Free "Back to Breath" 7-Day Challenge Join Now

Do You Have A Practice

This talk is meant to suggest the importance of a regular meditation practice. The pull of the world, and the normal distractions and natural egoic self builders don’t remind us that we need to see that there is more than thought. There is experience. We can exist without our minds running all the time. We can train a state experience that fulfills us deeply and gives us many other perspectives on how to live, what is important, and how we can behave with one another. We need to practice daily however. We need to train the mind in this new way of understanding. If you are not training your mind, you may not see when you get lost again. You may not be as aware as you can be of your own belief structures that can limit and ultimately harm you.

Our world is aware for the first time of the entirety of itself. With our news media being global, we are able to see the natural horrors that occur from time to time. We also get to see, possibly too deeply, the unnatural horrors as well. Many people wonder what can we do about these things. What will help us understand these tragedies? We want to figure it out, with our minds. But I suggest that the best thing to do is to learn to put the mind down. Learn to sit in stillness.

As we see our own structures more and more, we are helping others resonate in that way. As humans become more aware of themselves, our language about what is important can change. The words presence, and stillness start to have more gravity. As we see ourselves, we see other people as well, and we might just notice when someone is in need of attention, or help. Disasters will continue to occur of course, but we can contextualize them, and perhaps not be as fearful of them because we can see that there is depth in sorrow, and joy in the ordinary. And that life is not set in any definite pattern.

If you are interested in self growth, I humbly suggest you commit to a daily meditation practice. The benefits are enormous. But more than that as a selling point, I want to say that if we talk about growing, but don’t do the work, we may still be just as lost as those that haven’t woken up at all.

Song: Soup by Blind Melon

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/DoWeChangeTheWorldOrAcceptIt.mp3]

Introduction to States and Stages

This talk is an introduction to states and stages of consciousness. States of consciousness are our now experience, and stages of consciousness deal with the growth of self along many lines of development in time. In this talk I want to explain the importance of each of these perspectives of consciousness and begin to point at how we develop each of them.

States of consciousness are not permanent. They include: emotional states, drug induced states, meditative states, waking and sleeping states, and others. Much of our time is spent trying to manage our state experience. We feel hungry, we go for food. We have a headache, we take aspirin. We want to feel good, we have a beer.

Stages of consciousness instead deal with development along many different lines. Those lines include cognitive, value, interpersonal, moral, sexual, etc. On each of those lines there are altitudes of development. Some are more developed morally than others. Some are more developed cognitively. There can also be movement along these lines. An individual may start out as selfish, and move to nationalistic, and then finally resonate from a world view. Stages are objective judgments of subjective experience. They are the structures and beliefs from which we see the world.

Why do these altitudes of development get to be called stages? Because study after study shows that over time the answers to certain question about our experience go in one direction. The way we process and interpret the world tends to keep going in the same direction along these lines. There is a tendency to grow and widen our capacity and our understanding and experience of deeper stages. We all may not move along the line, but almost nobody goes backwards. There is a direction to the movement.

Healthy stage development, along any line looks like this: When one experience (or stage) is taken from subjective experience into objective experience. When we can look back at the prior stage objectively we have fully and healthily evolved through that stage.

Meditation (state management) practice doesn’t always show us our current stage. And while true subjective state experience doesn’t allow us to see our current stage ever (because we’re in it) we still grow through the stages over time. Working on meditation isn’t always only a direct state experience. Often it is a thinking dialog and running into walls of self, belief, structures, etc. It is my opinion that this part of the practice of meditation often leads to an understanding of the stages we’re going through. This is not because of the state experience, but rather the opportunity for introspection sitting offers.

States don’t tend to evolve, unless trained. And even then, they still jump around a lot. (Buddhas still sleep, wake and dream.) But states of mind can evolve when trained. The idea here is that non-dual awareness and the like can be developed. To a certain extent that is a stage in the realm of state experience. Once you understand and have non-dual experience, it has the capacity to inform the rest of your state experience.

