14 Alan’s Advice on Addressing Obstacles in the Practice of Mindfulness of Breathing

06 Apr 2016

Alan says that the aspiration for Awakening and Bodhicitta takes us out of the present with a goal that has great significance and provides direction in our lives – the path of Dharma. One understanding of Dharma is as a way of viewing reality that brings forth a sustained well-being. This eudaimonia is genuine well-being that arises independently of pleasure or stimulation as occurs for hedonia which is ephemeral, thin or just a fleeting memory. Alan amusingly suggests that the practice of Mindfulness of Breathing is not exactly hedonic, is it? Boredom can set in, along with withdrawal symptoms from the all too constant world of hedonic stimulation. However, we should not try to “jazz up” our practice. Peace is the way in shamatha, and we should get through any habitual need for stimulation by giving peace a chance - relax! We should weather any boredom or desire for stimulation by releasing and relaxing and being careful to ward off dullness. The Buddha’s instructions clearly shows that this practice will bring first a peaceful mental state, then a sublime one and afterwards also an ambrosial state of mind. In doing so, we enhance the psychological immune system so that when any of the mental hindrances or obscurations arise, e.g. attachment to hedonia, we do not become infected. The practice of Mindfulness of Breathing opens the door to overcoming the variety of obscurations as they arise. Then Alan recalls a question from a student in Spain, where he was asked if there is any way to bypass the nyams (desires, memories, all sorts of mental afflictions, etc.), specifically as they arise when practicing “Settling the Mind in its Natural State”. Alan says there are two types of responses, each valid. By disposition, some people have devotion, faith, worship and reverence, and all of these come very naturally. For such people, if they generate an image of the Buddha with a rich understanding of the life, the teachings, the blessings, the lineage of the Buddha etc, it is quite sublime. With that type of devotion, people find that this sustains them by giving the juice to go deeper and deeper in the practice of shamatha. Since you are looking at the object of your Refuge, this brings tremendous joy. If the person is also gifted at visualisation, together with the devotion this can be a winning package. That can be very powerful and can bring a person all the way to achieving shamatha. The dredging will also take place, bringing up stuff, but it will be like background noise because you are not attending to it (it’s outside the focus of your attention, like the rock quarry noise here in Tuscany). So that’s one bypass. Another type of bypass is by practicing awareness of awareness. This is for people fascinated by the nature of awareness and want a direct track to Mahamudra & Dzogchen. By resting in awareness of awareness, whatever somatic experiences and psychological stuff (memories, desires, emotions, etc.) arise they are there in the periphery, you don’t give them any attention at all. To conclude, why then practicing Settling the Mind in Its Natural State at all? The reason for it is insight.

The meditation is silent (not recorded).

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[00:00:05] So, yesterday there was a lot of discussion of Bodhichitta, of aspiration. An aspiration for realization, awakening, liberation that will take place some time in the future. And so when we draw forth an aspiration about some future goal, because that’s what it is, of course it takes us out of the present. And there is great meaning in that. To have a direction for one’s life and not simply be like so confined to the present that you have no vision of what’s coming.

[00:00:47] Here and now is all very well, but if here and now just has no direction to it, it’s just a bunch of here and nows, that’s what I am guessing that’s what a cockroach or earthworm or a rat would experience or a marmot, my favorite was a marmot sitting on a rock - here and now open presence, non-judgmental awareness. [laughter] It’s very well, but I don’t think it’s Dharma. But there’s also a very present centred way of bringing Dharma in and that is as Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey told me long ago, after I have been studying with him for some months, I asked him what is Dharma? Because I’d heard the term so many times, so many times. And you can get an idea even without defining it, but I asked him - “What is Dharma?” and he said - “It’s a way of viewing reality, a way of engaging with reality that brings forward a lasting, a sustainable sense of well being.” That’s just ordinary speech. There is no Buddhist terminology there.

[00:01:58] And of course what he is referring to is what we call eudaimonia in Greek eudaimonia, or in Buddhism dambe dewa, Sublime wellbeing or yan dape dewa, Authentic well-being. Sustainable well-being, we have a lot of emphasis nowadays on sustainable economies, it’s very good, very important. Because we don’t want to be just relying on something that is going to deplete us and then leave us impoverished at the end of the day. That would be really good idea for the planet.

