The tools we used in this course are on these graphics. The painting here is a very old representation given by the Buddha Maitreya. It is part of Tibetan Buddhism and it outlines the essential stages of developing meditative serenity. You can say it is concentration, but specifically it is the ability to place attention on one thing and not be distracted.
That map has nine essential stages through which a serious meditator will work. The beauty of the map is not only does it explain those basic stages of developing concentration it also explains the obstacles that you face and gives you the antidotes to overcome them.
Once you apply those techniques through the course of your practice in developing meditative serenity and you reach these upper levels, you have developed what is commonly called one pointed mind, perfect concentration, Dharana, Dhyana, or Samadhi, or in other words you have this skill called pliancy.
Pliancy is specifically defined as the conduciveness of body and mind to meditate, meaning that your body and your mind do not fight Meditation. They do not distract you. your body and mind are not an obstacle at all. In fact, they are willing servants to your spiritual life.
Of course, that is the opposite of the way it is for most people. For most people the physical body and the mind are obstacles in their spiritual lives because the body has lots of wants and needs and our mind has lots of wants and needs and we tend to spend our lives just satisfying the desires of the body and mind.
So that map is really significant. It is entirely practical, and it has nothing to do with beliefs, but provides a very clear structure that you can follow in order to acquire meditative serenity.
This other map that we rely on is called the Tree of Life. It is also the primary symbol of the tradition called Kabbalah. This symbol represents the universe, all the levels of the things that exist and the things that are in the potential to exist. That is not only outside of us, but it is inside of us.
Even though it looks complicated, it is actually quite a simple tool. Once you start studying it you become accustomed to it. It is very beautiful and extremely powerful.
We use these two symbols in combination in order to understand Meditation and develop our spiritual life in an effective way.
Through this course that we have given in the last year we have explained how these two symbols relate to each other and the type of knowledge they can convey to us in order to help us to develop our spiritual life effectively.
In the previous lecture we talked about this word comprehension. We introduced this notion that there is a kind of knowledge that is beyond intellectual knowledge, and we call it comprehension. You can also call it understanding. This is not anything you can acquire from anyone. It is a knowledge that only comes from inside of you. It can never come from any other source.
It is knowledge that belongs to the Consciousness or to the soul. It is the kind of penetrating wisdom that cuts through illusion, desire, and suffering and reveals the truth. You know that when you know the truth of something, everything changes and you can never go back. Once you know the truth about something you cannot unknow it.
Comprehension is like that. Once you have comprehension, everything changes. It is that kind of knowledge that is like a lighting bolt, a living thing, an energetic thing, and undeniable thing.
So with comprehension we see the truth of the thing, we see the reality of the thing, and moreover we see the illusions for what they are. This is what we want when we meditate. We want comprehension. We want a kind of knowledge that allows us to not suffer the way we have been suffering. A kind of knowledge that allows us to with grace and with love undo the problems of suffering. Not only to help ourselves come out of suffering, but to help others come out from suffering.
So on the Tree of Life, that type of knowledge is represented at the very upper portion of this symbol. Briefly, this symbol represents densities in nature, both outside of us and inside of us. At the very upper reaches are the most subtle, most primordial forces.
At the very height is what is called the Absolute. It is unmanifested and the potentiality to be, but has not yet become. When that expresses into becoming we have the first emergence into existence, which is the primordial energy or presence in nature.
In religions that is always represented as a trinity, and you see that trinity here at the top, but it is interesting to know these words in Hebrew that describe that trinity. The first one is Kether; which means crown. The second one is Chokmah; which means wisdom. The third one is Binah; which means intelligence or understanding.
You see at the top you have a crown, wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge. These are all expressions of the fundamental trinity of existence that Christians call Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Hindus call it: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. The Buddhist call it the Trikaya: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya. If you have studied any religion you know about this essential trinity.
They represent a level of intelligence, a type of insight into reality, a type of knowledge. It is a cognizance. It is Consciousness, but with profound knowledge. That is inside of us in a germinal, potential state; it is not outside of us. We all have that within. That is our most primordial nature. The most primordial aspect of that which gives us life is this type of knowingness, a type of knowledge, but in us it is undeveloped. It is in potential and if we work with it and learn to access it then it can be expressed through us.
