Mahayana Mind Training 3

Section 1

This morning we talked about the groundwork. And basically this boils down to being clear about why one is doing this practice. Really clear about why you’re doing any practice. One may think that, “Okay, I get clear about this and that takes care of it.” But it doesn’t really work that way. As our practice experience matures, we may find that we have achieved or resolved—or whatever the appropriate term is—the questions which were our original motivation.

Then you have a problem. By that point practice has become part of one’s life. But now you don’t have any motivation for it. And it’s important to recognize the signs of that. It’s a certain flatness, lack of energy, feel like you’re going through the motions. Lack of enthusiasm, boredom, etc. And you kind of miss, you might say, you miss the struggle. That may sound a little foreign to some people.

And at that point one does either one of two things. You either stop practicing, which for most people doesn’t feel like the right answer, or you have to dig deeper into yourself for the next motivation. And that can be quite challenging.

Section 2

Now, that’s the first of the seven points. Over the next few talks I’m planning to go through all of the seven points. None of them are as short as the first one because there’s only one instruction: do the groundwork.

The next point is about practice and it’s divided in two parts. One is practice about what is ultimately true, and the other is practice about what is apparently true. Now, we’ll spend this evening and tomorrow morning on these two. But I need to lay a little foundation for this so that you can hopefully understand what each of these practices do and how to do them.

I think this morning I made reference to the world which consists of what we actually experience, and the world of shared experience in reference to meditations on death and impermanence, for instance. I find this distinction increasingly important for two reasons at least.

The first is, without this distinction one can get very confused about what Buddhism is actually teaching. So that’s one reason it’s important. And second is that it helps a great deal in understanding how to approach the question of, How do we integrate this in our lives?

And that’s everybody’s question. It’s all very well to sit on the mat, but how do we integrate it into our lives? Right? How many of you have asked me that question in one form or another? Yeah, lot’s of you. Well, I could be a little glib and say everything I’ve told you up to now is wrong on the subject. And it goes with the territory.

My current view on this is integration is a myth, and that if we try to integrate we can only end up in confusion. And I think that the better path is becoming much, much clearer about what it means to practice and what practice looks like. Now, I’ll have a lot more to say on this as we go through all of the seven points. But let me talk a little bit about why I think this integration is a myth.

Section 3

We have a meditation practice. Our formal practice, and then we have what we call our lives. And right there we’ve made a division. Right? There’s what we do in formal practice—sitting such as we’re doing at retreat—and the rest of the time. That’s a division. And we want to integrate what we’re doing in our formal practice with what we’re doing the rest of the time.

And people regularly express their difficulties about being able to do that. It’s all very well to just be able to sit and experience these things, but in real life things are happening too fast, and there are too many things going on, and get all confused, and you can’t remember anything, and all goes out the window.

So, one way that I’ve responded to that dichotomy and the tension that that dichotomy creates for many people…that is: real practice is sitting on the cushion, and then you do this other thing the rest of the time, and just sort of taking care of life. In some centers in some traditions you get the idea that you’re really only alive when you’re actually practicing and the rest of the time you’re half dead. You know, and then people say, “Well what about my family, or what about my work, or what about my career? I mean isn’t that important?” You get into all of these tangles.

So, one way I’ve responded to this is to say life is about the practice, or practice is about cultivating attention. And in your meditation practice you are cultivating attention unmixed with activity. And the rest of the time you’re cultivating attention mixed with activity. And people have found that helpful. They get the idea that in their day-to-day lives there needs to be a constant effort in attention.

Well, I think we actually have to be much more extreme about this to really clear this up because there’s still a lot of tension there. That is, you know, I can cultivate it when there isn’t too much going on, but when there’s a lot more going on then I can’t cultivate it. And many demands at work, etc., etc., family, everything’s happening at once. The usual complaints. And all of this is an effort to integrate our practice into our lives.