[00:02:27] And then a similar vein and something very closely related - sustainable happiness, sustainable well-being. There are types of well-being that are not sustainable, right, because as we pursue it - hedonic, as we pursue it, it gets exhausted, we get exhausted and then when it’s finished it’s just finished. And all you have is a memory, of pleasure that you used to have and no longer do, you know. And there is something very ephemeral about happiness you are no longer experience. Very abstract, very thin, very illusory.

[00:03:01] So eudaimonia as I have defined this for quite some time now, I think completely in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings. There is eudaimonia or genuine well-being is of course the sense of well being that arises independently of pleasant stimulation, right So nothing nice needs to happen to you in response to which you feel pleasure, but without any particular stimulation a sense of a well-being is already coming up`. And it’s eudaimonia, whereas hedonia is any type of pleasure that arises in response to some stimulation, whether it’s sensory, intellectual or chemical - alcohol, drugs and so forth and so on.

[00:03:38] So in this practice, this simple practice, I mean it’s so incredibly simple and yet I find so just rich with insights that flow out of it, or the significance, the meaning of it. And that is this practice mindfulness of breathing, when we are attending to it, we are really not seeking and probably won’t find much in the way of pleasant stimulation. I mean, the breath is really like, kind of like this glass of water, I mean it’s nice but I’m not going to get attached to it, I am not going to say - “Give me more”, you know, it’s nice but not that nice. It’s ok, it’s water.[laughter]

[00:04:17] And likewise the sensations of the breath are kind of like, they’re not bad, but they are not like you get fixed on them, like hyperventilate, because you just enjoy it so much. And so when beginners venture into mindfulness of breathing, I think the most common experience people have is after the novelty wears off, after about three or four seconds (people laughing). One breath, two breaths, the second one was pretty much as the first one and I think I know how the third one’s going to turn out, kind of like the second one and the first one, and I don’t think it gets any more interesting. It’s just same old, same old. That the first thing is boredom. Boredom, this is just not interesting I thought meditation was going to be fun. I mean, that’s why people do it, right? It’s fun and this isn’t fun so maybe I should find something else at least a mantra could be interesting, something, maybe a visualization. Something, because man this is boring. And I paid good money to this? I mean, I was already breathing. (goes on joking) [laughter] Why did I pay this guy money to, I mean this is a scam, this has got to be a scam. I’m paying good money to learn how to follow that was already there. At least you could give me some deluxe you know, deluxe breath to tend to. I have my own breath, this is really a scam. And it’s boring. And so that’s the first.

[00:05:46] And the boring, the quality of being bored is withdrawal symptoms. It really is, I mean it literally, it’s withdrawal symptoms, it’s not severe. I spoke with somebody recently who’s just had gone off nicotine after a long experience of smoking and had completely cut the smoking, and the withdrawal symptoms were really, really unpleasant. I think psychological and physical, really difficult, let alone cocaine or other you know, really addictive drug. Well these are drugs, alcohol - withdrawal from that, I am certain can have repercussions, but we are talking about something much more ubiquitous and that is addiction to the pursuit of hedonia, addiction to stimulation.

[00:06:26] And frankly from my perspective I don’t think humanity has ever been more addicted to stimulation than we are right now. If we consider two hundred thousand years of humanity and the kind of entertainment we had until let’s say the 20th century. Entertainment was what? Singing, playing the flute, dancing, sex of course, food? But now you know, the range of entertainment is just staggering. And something’s coming, watch for it in the next ten years - virtual reality. That’s going to be really something, the technology of course is going very, very fast and it’s going to be multi-model, it’s not only going to be audio-visual, they are going to bring in the tactile. And they’ll bring the olfactory, the gustatory. In other words it’s perfect escapism, the better the technology gets you can just be launching yourself into a Deva realm.

[00:07:22] And man you can just piss away your life that way, just squander it completely. I mean, people already do it with Internet, with television, video games and so forth and so on, but this is going to raise it to other whole dimension.

[00:07:34] But stimulation. We are addicted to stimulation. Modernity more so than any other civilization in history, I think. And so when we disengage from the stimulation, that which excites us, arouses , interests us, novelty, novelty, novelty and we go back to just the opposite of all that - one breath, two breaths, three breaths.