Comprehension is how we start to access that. In Sanskrit in both Buddhism and Hinduism that type of knowledge has this particular word, this very profound word; which is Prajna. When you break that Sanskrit down, pra means beyond and jna means knowledge.
It is a type of knowledge that is related to that which is beyond. It is the very heart of beingness. A type of knowledge that is beyond what we know of as knowledge. It is beyond concept, theory, and belief. Instead it is the knowing of reality, the truth.
The goal of Meditation, the purpose of it, is to access that type of knowledge. We need to understand our position in relation with it. That type of knowledge is inside of us. It is something that we can access, but only if we understand how. Through the tools that we are using in this moment our access to that is very limited. That is because we are very much limited by the conditioning that we are currently experiencing. When we study ourselves in relation with nature we see that we are much more than we can perceive immediately.
In the Tree of Life, if we look at how it maps our structure as a person, we would start here and now with the physical body. This is the most obvious aspect that we have to work with on a daily basis. Our physicality is represented here on the Tree of Life as the lowest of those ten circles. This is called Malkuth, the kingdom. This is our kingdom, the body. That physicality is marked by the fives senses. That ability to sense physical experience.
Specifically in regard to mediation, when we want to meditate the first thing we have to deal with is the physical body. We place it in a posture, but what is the experience that most of us have? The body does not like it, it complains. It has pain, it has discomfort, it is hot, it is cold, it is hearing sounds in the next room, or someone is playing music or someone is talking to loud or there are car sounds or dogs barking and we get very agitated because of the experiences of the physical senses.
So we are disturbed, not only physically, but emotionally we react to that, we may even react to it with our thoughts. What this demonstrates to us is that we are very much identified with physicality and that we have not developed sufficient will to cultivate that power of pliancy, which is what I was describing earlier as something very pronounced at the upper levels of developing meditative serenity.
When you have pliancy, the physical body is able to sit in its posture, calm and relaxed, regardless of the physical circumstances. If you have studied any of the Meditation traditions you will know the stories of the yogis and masters and monks and nuns who were able to sit and meditate despite incredible difficulties.
The example that comes into my mind is a Chinese Master of Chan Buddhism who was so devoted to understanding and reaching comprehension that even though he had dysentery and was dying he did not stop his Meditation. If you know what dysentery is you will realize that is an unbelievable amount of willpower to sit in Meditation in spite of that type of illness. That is how much Will he had and how much pliancy he developed; the body was capable of maintaining its posture so that his Consciousness could continue working in case he did die. He didn’t, he overcame it.
That is the sort of power that is necessary, because we will all die and if you are able to meditate through the process of death you will have incredible influence over what happens to you next. But if you are very much a victim of the suffering of the body, you will not. Instead you will pass through that experience unconsciously and with a very unpredictable outcome.
If one is able to develop pliancy with the physical body, then the body is able to sit and be undisturbed despite any external or sensual interference, whether sounds, noises, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty all that type of stuff you will not care. If you leg is broken you will not care. You will sit and meditate in spite of it because you have control over the body.
What about the person who sits to mediate but quickly falls asleep? Anyone have that experience? Where twenty minutes later or half hour later all of a sudden you realize I was supposed to be meditating but you were asleep dreaming. Why does that happen? Let’s relate it to the second aspect here, Yesod, vitality. There is no energy.
You see this sphere is simply the superior aspect of the physical body. When we do not have sufficient energy, vitality we fall asleep. We lose the ability to be concentrated and focused in our Meditation practice. You see this is very common among students. You may be able to sit and start your Meditation practice but immediately doze off and unaware of what they are doing. That is a lack of energy.
Perhaps the next stage, another experience is that we will be able to sit and have the body take its posture, but throughout the course of our practice, whatever it is we are trying to practice we are just dealing with our emotions. We have a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, we have a lot of envy, we are very angry, we are very afraid, and we are very excited.
Perhaps we had a dream, a vision, or something like that and we want to go back to that experience. We have that excitement and we cannot recover it or go back to it. We want to have that experience and we are afraid of having it. In this type of scenario, the obstacle here is the emotion, which is related with Hod.
