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The son of a noble family in Japan had partially because of his position in the family, partially because of his own inclinations, devoted his own time and energy to the study of the tea ceremony. As a consequence, although relatively young, he’d become quite respected as a master of the tea ceremony. The attention and precision he brought to every step of the preparation, the making of the tea, serving it, drinking it, were quite well known.
One day as he was walking through the marketplace, a ronin, that is to say an unemployed samurai, spotted him, saw that, “Ah, here is the son of a noble family.” You could tell this by the son’s dress. “Here’s some easy pickings.”
So he put himself in a position where he bumped against this noble son. He said, “Oh, you pushed me, You jostled me. This will not do. I demand satisfaction.” The ronin’s idea was this son would be afraid to fight him and so he’d seek to buy him off.
But this wasn’t the young man’s way. And he said, “What will give you your satisfaction?” He said, “We duel tomorrow at six o’clock.” And the ronin named such a place. And the young man said, “I will be there.”
And then the young man went to a relative of his who was a sword-master. He said, “I have a problem. A ronin jostled me in the marketplace today and demanded satisfaction. It would bring dishonor to my house if I were to pay any ransom. So I wish you to give me instructions so I can die with clarity and honor.” And the relative, the sword master said, “Have you ever handled a sword.” He said, “No, I haven’t.” “Fine, but you are a tea master, aren’t you?” And the young man said, “Yes I’ve studied the tea ceremony.” He said, “Serve me tea.” So the young man served him tea. And his attention and precision [unclear] was right there.
And the sword-master observed this. He said,îHere’s what you do. You arrive at the appointed place five minutes late. When you arrive, you apologize profusely for being late. Then you bind your sleeves in this way.î And he showed him a certain way of binding the sleeves so they didn’t get in the way, which was the way in which an expert swords-man would bind his sleeves.
“You then take a position with the sword over your head, like this. And when you feel the ronin’s sword enter your body, you bring your sword down. You’ll both die. And the young man bowed to the sword-master and said thank you. And he left.
The next morning, just as instructed, he arrived five minutes late. The ronin was becoming quite unsettled, he thought, this guy didn’t show up, didn’t pay the ransom, I’m going to have to go around to his home and make a big fuss about this. He wasn’t feeling too happy.
But then the young noble man showed up and apologized profusely for being late. And then said, ìShould we get ready?” The ronin was a little puzzled at this point. “He doesn’t seem to be concerned about this duel at all, he’s more concerned about being late. Hmm…” He said, “Okay, we’ll get ready.”
And then he watched this person, the nobleman, start binding his sleeves. And the ronin thought, “Hmmm, I may have made a mistake here.” And the young nobleman took his stance. And the ronin saw him take his stance and thought this was a very unusual stance for a swordsman. Clearly this man knew something that he didn’t. So the ronin bowed and said, “I’m sorry. It was all a mistake.” And left.
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Things don’t always work out that way. But the point of power comes in the moment that you are willing to die. So this is the third step in the warrior’s solution. Die. Now. Right now. You have thirty seconds to live. Thirty seconds and you are going to die. They’re ticking by. What are you experiencing? Fifteen seconds left. What are you experiencing? That’s it. Die. What are you experiencing?
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A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a talk at a fairly large well-established meditation center. Had a program where one night per week people came to meditate and to hear a dharma talk.
So I arrived. And said, “What’s the form of meditation?” They said, “Whatever you want.” Okay. So I said, “We’ll just sit for a half-hour of meditation.” And it was as if the room was dead. About a hundred and fifty, two hundred people in the room. And I felt like I was the only person in the room.
So after ten minutes of this, I said, “Okay, let’s try something else. Instead of just resting with your breath, I want you to be aware of everything around you as you rest with your breath. Try to raise the level of energy a bit.” So we sat. And there were a few wisps of energy, like traces of smoke somewhere in the room.
About this time, a colleague of mine who had given a talk about three or four weeks ago to the same group and found it very difficult, came in and sat down. He’d arrived late. After about ten minutes of this I said, “This is not working. So I said, ”Okay, last ten minutes of our meditation together. Every breath, imagine it is your last breath you will ever take.î Now there was some presence in the room, some attention. Then at the end of the ten minutes, I said to everybody, “You now have something. Don’t lose it during the break. We’ll come back in ten, fifteen minutes and start the dharma talk. So everybody got up and went very quietly to get tea and stuff. That was the tradition there. My colleague came up and said, ìWhat the hell did you do to them? Because they’re used to just socializing!”
