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Home > Approaching Buddhism > Modern Adaptation of Buddhism > Balanced Sensitivity for the Age of Social Media: Developing a Caring Heart > Session Three: Practices for Developing a Caring Attitude

Balanced Sensitivity for the Age of Social Media: Developing a Caring Heart

Alexander Berzin
Kiev, Ukraine, October 2013

Session Three: Practices for Developing a Caring Attitude

Unedited Transcript
Listen to the audio version of this page (0:56 hours)

Quieting Down

We started the training just briefly with the exercise for quieting the mind. When we say “quiet the mind” that doesn't mean to turn off everything like the radio is off, but rather it means to quiet down the unnecessary things that are going on in our mind so that we can be more open and positive. And as was pointed out, if we only do that, or if it's done incorrectly, then you tend to just be totally isolated, no feelings at all. But that's going too far, if we go to that extent of shutting off everything.

But when I say quiet down the extraneous things, the things that are problematic, also what we want to quiet down is our nervousness or sense of fear. For some people that's not so easy to do, obviously. But if we're in a group in which everybody agrees that we're going to be non-judgemental with each other, then that can be quite helpful.

The Caring Attitude

Now, let's go on with the caring heart, the caring attitude; and again we look at our people on the poster here and what we're going to do is start with first being a bit quiet – that's the first step – and then regard these people one at a time. So just go through the sequence with one person representative here on the photos and once we're able to generate this caring attitude by going through the line, then we can shift it to another. Okay? I will lead us through this.

First we quiet down and in general when we want to quiet down a lot of discursive thought; discursive thought means, "Blah, blah, blah," talking in our head. If we want to quiet that down, we focus on the breath. That is a specific use of breathing meditation. In the Theravada tradition from which the vipassana movement derives, the breathing is a focus, a focal object, for many different types of meditation. But when we look in the Mahayana traditions, then there we find that the object of focus in meditation is from a large variety of objects and some of them are specifically for those people who have specific types of disturbing emotions. And for those who have a lot of discursive thinking, their minds are too active, always talking in their heads, so breath is the object of focus for that.

If you try that, you'll find that although of course you can focus on the breath, yet part of the mind is still talking. Nevertheless, it is still quite helpful, especially if you have a problem, which I often have, which is of having some music or a song go endlessly through my mind. You hear something and somehow your mind latches onto it and then you sing it all day long, which is utterly stupid. It's very hard to stop that. There are several methods that can be used.

Methods to Quiet the Mind

One that's used in tantra would be to recite a mantra, so that you use that verbal energy to do something else, so reciting a mantra. Another method is to start to analyze something, so try to figure something out. Some people say if you do a sudoku, one of these puzzles or something like that, you involve your mind in doing something that requires your intellect in an analytical way. That'll stop the song going on in your head, and it does. Or just mathematics. Add some numbers in your head.

The third method which is what we find in so many texts is to focus on the breathing. So we need to use some sort of method to help us to quiet down – my point being that there are many, many methods so if one doesn't work, try something else.

That is a helpful preliminary. Even before we purposely try to quiet the mind, just focus on the breath a bit and then let go if there's more mental wandering and discursive thoughts going on. Do that.

I should also mention from general meditation methods that if we are feeling dull and we have to deal with somebody, then what is helpful to do is to imagine a bright light. Obviously if there is a bright light around to look at, it will stimulate the mind, but if you can imagine a bright light as well – not low down but high up because that lifts the energy – that also will help to get the mind a little bit more clear, not so dull.

Okay? Then we look at one of the pictures and let go if there are any further thoughts, verbal thoughts, judgements that come up, and then we think,

You are a human being and have feelings.

You are a human being and have feelings just as I do.

The mood you are in will affect our interaction just as my mood will affect it.

The mood you are in will affect our interaction just as my mood will affect it.

I’m not going to make up any stories about you, tell any stories in my head about you.

Human being and have feelings just as I do.

The mood you are in will affect our interaction just as my mood will affect it.