The next obvious one is related with thought, Netzach. When you are trying to concentrate or try to focus, but the mind will not stop. It is constantly analyzing, constantly thinking, constantly naming things and labeling things, trying to explain things logically with reasoning. That is a big obstacle. That is not Meditation. That is thinking.
None of these can lead to real comprehension.
Physical sensations are simply sensations. They do not provide access to reality.
In the same way it is like energy. Some people want to focus in the Meditation on the chakras, or on the bodies, or on the meridians and the energy moving around inside of us. They want to have these experiences of energy moving and auras and all of that. It is a waste of time! It is just energy, so what! It does not mean anything and does not change anything. It is just energy. Your body is filled with energy and we need it, but energy undirected and unmanaged is just that: undirected energy. Do not be fascinated by that! Do not let that become an obstacle!
The same occurs with emotion and thought; we need them, they are useful, but we are hypnotized by them. They are very limited in their abilities. Neither emotion nor thought sees the truth. We do not realize that.
Most of us in the process of developing our mediation skills have all of these obstacles. That is why we teach Meditation in the very specific way that we do in order to access knowledge, real knowledge, comprehension. All of these conditions have to be suspended, especially during your Meditation practice.
If you can suspend them and be unhypnotized during the day, then you will understand more even faster. Specifically in Meditation we place the body in a position and we leave it there. We make it still and relaxed. We no longer engage with it and we extract attention from it. The body should be placed and forgotten.
Specific to energy, we harness it, we work with it and we direct it. We make sure we have it and then we disregard it and let it do what it needs to do. We are no longer hypnotized by it or fascinated by it.
Specific to emotion we let it go. We are no longer hypnotized by the emotions and we are not identified with them. We are not paying attention to them. We are not trying to resolve our problems emotionally with emotion.
It is the same with thought. We are not trying to resolve or problems with thought or meditate through thinking, or meditate through feeling. Instead we want to suspend physicality, suspend energy, suspend emotion, suspend thought, and become will.
First, will is attention, placed and directed.
Today, we said “visualize your experience of today.” In that moment you would suspend the body of energy, thought, and emotion and become attention observing memory, not thinking about it, not feeling emotions about it, but simply observing the facts of what could be remembered visually.
In that process we are accessing something higher on the Tree of Life. The higher you go the closer you are getting to the truth, to reality. The lower you go the further you are away from reality. Ideally in Meditation this is what we would do. Ideally we would have that degree of pliancy that we need so that our body and mind become very conducive to Meditation and they do not fight with us. The body and mind obey. We sit, close our eyes, shut the senses off and imagine the thing we need to understand. We do not analyze with the intellect and the emotion, but we simply observe the facts of what we saw consciously and whatever experience we had that we need to understand. If we do that well and with some accuracy then it is effortless.
This does not require effort, since we are utilizing the natural abilities of the Consciousness. What are those abilities? – It is the ability to perceive and the ability to understand. – Those are natural in us. Those are not forced and do not require skill. It does not take skill to look, and it also does not take skill to understand the truth.
A child for example, a baby, is very small and can see the parents fighting and know they are fighting and know there is pain. They do not have the intellectual idea yet. They do not necessarily understand emotionally what is going on, but by perceiving it they understand what is happening. Even a dog can do that. A dog can see a fight and know what is going on, just because they have Consciousness. That skill in us has the potential to be grown not only to perceive what is happening, but to understand them in levels that are very profound.
The goal here in Meditation is to increasingly separate from everything that is low on this Tree and go as high as possible – In other words, to go within and withdraw inside ourselves as deeply as we can and get closer and closer to seeing reality.
This is one thing about this Tree that can be difficult for us to conceptualize or understand because it is organized in a vertical pattern. It is really not about verticality, physically. It is about withdrawing into the depth of things inside of ourselves. To go deeper and deeper into the Consciousness. It is a matter of depth, not physical height.
The Trikaya, the trinity, is not above us in the sky, it is inside of us, but deep inside of the Consciousness. Someone who has the ability to meditate, to access Meditation can immediately jump into these deeper levels, immediately, without effort. To immediately cease paying attention to the body and energy, emotion and thought and to become Will, and see something and understand it. It is not a matter of time. It is not a matter of effort. This happens without effort and without exertion because it is a natural ability that every living thing has if we learn to use it.
