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Buddhadharma : Winter 2011
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 11 32 both in attention, and experience everything in between.” This approach keeps the sensations associated with the block in attention without leading energy into the pool of stagnant energy. The open field of attention allows the stagnant pool to dissipate over time and the block may also release. The second approach adds an additional wrinkle. In the field of attention that includes your whole body, hold the sensations of the block and the sensations of what wants to move in attention at the same time. The block is there for a reason, and, like Milarepa’s demons, you can’t just ignore it or send it away. Accept the block. Accept the movement of energy. Put attention not on the block but a little beyond the block and lead energy through it. In time, it will open, like a flower opening to the warmth of the sun. This is not a process you control. Just experience all the sensations associated with the tension and imbalance, and let things resolve themselves. These approaches take time and patience, of course, but are generally safe and will not lead to further problems. Energy and Emotions There is a big difference between care and affection, say, and anger and greed. The latter close down on a sense of self. The former two open to the other. Many practitioners feel that they should have nothing to do with emotions at all, an attitude often encouraged by teachers who are emphasizing the importance of undistracted attention. Often no distinction is made between an emotion such as anger that clouds and confuses and other emotions such as love, affection, remorse, or sadness. In the transformation process described above, it is inevi- table that one is going to encounter strong emotions at some point. Energy imbalances can build up if you don’t know how to work with them. With mindfulness and awareness you can experience emotions completely. You aren’t just aware that you’re angry or upset, or in love, or ashamed. You experience that anger, upset, love, or shame completely without falling into confusion or dullness. You experience it as movement, as energy, rather than actually being angry, upset, and so on. If no latitude is allowed to work with the emotions or through the psychological material that underlies them, the effect of a meditation practice can be to split you in two. How does that split happen? Meditation raises the level of energy in your whole being. The higher level of energy inevi- tably brings you into contact with reactive emotional patterns. If you now repress the emotions, pushing them out of atten- tion, two things happen. The higher level of energy in your system flows into the reactive pattern, making it stronger. The higher energy also flows into the repressing pattern, making that stronger. Both the reactive patterns of the emotion and the repression are reinforced. You end up splitting in two. One part of you is capable of attention and response. The other part becomes increasingly rigid and inflexible and takes over unpredictably whenever the repressed emotion is triggered by events or situations. Typically, you become more arrogant and self-indulgent, obsessed with power, money, sex, security, or other fixations, and act in ways to control or amass the object of your obsession. Long-term practitioners and teachers who protect areas of their lives from their practice run into this problem with unfortunate and sometimes tragic results. For Teachers Do you remember when you started teaching? For many, the intensity, the aliveness, the energy, come as a surprise, if not a shock. In just taking a seat, you are suddenly far more aware of everything going on in you. The very activity of teaching requires a higher level of energy. When you include in your experience the students in front of you, and respond rather than react to their energy, you are transforming energy yourself. You move into a higher level of attention. People in the room pick it up. That energy is often attributed to charisma, or charm, or projection, and it may involve all three. But a significant component is the higher level of energy going into your attention. It creates a field. In master teachers, those whose practice is deep and strong, that field becomes almost palpable, and enables stu- dents to experience insights and patterns that they would ordi- narily not be able to touch. Energy plays a vital role in transmission. In pointing out instructions, for instance, you, as the teacher, move into empty clarity. The higher level of energy you experience there creates a field that opens possibilities in the student or students. In that field, you give them instruction on to how to direct atten- tion. When the conditions are right, it is like a candle lighting another candle. Knowing arises in the student’s experience. Is something transmitted? Something happens, definitely, but exactly what is a mystery. When people practice together, each person makes his or her own effort in attention. The accumulated effect of their