Therefore how I treat you and what I say will further affect your feelings.

Therefore just as I hope that you care about me and about my feelings in our interaction, I care about you. I care about your feelings.

Not going to make up or tell any stories about you.

You're a human being and have feelings, I care about you, I care about your feelings.

Then we look away and look down and let the emotion of that experience quiet down.

Maintaining Mindfulness

What comments or questions might you have?

Participant: Her mind always flies away, always wandering.

Alex: Right, so your mind is always wandering or flying away, the question is why? That's the interesting thing to investigate in yourself. It could be because what it is flying away to is so attractive to you, you're quite attached to it, for instance thinking of some loved one or something like that.

It could be that you're worried about something, but it also could be because of fear or discomfort at an actual encounter with somebody and so then the mind runs away from that. If we have a lot of mental wandering and particularly if it is flightiness, which means the mind is flying to some object of desire that you're attached to, then we really need to start to investigate why. What is really causing this? Because it is a big interference, not only in our interpersonal relations, but also of course in our work, in our daily life. The general approach in Buddhism is always to identify what the problem is, then try to find the causes and then work to eliminate those causes.

It's a very logical process and, as we mentioned this morning, the way to maintain mindfulness, which is the glue that stays on the object, is to remind ourselves – when you forget about it, your mind wanders off – to remind yourself, "Go back, go back, go back." Listen to what the other person is saying, they're a human being. Listen. They're a human being, they don’t want to be ignored, like I don't want to be ignored.

Increasing Our Interest in Others

It's very helpful, we're talking about sensitivity so we're talking about interacting with others, that if you're talking to somebody and saying something which you consider important and the other person, after you say a few sentences says, "Huh? What? What did you say? I wasn't listening." How do you feel?

Participant: Horrible.

Alex: Horrible. So they have feelings too, they feel the same way. That helps us, that's the whole point of this sensitivity training. "You have feelings like I do," to bring our mind, our attention back and stay focused.

What we have to increase is our interest. I'm interested in the other person and what they are saying, even if objectively what they're saying is boring and stupid, but nevertheless, when people speak to you the intention is not, "Oh, I'm going to say something really boring to you and bore you." That's not how they consider what they're saying, is it?

Any other questions or comments? Are you able to actually regard these pictures as human beings? See them as human beings?

Participant: If you only intellectually understand this, will something work?

Alex: Right. You can intellectually understand, she's saying, that these are people but to actually feel something is very difficult. Here, we're actually seeing people. But how do you relate to somebody when you don't even see them, but all you do is get an SMS message or a message on your Facebook or an email? To relate back to them that, "This is a human being," this is my point, it is difficult. It is difficult.

What you're observing is noticing: what is the problem? What is the difficulty? That's why I'm saying, that nowadays with the development of all of this technology and social media that this problem has gotten even more critical because we are relating to others so much, but not in person. And then we lose feeling, they just become pixels. Behind the pixels on our cell phone screen is an actual person who has feelings. This is the real challenge of our times.

Participant: The person on the outside of the phone, he also has troubles with the face.

Alex: Right. Both sides have the trouble, that's exactly right and that's why we say, "Just as I hope that you will be considerate of me, I will try to be considerate of you." So you seem to be understanding what the problem is exactly.

Participant: I found it.

Alex: Yes

Participant: Everything’s full with it.

Alex: Yes?

Interaction and Eye Contact

Participant: It's much easier to feel something when you see the eyes of a person.

Alex: It's much easier when you see the eyes of a person, that's true. That's very strange to analyze. It's as if the person is sitting behind their eyes, but that of course is the cartoon, isn't it? There's no little "me" sitting behind the eyes, but that is how we experience things. But there are some cultures in which it is considered extremely rude to look at somebody in their eyes, like among the Japanese or the Zulus in South Africa. Then you have to deal differently. Or in some societies, if a man is with a strange woman and the man looks at the woman in the eyes, the woman will get very nervous. You need to be, again, sensitive to the culture.

Alex: Right. Anything else?