Basically, we want to learn to manage our state experience as best we can, and grow through the stages of development along all the available lines as best we can. Doing those two things is what self development and growth is about, in this moment and through time.

Referenced: Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/IntroductiontoStatesandStages.mp3]

The Pleasure Pain Treadmill

Basic ideas:

  • Seeing that good and bad, or pleasure and pain are in all things.
  • We can use pain to promote change.
  • Ultimately, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.

Our desire to avoid pain and experience pleasure tends to push us around if we are not paying attention. When we use introspection to learn about the mind we see that we all try to avoid pain and move toward pleasure in everything we do. This is a huge thing to understand fully.

Pain tells us something is wrong, but we tend to overreact and begin to avoid all pain and discomfort. This creates a treadmill of pain and pleasure. Where we are constantly trying to manage our states of mind by moving away from pain and toward pleasure.

We can deal with this three ways:

  • Do nothing.
    • How does this hurt us? Well, if we’re unconscious of it we end up not being very durable. We end up running from any and all pain we see. We might think we deserve no pain, and so whenever it comes up, we feel like we’re cursed or unlucky.
  • Secondly we can learn to use pain effectively.
    • Think of someone who’s life situation is fine, versus someone who is in pain. The person in pain is motivated to change. The person who is fine, may want to change, but will often not go through the bother or work to change because there is really no motivation to do so. This is the first way to use pain effectively. Become aware of it.
    • We can also use pain for gain. This is a way to develop in a worldly sense. It can help us do things like lose weight, or perform better at sports, and evolve spiritually or behaviorally. We can learn to associate pain to things we’d like to change, rather than where they happen to fall. Examples of this might be associating pain with being out of shape, or associating pain to not meditating.
  • Lastly, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.
    • Pain is inherent in all things. The duality of being shows us that there is both good and bad in all things. Good and bad are facets or opinions of things and situations. So it is unwise to try to always get the “good.” It just won’t work. Seeing this truth is a huge teaching.
    • Learning to accept pain as a part of the experience is a great teaching of meditation. Pain/pleasure treadmill response is the normal human response to being. What would an exceptional response look like? How can we achieve that state? Meditation is one way.
    • We place ourselves in an accepting mode, and train that response to stimuli. Boredom and frustration, and even physical pain can come up during meditation. It is training to learn about the nature of our relationship to pain and pleasure, and ultimately have the ability to get off that treadmill.
    • We learn to stay through different painful events and not judge them. That lack of judging gives us a different, and better, experience of both pain and pleasure. Then we are off the treadmill.

Learning about this allows us to wake up to the understanding that this is how we’re built. We also learn that we can use pain to grow. And lastly, we learn that not fearing pain or being attached to pleasure allows us a deep freedom. Those experiences are a part of the oneness of being. We can learn to relate to them differently.

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/ThePleasurePainTreadmill.mp3]
PlayPlay

Bring It Back To The Breath

In this show I promise not to be too deep. Today I spend a few moments fostering presence with you. I open with a couple of conscious breaths, then onto examples of, and reasons for, bringing your focus back to your breath. I end mentioning that in regard to any learning, we deeply need to apply what we learn. Learning alone isn’t enough. Without application, it’s just spin.

Fostering presence will be the next evolution of man. Join in that evolution by bringing your attention back to your breath.

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/BringItBackToTheBreath.mp3]
PlayPlay

Why We Can’t Hold On To Stillness

In this talk I want to discuss what might be our biggest challenge. To find a state of stillness, and remain productive in the world. How do we accomplish, while remaining present.

Why are most of us unable to hold on to stillness? Many of us can find stillness, but why isn’t it easier to just stay there? This talk assumes that you know what I mean when I say stillness. Some call it big mind, or a state of presence.

I did a talk before called Stillness in Motion. While this talk is similar, it will differ in the level we’re talking about. Stillness in motion was a talk about the feeling of holding stillness while we do things.