Section 4

And then there are questions about, well, What do we do about the political and social inequities that we see? What is a Buddhist approach? How do we integrate our practice with those things? And if you really take action on those things then of course the rest of our life experiences extreme repercussions, and most people aren’t willing to go there, so they’re still left in this dilemma of how do I integrate this?

And I think, currently, that the problem is very much in how the question is phrased. I think we have to become much clearer about what is our life. What is life? And like all spiritual traditions, Buddhism is a response to two questions that come up for everybody: What am I? and, What is life? Now, here’s the Buddhist answer to those two questions.

What am I? Nothing.

What is life? A dream.

Those are the actual Buddhist answers. For some reason most people don’t find them very satisfactory, you know. And I think one of the reasons they don’t find them satisfactory is that when those questions are posed the word—particularly the word life—is being understood differently from the way that Buddhism actually talks about life.

I remember when I was translating for Rinpoche for a radio interview in Canada, CBC. The first question was, “What is the meaning of life?” and I translated this to Rinpoche, and tried to explain the question and became totally tangled up in knots. Because the obvious way of translating the question it’s like, What is the definition of life? The word for meaning and definition being the same in Tibetan and you could also translate it, What is the purpose of life? But you always had to shade it. You couldn’t ask the question, What is the meaning of life?

And I got so tangled up in knots that I just turned to everybody in the engineering room and said, “Can we start all over again please?” And then I just translated and so the dialogue started off.

“What is the meaning of life?”

“Life is the time between birth and death.”

And I just left it up to the interviewer to sort this out. [Laughter] And at the end of the interview, and at that time this was one of CBC’s top interviewers, this guy was pale and sweaty by the end of the interview because he had no idea of what was going to come next. You know and he’d ask a question and it’d go off in this direction, and then so he’d try and do that, and it’d go off over here. It’s great.

Section 5

We ordinarily think of life as family, friends, career, things we find interesting to do, and so forth. That’s what we think life is. It’s what we are taught life is. But that isn’t what life actually is.

Life consists of precisely what we experience.

What do we actually experience? We experience sensations: color, shape, sound, taste, smell, texture, touch; thought and feelings. So we have all the sensory sensations, and then we have thoughts and feelings. Emotions if you wish. That’s what life actually consists of.

And there’s a very big difference between these two notions of life. I can regard life as being my career, and for many people their life is their career, their career is their life. Well, somebody can have my career. They can take it over. They can take over my job. And the things that make up my career, which are positions and meetings and money, income. These are things that we can trade and share and exchange and do all kinds of things with.

So that’s what I call the world of shared experience. And in the world of shared experience there’s very definitely a sense of more and a sense of less. And most of us try to have more of the things that we like; less of the things we don’t like. And we get totally caught up in this.

But in the world of actual experience, if you open to what you’re actually experiencing right now, you can start by just sitting here and experiencing everything that you see. All the different shapes and colors, which ordinarily we call people and clothes, but they’re just sensory experiences, visual experiences. And all the sensory experiences in our body, the sensation of sitting, pressure on various parts of the body, touch of our clothes and so forth.

And open to all of that. And then in addition to that there is all the feelings and emotions. You may notice as you look around and experience things that there is, “I like this. I don’t like that. That’s interesting.” And those are other experiences that are arising. And there are all the thoughts and stories associated with those. And those are other experiences. Or maybe there aren’t a lot of thoughts, and there’s a kind of peace. Well, that’s another experience.

When we move into that way of experiencing life it gets quite interesting. Because there’s nothing anybody can put into that world and there’s nothing we can give anybody from that world. You know. How many of you had a cookie at tea? Okay, lots of you. How would you give somebody your experience of the taste of that cookie? Is that possible?

We have this great California expression here: Can you share the experience? Okay, I want you to share, I didn’t have any of those cookies, so I’d like you to share that experience with me. Any takers? You’re a very ungenerous bunch. [Laughter] You don’t want to share at all. But that’s the way it is with the world that we actually experience. We can’t trade or exchange or do anything with any other person. And the world that we ordinarily regard as life is built out of all those experiences.