[00:07:58] The first one is - Wow, this is boring, geez! And we get restless and so forth and so on. But if we can relax into that, because this is the thing - Don’t try to make it interesting. Don’t try harder. Don’t try to jazz it up, you know like -( breathes intensively and fast like pranayama kapalaphati technique, people laughing), anything, you know, anything . Just, just relax. And if, you can find, I mean, ever heard of this one? (sings) “Give peace a chance”- it’s a bumper sticker, it’s a song, it’s 1960’s, it’s my generation, baby. Give peace a chance, you know, there is no way to peace, peace is the way, remember our wonderful slogans from the 1960’s? They really work for this.

[00:08:43] There is no way to peace, peace is the way in Shamatha and so if you can just get through the surf, the boredom, the restlessness, the agitation, the disappointment, the frustration, the anger, [laughter] the irritation, the resentment of just sitting here and saying - “Crap this sucks”(laughing), this totally sucks. And then you look around and everybody else is doing it, they’re probably having good time, but boy for me this sucks, totally sucks.

[00:09:14] If you can get through that just by relaxing into it, releasing into it. And give peace a chance, I am actually serious - give peace a chance and that is rather than going for more stimulation and the easiest type of stimulation is called - wandering mind. It’s free and it’s involuntary, and it’s your mind’s desperate attempt to entertain itself. Whenall you are giving it is breathing in, breathing out and the mind says - “I can do better than this” and goes on vacations, even a bad vacation, you know like - this person pisses me off and I really hate that, this is least interesting opposed to in breathe out breathe, in breathe out breathe, ah you know. [laughter]

[00:09:48] If you can get through that and just give peace a chance of just releasing, relaxing, relaxing, relaxing - then you may find that in a very subtle way the peace and quiet of a mind that’s getting a bit calm is preferable to the agitation, the disturbance, the stimulation of a wandering mind. An agitated mind. You might find well ok, if those are my only two choices, then yeah, I kind of like the serenity better, you know. The sense of ease, yeah that’s better, I mean just that. It’s just so draining to have a mind that is just caught up in one after another compulsive, obsessive thought, memory, etc, etc. It’s just draining, there is nothing really entertaining about it, you know.

[00:10:47] It’s like the, what do they call them? Those channels where they just try to sell stuff to you all the time. And if you really, people actually, I assume people actually watch them, voluntarily. [laughter] What do they call those channels? [inaudible responses from different students] Infomercials, yeah but just, all the shopping channels, yeah. I mean how bored do you need to be? To sit down, let’s watch television and watch a shopping channel? [laughter] This is I think, , this is kind of like a call for help. 911, you know, it’s either suicide or this, I mean I’m really absolutely desperate but I’m going to go for the shopping channel. Really I am stunned that there are such things. You know it’s like the story of the shock business, you know. People who are sitting in a room for fifteen minutes with no stimulation, and two thirds of the men would rather shock themselves rather than sit quietly for fifteen minutes with no stimulation, and a quarter of the women. So in any case , get to the point here and that is:

[00:11:51] If you can weather it, if you can give peace a chance and just enjoy, releasing and relaxing, and releasing and relaxing, and then see if you can ward off drowsiness, dullness, because taking a nap is fine but that’s not why we meditate. If you can do that, then you can find some peace and you might find this is actually preferable, “I like this better” than just the agitation, the draining and so forth. About 80% of rumination is found to be unpleasant by scientists who studied it, unpleasant. So this is better than that, at least it’s not unpleasant.

[00:12:27] And then if you can kind of cross that watershed of just sheer boredom to, this is better than rumination, and I don’t really need a nap, and then it starts to go into peace, and you’re giving peace a chance and you are preferring it. Then from there as we follow the Teachings of the Buddha with respect to mindfulness of breathing - he said when developed and cultivated, it gives a rise to a state that is peaceful, there it is the first thing, preferable to agitation, lack of peace, distress, restlessness and so forth. And then he goes from there to sublime, it’s right in the Pali canon. Gives rise to a state that is peaceful and then he says - sublime, now I will interpret that as referring to sukkha, well-being, a sense of well-being. It’s not bliss, it’s not ecstasy but it is a sense of, just that, it’s a nice translation -a well-being. Like, oh, like this is a sign of health, this is kind like, oh my mind is getting balanced, this feels good compared to not balanced. This is nice, I feel, I feel well. I feel like this kind of like, this must be what sanity is like.