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What does the presence of death do for you?
Ken: But what does it do immediately? It wakes you up. So, death is your friend in this business of waking up. Dying is your path. What can you hold onto when you die? Nothing. When when you can hold on to nothing, what are you free to do?
What are you free to do? What are you free to do? Anything, right. Anything.
There’s a movie by Kurasawa called Ikiru, which is about a mid- to low-level Japanese bureaucrat, Mr. Watanabe, who is diagnosed with stomach cancer. He has six months to live. And it’s about what he does in these last few months of his life. He decides to resurrect a petition by some housewives for a park in their neighborhood. And pushes it through the bureaucracy. At one point, he’s just visited the major yet again, trying to push this through. And the local member of the Yakuza, the Mafia, accosts him outside the mayor’s office and says, “You’re making a lot of trouble for us. Do you know what can happen to you?” And Mr. Watanabe says nothing. But looks this mobster straight in the eyes. At which point the mobster retorts. He doesn’t know how to deal with this person, because he cannot take hold of him by fear. He’s going to die. He can do anything. Okay.
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The next two exercises, which again, because of time constraints, we’re going to combine into one, are called
So. Again, I will walk you through this.
In this, when you go into the portal, there is a specific scene from some point in your life. I suggest you take something from high school or grade school, possibly earlier. And it’s an occasion when power was exercised on you inappropriately. It might be a parent, it might be a sibling, a teacher, a relative, camp counselor, it might be any of those.
But it is a scene in which you experience the feeling of being forced to do, or to acknowledge, or to hide or suppress something because you felt that to do otherwise would result in your destruction. Inappropriateness here is a subjective feeling, it’s part of the emotional record. It didn’t feel right, something felt wrong, out of balance. Because what we’re concerned with here is dismantling the patterns that arise from holding that emotional record of events. Whatever the actual event was. Okay?
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So. Let your attention rest. And then go to your power location. Be right there, you are quite familiar with it now.
And recall fairly quickly the five elements, the earth element: yellow below the navel, the water element: white between the navel and the solar plexus, the fire element red: at the level of the heart, the air element: green at the level of the throat, and the void element blue: the center of your head. Feel them all lined up inside of you. All blazing brilliantly with light, which fills your body.
You become aware of the sword-bearer behind you, you turn, look into his or her eyes, reach out, take the sword, strap it on, return to face the vista, draw the sword. The wound opens, and you hold the sword in front of you. The sword-bearer disappears.
The portal appears in the sky before you, the space before you. This time there is no veil over it. You see inside this scene. And you see yourself as a child, and you see the oppressor. And they’re in the middle of this scene in which power is being exercised on the child inappropriately. And you step into the scene as the person you are now. And you go to the child and you look into his or her eyes, and you connect.
You see the confusion, bewilderment, fear, anxiety, hurt, or whatever is there. And you are just there with the child. Then turn and go to the oppressor. Look directly into his or her eyes. Know him or her completely. And she or he knows you completely. Stay in any of the emotional reactions that arise. Feel them, but don’t get lost in them. Stay with your intention to stand right there.
At this point, if you wish, you may speak to the oppressor and say whatever it is you have to say. Whatever it is that you were not able to say at that point in your life. And you feel the words come up inside you and you speak to the oppressor.
Then raise the sword and cut the oppressor in two, just as you cut the opponent. The sword goes cleanly through the oppressor’s body, two halves fall. And when you do this, there may be an emotional hit, and you just take the emotional hit.
Look at the two halves of the oppressor’s body and they start to dissolve into light. And as they dissolve into light, that light goes into the child.
Now go to the child a second time. He or she now has complete knowledge of the oppressor. And understands that whatever happened wasn’t because of him or her. Now tell the child that she or he is going to come with you and become part of you.
Take the child either in your arms or by the hand. And go to the house in which the child lived at this time. You enter one room, living-room, kitchen, bedroom, whatever, and tell the child that the time has come to say good-bye. And the child says goodbye to every person that is associated with that room. They are all there: mother, father, sibling, pets, favorite objects and the child says goodbye to each one of them. And each time the child says goodbye, that person or object turns into light. The light just stays there.
And then you go into another room in the same house. And some of the same people may be there also. And you say goodbye to all of the associations in that room. And you go to another room and do the same thing. And you go through every room of the house, saying goodbye to whomever and whatever is associated with that room.