Section 6

What Buddhism teaches, and shows us how to do is to be completely awake and present in the life that we actually experience. And part of being awake is to know that the life of shared experience is a construction. That’s what is meant partially by Everything that arises is an illusion. It’s not real in the way that we ordinarily take it to be.

But it gets worse. Let’s just confine ourselves for the time being to the world of individual experience, the world we actually experience. So, I see beige carpet or I see purple shirt or I see Deborah has red hair. And I have the sense that there’s something here called an I and there’s something there, which for the purpose of this discussion I’ll call an object. So we have subject and object, that’s ordinarily how we experience things. That’s not true either. That is also a misperception.

That’s good. What do you see?

Student: A gray sheet of paper.

Ken: Okay. Now, probably better pick up a microphone, you’re going to be here for a while. [Laughter]

Student: Turn down the volume.

Ken: So you see a gray sheet of paper here?

Student: With some white flashing around the edges.

Ken: Yeah. Well let’s not worry about the distracting things. It’s a gray sheet of paper. Okay? I’m going to take issue with that. I would perhaps agree that you see a gray rectangle.

Student: Yes.

Ken: You infer there’s a sheet of paper there.

Student: You’re right.

Ken: Okay.

Student: Yeah.

Ken: So let’s just take it, very simple elements, gray rectangle. Now, please listen carefully. Where does that seeing take place? A little difficult isn’t it?

Student: Yeah, but I know I have an eye faculty you know. [Laughter]

Ken: Yes, we have these things called eyes. We have the faculty of sight, but where does the seeing take place? Well, there are three possibilities. Right? It can take place outside you, it can take place inside you, and if failing that, it can take place in between. Is that correct? Okay. Does it take place outside you?

Student: No.

Ken: No, because how would you see that? Right?

Student: And in-between is still outside of me.

Ken: We aren’t quite sure where in-between is. Does it take place inside of you?

Student: It’s that…that observer thing, you know.

Ken: Okay. And it’s not clear where the in-between between inside and outside is. Right? So can you point out to me where the seeing takes place?

Student: Not really.

Ken: No. It’s going to get worse. Now, you have the experience of seeing a gray sheet of paper, or a gray rectangle. Okay? I want you to pay very close attention to your experience and then I’m going to ask you a question. You ready?

Student: Yes.

[Ken hides the sheet of paper behind his back]

Ken: The question I’m going to ask is, Where did the seeing go?

Student: Nowhere. It’s still there.

Ken: The seeing of the gray?

Student: No.

Ken: No? Where did that seeing go? Okay, I’ll help you here. Do you see a gray rectangle now?

Student: It goes to the past.

Ken: Pardon?

Student: It moves immediately into the past, right? It’s not part of the present anymore when it’s behind you. But now it’s…

Ken: I’ll agree it’s not part of the present. Whether it moved into the past or the future I’m not going to touch that one. [Laughter]

Student: I’d like to see you make it move into the future.

Ken: I don’t want to touch that one. Okay. But now you see again right? You see a gray rectangle.

Student: Right.

Ken: Where did the seeing come from?

Student: Well, it feels like it’s somewhere in my head you know.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: But—

Ken: But when I do this, did I do anything to your head?

Student: No.

Ken: Did I do anything inside you?

Student: No, but the object is no longer there.

Ken: Yes, but what I’m focusing on here is not the object but the seeing.

Student: Well, I can see more of the wood behind where it was.

Ken: Yeah. But the seeing of this. This is very important.

Student: Okay.

Ken: Okay, so where does the seeing of this come from? Where does it go? Where is it? Now—

Student: It’s just in present awareness isn’t it?

Ken: Well, yeah, but where’s that?

Student: It isn’t a location.

Ken: Well this is getting deep. [Laughter] So, are you saying that that seeing isn’t anywhere?

