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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
buddhadharma| 35 |fall 2007 when you see them succeeding in their lives? What happens when you see some- one in pain or struggling? Reflect on these questions during your formal meditation sessions and during your day. What comes up for you? In this approach, it’s good to begin with the body reactions, the sensations that come up in your body when you consider being awake compassion. Then include emotional sensations. Only when you can rest in the physical and emotional sensa- tions should you include all the stories and associations connected with being awake compassion. As you work with these reflections, at first you may feel a release from family, social, or professional constraints and a clarity that allows you to connect with and help others openly and naturally. After the initial opening, the quality of attention often drops a level and you may become aware of other voices and other reactions. Does your body tense up? Do you feel contractions around your heart, in your stomach, in your jaw? Do you feel alone, exposed, or helpless, as if nothing can protect you from the pain of the world? Maybe you discover that you don’t really want to be present with another’s pain. Maybe you withdraw or adopt a posture of pity, feeling sorry for those who suffer, so that a subtle sense of superiority separates you from them. Maybe you feel that there are no bound- aries. Maybe you feel a terrible loneliness because you have to help everyone and there is no one for you to turn to. Just as in regular meditation, return to attention, return to being awake com- passion. Remember, you are completely awake and you see everything through the eyes of compassion. Let this feeling perme- ate your body, your emotions, and your heart. You have infinite resources to open and respond to the pain of others. You know nothing of tiredness or fatigue. You see into the workings of the world. You don’t have to withdraw from pain or dif- ficulty. You are clear, direct, sympathetic, insightful, wise, or responsive – whatever you need to be – in each and every situa- tion you encounter. You do not fear the pain of the world. You don’t need to fix it or make it go away. You can be with the pain, no matter how bad or terrible it is. As awake compassion, you experi- ence no separation. You know that the apparent division of experience between “I” and “the world” is a misperception and that even the subtlest sense of supe- riority is a further delusion. Instead, you are present, and you let the pain in the world tell you where the imbalance is. You know the imbalance so deeply that you know what, if anything, needs to be done, and you know how to do it. Transforming Negative Emotions and Identities Now let’s consider a “negative emotion” such as pride and explore what embody- ing awake pride might mean. I remem- ber a conversation I had with a teacher in Nepal, who after about an hour looked at me and said, “Ken, you have a problem. You are a little proud. You can either be completely proud or not proud at all. But to be a little proud is a problem.” To have a little pride, I came to understand, is to not be awake in pride. With ordinary pride, you feel you are special and arrange your world to be ongoing proof of what you want to be true. You adopt set positions and rigid forms of behavior. You ignore doubts and threats to your self-image and avoid anything that reminds you of them. Such pride is obviously not about being fully awake and present. How does the awake quality trans- form the expression of pride? Imagine you are awake and present, yet com- pletely embodying pride. You experience a total and complete equanimity, regard- less of what arises in experience. You are so special that you have no need to defend yourself in any situation or to lord your knowledge or abilities over anyone. You don’t need others to treat you with an assumed deference or the appearance of respect. You are truly “above it all,” expansive without being overbearing or overwhelming. You have no reason to be impatient or insensitive. Instead, you are completely respectful and kind in all situ- ations, because from your broad, expan- sive point of view, they are all the same. What about going beyond specific emotions to whole identities, such as being a loser? Ordinarily, this self-image leads you to shrink from the world. The world becomes a world of hopelessness, devoid of promise or fulfillment. Every defeat becomes a painful but reassuring confirmation of your identity and status. You fear challenges because you know you will fail and also because success would be as problematic as failure. You are full of grandiose schemes and you tell everyone what you are going to do. But you never start, because to do so would reveal who you really are. When you are forced to, you approach situations unwillingly or with such a defeatist atti- tude that you undermine any support you might have had. Things turn out badly, once again. As the awake loser, however, you know you are going to lose. It’s a done deal! You have nothing to lose, nothing to risk. You accept losing as a given and engage your life, your practice, your interactions with absolutely no expectations of what you may get or how you may benefit. Victory and defeat or success and failure become meaningless considerations. You pour your energy into new situations because you are not concerned with status or outcomes. You engage whatever you are doing without personal expectations or projections. Instead of talking about grandiose schemes, you end up doing just what needs to be done. Adopting the awake manifestation of an identity in this way connects you with expressions of power, opening, under- standing, and compassion that are not based on a sense of self. No Half Measures Needless to say, fully embodying an awake personality as a means of letting go of self is not a beginning practice. It assumes that you have a solid relationship with basic attention, mindfulness, compassion, and some experiential acquaintance with non- self and emptiness. You have to be able to tolerate not being you, at least for short periods of time. From these examples, you can see that any personality can be used in this practice. But there is one requirement: whatever personality you pick, you have to embody it completely. No half mea- sures! You have to completely embody (#532)vajrakilaya(detail),collectionofrubinmuseumofartwww.rmanyc.org