[00:13:33] And then it goes from peaceful to sublime, and then an ambrosial dwelling, according to the Buddha. And the ambrosial dwelling I will interpret as in sanskrit Prīti, which is bliss, joy, delight, you’re really enjoying the practice and now, it’s no longer fueled by patience and diligence and discipline, it’s fueled by enthusiasm, because you really enjoy it, and then you can’t get enough of it, you know. And then just to complete the Buddha’s synopsis of the benefits of this practice, and he said it dispels in an instant, when you really cultivate this quality of awareness, this, you are enhancing the, the let’s say the psychological immune system of your mind, so that when the mental afflictions come knocking on your door like a virus, like being next to a person who has a cold and they sneeze right in your direction, you don’t get a cold. You could if your immune system is down, you’ll get a cold, you’ll be sneezing and be miserable for a week. But if your immune system is up and they sneeze right at you and the viruses come in, you know, if your immune system is really robust, it just fights it off and says - No, thank you. And that’s physical immune system and this is mental immune system.

[00:14:46] Cultivate this you know, exceptional balance of the mind and even when like the five obscurations, they come knocking on the door you’ll ward them off. They can’t get a grip, they can’t invade, they can’t infect you. They come up but then they fade out. So that’s quite extraordinary. So as long as we have the route of pursuing hedonia or cultivating eudaimonia, and the pursuit of hedonia is meaningful that is if you are hungry you should get something to eat, if you are cold get clothing, if you are injured you get medical care, if you have no education you should get some, right.

[00:15:27] Tibetan lamas often say that - Do get an education, don’t just drop your education and go off to Dharma. You need education, you’re going to be coming back some place, you’ll want some education. How much? Well, that’s something to be discussed, but don’t skip it. Not in the 21st century. So what’s that whole point of pursuing hedonia? Food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education, following St Thomas Aquinas.

[00:15:55] It’s so you can start Lam Rim and start Lam Rim by meditating upon and taking full advantage of a Life of leisure and opportunity, right. First meditation. But it’s hard to do that if you’re hungry, if you’re ill, if you’re injured and so forth. It’s hard, not impossible, but it’s hard. But if you’ve taken care of your hedonic needs and that’s relative to context, in some areas you need a car, other ones you don’t and so forth.

[00:16:22] Then you are ready for the big show, what human life is all about, what our human intelligence is all about. Not just to be extremely good at hedonia and make better and better entertainment, but then to get down really to the meaning of life. And so as long as one’s fixated on like single pointedly, like a deer staring into the headlights, into the pursuit of hedonic pleasures, success, worldly success, relationships and so forth and so on, then that will obscure the bliss, luminosity, non-conceptuality of your own substrate consciousness. Of course it will obscure the wellspring of your own Rigpa, because you are attending to something else, you’re busy, you’re busy.

[00:17:12] And so the simple practice of mindfulness of breathing is so simple, but it opens a door to like this vast panorama of Dharma and that is if we can get accustomed to being content without stimulation and then find a sense of well being there, even a sense of joy there, then this is the joy that the Buddha said - Do not be afraid of the joy of Samadhi, he said the bliss of Samadhi is not to be feared, right. So don’t get all - Oooh I’ll be attached to it, give it a rest! You’re already attached to so many other stuff. Try this one as an alternative, you know, because this one can open up to much deeper things. So that’s the first point. You’ll recall among the five obscurations the very first one is fixation on hedonia, and that will obscure this, this pabhassara citta, this brightly shining mind. That will obscure your own natural resources of your Substrate consciousness , let alone Rigpa.

[00:18:15] So that’s one point. That this really opens the doorway to the cultivation of eudaimonia in general, because we’re not fixating on more stimulation. We can use meditation as simply one more form of stimulation, you know - let’s bring to mind happy thoughts, let’s bring to mind really beautiful visualizations, let’s do mantras, let’s let ring bells, let’s ring dharmarus, , let’s do stuff that keeps us really active and Dharmically stimulated, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but at what point you’re going to give it a rest, you know? Because all of that activity was for the sake of allowing the natural resources of your own Buddha nature to flow forward.

[00:18:57] Just to slip over to a not much higher dimension - Rigpa. Dzogchen, I’ve read this so many times in the writings of Dudjom Lingpa, he is speaking from the perspective of a person who is dwelling in Rigpa. So he’s there, he’s not a marmot just sitting with an open mind, he is dwelling in Rigpa, viewing reality from that perspective. He’s looking back on the Path of Effort, it’s called tsu che ke lam, The Path involving effort, striving, striving to transform the mind, striving to purify the mind, striving to develop virtues, the striving of the Stage of Generation and Stage of Completion and he says - “ phew, it looks so exhausting, like uuh, if you could only just wake up”, then you’d l see all these virtues would arrive of themselves and all the obscurations dissipate of themselves - ram diu, they release themselves. And ran djung all the virtues - compassion, wisdom will self emerge.