Student: I think so.

Ken: Now, when you start to experience that way, what happens? Because if it’s true for this, it follows that it’s true for everything, isn’t it?

Student: Yes. And…I think that.

Ken: Okay.

Student: Sometimes.

Ken: Okay. Now, it gets a little bit worse. What’s the relationship between the gray rectangle and the seeing?

Student: Focus.

Ken: Hmm? Focus?

Student: Well the seeing is focused on that instead of on your shirt.

Ken: Well, we have the seeing of the gray rectangle and we have the gray rectangle.

Student: Okay.

Ken: What is the relationship between those two?

Student: Again, just awareness.

Ken: Where did the awareness come from? You keep introducing this awareness—I’m just asking about seeing. So we have the seeing of the gray rectangle and the gray rectangle. What’s the relationship between those two?

Student: Well, they both have the same gray rectangle.

Ken: Yeah. Can you separate the gray rectangle from the seeing of the gray rectangle?

Student: Probably not.

Ken: Yeah, I don’t think that’s tough. And now, what about the seeing and the seeing of the gray rectangle? What’s the relationship between those?

Student: The seeing…again I think of eye faculty. I mean the seeing is something that’s…it’s a capacity. Seeing is a capacity.

Ken: That’s quite right. Can you separate the seeing of the gray rectangle and that seeing from the seeing of the gray rectangle? It’s difficult.

Student: Well, they’re the same except that seeing has no object. I’m just thinking of the process of seeing, you know.

Ken: What does it mean to see if there’s no object?

Student: Well, you know I’m coming to this from awareness—aware of awareness—seeing without seeing anything—

Ken: Yeah. I All those concepts, forget about those. I just want you to concentrate. What is the meaning of seeing if there’s no object? Difficult isn’t it? Difficult to say.

Student: Yeah, if there’s nothing to see.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: It’s like the tree in the forest falling without anybody hearing it—

Ken: That’s actually a whole different thing but we’re not going to go down that road right now. Now, what I want to point out here is that we have ostensibly three different things here: the seeing, the gray rectangle, and some kind of connection between the two. But I think from our little exploration it actually gets very difficult to sort out and separate those things out. You follow? And the seeing the gray rectangle just arises out of nothing. It disappears into nothing. And when I asked you where it was you said, “Well, isn’t anywhere anyway.” What do we normally say about something that comes from nowhere, goes nowhere and isn’t anywhere?

Student: Doesn’t exist.

Ken: Yet, you experienced this.

Student: Yeah.

Ken: Okay. Now, this is what Buddhism is talking about. Ordinarily we’re caught up in subject-object, etc. But when we really examine our experience, that’s not how it is at all. There’s just experience which has these two aspects of experiencing and something experienced. And we cannot separate them at all. And that combination, if you wish, arises in a very mysterious way. So, the best analogy for this is a dream.

Section 7

There you are asleep. Had a little problem the other day ’cause I don’t dream very often, but I dreamt that I had made a phone call to my main business client because there were some problems with that particular organization, and I had had this very intense conversation with my main client, which basically went the way I wanted it to. Then I woke up and went about my day and realized, “Hmm, I’m meant to call her. Uh, I remember calling her. Oh, no that was a dream. I haven’t actually called her.” So I called her and we had the same intense conversation.

Things arise vividly in a dream. Right? Where do they come from? Where are they? Where do they go? It’s exactly the same isn’t it? So, when it says here, you look at mind training teachings, Look at all experience as a dream.

This instruction doesn’t mean what many people think it means: “Oh, it‘s all a dream, it doesn’t matter.” It means, what we’ve been talking about just here. That everything that we experience arises in this mysterious way. Ordinarily, we don’t relate to that mystery at all. We just take everything as being this, does this, does this, does this. We don’t question it. But to look at everything as a dream is to question, “Okay, what am I experiencing? How is it arising?” And everything then takes on this rather dreamlike quality.