I’ve heard Ken Wilber say things like you can’t be in a non-dual state and in a state of duality at the same time. I’d be interested to speak with him about that because I have a deep sense of being still, or in a non-dual state while still seeing and being aware of, and able to function in the world full of duality.

This talk will discuss, and point out that we definitely still have the desire to accomplish and do things. We may drop the attachment to that desire, but we still discern.

At the base of our being is a function of judgement. This judgement leads to most of our discomfort. It puts us on the treadmill of time. Judgement says this situation isn’t as I would like it to be, so let’s change it. It leads to inner becoming. I’m not enough, etc. Many spiritual teachings seem to imply that this is a bad thing. But it’s important that we don’t vilify this idea. We need this function to survive. It’s the same impulse that tells us we’re in danger. It also allows for us to better the world.

We don’t lose the ability to judge when we’re still. I usually begin to describe this judgement as “discerning” to show that there is a difference. It isn’t a lost, deeply judgemental, place that we come from, but we can tell what our preference would be. We do chose to walk, and eat, and talk, etc.

Many stereotypical representations of meditation imply that the meditator is unable to discern when in a deep meditative state. That’s just not accurate. I mentioned before the Burning Monk, who had gasoline (or some flammable liquid) poured over him and lit. Then there was a picture taken of him not moving. While his experience of that might have been different than yours or mine, he still was aware that he was burning. The amazing thing is not some otherworldly state of mind he found, but rather the choice to stay. The discipline to stay.

The trick is going to be to learn to remain still while we judge and think. Can we remain aware while we judge? We need to learn to watch our judgements. The subtle distinction is this: A frustrated meditator learns about a pleasurable state of mind and then catches themselves thinking and discredits all the stillness they achieved. Whereas, a centered meditator finds himself or herself in a thinking state and watches it, thereby remaining centered.

In this world, we have things to accomplish. There is work to be done. In every moment we look at the world and have opinions about how it could be better, things we need, things we want to have, or do, or give. None of that is wrong. It’s really important that we allow for that. There is such a thing as growth. There is betterment.

So is stillness in conflict with betterment? Doesn’t stillness imply that we’re done? While it is an appreciative state, we can be aware of movement, and the need for change while holding on to stillness. Stillness is a state of awareness. One that is realized and awake to the truth of a situation. If there is betterment to be done, do it, but try to remain aware.

Our innate ability and need to create and judge is what’s impairing our ability to remain still. And that’s a wonderful thing. The work we’re here to do is to marry the two. We’re here to blend the duality. We can engage in both experiences, and do our best to remain aware of where we are and what we’re doing.

Referenced: Ken Wilber, and Burning Monk

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/WhyWeCantHoldOnToStillness.mp3]

Dealing with Death – Ours and Others

We lose loved ones all the time. We hope for an afterlife. The self wants to grow and be powerful and young. It is completely opposed to it’s own extinction. So there is fear and panic around the thought of death for many. In fact, many people can’t even discuss it. But all living things seem to pass away. How do we deal with that?

Today we’re going to talk about death of the body, but also death of the self. We’ll talk about how meditation relates to death, and how putting your life in perspective can be meaningful. We’ll talk about the death of others and how to deal with that. We’ll talk about the desire for an afterlife, and how death really makes everything deeply meaningful. Death is a part of life, so let’s talk about it.

We’ve discussed in the past, that we are not only self. We are also in some way connected to everything. Can that other identity help us deal not only with our own death, but also the death of others, and finally other types of change as well?

All living things die. But we can expand the idea of death from there. Situations die, friends change, we get divorced. All of these things are mini-deaths. We “die” in a different way as well. I am not the same 10 year old boy I once was. That boy is gone forever. So we are all changing. Everything is in a state of change. Death s a kind of change.

Meditation actually teaches us a death of self. We are putting down the ego and just identifying with the big mind. You obviously don’t actually die, and you can retain your “self” as much as you wish, but each time you enter this other mind, you will see it is a death of self in that moment. You will find that this type of practice can change you fundamentally. It can make you more able to deal with change, and hence your own death, and the death of others.