In that from here, Tiphereth, that part of us which is the human soul, the Consciousness has access to all the upper parts of the Tree of Life, Divinity in others words. That which we call God or that which we call the Buddha, or the Master or Atman or all of that is within us and only the Consciousness has access to it. The physical body does not. The mind does not. Emotion does not. Emotion wants to know God, but by itself it cannot. Only Consciousness can know God. The mind wants to know God, the body wants proof of God, but it cannot know that. The Consciousness can know.
There is one thing here that I did not mention and it is the biggest problem that we have. The main problem we have is that we have too much desire, too much pride, too much anger, too much envy, fear, lust and that is what is represented in the shadow of the Tree. It is submerged levels in our mind.
Generally when we sit to meditate, we might get the body to relax. We might be able to have calm emotions and calm serene thought and we might be able to place attention. Then what is going to come up in our imagination? What will we visualize? What will we be seeing in our minds’ eye?
Let's say we had a fight with somebody and we want to understand, “why am I suffering with this anger? Why am I suffering with this pain with the fight I had with this person?” We sit to meditate we visualize that scene we start remembering and the pain starts blossoming, thoughts start coming and we are imagining how the anger wants revenge. We are imagining how our pride was hurt and we want their pride to be hurt. We want them to feel shame and remorse. When we have envy for something we do not have and we are trying to meditate on that trying to understand, we generally start feeding that envy instead of really understanding that envy.
The work is challenging. To successfully do it requires a very specific set of skills. The whole of the course we have given is based on this concept in Buddhism called the three trainings. This concept is present in every religion. It is the essential structure in every religion. But we used these terms specifically because they are so precise.
The Three Trainings
- Sila: ethics
- Samadhi: meditative ecstasy
- Prajna: profound wisdom
The basis of all spiritual life is ethics. It is the first step and it is the step on which everything else depends. Every religion has their own name for ethics. By ethics we do not mean morals, or doing what we tell you to do.
Ethics means you adopt beneficial action. Action that not only benefits yourself but benefits others. You stop harmful action. Not only harmful action against yourself, but harmful action against others. This means not only physically, but mentally. This means that not only should you not speak with violence against other people physically with your mouth, but also in your mind. Not only should you not curse your neighbor or speak harshly to others verbally, but also in your mind. That includes all the behaviors we express through ourselves as a mind.
You see, all of our actions physically, emotionally and mentally produce the state of mind that we are experiencing. We do not access real knowledge because our body is disturbed. When we change our behavior and we adopt beneficial action everything calms down. We become serene, we become happy instead of feeling anger, envy, lust and pride and all the pain we have we start to feel happiness and love for others and compassion for others and gratitude for what we do have.
Those qualities stabilize the mind and body and we become calm, we become serene. That is what this path is based on, meditative serenity – to develop pliancy of mind and body.
That pliancy is representative by this elephant. Do you see how calm and relaxed the elephant is and looks attentively at its master, ready to obey? Only a mind that is ethical can serve in that way. It is a body that is an expression of ethics that is the only one that can serve in that way.
How do we learn ethics? You do not learn it in a book. You learn it from yourself, from your conscience. Your conscience is that part or yourself that knows right from wrong. It knows when to speak and when not to speak and when to act and when not to act. Your conscience knows what is right and what is wrong. Where is the conscience? Where do you feel it? In a thought? Is the conscience in thoughts? No everybody know that! It is in your heart.
It is not a voice, it is not a thought, and it is not a word, it is a kick. It is a pulse, a movement in your heart and you feel it. But usually we ignore it because it contradicts our desires. It contradicts our anger, envy, and pride. Our pride wants to stand out and be out on top. Our anger wants revenge; our envy wants what others have.
The conscience tells us we do not need those things, but we do not listen to that. By listening to it, following the conscience and developing ethics, the mind and body stabilize and become serene and then we can access Samadhi. That is the second training. It refers to a state of Consciousness, a state of experience as a perceiver where the ego is not conditioning us at all. In such a moment there is no desire, no anger, no pride, no envy, no greed, no gluttony, no laziness, no lust and no fear. Instead there is contentment, serenity, and happiness. We have that inside if we stabilize the mind and body. If we do what is right and we act in a beneficial way for ourselves and others.
