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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

Mastering Perspectives

This talk is about mastering perspectives. It assumes that someone capable of seeing more perspectives is better informed, and more able to act appropriately, happily, and well.

There are many perspectives to any situation. Every moment there is your point of view, someone else’s point of view, and third person perspective as well. There are also historical perspectives, we perspectives, singular and plural perspectives, inner and outer perspectives, emotional perspectives, and even imagined perspectives. To simplify, there are many ways to look at things.

So the practice then becomes to relate as fully as possible to the moment by being aware of as many perspectives as possible. Learn all the different perspectives, and work to integrate them into your life. It may sound like a lot of work to do this, but it becomes very natural. Also, in the beginning, it may be useful to apply this only when in conflict. It’s a great tool to use when you’ve hit a wall.

I suggested learning about Integral Theory for a deeper understanding of perspectives. I also mentioned that “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” is really just an ancient perspective teaching. We’re not all aware that there are many perspectives, and we certainly don’t often act from more than our own point of view. Learning about and applying perspectives can help us grow.

Referenced: Integral Theory

Dive In or Drop It

This talk is inspired by the question: In meditation, do we dive into frustration when it arises or do we drop it? I use this question to do an overview of meditation, and then answer at the end.

Meditation is really about state management. We are trying to foster a better state of mind. To do that, we try to become aware of all that we are. What we are ends up being thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. The investigation of these aspects of our self ends up being our spiritual experience. Many of us begin to meditate to deal with Busy Mind. To quell Busy Mind we try to separate thoughts from emotions and physical experience. That is the practice of meditation.

To become aware of all these aspects of our self we use mindfulness, which is placing the mind on an anchor and leaving it. We fail repeatedly so that we can foster awareness. Where is our mind? What is it doing? As we try to leave it somewhere, it wanders. As we become more aware of that wandering, we wake up more and more. This practice allows our mind the ability to still.

So during this training, and in life, do I dive into frustration, or drop it? What is the real practice here? Well, we actually do both. We dive into the feeling of frustration, the emotion and physical sensation, but we drop the thought of frustration. This allows us to become less attached to our thoughts. That lack of attachment allows us to foster stillness and ultimately gives us more control of our minds. For beginning meditators, the most immediate benefit is combating Busy Mind. As you meditate more and more, the benefits go all the way down.

Learn To Surrender

Surrender means to give oneself over to something. The type of surrender I’m discussing in this talk is not a sign of weakness, in fact, it might be the greatest sign of strength. The ego doesn’t usually like to hear about giving in or surrendering, but one of the greatest teachings we can learn is to surrender.

This practice is learning to allow your ego to surrender to what is. No experience is bad when we learn to drop the conflict around a situation. That conflict is the ego’s desire for things to be other than they are. Surrendering to what is is the dropping of the ego for true experience.

Surrender implies awareness, because we need to know what to surrender too. Learn to ask yourself what you’re feeling, that brings about awareness. Then the trick is allowing yourself to be the thing you’ve become aware of, to be what you feel. Often this will seem counter intuitive: I don’t want to be sadness; I don’t want to be anger; I don’t want to be cold. But learning to be these things, even when that isn’t what you want to be, is true surrender. It is waking up to be what you are. That is surrender, and it can change your life.

Shining Light on the Shadow

Part of evolving as a human being, and part of the teaching that I’m trying to promote, is about bringing awareness to all the aspects of our lives. One of the big accomplishments in psychology has been identifying and naming what’s been called the shadow. To understand the shadow we’ll try to describe a fictional “whole self” and then discuss damage that occurs which can create shadow.

What is a whole self? We could say that it is someone fully identifying with all the ways he/she can interact with the world: Thinking for objective experience. Emotion and body for subjective internal feeling. Spirituality for a larger context. Having access to all those experiences is what we might call being whole or fully self. (FYI – This is a different meaning of self, a more healthy meaning, than what I normally use to describe self.)

Shadow literally means to obscure the light. A shadowed element of self is a part of us that we don’t identify with. Commonly that can be an emotion we don’t relate to, or it can be how we relate to our bodies, minds, or spirituality. Any part of self that we have become misidentified with can be termed the shadow. Again, our shadowed elements are any part of us that we don’t have the ability to identify with directly. Shadow elements are often brought on by trauma, and solidified by our beliefs. Working with shadow is extremely difficult primarily because we don’t see what we’re not conscious of.

How do we find our shadow? We begin to find our shadow by looking at things that bother us – anger in other people or situations – behavior we know we do, but deny as “us”. Often this will be perceived as someone else’s “stuff.” It can be out in the world, but shadow can also express itself in our dreams. Therapy can help us find the shadow, in fact most of what therapy tries to do is work on reintegrating splintered parts of self and foster becoming whole.

To begin working with the shadow we make the effort to bring aspects of our self into 1st person experience. Literally taking 3rd person experience and working to make it 2nd person, and ultimately 1st person – via role playing dialog and perspective shifting. This is a great way to reintegrate shadowed elements of self.