Truly being in the Now is about not thinking about the future. The entire thing is to watch the mind that wants to leave this moment. So in that, the Now becomes much fuller. Our entire attention is on it, and it becomes rich and thick. The understanding of this type of mind leads spiritual leaders to talk about eternity. Many talk about no death, in the death of self. So the temporary idea of you, or your ego, dies in that moment. And what is born is a fuller understanding of timelessness, or eternity.

Pulling away from your life and looking at it on a time line is very helpful and can put your life into a different context. Often we find ourselves just drifting along, but all events are precious, so it can be useful to find that context and check in.

There’s an old saying, or it might have been a viral email that went around way back, about filling a jar with a marble for every year of your life expectancy, and removing one on your birthday. It shows the significance of our lives. That could potentially give a deeper context to your life as well.

The desire for an afterlife comes from the mind that that is unhappy and wants salvation. It also may have been used as a carrot and stick for controlling people. But whether that’s true or not, it is really important to expose the mind that craves a better future, the ultimate of which would be a glorious afterlife.

We think that to stay moral, our culture needs to be held in a “proper space” with the appropriate carrot and stick. Meaning, if I were to take away the idea of living a good life being the thing that gets us into heaven, people might begin to behave poorly because there’s no point in behaving well. The idea of putting down the external carrot and stick scares many people. They immediately image anarchy and insanity ensuing from removing those guidelines. But a sincere morality comes from seeing the beauty that’s here, not a future hoped for beauty.

We need to become OK with who we are, without the hope for a prize. Because fear of not getting the prize does not work as our motivation. Fear based morality will not work. The example of extremists who die to get to heaven also cause great pain and suffering. They want the “prize” too much. Their morality is quite different, but also belief based. Either type of morality doesn’t seem to be working. To be clear, I’m not attacking peoples beliefs necessarily, I’m just saying that the mind that thinks about salvation, or hopes for it, or gets attached to it, is not the healthiest mind. It is ego based, and fear based. Seeing the beauty right in front of us, rather than being controlled by fear will work much better.

Death of others is very hard to deal with. It is very hard to lose a family member or loved one. We are attached to permanence, which doesn’t exist. This is a fault of the egoic mind. While losing things we care about will always be hard, I want to point out that the natural desire for permanence can make dealing with death and change even more difficult. If we realize that nothing is permanent, then we don’t have unrealistic expectations around things like a loved one dying. We need to learn to face non-permanence.

Fear of death and the unknown is enormous. But death makes everything matter. Living forever would take value away from lots of things. You’d be able to take literally forever to master things, so being a master chef as an example would have little meaning. We’d constantly be approaching everyone knowing everything, with no risk because we’d have forever to fix any problems, etc. It would be a very different existence for sure. Certainly different than most people would fantasize. Death is a part of life, and it is something we’ll do well to get more comfortable with.

Show Music: Live At Tonic by Christian McBride

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/DealingwithDeatOursandOthers.mp3]

The Different Meanings of To Be

I want to clarify what I mean by “to be” because it is actually more than one thing. It is both “to be – still” and also “to be – what you are.” This may be hard to stomach because these seem to be in opposition, but they are both really important. It’s actually many many layers, and facets of things to wade through. So let’s look for more language around this issue.

“To be still” implies working with the mind through concentration and space to “still” the busy mind. You might think of this as the Buddhist way of practicing meditation. It implies a lot of things: Peace, but also difficulty in finding that peace. It has a sense of carrot and stick to it: I’m not still now, and I want to be still. So time is implied. “I’m not what I want to be.” There is a part of us that is trying to grow. This is the part that realizes that need for growth. This type of practice is important. We could call this discipline.