When we access that state, what we are accessing is the Consciousness unconditioned, unfiltered by sensation, and desire for sensation. It is unfiltered by emotion and intellect. The pure Consciousness released from all those cages on the lower part of the Tree of Life. In that state (which we call an ecstasy) is when the Consciousness experiences its’ true nature. We then and only then have access to real knowledge; which is Prajna, wisdom.
You see, this is a very simple structure. Step one: stabilize the mind and body by doing what is right and ceasing harmful action. That means you know longer have guilt, remorse and regret and you start doing the right thing and you start to feel happy, you start to calm down, you start to be content, you have gratitude and you have compassion, love, and patience.
With all of that the mind settles and our true nature becomes accessible to us and as we access that, it alone has the ability to see reality.
Our anger cannot see reality. Our pride cannot see reality, only when we are free of those conditions can we see it and then understand it. That means in all of our experiences in all times and all places through our use of our body, through the motor, instinctual and sexual brains, through our emotion, through our intellect we need to be measuring ourselves in this matter. Are we really serene? Are we really at peace? Are we really having acceptance of our circumstances and transforming them for the benefit of ourselves and others?
Let me tell you something, you will not find this because we all have pride and we all have anger, envy, greed, gluttony, and avarice. Until those qualities are radically eliminated we will never have true, lasting serenity. It is impossible. You can totally ignore your anger, pride, and envy and fool yourself into thinking you are serene and you can do that by running off into the woods and isolating yourself from all of humanity. You might start to feel a little serenity because there is no one there that will poke at your pride. There is no one there that will make you feel envious or lust, but as long as you are in society those qualities in you will be stimulated. If you just run away from all these unacceptable, uncomfortable, and painful qualities you will never change them. Observe an addict. The addict who simply avoids their addiction might be sober for a year, but if they do not comprehend that addiction it will come back stronger and will overwhelm them and destroy them. Probably some of us have observed that, seen that or may even be living it.
The only way that you can really be free from the suffering caused by pride, anger, envy is to deeply understand that they are lies. They are deceptive. They can never bring real happiness. It is only by directly confronting them that we can achieve that.
This quality of serenity: peacefulness, contentment, and acceptance is our goal, but it is not something that we try to adopt, fake, just trying to act that way, because that is a lie. These qualities must emerge spontaneously in us as we eliminate that which prevents them. You see, when you eliminate your anger when you really comprehend your anger, you will not feel anger. You will feel love. Even when someone is being terrible towards you, you will not be angry with them because you will understand their suffering. You will feel compassion for them.
That is how this works. Through comprehension we develop that ability to actually access serenity. The method is to combine these skills.
In our Meditation practice our goal is to reach comprehension and understanding of these qualities that make us suffer. The only way to fully and deeply comprehend them is to cultivate and use the powers that the Consciousness has. They are very nicely synthesized in this simple equation.
Concentration + Imagination = Meditation
If you have studied Meditation with any tradition you may find that they only have part of the equation. Some traditions only teach concentration practice. Some only teach imagination practice. It is rare to find those that still teach the combination of the two.
It is the combination that utilizes the full power of the Consciousness to change. That is what we teach – how to access them both and unite them.
The method that we work with today is a method to effortlessly utilize those skills in harmony with each other. To do that you need to have already developed some skill.
To utilize the technique that we call retrospection you need to already have the ability to concentrate. Did you find when you are trying to do this practice that you could not concentrate? Were you forgetting that you were meditating or were you caught up in thinking or caught up in remembering things and you got distracted for a while? If so that means you that you need to work with techniques to develop more concentration. That is what is mapped here.
When we get distracted easily we are still in these lower levels of meditative serenity. What we need in order to use retrospection effectively is the ability to meditate and not forget that we are meditating. Whether you are sitting for ten minutes, twenty minutes or an hour we need the ability to be aware of it throughout that time. If we are forgetting that we are meditating and we get distracted and drift away for a while then that shows us that we need to develop more concentration. We have more techniques for that.
It is advisable then for that student to daily work on concentration practices until they develop that ability to not forget what they are doing. Not only that but to do this all day long. It is the most basic skill in Meditation practice. Mindfulness is to be present and be aware of what you are doing at all times and to not be distracted.