Referenced: Integral Theory

Turning Subject Into Object

Turning subject into object is both a concept and a practice. In this talk I discuss the difference between inner and outer experience and how that relates to subjective and objective experience. We need to define perspective – subjective experience is what I identify as “me”. Objects exist within my awareness, but are not “me”.

An interesting point to note here is that even things I identify as me can be objectified. I have a foot, but I am not my foot. My foot is still me on some level, but I am able to objectify it. That ability to objectify internal experience is important.

If we find we are angry, that is our subjective experience. Turning subject into object would be backing up from that anger with a question: What am I right now? That shines the light on our experience and objectifies the anger. We can’t see the subject, we are the subject. But we can see things once we objectify them.

You may say, but Rob, I see myself get mad all the time. That’s true on two levels: One level is that you flip between subject and object to some degree all the time, and the other is that you see it now, when we’re objectifying it together. But learning to do this as a practice can lead to profound change in your life.

Who is the self that backs up from the subject to objectify it? That is the age old question. Another question to ask is which of these perspectives is self? That really depends on whose talking. Self can mean egoic separate sense; or it can mean, in some Indian traditions as an example, the cosmic oneness. We can get lost in words very quickly here. But the aware self in the background is what is often termed either just “awareness” or “authentic self”. Ego would normally be considered the smaller self.

The practice of mindfulness is a subjective experience, practice of awareness is an objectified experience. We need to do both. When you are angry, you are smaller. When you are aware you are angry (have objectified the anger, but not dissociated from it) you are larger. You are the anger and potentially the solution.

So how do we make the subject the object? We use introspection, questions, and cultivate awareness. The desire to see what you are brings this objectivity to the situation. We see as objects what we are. This is the practice of meditation. What is arising for me in this moment? We can make a practice of it, or we can do it when we realize we are unhappy.

Just the simple action of making the subject the object allows us space for change.

Referenced: Integral Theory

The Pressure We Create

We create pressure in our lives unconsciously that can end up making us very unhappy.  Some of these pressures are deeper and some are more superficial.  One person creates a “have to” situation with accomplishments he/she wants to create at work.  Someone else on a daily basis sets up to-do after to-do and then feels bad for what they didn’t accomplish rather than good about what they did accomplish.  Jobs can be self created pressure.  So can houses, cars, and salaries.

We often aren’t able to appreciate our success once it comes, because it tends to move.  I’ve been with successful people and watched them accomplish goals, and rather than enjoy the accomplishment, they immediately and unconsciously create new goals.

So what pressure are you creating?  This talk points out that we can spend time working on, or watching, what pressures we create for ourselves.  The exercise we could do would be to learn to find your self created limits, or pressures.  Once you see what yours are, you may choose to soften them, or you may not.  It’s nice to learn that you can lose your job  You can move.  Your life could be different.  The other side of that is the fact that a conscious goal is a powerful one.  We can choose to work harder for our pressures if we really want to hold onto them.

External pressure is often actually created by us, and thus is internal pressure.  Watch when pressure is created in your life and see if it’s really external pressure.  An interesting point is how unconscious these things become.  We sit and think “Of course I have to do these things…”  It’s good to realize that we can live in the smaller house.  We can drive a cheaper car.  The kids can go to public school.  But they also may not have to.  Becoming aware of our pressures allows us to support them or put them down as necessary.  It’s up to us.

Turning Anger into Compassion

Anger has its place. It is there to move us. It tells us things aren’t right. But we don’t want to get lost in anger. We need to be conscious of it.

Compassion means: Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

There are two phases to turning anger into compassion. Phase one is looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective. Phase two is understanding that people must be in pain to act the way they act.

There are things that people do unintentionally that upset us. Phase one would be to take the time to see things from the other person’s perspective. There is really no need to be upset once we understand that we are all trying to get somewhere in our car. Once we see that that person doesn’t know our situation, and was just acting probably as we would act if we were them. That perspective allows space into the situation. It allows perspective and understanding.

Then there are times when the other person is actually being malicious. They are trying to sabotage us in our work environment, take our job, abusing power, trying to embarrass us in public, or they are treating us poorly in one way or another on purpose. What do we do then? Well, you still use phase one, which is looking at the situation from their perspective. Once we realize that that person is doing something we don’t understand, we try to find compassion.

The way we find compassion is we begin to realize, right now, that people don’t act poorly like that unless they are in pain. Unless they have been wronged in the past.

I will point out that it’s interesting that humans don’t need to be taught to lie. A small child will lie about being caught in the cookie jar all by themselves. But that’s just self preservation, it’s not really malicious.

If we make it a practice to one, look at problems from the other person’s perspective, and two, understand that people are in pain and act poorly because of it, we can turn our own anger into compassion.

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.

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.

Using Anchors

What are anchors? The dictionary defines an anchor as something that is the source of security or stability. I’m discussing using things that occur in the world as reminders to bring your attention back to the moment, or back to awareness.

Examples of anchors are things like:
Going through doorways.
When we walk somewhere.
When we listen to people.

Why use anchors? It is a way to bring stillness into the everyday experience. Many people learn to meditate on a seat, but have difficulty bringing that peace into the world they live in. Using anchors is the beginning of that practice.

Stillness is available anytime. Use anchors to learn that truth.