Now, when they say, “This is completely nuts. What’s the use of that?” Actually it’s very, very useful because if you have that question mark in what you are experiencing you’re much less likely to react to an insult with anger or to be attracted to something with grasping after it because you’re going, “What am I experiencing?” So it actually frees you from a lot of reactivity. And that is among the purposes of that instruction.

But for our purposes right now it’s mainly questioning: What is it that I experience? What is this that I experience? What is it? And where it seems straightforward, just from this little investigation you see it’s not as straightforward as it seems. And what we’re left with here is that we cannot separate experience from being aware of experience. Impossible to separate that. So it leads us naturally to a second question. And that second question is, What is this awareness? Any takers on that one?

Section 8

Student: This isn’t a direct answer, but [laughter] you know that awareness is not actually always awareness of something.

Ken: Go ahead.

Student: I just toss it out there because all experience is inseparable from awareness, but…I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just—

Ken: Well you’re—

Student: —muddied the water further.

Ken: So what is this awareness? I mean you experience this room, right? All of these sensations. You know, all of the shapes and colors, etc. There’s an awareness of all that, right? What is that awareness? If I were a Zen teacher I would say, “If you don’t say anything I’ll hit you. If you do say anything I’ll hit you.” [Laughter] But I’m not, so you’re safe. What is it? Now, notice what’s happening. How much are you thinking right now?

Student: A little bit but I’m looking.

Ken: Yeah. It’s a little different from thinking right? So, that’s what the next instruction means. Examine the nature of unborn awareness. Ordinarily we think of examine as think about, turn it over. It might be better to say, you know, Look at the nature of unborn awareness. You just look at it; you don’t think about it. For instance if I were to say to you, “Look at that bird.” You wouldn’t sit there thinking, “Now a bird is a two-legged creature that flies through the air, and it has feathers.” That’s not what you would do. You would look at it. So that’s the sense of this instruction, Look at the nature of unborn awareness, or examine the nature of unborn awareness. You look at it.

[Could you pass it to Cary please?]

Section 9

Student: So what’s the significance of unborn? Why not just awareness?

Ken: Well, when you look at this awareness, where does it come from? That’s why unborn. It doesn’t come from anything.

Student: It proceeds experience.

Ken: You tell me. Does it proceed experience?

Student: Not really, no.

Ken: How did you arrive at that?

Student: Well I’m trying to get at this sense that it’s somehow more fundamental than experience. That it exists below—

Ken: What are you doing right now?

Student: Thinking.

Ken: You’re trying to understand it.

Student: Right.

Ken: Right?

Student: Yeah.

Ken: Forget about it

Student: Okay.

Ken: [Laughter] That’s like…look at the bird. Okay, I’m going to understand the bird. My favorite quotation about birds right now: When there’s a discrepancy between the book and the bird, believe the bird. You follow? Yeah. All of that thinking—that’s like the book. Do you experience that awareness? You’re nodding your head.

Student: Yeah.

Ken: Okay, then look at that. Don’t construct theories, or ideas, or explanations. That’s really not very helpful because that takes you away from knowing it. You follow? This is very hard for many people. [Oh, could you pass it back here.] First question back here.

Section 10

Student: So, if I’m completely confused by all of this my work is to just sit with that and notice it?

Ken: Well, let’s take that, okay? You say you were completely confused.

Student: Yes.

Ken: What’s your experience? What are you experiencing?

Student: My head feels fuzzy. I have a lot of somatic. My stomach is knotted up.

Ken: Stomach’s knotted up, head’s all fuzzy. Okay.

Student: And then the words are…I can’t get this…this is…

Ken: Yeah, okay. So the stories start up.

Student: …that’s a story.

Ken: Yeah, okay, all right. So that’s what you’re experiencing. What experiences that?

Student: Okay.

Ken: Now, what happens when I ask you that question?