Participant: Some people get afraid.

Alex: Some people get afraid when other people look in their eyes, that's true.

Participant: The question was why.

Alex: Why? Because they feel vulnerable, vulnerable in the sense that you're looking inside me. It's almost as if you're looking at me naked. There’s a saying, I forget who said it in English literature, I think it's in English literature, that "The eyes are the window to the soul."

Participant: That's the same...

Alex: The same in Russian. It’s based on that type of thinking: that they're actually seeing me exposed inside through my eyes and I think that's why it's frightening. Do you have these macho games of a staring contest to see who looks away first? A macho contest?

Participant: [unintelligible]

Alex: Pardon? It happens in business meetings, who's the strong alpha dog that is able to stare down the other person? This is a very interesting point; we'll do this next of looking around the circle. There’s a big difference between looking at somebody in the eyes and staring at them. What's the difference? What's the difference?

Participant: No aggression.

Alex: Pardon?

Participant: No aggression.

Alex: No aggression. If you're staring, is there necessarily aggression?

Participant: No. You're making judgements.

Alex: Pardon?

Participant: Maybe you're making judgements when you're thinking of something else...

Alex: Maybe you're making judgements or thinking something else when you're staring?

Participant: [unintelligible]

Alex: No, I don't think so either.

Participant: [Russian]

Alex: What is she saying?

Participant: That probably the difference is because when we look in the eye there is some kind of interaction, but when we stare there is no interaction, no emotional interaction with the person.

Alex: Right. You were going to say?

Participant: In each person I see "you" as a consciousness.

Alex: In each person we see "me" as a consciousness in these pictures...

Participant: Through them I see you.

Alex: Well, that's an interesting phenomenon. Let me address that, but first let me respond to what you said, Anna, which is that yes, I think when you stare at somebody you make them into an object, whereas if you look at somebody in the eyes the difference is that you're actually relating to a person, so there is feelings. It's not just an object.

Now, there are different levels in the way in which one could understand your statement that when you look at each of these people, you see through their eyes, "me, it's the teacher.” If we're looking on the level of the teacher, a spiritual teacher, being the one that inspires us as the living example of Buddhahood or whatever it is that we are aspiring to, then looking at each person and seeing the teacher or the Buddha in them is seeing their Buddha-nature potential and so on and this is certainly a Buddhist practice.

The Problem of Projection

But there's also a disturbing way of this phenomenon occurring, which is that you project onto the other person somebody else. This can be most noticed in personal relationships in which you have a relationship with somebody, a girlfriend or boyfriend, and you break up and now you start going out with somebody else and you project onto that person that they are going to either treat you the same way, so they're going to dump you or abandon you or something like that. Or you imagine that they will have the same characteristics and the same likes as the previous one, so you're not relating to this person, but you're relating to the projection of somebody else on them.

This is very, very common, especially with people who have been abused or... It doesn't have to be sexual abuse but somebody who has really been treated badly by others, let's say a parent or whatever, and then they project that expectation onto people, to whom it is completely unfair.

This is a subcategory of quieting down, the quiet mind. "I'm not going to tell stories about you from your own past and bring up old history that is irrelevant to the present moment. But also I'm not going to project onto you the stories of other people. I'm going to relate to you the way you are now." And not say, "Thirty years ago you said this and that to me," as if you were still in the same place; you're not. Or, "thirty years ago somebody else abandoned me and now you're going to abandon me." This is not staying in the present moment. Anything else?

Creating the Quiet Mind

Since we don't have so much time, why don't we move on to the next phase of the exercise if you feel ready? Notice my insensitivity of not waiting for the answer, are you ready or not? My insensitivity, I'm not giving you the chance to say, "No, we're not ready!" Let's try it with each other, looking around the circle, that's the reason why we're sitting in a circle here. The first step of that, is of course, to look at each other with a quiet mind. That’s much more challenging than looking at the photographs.