“To be what you are” implies a looser idea, of “I’m OK” in any situation. So if you are busy, be busy. If you are still, be still. You could think of this in a more Taoist sense, or more “zen” if you will. Up is down, right is wrong, everything is OK. This sense is much less rational, but also very important. It’s being gentle with who we are. It’s also dropping expectations about what we are supposed to be. This is the state that has no conflict, even when “conflict” is there. Meaning, in this state, you are not trying to be anything but what you are. This is the awakened state. This you might call freedom.

So the discipline allows for the second freedom, in a sense. The discipline is hard, and the freedom is soft. They are two ends of a spectrum. The Buddha talked about the middle path, and this is what he meant. You can’t leave your mind too loose, it needs some discipline. It also can’t be too rigid, or you never actually sit in the space of freedom.

A mystical Christian might say that since everything is God, each moment is the expression of God right now. We should learn to be in alignment with that, and it takes forgiveness (being what you are) and a bit of discipline (learning to be still) to align with that expression.

So the practice of meditation is working with your mind to still it. But it is also the practice of forgiving, or allowing to be whatever is. You may sit and have a busy mind. That’s OK. You may sit and fall into a lot of freedom, that’s OK too. If you feel too loose, bring some discipline. If you find you’re being too rigid, loosen up. That’s the middle path.

Guided Meditation – Sort Of

Meditation is the realization of this moment. The “practice of meditation” is the sitting down to work on this before it becomes fully natural to live that way. To abstract it further, we can use anchors such as counting, visualization, and pointed awareness to help bring our attention to our breath.

I’d like you to stay as present as possible during this talk, but I will be talking much more than a normal guided meditation, hence the “sort of” in the title. I want to show you different ways to meditate and use ideas to help find stillness. Please look for other guided meditations as there are many good ones out there.

Set the intention of spending this time to work with your mind and thoughts. Be committed during your practice time to coming back to your experience, back to your breath no matter what thoughts arise.

Stillness is the quality of listening. Notice when we start adding thought, or content, and see how that is not listening. When we notice this, we come back to our breath and pay attention, or “listen” to the moment. That is the quality of meditation.

Work with counting. We learn to use anchors until stillness is loud enough within us. So we place our thinking on something we can see, and judge (counting). Count on the in breath for a while, then the out breath for a while, then both. This is also a good way to time yourself if you don’t have a clock. You can commit to a certain number of breaths.

Be sure to notice and work with the energy underneath the breath. We mentioned that everything is in the breath, all sounds, etc. The breath is really just a link to what is. Open to the energy underneath the breath.

Work with closed eyes, and finding a sensation, then watch opening our eyes and trying to hold that sensation. Did it go away? The content changed, can we hold onto that stillness, that sensation?

A more mature practice is just breath, then thinking, then breath. We come back again and again as we think. We start by learning the landscape of thought.

Another anchor is shifting attention to something small, like just the opening of the mouth and nose while breathing. Later we open it to the bigger full breath from mouth to stomach and back out. Eventually we can start to move the energy all around the body. We’ll discuss that more in another talk.

I mentioned that there are things that help practicing meditation. Committing to a certain area, and using a seat and timer can be a help. One place online to buy meditation gear is Amida: http://www.ami-da.com.

Lastly, we don’t need to spend a lot of time meditating. Just a few minutes is useful to bring us back to center. Sitting in the morning and evening for three to five minutes can have a profound affect on your life. I call it bookending your day with meditation.

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/GuidedMeditationSortOf.mp3]

The Gift of Trauma

Trauma is horrible, and we shouldn’t forget that. We all have trauma to one degree or another. We all have “our stuff.”

Trauma has the potential to widen and deepen our experience of pain. Which allows us to have a higher “high.” Imagine someone who hasn’t had much stimulation in either direction, good or bad. Their circumstances are not as wide and as varied to draw from. They have a skinnier history to draw from. So something somewhat “bad” seems potentially horrible – like gas prices going up. Whereas, someone who has lived through a rape, or a major car accident, might not be as affected by social issues. They care, they just have a different historical comparison to weight the situation against.