When you’ve gone through the whole house, take the child outside, out of the yard, perhaps across the street, but off the property. And look back. And the child says goodbye to the whole house. And now the house turns into light. And that light comes into the child. The portal is there. You step through the portal with the child back to your power location.
And you look into the child’s eyes for a third time. And you tell the child “You think you will live forever. You cannot live forever. All things are impermanent, you, like me, like everyone, will die one day.” And do taking and sending with all of the reactions that registers in the child’s face.
And the child’s form grows brighter with light. And then tell the child, “You want to have your emotional needs met. But your emotional needs will never be met. Those people, those situations are all in the past. They are gone. And there is no going back. What is is what is.”
And you see the consternation and other feelings register in the child’s face. And you do taking and sending with the child again.
And the child’s form grows still brighter. And then finally you tell the child, “You want to be somebody. But there is no one to be. All we are is an on-going response to what arises in experience. Not an entity that exists separately.”
And you see the shock and fear in the child’s face. And you do taking and sending. And as you do taking and sending, the child’s form turns to light completely. And that light enters you through the wound. And now light shines from your heart with such intensity that your power location and your form all turn to light. And you rest in being the light.
Form the intention to be here now. When you are ready, open your eyes. You are here and the light is with you.
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Any questions. Julia, yes. What’s your question?
Ken: Lose yourself in the child? Yeah. This is where you stay present in your intention. And I suspect in your life you get lost in the child’s world in certain situations, and with predictable results. Right?
So this is important. This is why you practice this. So you can experience the child’s world in attention. Not be lost in it. Because when we get lost in the child’s world, we’re just re-living it. And that’s reconditioning. It doesn’t lead to any dissolution. We have to experience it in attention. Follow?
Ken: Yes. Don’t try to reconcile anything. Just experience all of it. You have an idea of the light. That’s different from the experience. Don’t deal with ideas. The pain is there experience it and be the light at the same time. Carolyn.
Ken: It’s not such a fine line. With the wound open, yes, the child’s pain is going to resonate with what’s inside, because that’s what’s inside. And you maintain your intention. And so it’s with the whole. And as soon as you try to just be with the intention and shut out the pain, you close down. And if you get lost in the child’s experience, you lose your intention. The practice is experiencing both. Staying in both. Okay?
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Ken: The opponent, the opponent disappears?
And so what do you see?
Ken: Yes. That’s annoying because at that point, if it’s a parent, you don’t have a parent at that point. And there’s an emotional hit there. But that’s the actual experience, because they aren’t acting as a parent at that point. They’re acting as something else. But that is what the child could not see or acknowledge.
Ken: Yeah. It’s actually your opponent. But it has been passed, yeah, and you internalized…[tape hiss comes up.]…through is a way of seeing and experiencing and approaching the world that is in you that’s been internalized. So it’s all about what’s in here. Okay? Leslie.
Ken: Yes. And nothing to dread in saying that. That’s how it is for many people and you’re experiencing the shielding. I think that’s right. And that’s what you experience. Don’t try to get an emotional hit. It’s underneath there, but you experience what is arising. So experience that armor or that thickness. I mean a lot of people I’ve worked with in this they describe how when they do this it feels like there’s a steel plate here. And they can’t feel anything except the steel plate. That’s where you start.
Ken: Yes. And that’s the operation of the opponent. So even though there’s nothing to see and sometimes you walk in there’s just a blank field, things like that, you still go through every step of the ritual because it’s your intention. And you cut and you do all the steps. You perform your intention.
Ken: Yeah. And you’re smiling Franca. [Chuckling] I’m not going to get into [unclear]. Have you experienced that feeling before?
Ken: Yes. Right. So it’s flip, flip, flip, flip. Right. So again you experience what feels like the loss of will. Even there you do your intention. And it may feel like you are cutting the sword when you are being drowned in molasses. It’s like [Ken makes struggling sound] but you do it anyway. Because this is the internal material that is arising. Okay? Julia.
Ken: Yes. Yeah. And knowing it fully and completely. Seeing what is. The purpose of these exercises is to experience our emotional interpretation or emotional reaction to those situations in attention so that those emotions no longer drive our lives. The facts are not what’s of crucial importance. It’s how we experience them emotionally that’s of crucial importance. Franca?