Student: There was a movement I made, just…there was a pause and I just went…ah.

Ken: Okay, that’s right. That’s exactly right. Okay. So there’s a shift and you’re just looking. Now, were you confused in that looking? In that first moment of looking were you—

Student: No.

Ken: No, no confusion. Was your stomach all churned up?

Student: I wasn’t aware. I don’t—

Ken: No. Was your head all full of fuzz?

Student: No.

Ken: No.

Student: Okay.

Ken: [Ken snaps fingers] Like that, you were in clear attention. You follow?

You know what the trick is? Rest there. [Laughter].

Student: That’s the hard part.

Ken: Not so easy, but that’s what you do. Okay, you had a question?

Section 11

Student: I just wondered if unborn awareness might relate to the gold you were talking about this morning?

Ken: The goal?

Student: The gold.

Ken: The gold, ah thank you. I’m going to let you discover that. Okay? You can tell me in a couple of days. Okay? Jeremy, you had a question.

Jeremy: My leg is cramping right now.

Ken: What experiences that? [Laughter]

Jeremy: Nothing. It seems really easy when we regard phenomena as a dream to say…to make the move, which you mentioned of and that it doesn’t matter. And I think that’s not what you’re saying, one. And it makes me wonder what’s the role of ethics in a scheme where things are to be regarded as a dream.

Ken: Can you bring that up in about two days time? Certainly I can respond to it, but it will take us away from where I want to focus the attention right now. It’s an important question. But I think we’ll get there.

Section 12

Now, I’ve described two steps so far. One is relating to everything as a dream, and I definitely mean by that not that it doesn’t matter but that it’s kind of a wonder or an awe or a mystery, a curiosity. What is this that I experience?

And then: What is experiencing? What is this awareness? And when we look we see no thing. And yet, experience is vivid and present. And those two things are not contradictory. They’re both there.

And when we are resting like that inevitably various thoughts arise. Thoughts along the lines of, “Everything’s empty. There is no good or bad. It’s all space.” And many, many other possibilities. Those are just a few examples. Those are thoughts. As soon as we engage thinking, we drop out of that level of attention. So when those thoughts arise, remember they’re just another experience.

So as the thought arises you look at what experiences that thought and what happens when you do that is the thought goes “poof” and you come back to resting and looking at nothing. That’s what the third instruction means. Let even the remedy release naturally. Remedy here is not really a remedy—that’s just the way it’s worded—but this idea that everything’s empty or nothing has any substantial existence and so forth. The remedy to the way we ordinarily relate to experience is that it’s all very solid and very real and very tangible, but we’ve already seen that it’s not as solid and real and tangible. It’s kind of a mystery actually. So we let even those thoughts subside.

And that’s a process you can go through in your practice over and over again. Opening to experience as just experience, and rest that way for a while. And then look at what experiences this. And then when the inevitable thoughts about what it is arise just look at what experiences that. So, just as with basic meditation there’s a sense of returning again and again to the breath. Here we return again and again to that empty looking.

Now, this is more difficult because it requires a higher level of attention. You’ll find that that looking, for some of you, will only last for, you know, half a second or a second. It’s best to do this without pushing too hard. Because when you push hard you just churn up the activity in the mind and then you can’t see anything; there’s just turbulence. When that happens, just rest. Don’t do anything, just rest.

Section 13

Now a very interesting thing happens when we just rest. A whole bunch of other stuff starts kicking up, “I’m not doing anything productive.” Right? “No, no, I’m here at a retreat and I meant to be working at this. And I paid my money, I’m going to do it. I’m going to make stuff happen.” It’s hopeless.

You just rest. If you need to, rest with the breath, but it’s actually better—just rest. At a certain point you’re going to find that you can look again. So you’re going to go back and forth between just resting and looking in the way that I’ve been describing and eventually you’ll come to the point where you can rest in the looking. And that’s where things begin to get a little interesting. Don’t try to understand any of this. It’s not possible.