Trauma also allows us to see that we survived. We went through that stuff and are still here. It didn’t kill us.

This is not to say that we should look for trauma, or inflict it on others. Life brings enough of it on it’s own.

How does pain and trauma allow for growth? Well, let’s look again at someone who is sheltered. They never get the challenges to test themselves. The Buddha is the iconic representation of this. He left his palace to learn about life and pain. He was unsatisfied with being given everything. You, your kids, and loved ones will be equally unsatisfied. Have you seen wealthy kids at the mall who have everything? Nothing surprises them, nothing thrills them. They are bored. These kids may begin looking for trauma. They won’t know that’s what they are doing, but their boredom has the potential to make them look for thrills. Those thrills, in the form of drugs, etc. can end up giving those kids their share of pain. This is a stereotype used only to make the point that pain and growth is a part of life. We can use pain to stimulate our desire to live differently.

Pleasure and pain are related. In the spectrum of self, pleasure and pain mirror one another. To leave the ego realm of pleasure and pain, it can help to go through enough pain to say “I don’t want to live this way any more.”

It is really important that we process our trauma. We need to begin to work with our pain, and process it fully. We need to feel it, rather than run from it.

Our pain is the substance that we are supposed to traverse to grow. The more of it, the more we want to wake up from it. So as we hate it, from a certain point of view it is a blessing.

We can relax a little with our children and loved ones. We can realize that pain is a part of life, and that we need to allow for some of it to grow. It is often a dis-service to over-protect a child. Pain in general is there to wake you up. It’s asking for you to be present. To drop the valuation of the situation. To open your consciousness. This is how we can begin to kill the ego, or wake up from it.

Trauma can jar us free of the ego. It can re-prioritize our lives. Sadness, fear, and anxiety that is the result of trauma can become so loud that we want to put it down. Without that pain, we might never have woken up. We can become sick of being unhappy. That is a very healthy state to be in.

So how do we want to relate to our trauma? Do we want to be fearful of it, or realize that we’ve been through it, and we’ve beaten it? It’s important that we don’t continue the cycle of abuse. It’s our responsibility to end the cycle of abuse.

Show Music: The Shanghai Restoration Project

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/TheGiftofTrauma.mp3]

The Beauty of an Itch

In this talk we widened the definition of an itch to include not only physical itches, but also emotional and mental bothers as well.

How can an itch be beautiful? We described actually enjoying an itch. Diving into the feeling without judgment allows us to experience itches in a different way. Energy then actually becomes literally beautiful.

Another way to see the beauty in an itch is to realize that they are the largest anchor there is. We use bothers, and itches as reminders to bring our attention back to the moment, back to our breath.

We don’t want to be itch free, we want to be itch proof. The itches don’t stop coming, so being itch free is unrealistic. But we can learn to be itch proof. We can be strong, and fearless. We can learn to sit through bothers.

Itches actually become the beauty of life. To start, we need to become aware of what we sit through now and what we run from. We need to become honest with ourselves about what moves us around.

Itch/scratch is the iconic representation of pleasure and pain. The immediate urge to “scratch,” or the rushed push to fix a “problem” is one of our most limiting qualities. The itch is a bother and we want it gone. That very behavior, in its many facets, is our core problem.

We need to learn to become awake when things bother or itch us. Introduction to anchors was one easy way of staying connected, but the biggest anchor is the itch itself. We should learn to deal with itches, bothers, and problems rather than run from them.

We can and should scratch an itch when our attention should be elsewhere, like a conversation. Just try to be mindful when we do. But while we should be kind with ourselves, we can also be honest and realize that as we are bothered to scratch we are at times asleep. We can learn, “Oh, maybe I should have watched that itch for a bit. Maybe I could have learned from that.” We will see as we become more honest with ourselves that we are at different times more asleep than we thought.

Show music: Consolidated Mojo by Billy Boy Arnold

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/robscott-audio/TheBeautyofanItch.mp3]