Ken: Yes. What you are describing is a phenomenon called layering. And patterns build up in layers. And you can feel that there’s something going on down here, but one doesn’t have access to it. So you start with what you have. And as you develop a level of attention there, and can experience that, then you’re able to experience the next level down. And so you start peeling them away.
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Now there are couple of more things I want to do this morning. I want you to take a situation, no we will do it this way.
Start with the primary practice. Take a focus. Expand to the field. The whole visual field, field of hearing, taste, smell and touch. Experience it all. And include the internal material. Including the thoughts and feelings and stories, bodily sensations all in the field of awareness.
And then drop any sense of inside or outside. So you are present right here right now. Now look directly at the awareness itself. When you look right at the awareness itself, even in the midst of all of this experience, you see no thing that is the awareness. And yet awareness is there. Clarity, of knowing. And in that empty knowing, experience arises in an unceasing flow. Here you are no thing. And in being no thing, you are free.
So that’s one thing.
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Now the second.
I want you to take a situation in which there’s something you want to do but you have always been afraid to do it because you feel that if you do it, you will die. It can be as literal as jumping off a building. Or saying something to somebody you feel you are dependent on for your survival or well-being.
So it can be physical or emotional. But the feeling is if you do this you’re going to die.
So call that situation to mind. And form the intention to do what you’ve always been afraid of doing. And as you form that intention, you will feel all of the stories and emotions that tell you, “You cannot go down this road.” All the self-images that are saying, “This is not who you are, you cannot do this, you are not able to do this, you may not do this.” Feel all of that operating inside you. And sacrifice all of it. And now die. Just die. So there’s nothing now that stops you from doing what you are afraid to do. Just die.
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Okay. So you have these two experiences. What do you have to say about them?
Student: I had a lot of resistance. [Unclear]
Ken: Yes, of course. That’s where the sacrifice comes in. All of that stuff comes up—sacrifice. Leslie.
Ken: So go there right now.
Ken: Right. Right now. Sacrifice the drama. And die. What happens?
Ken: Right there. That’s it. Okay? Good. Jeremy.
Ken: There are no repercussions. You’re dead. Die in the action.
Ken: You haven’t died. Die in the action, right now. There. Different, isn’t it? Yes. Debra.
Ken: That’s right. And you know what? You never know what’s behind the door.
Ken: I don’t know what’s behind the door. All I know is the box is burning right now. See this business about wanting to know or wondering about the repercussions it’s all based on the illusion that we can control our world. That we can arrange everything. Well, good luck. Carolyn.
Ken: Umm-hmm. Yeah.
Ken: There’s a distinction here. The first exercise is pointing out the nature of mind. You are resting in the totality of experience, internal, external and awareness. But when you’re resting there, there is on-going release of constraint. This is freedom. Experience just arises. Freedom. In the experience of dying, no limitation, that’s the experience of power.
As I said on Wednesday evening, these are mysteries. You cannot know them except through experience. So the purpose here was for you to taste that.
What’s the time now. Ah, we’ve gone over. Any questions?
Why do you laugh, Franca. It’s all clear, isn’t it?
Ken: Right now. What do you want? What do you want right now?
Ken: Sacrifice that. And die. Don’t think. You feel as if you are going to die if you never get it? Then die.
Student: [Unclear]. Which is sort of like you’re dead but not dying.
Ken: [Laughter] It’s called “night of the living dead.” [Laughter] It’s right. So you first have to want to be awake. Really want it. Then you’ll know what it is to die.
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Okay. We’ll take a ten minute break here. You’re practice is to do the specific scene and say goodbye, that’s the practice in terms of meeting the internal material. Rhey’re outlined or described in the booklet. Your practice is the awareness practice, Who dies? Who dies? So you look. Who dies? And this afternoon we will do some further exercises.
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We need the pencils back. [Laughter]
[People talking at the same time]
Yes, I know. Without the pencils we’re finished. [Laughter] Pardon?
Student: Sacrifice the pencils.
Ken: I want you to bring the pencils this afternoon.
These are the exercises that bring you in touch with the material. I’ve given you two practices. The second, the awareness practice is, Who dies? So during the day, during lunch, whenever you encounter a situation, ask, “Who dies?”
Ken: This practice, yeah.
Ken: I would suggest sticking with the same scene, yes. Okay. So then we’ll start interviews as usual. Okay. Can you ring it in about 10 minutes?
|This 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.|