[00:19:59] So ''Phuuh you are working so hard, you poor ones, you poor things. It’s such an arduous path, because of course you’re practicing from the perspective of being a sentient being. Which means you have an awful lot to do. But if you are simply resting into your own Buddha nature there is nothing to do, except that which arises spontaneously out of your Buddha nature. So there’s a parallel there.

[00:20:24] Final point and then we’ll jump in. I was leading a Shamatha retreat in Spain just recently and one fellow, and I was talking about the issue that came up earlier, Andreas is very much in my mind and others as well, just facing, facing these upheavals that arise in the body, upheavals that arise in the mind - nyam, some of them quite unpleasant as discussed before and Í excited the Vajra essence saying - "You know, you have to go through a lot of difficulties to find the Path, and that’s just part of the Path, you have to deal with what’s there and so when you’re going deeper and deeper along the Path of Shamatha you will be dredging you psyche, you will be bringing foreword somatic experiences of wide variety and don’t expect them all to be pleasant. Some will be really quite awful, some pleasant, some just weird.

[00:21:12] And so he says it, and he said very clearly, but then somebody in this retreat in Spain said - “Is there any way to bypass that?” [laughter] Referring specifically to settling the mind in its natural state. Where you’re facing right to the mind, and right where all these nyam, these emotions, desires, memories, all the mental afflictions, you’re just right where they’re coming up, right there, where they’re being catalyzed and brought to the surface, right where you’ve opened Pandora’s box, you’regazing right there. So they come up, it’s right in your face, and it’s in your face day after day after day, month after month. In retreat 8,10,12 hours a day.

[00:21:58] And he saying - “Is there a bypass? Can I get around that?” and the answer is “Yeah, in fact there is.” I am not kidding at all. There is a bypass. And there is bypass also if you’re going into mindfulness of breathing and taking this in the mode of - settling the mind in its natural state, and being aware of the range of somatic experiences, and that will also be dredging, dredging, bringing up all kinds of stuff , some of it can be very unpleasant. As you’re encountering the blockages, the knots, the constrictions and so forth. The imbalances in the body and they’re manifesting, and they’re probably not going to be pleasant. So is there a bypass? And the answer is Yes.

[00:22:31] There are bypasses, I’ll give just two. There are people who by disposition find devotion, faith, worship, reverence, all of these come very naturally. I know such people. Many of them find a home in Christianity as like Welcome, home, we have a place for you. And you find it in Hinduism, there a lot of bhakti, bhakti, bhakti, devotional practices. And of course you find it in Buddhism as well, in all schools, Theravada Buddhism - very strong devotion, Mahayana and so forth and so on. And so if one either comes to the Dharma with that or as a result of one’s Dharma practice one finds the heart really opening. And faith, devotion, reverence, worship really arising, for such a person who has either brought that to Dharma or this is coming out of the Dharma practice, if such a person in the Buddhist context, brings to mind an image of the Buddha, generates an image of the Buddha with a very rich understanding of the life of the Buddha, the deeds of the Buddha, the qualities of the Buddha, the blessings of the Buddha, the lineage of the Buddha, the Teachings of the Buddha, you bring this symbol, this archetypal form, right behind me, to mind and it just, it’s kind of like, Christian’s would often say -looking on the face of the beloved, they use that metaphor a lot, especially nuns and it’s quite sublime, quite sublime. And then also, quite sublime, is the divine love. I, hold Palms together.

[00:24:00] And that can be very, very powerful. So the same thing that can happen in Christianity, and has many, many times it’s happened, many, many times in Buddhism as well. So when one has that type of faith, that type of adoration and you bring an image of the Buddha or it could be Padmasambhava or Tara and so forth, to mind, and the heart just opens with that. Then you long to gaze upon the face of the beloved, because it’s not just a beautiful image, it is a beautiful image, but we’re not talking about hedonic here. Ohh isn’t she pretty or isn’t Padmasambhava really macho. [laughter] It’s looking much deeper into that, you know, what is it to be Tara, what is it to be Padmasambhava, Buddha Shakyamuni, Tsongkhapa and so forth?