The things we have to watch out for are, first of all, staring at each other as if we are at the zoo and looking at these other animals. You're not at the zoo! Also, nervousness. Nervousness will manifest itself in laughing. You feel uncomfortable and a way to compensate for that is nervous laughter, a standard psychological mechanism and it definitely occurs in some groups, especially when trying this at first. So we try not to be like a pack of dogs, in which one dog starts barking and all the rest of the dogs start to bark as well. So try not to join in in the laughter, it can be contagious. Just let go.

There will be some people that will feel uncomfortable and will look up and not look at others. If it really makes you uncomfortable to look at others, don't do it. Also, don't stay staring at one person; that will also make the person feel uncomfortable. As your gaze goes across the people, then quiet mind, just have a quiet mind.

One more point before your question is that when doing this in a group, then it is not recommended that you really, really look in each person’s eyes, especially when two people in the group (know each other). When they're scanning around and your eyes meet, don't get caught in that interchange of staring at this person, look on. That can also be very, pardon the word, seductive, you get lost into looking at that other person and they're looking at you. Your question?

Participant: [unintelligible]

Alex: She's saying that when we look at others you could look at their right eye or their left eye, where is your focus? That's exactly what my last point was, is that don't stay set on just focusing, this not an exercise in single-pointed concentration, this is an exercise in just being able to be with a group of people and see them and not make comments about everybody. Just to have your mind be open to everybody.

It's completely another type of training for personal interaction, when we do the exercise one to one. How do you actually – when you're talking to somebody – how do you look at each other? That becomes a very interesting question. Because here we're in a group and people are at a distance from each other, so there's a little bit of, what should we say, space. But when you're right next to somebody and you're speaking to them, if you just really stare into their eyes and they stare into your eyes, somehow you get lost. You sort of space out in a sense, the conversation ends and you're just "Uhh..." like that.

But on the other hand, if you're speaking to somebody and you're looking over there and the person is over here – there are people that are like that. They speak with you but they never look at you. That’s very, very uncomfortable. "Hey! I'm over here, I'm not over there." To get that balance in which you're looking at the person but you're not staring and you don't get stuck is not so easy, actually. It depends on the relationship that you have with the other person, if you start to analyze. If you have a lot of desire for that person then you tend to get lost in an "oh, I'm in love" type of phenomenon.

There can also be anger there, "grrrr," and you stare at the other person with a terrible look on your face, "oh, I'm really angry at you." But when we have the caring attitude with our looking at the person and you're relaxed and you're open, then you can look at the other person and not stare. You're seeing them in their eyes and talking and so on, but it is... What should we say? The only word that I can think for it is that you're relaxed. You're not worried, "I care about you," but I'm not oversensitive in the sense that, "Oh my god, they're going to reject me, they're not going to like me," stuff like that. Not just thinking about "me, me, me," and "what are they going to think about me?" But you're just relaxed, then you don't get stuck in the other person's eyes.

What is difficult is when the two people are not at the same level in their development. So one person – let's say you – are relaxed, but the other person is either not looking at you, looking over at the wall while they speak to you. I had a professor like that in my graduate studies, who was like my advisor. So I would go and speak to him and so on and he never looked at me. He was Japanese, he always looked away, he never ever looked at me. It was a cultural thing, but it was quite uncomfortable. He was Japanese, so it was cultural, but still it made me uncomfortable.

The other extreme is you're speaking to someone and they're so intense, they're much too close to you, so there's this animal instinct that they're going to stick their finger in my eye or something like that. They're too intense and that also makes us uncomfortable. The thing is when we're in that position and the other person is out of balance like that, somehow to still be relaxed. That's much more difficult, and not to get uncomfortable and out of balance in response, that’s much more difficult. Then you have to realize, "Well, you're a human being and you have your own problems," and stuff like that. You have one of the exercises, “combining warmth with understanding.”

Let's try in the group to look around in the circle, just with a quiet mind. Let go of any judgemental thoughts, of any comments. Just be open and scan around the circle.

Okay, you were able to do that?

Participant: No.

