. In terms of feelings (pleasant, so positive, zero and negative, pleasant neutral, and unpleasant). When we identify these feelings in the body and mind, are we identifying something that is self-defining? That is, when we observe, when we experience, when we note a neutral feeling, is that by nature neutral, absolutely neutral? And if you perceive it in any other way, well you’re wrong? Is that the case? And likewise when you experience a pleasant feeling, is that absolutely pleasant? And likewise unpleasant? Or like energy in most systems of physics, is it relative?
Now remember this phrase from Shantideva: “There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarization.”
(7:40) For example, some people have arthritis. I think the body never feels great, if it’s quite chronic. Rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve never had it [but] I think it must be very unpleasant. And so your body would never feel really good. But if you have that or maybe a chronic injury. . . or my friend injured his spine and morphine doesn’t help and so forth. Or just generally ill health and so forth. You set yourself a new benchmark. And [if someone asks] “how are you today?” “Today I am really doing quite OK. It’s neutral. That is, I’ve had much worse and of course I can remember having better, but this is really an ok day, I feel pretty ok, I feel neutral.” Whereas for another person, that might be just miserable. And for another person, whose getting tortured every day in a concentration camp for example, they might say: “Oh man, how lucky you’ve got only mild discomfort. Man what a sweet day you’re having.”
For an ordinary sentient being like me, we experience a mental affliction like anger, craving, whatever and when the mental affliction comes up it’s kind like a hair landing in the palm of the hand and you kind of notice it, and think “oh yeah, that’s craving, oh, yeah it’s anger, oh, yeah that’s jealousy.” Whereas if you are an arya-bodhisattva and you experience exactly the same mental affliction, you say it’s like that hair landing in your eye and that really catches your attention and you really can’t bear it and you say: “get it out, get it out.”
Remember the story of Atisha when he was on the caravan (a whole bunch of people traveling from one place of Tibet to another) and he would suddenly hop off his horse (in the midst of how many people with him?) he would call the whole caravan to a halt, hops off his horse and he does a mandala offering. And people would say: “Atisha what are you doing, we’re trying to get from here, what’s up?” And he said: “I had a negative thought, I had to purify it. I don’t know when I’m going to die and I didn’t want to take that to my death. So I had to purify my thought before, so you just chill, hang in there, just [rubs forehead]…..
That’s how you purify negative thoughts by the way, you rub your forehead. I wish!
So I think we feel pretty good. I know when I was in Dharmasala in the early days, and heard about all the suffering (three types of suffering, six types of suffering, eight types of suffering, samsara is an “ocean of suffering”). And I thought, “my part of samsara really isn’t that bad. I come from a really nice family, had my own car back in California, you know it was pretty good, India not too bad, really good circumstances there, I got sick a lot but you know, whatever. But you know, ‘ocean of samsara’? That’s really tough for those other people. And those sentient beings, but in my ‘neck of the woods’ (as we say in America), it’s pretty Ok.” From the Buddhas’ perspective, they would be weeping buckets of tears for me. They would be looking on me with such intense compassion, [thinking] “the poor guy is wallowing in a mire of suffering and he’s so dull he doesn’t even know it.” So they’d be feeling intense compassion for me, where I’m saying “I’m fine, I really like Dharma, I’m really into Dharma.”
So it may be relative, eh? It may be relative.
Let’s jump in and find out.
(11:40) Settle your body, speech and mind in their natural states.
(16:18) And now for a little while let your mindfulness illuminate the space of the body. And whatever tactile events emerge within that space as well as the feelings that arise in your mode of experiencing the appearances within the body, identify your affective baseline that is, what’s neutral? What’s in the middle that you would deem neither pleasant or unpleasant, simply ok? Identify your baseline and then carefully note fluctuations, the emergence some pleasant feelings, unpleasant feeling…
And in the shamatha practice, simply observe both tactile sensations as well the feelings, moment by moment without distraction and without grasping, letting your awareness remain still.
(20:10) To have something continuous to attend to, you may maintain a peripheral awareness of the rise and fall of the abdomen or simply the rhythm of the breath altogether.
(21:05) And now let your eyes be open and your gaze resting vacantly in the space in front of you and turn the full force of your mindfulness to the space of the mind. Observe these fluctuations in that space in the form of thoughts and images and also closely attend to your subjective way of experiencing what arises in the mind, in terms of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings.
Again note your baseline: where is neutral? And then observe fluctuations away from that baseline.
(23:00) With introspection note that your respiration continues to flow effortlessly without constraint releasing fully with every out breath all the way through to the end until the next breath flows in effortless.
(28:15) It’s only by way of a core sense of relaxation of ease and looseness within the body and mind, that your awareness can hold its own ground, rest in its own place without being moved by grasping.
(28:37) When your awareness is still recognize that and then note the distinction when your awareness is carried away by rumination, by wandering thoughts.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Aaron Morrison
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon