13 May 2016

Alan starts by saying that this retreat has been embedded in the Buddhist teachings. It would be meaningless to teach Mahamudra in a secular way. It’s been wonderful to be totally immersed in a way of viewing reality and a way of practicing and leading our lives that have these three elements, profoundly integrated: the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of virtue and the pursuit of understanding or knowledge. In the Medieval period, the pursuit of genuine happiness, eudaimonia, was not conceivable without virtue; and the highest virtue is knowing reality – these were completely integrated. In Modernity, this integration was shattered – natural philosophy became science, religion became a matter of faith and the pursuit of happiness became more hedonic. Then Alan pointed that nowadays, for many people, achieving and sustaining emotional balance is very difficult to. As many of us know, Alan has been championing a mental balance model based on four balances – conative, attentional, cognitive and finally emotional balance. Alan briefly addressed emotional balance before coming back to the Four Immeasurables. His way of presenting these balances is describing all types of imbalances. The hyperactivity in terms of emotional balance is overreacting, oversensitivity, lacking stability, ungrounded. Emotional deficit is being dead within, out of touch with emotions. And emotional dysfunction is responding in a way entirely inappropriate, harmful to the situations. In terms of practices, modern psychology has contributed with many ideas, theories and interventions, and some of them has been incorporated in the “Cultivating Emotional Balance” Program, as advised by Paul Ekman. Alan has contributed with the Four Immeasurables as emotional balance practices, and he has been criticized because some of them - Loving Kindness, Compassion and Equanimity - are not emotions (well, at least, Empathetic Joy is an emotion!). These practices could be included among conative balance practices. But he gave us a metaphor: if someone drops a stone in a cup of water, and if you are a little insect on the surface, that would feel like a tsunami, the end of the world. In a swimming pool, the same stone would only make a ripple; in a lake or in the ocean, the same stone would make a ripple that wouldn’t even be noticeable – the same liquid, the same stone. We are deeply habituated to having thoughts, desires, emotions, anticipations and all mental activities – I, me , mine – swirling around , like bees swirling around the hive. During the course of one day, “I, me, mine” thoughts are far more frequent than “the other person” or “all sentient beings”. “I, me mine” is one cup. If all we’re attending to is only this little world, than when adversity strikes, in other words, life happens… “Oh, I can’t handle this”, “I can’t meditate today”, “I can’t believe it – someone criticized me!” It´s big deal! Emotional balance will never happen, because reality was never meant to be user friendly. So, what can be done? Get a bigger cup, trade it for a lake, and then, trade it for an ocean. And to do that, you just have to attend closely to all those around you - in their sorrows, their disappointments, their fears, their struggles – with your heart and your mind, with your eyes and your wisdom. If you attend closely to their suffering, inevitably you feel it and you care – and your cup gets bigger. As all the suffering we watch on the news becomes real for us, empathy and compassion start to break down the barriers. This can be overwhelming! Then, to balance it, we have to be more attentive to the joys and virtues of others, and let them become real for us. Thus, our hearts become larger. When we go to the Four Greats, then we can view the suffering of sentient beings from the perspective of rigpa, and the resolve “I shall liberate all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering” makes sense. But as long as we view all the suffering of the world from the perspective of a sentient being, the only hope is collaboration, networking, sharing vision and encouraging each other – a kind of “Sangha” restoring the balance on the planet, serving humanity and all sentient beings.

Meditation is on Empathetic Joy and it starts at 24:00

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