When you are driving your car, just drive your car. You are not thinking about other things. When you are cooking you are only cooking, and you are aware of what you are doing. That continuity of awareness is what builds your concentration to be very strong.
Secondly you may find that while you may have some degree of concentration when you try to remember the scene or the events that happened throughout the day those memories are not clear. The memories are fleeting. You may be able to recall an image and it comes briefly and then goes away. Or it comes briefly and starts to change into something that does not really happen. That shows that you need to develop that skill of visualization more profoundly. We also have techniques for that involving visualization to develop that power.
In synthesis once you develop those in combination with each other we learn to use them in Meditation practice, and retrospection is the purpose of that. It is one of the purposes of that. It is the most significant because it is the one that leads to comprehension. Then we sit to meditate and we put the physical body to rest and we direct and utilize energy to stabilize mind and body. We disengage from emotion. We disengage from thinking. We place attention and willpower on visualizing that event that we want to understand. Everything below visualization and imagination is suspended. The body, emotion, and thought are still and silent and if something happens there we do not pay attention to it. We ignore it. You may be aware of it but you do not want to engage in it.
This is the goal at this phase of practice. You will place attention on the thing you want to understand and visualize it. This thing you want to understand can be anything. It can be a memory, an experience, it can be an emotion, it can be a thought, it can be a scripture, a teaching, it can be a mantra. What we want to do is place that element that we want to understand there in the screen of our imagination and hold it there and then we wait. You might wait a long time. If you are patient and your concentration is good and your visualization is good and you watch that element at some point something new will emerge. It can come out in a lot of different ways. Whatever that new thing is we need to observe it in the same way that we are observing everything else. That means with indifference, without desire.
For example, you are meditating on an event and you are holding it and then some new scene or new image emerges, so you get excited, then it is over. It is done. The emotion clouds your vision. Or some image emerges and your minds starts thinking “oh, this looks like this and it reminds me of this.” That is intellect. That is associative thought. That means it is over. The conscious aspect that was able to see without the interference of emotion or intellect is over. Now you are back into emotion and intellect, meaning your perception of reality is limited.
What we want to reach is the ability to visualize that thing and have new information emerge and not react, physically, emotionally or intellectually, but to simply continue observing. That thing will become more and more clear and stable, and new information will emerge and what are we measuring that experience with? It is not emotion. It is not thought. It is conscience. It is that ability of knowing the truth, right from wrong. It is the reality. We have a word for it. It is really misused nowadays, but it is intuition.
Intuition is knowledge in the heart that knows without thought or emotion. That is how you reach comprehension of something. It is a profound thing. In the beginning it is very delicate, like a baby growing. It has to be treated as such with a lot of caution, respect and a lot of gentleness so that it can develop and become something strong. If you are growing roses or flowers in your garden you do not want to go tromping around and beating on the thing. You have to be very respectful of it, very nurturing, very patient and it is the same with inutition.
If you approach it with this gentle nourishment and respect, it does grow into something very beautiful. Overpoweringly beautiful! Magical even. But it does not arise by force. It is with patience. This is what Meditation practice is for.
All of the techniques that any of you have ever heard of fit into that roadmap to reach into this ability. Observing a breath, meditating on chakras, doing energy practices, doing pranayamas, doing yantra work, or visualizing the Gods – all of those techniques are preliminary practices. They are just training exercises. They are to teach you the abilities so that you can in turn reflect on yourself and see the truth of who you are inside and change. The conscience can look at the mind and see the mind without interference.
The conscience is rooted here in the human soul. This is where we experience it as an impulse in us. It is related to the human soul. It is that beating in the heart, that Consciousness that says it is wrong don’t do that, or do that and you do not have a thought as of to why you may not be able to explain it logically, and it may contradict your emotions, but you know it is right.
That conscience when it is developed becomes your connection to your Divinity inside of you. It becomes far more than just a beating in the heart, a little impulse in the heart. It becomes a torrent of knowledge that is emerging out of the Divine.
You see, that little spark that we are experiencing out of the physicality as conscience is connected to the upper reaches of the Tree of Life. It is how we access knowledge intelligence and wisdom and the crown of life. Which ultimately one day we hope to achieve. It is all reached through the conscience. You cannot hear the conscience when the mind is overactive and when we are identified with the physical body. That is why all these aspects, thought emotion, energy, body need to become passive, receptive so that the conscience can express knowledge in us, real knowing. This is why we need Meditation.