My father—when I first got involved in Buddhism—I’d give him books and he would read them and he’d go, “I don’t get this Ken, it says right here you can’t understand this. I don’t know why you’re studying it.” [Laughter]

The point here isn’t so much to understand it, it’s to know it. So, by constantly looking at you know really silly little things like a gray rectangle, and okay, what is this experience? You begin to know it. It’s not about understanding it. It’s about knowing it. And when you know it you know that it’s an arising which arises in a mysterious way that you cannot name or describe in any way whatsoever. It’s not ordinarily how we experience life. You know, imagine experiencing your husband or wife or girlfriend this way. There’s something very different about that.

But you can do this while walking along a pathway and a rock captures your attention and you go, “Oh, what is this?” And you find yourself just resting in the looking. Or you can do it looking at the sky or the mountain across the valley. You can do it while you are eating. You know you taste. You have this rich taste of whatever, and you go, “What is this?” And it’s very difficult to say.

And as you develop an ability with that then you can take the next step and what is this awareness that knows this? And then you find yourself looking at no thing. And yet in that looking, awareness doesn’t go away. It’s not like there’s nothing happening. It’s not like you’re asleep, or just empty space, there’s a knowing. What is that knowing? And then when the thoughts arise as they do from time to time you go, “What experiences that?” And then sometimes you just rest.

Section 14

That’s the fourth instruction here: rest in what you are. The essence of the path: rest in the basis of all experience. You are clear knowing that is beyond intellect. Empty clarity in which experience arises, unceasingly. This is Buddha nature, when you recognize it rest there and do nothing. That’s basically the practice of shikantaza, mahamudra, dzogchen, and so forth.

And then when we’re not doing formal meditation, and you’re not working at it in a way that I’ve just described then just—to use Trungpa’s memorable phrase, Be a child of illusion. It’s a complete mistranslation of the actual text, but it happens to capture the feeling perfectly. The actual translation is, be a sorcerer, or be like a sorcerer. Because a sorcerer creates illusions, but knows that they are illusions. But, Trungpa’s Be a child of illusion has this wonderful quality of just like, “Oh, it’s all here and I have no idea what any of it is.”

So there’s a kind of open wonderment. A suspension of our intellectual conceptual faculty, which actually prevents us from knowing our experience. It gets in the way. So cultivate that in between sessions of formal meditation.

So, I’ve gone over this. Questions. Do you have a mic somewhere?

Student: Turn it on.

Student: If the practice that is most restful to me is, for example, mahamudra, would that be an example of my resting or not?

Ken: Yeah, that’s certainly an example of resting. And then from time to time do a little exploration.

Student: Looking.

Ken; Looking, right. What is this? I mean there you are, you’re sitting in the zendo and you see the play of light and shadow on the floor say. Okay? Well, I see that. Where’s that seeing? What’s aware of that? That kind of exploration. Not thinking about it. Just looking at actual experience and becoming curious about it. Okay? Other questions?

Everybody clear about their practice? Now, as I said earlier, when you do this you may find from time to time that your head’s just a jumble of thoughts and you can’t do anything. Then it’s really not useful to do this form of practice then, and what I suggest you do is just rest with the breath or just rest and let things quiet down. Because this practice is best done from a stable base of attention and we’re early in the retreat.

This is not the main practice of taking and sending, but it does provide the framework or the environment in which taking and sending operates, and I’ll talk more about that tomorrow morning. Because we’ll move to actual taking and sending tomorrow, but I just want to get you to have some flavor, some sense of this open dimension to experience that is not as solid and defined as we ordinarily regard it. Okay? Any questions before we close for dinner? We’re actually going to close on time. Okay. We return to silence. Have a good dinner and I’ll see you in the zendo at seven. Okay.

Creative Commons LicenseThis transcript by Ken McLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. This transcript has been edited to make it more readable. There may be minor differences between the audio file and the transcript.