[00:24:39] So with that type of devotion one might find, and people do find that that sustains you, that gives you the juice, the motivation to go deeper, deeper into Shamatha, using that as your meditative object. And it fills with joy, because you are looking upon your object of refuge. Very powerful. And some people are also naturally gifted for visualization, so bring those together and you have a real winning package. So you can imagine, let’s say you are that type of person, let’s say you are gifted in terms of visualization, some people are, and then one way or another you are gifted in terms of this type of devotion and you bring these two together and let’s say simply focusing on Buddha Shakyamuni. Then could you, focusing on that meditative object, could you proceed along the Nine stages of Shamatha and achieve Shamatha? Well the answer is unequivocally yes.

[00:25:24] Tsong Khapa describes this in great detail and so it is described in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism and going back to India itself. Now if that’s what you are focusing on, you are focusing on a Buddha image and you are seeking to sustain it with greater continuity and then gradually greater clarity, high definition and so forth, and you are doing it with that sense of ease, which is coming from your devotion, your faith, your love, you know, that’s not uptight. If you are doing it as a visualization exercise, that can tie you in knots. And it’s sheer work, like that - Ohh man!, but no. If that’s what you are focusing on and you are just going deeper and deeper, proceeding along, right along the path and that’s the single pointed focus of your attention will your mind get dredged in the process? Yeah, it has to. Will the somatic experiences being arising in the body as you are dredging, purifying, balancing? Yeah. It will, the dredging will take place, somatically and psychologically. But that’s not what you are attending to. That’s going to be background noise, that’s going to be outside the focus of your attention.

[00:26:33] So it’s coming up, but it’s rather more like rock quarry noise, it’s not our business, it’s not our business. we don’t have to be concerned with it. There is no danger there, let it rise, let it pass, no big deal. So, it can come, go, whatever, it doesn’t matter, this is our focus here, so let ‘em come let ‘em go, it’s not my problem. And you achieve Shamatha. So your mind is getting healed, your body is getting healed and you don’t have to look at the process. It happens without you looking at it. So that’s a bypass, that’s a bypass.

You’re just following this kind of quite blissful path of attending to the Buddha, it gets more and more vivid until you come to stage nine, stage eight and those who have accomplished this say - "As you attend to this mentally generated image of the Buddha, number one - it’s not just the visualization exercise you are as Karma Chagme Rinpoche said yesterday, really attending to this as the actual presence of the Buddha, not just a mental image. So you have that sense of being in the midst of the sacred.

[00:27:36] And it becomes, the great adepts who’ve achieved this say it becomes so high definition that’s as if you are looking at the Buddha with your own eyes. This is not too hard to imagine, when you are dreaming. If you’re having really vivid dream, a Buddha could appear in your dream and the Buddha could appear in your dream as vivid as you are seeing with your own eyes. We’ve all had dreams I think that are so vivid you can’t imagine you’re dreaming, I have, I think everybody has, right?

[00:28:05] So why shouldn’t this happen then in meditation when you develop that kind of focus ? So there is one kind of bypass.

[00:28:10] Now briefly another kind, ‘cause time is running out, another type is awareness of awareness. That’s going to be right on our trajectory here. And this is for people who are fascinated by the very nature of awareness, who are on a fast track, direct track to Mahamudra and Dzogchen, they are fascinated by the very phenomenon of consciousness and they say - “That’s what I want to do, I just want to rest in awareness of awareness”. And you do that, this means that whatever somatic experiences arise, they are out there on the periphery. It’s the clutter clutter of the rock quarry. And whatever physiological stuff’s coming up, memories, emotions, desire, clatter, clatter, clatter of the rock quarry, who cares? You don’t give it any attention at all. Say you knock yourself out, I’m busy.

[00:28:52] Busy doing nothing, I’m busy resting in awareness and whatever is happening in my mind I don’t care. I just don’t care, I don’t have to care about everything, I care about resting in awareness, furthering awareness, dissolving my mind into the Substrate consciousness, that’s what I care about. But whatever particular emotions, desires, blah, blah, who cares? It’s just one person’s mind, one person’s personal history, who cares? I don’t care, so mind heal yourself, but I’m busy. Body sort yourself out, but I’m busy.