When that skill is emerging, the process of Meditation is not linear and it is not limited to the moments you are sitting in Meditation or sitting in your cushion on your bed. It is a living dynamic that pervades your entire life.
This is a dynamic that you establish that permits everything. You will get visions in dreams. You will get impulses doing the dishes or in the shower walking the dog and you will suddenly feel it. Everything will change for you. You will just see it, you will know it, you will understand it, and you may not be able to put it in words, but you will know.
That is the value of this lifestyle. Meditation is not simply an hour per day or ten minutes per day or an hour a week or whatever it is. It is a whole way of living. It changes everything you do and everything you experience. When you are really dedicated to it, it reveals life to you in an incredible way. Unfolding life right before you. Seeing layers and layers and layers in yourself and understanding traumas and pains and sufferings and peeling them back and liberating yourself from the suffering of those things.
Every time you understand a knot of suffering that you experienced, you are liberating energy from that place it was trapped and that liberated energy grows the conscience. It expands it.
Step by step, day by day, that skill is expanding and expanding and expanding and you are capability to understand expands not only to understand yourself, but to understand others. Not only are you reducing your anger and developing more patience, but you are developing more love.
It is a simple thing, a beautiful thing, a difficult thing, but also effortless.
Every lecture we give you exercises to do. At this stage of the course we want to continue to develop our ability to observe ourselves through the day. This is a sense not just a skill.
Self-observation is a sense; it is a way of perceiving and feeling. It is a way of experiencing. When you are observing yourself it is based and rooted in being here and now and observing actively. You can know you are sitting there, but it is another thing entirely to consciously know that you are sitting there. You can know you are driving, but it is completely different to observe you are driving, to actively watch.
What needs to happen in that observation is simply the inquisitiveness of looking, but not to add thought or emotion. Does everyone notice when late at night you hear an unusual sound in your house but you do not know what it is and that first instant you have that inquisitiveness? Then comes a thought, what is that? Then the mind starts thinking and puts together that sound with things you have experienced in the past. That all happens very fast. The very first thing that happens is the inquisitiveness. There is an openness to mind, but the intellect rapidly narrows down all of the possibilities to what it is already known and says it must be the cat, or the neighbor, or the wind. You see how the mind does that? We need to suspend that in Meditation. To stop that when you are meditating.
Instead, be the one who is simply looking and does not know the answer. To no longer let the mind put labels and names and compare with its past experience because its past experience is extremely limited and conditioned entirely by suffering. It does not know reality.
If you want to know reality, you have to be willing to look objectively, and accept that you do not know the truth already.
Self-observation should be the same. Observe yourself as if you do not know who you are. Be looking as though “there is this strange thing, I am in this weird machine that is walking around and saying things and doing things and I do not know who is in charge of it. Sometimes it has these emotions and thoughts coming out of it. These words coming out of it and I do not know what it is doing and who is it that is running this machine.”
This is how self-observation becomes broader. If you are going around thinking that you know yourself and you know who you are and what you are then you are narrowing your range of perception. Open it up and let go of all those notions of “I know who I am” because you do not, none of us do.
The second practice is that to begin working on this retrospection daily. All day long observe yourself and at night remember what you observed. Not analyzing, not labeling. We do not want the intellect saying “I did this and this and it was all very logical.” That is not how you retrospect. It is simply to recall the memories of what happened. No labels, no names, no analysis. It is where you just gather the facts. You are simply putting together all the available facts.
Finally, after you do the retrospection pick a fact that you want to investigate further. And again meditate on that, but do not speculate on it. Do not let your emotions color it. Do not be distracted. Just observe it as it is and be patient.
The exercises for today, even though described in a simple way here, they do require that you have already developed some skill. You need to have sufficient concentration, you need to have sufficient relaxation, and you need to have sufficient imagination.
You have to be honest with yourself and really recognize the level of development that you have and what you need.
I do not expect that everyone listening to this lecture will be capable of doing these practices today. I am explaining them so you know what you are working towards.
There is a goal and a purpose to all of this. Start where you are. If you have a completely wild mind that will not obey you and your body will not obey you at all, start at the beginning and train it.