[00:29:24] Phew, there you are. So you bypassed it, it’s out on the periphery. It’s happening, but you are not deliberately giving any attention to it, right? So to conclude on this point and then we’ll jump in because time is almost out. Then why look at this stuff? Why practice settling the mind at all when you can just bypass? Why practice mindfulness of breathing and be vividly aware of the somatic - nyam or upheavals that are occurring in the body? And I think there is actually a very good reason. And now they’ve given the effort a good pitch, for focusing on a Buddha image on awareness of awareness, they are magnificent practices. But why go to this trouble?

[00:30:03] Of facing, you know, just seeing all the dirty laundry coming up in the mind and all the grime coming up in the body. And the reason for it is insight. It’s insight, it’s real simple. And that’s if as these psychological nyam are coming up and the somatic nyam are coming up, if you’re not just caught up and carried away by, them you’re resting in the stillness of your awareness and you’re perceiving them come and go, the stillness and motion business. You’re seeing them come and go, you’re seeing them as impermanent. You are seeing them as not true sources of happiness, but in fact unsatisfactory by nature, dukha. You are seeing them simply arising.

[00:30:42] Having no owner, no possessor, not belonging to anyone, you’re seeing them as just events arising and passing back into space, doing that by either settling the mind or mindfulness of breathing. Well, by the time you’ve finished with that, including maybe some very intense experiences, really strong emotions, very traumatic memories coming up, intense stuff coming up in the body, if you can maintain your awareness like that un-flickering candle flame, boy, that’s Shamatha with a bonus.

[00:31:16] Because when you come out your Shamatha is going to be the same. You achieve Shamatha, the Five obscurations are down, the Five Dhyana factors are up. Doesn’t matter how you got there, the Substrate Consciousness is the same, no matter how you get there, all roads lead to Rome. Now we can find the country where it says that. All Shamatha practices lead to Substrate consciousness, you know. And it’s the same Substrate consciousness - Hinayana, Mahayana, Christian, Zen doesn’t matter, it’s the same one.

[00:31:40] But how you get there matters. Because when you come out of the Substrate consciousness what perks, what added benefits did you get? Well, each of these has added benefits. If you’ve been focusing on a Buddha image you may be able to count on that image when you’re dying and that would be a very good companion. To be holding the Buddha image as you are dying and that’s your last thought and then you slip in. Oooh nice way to go, that’s going to turn out well, you know. Not just the Buddha image, but with devotion and all of that.

[00:32:15] If you have gotten there by way of awareness of awareness and you die in that mode, where you readily slip right into the death zone, lucidly - that’s good. But likewise, if you have settled the mind in its natural state, the mindfulness of breathing, you’re going to come out just with such a rich history of insight into the fundamental characteristics of the mind, that when you come out of Samadhi and you’re engaging with the world, everyone around you, you’re going to bring those insights to that. Because when you’re engaging with people in between sessions, nasty people, nice people and so forth, adversity and felicity, the mind is going to be activated again and you are going to have months and months òf momentum of being able to view this without the cognitive fusion.

[00:33:02] And you’re bound to get sick, you’re bound to get injured, you’re bound to get old and stuff is going to happen to the body and you’re going to have months and months of momentum of being able to be present with what’s arising in the body and not caught in its grip. Now isn’t that amazing?

That these simple practices, we’re just talking about kindergarten here, this is just Shamatha. You’ve seen the bigger picture, this is Shamatha, this little, little bitty Shamatha, [laughter] but it’s opening a door to a vastness. It’s truly amazing. Let’s go practice.

[00:33:56] (getting ready for the meditation session) For those listening by podcast, we have a lot of people going into supine. I feel I should be passing out cookies and milk. Okay children, it’s now naptime. [laughter] Twenty four minutes just everybody be quiet, lie down, rest, be quiet, be calm. Oh, nice so.

[00:34:21] I would invite you before we begin our silent session and then that very strong encouragement from Karma Chagme Rinpoche bring Bodhichitta to bear as your motivation for everything you do. So now’s a good time, then your 24 minutes of mindfulness of breathing as we’ve been doing becomes steps on the path of Bodhisattva’s way of life.

[34:46] Meditation bell rings three times. Meditation is silent and not recorded.

[35:10] Meditation ends, bell rings three times.

Olaso. So the interviews, all of the interviews this morning will be about 5 minutes late so we zip off right now, enjoy your day.

Transcribed by KrissKringle Sprinkle

Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Final edition by Cheri Langston

Special Thanks to Tsanka Petkova for contribution of partial transcripts.(*)


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