Alex: No? Well, you already said you have difficulty with mental wandering, so naturally it's going to be even more prominent in this type of exercise, so it's not surprising. The point is to try to let go, notice it as a hindrance and to try to let go. At times, not necessarily in an interaction with somebody, work more on focusing on the breath to try to distract the mind from its mental wandering and its "blah, blah, blah," activity. Yes?

Generating Feeling and Letting Go

Participant: I noticed that when I was looking the third time in the circle it was much easier to generate some feeling...

Alex: To generate some feeling.

Participant: Yes, much easier, because I was familiar with the person, to let go.

Alex: Right. Because you were familiar with the people, you knew them.

Participant: The first time you can't help all the people.

Alex: Right, what she's saying is that initially when we look at people, the thoughts and judgements and stories will come up more easily, but as we continue with the practice, you're remembering, you're mindful to let go, that then we are able to drop the stories and the mental verbal thoughts about the people that we're looking at.

That's true, that's part of the process. Because this is going to happen in daily life, you see someone and initially that thought is going to come up, "Oh, how pretty," or "What a terrible dress this person is wearing," or whatever will come up, it will be some sort of comment which is usually judgemental, but then the point is to drop it. It will be interesting to note what type of people trigger more mental, judgemental thoughts than others, it's very interesting.

I have recently been on a very strict diet and I have lost about fourteen kilos. And what I notice is in my own comments when I see people on the street who are fat, that triggers the most comments. "Oh, how fat. This person is..." Why? Because this is what I was struggling with in myself, to get rid of my being overweight. And then you project that, of course, onto the other person and what annoys you about yourself the most will annoy you mirrored in other people. Yes?

Analysis of Others and Generating Conclusions

Participant: I have a tendency to analyze. I don't think it's judgement, but it seems that I have to identify from my database what is the person like? And after that in real life, I doubt, how do I communicate? And which is best? The motivation is good. But when I look at them, I can't stop getting the picture. I see them more like an object, looking like an object.

Alex: It's interesting, he's saying that he analyzes when he sees people in order to have a good idea of the strategy to use in approaching this person. However, in order to be able to analyze correctly, which is one of the functions later on in the exercises, we have the five types of deep awareness. With these, you take in the information, you see the patterns, etc. That is necessary in our interactions with others. A prerequisite for them is that we don't project before we get sufficient data to be able to make a correct analysis. And don't jump to conclusions prematurely.

For instance, "I see this person; they're fat. They don't take care of themselves." Then I jump to all sorts of conclusions about the person without really getting to know them. The analogy that I'm thinking of is either computer dating or Facebook level interaction, which is that you base your analysis of the person simply on the profile that you read in Facebook, not on the actual person. Again, it is jumping to a conclusion based either on a superficial impression or on some characterization which is just a characterization, that's not the person. It's just what they wrote down according to what form you could fill out.

Quieting the mind: the main purpose of that is to be open to the actuality of the other person. If the person is completely uncommunicative, like if you are a therapist dealing with somebody who is just completely shut, then I've known of therapists who will rely on numerology or astrology or something like that to have some sort of idea of where to start to communicate with this person. But if we're not in that kind of situation, then to just go on their profile on Facebook, it's pretty superficial. Often it's based on the type of image that the person would like to project, but which is not really authentic.

The Quiet Mind with the Caring Attitude

Now let us add to this “Quiet mind” exercise of looking at the people in the group, the “caring attitude.” With this, we do focus on each person one at a time, but don't do it with somebody who is focusing back on you, because then that also will become a little bit awkward. That'll be the next phase, when you're doing it one-to-one.

But the way that we do this is at each step we look at each person in the group like this. For instance, just as we had a quiet mind and we scan around the circle and felt the quiet mind for each person, then we start, "You're a human being and have feelings just as I do. And with the next one, "You're a human being and have feelings just as I do. And you're a human being too and you're also a human being and you're a human being and you're a human being." And like that go around the circle for each of the major points here.

And then at the end have the caring attitude toward each of the people, like that. Okay? Good.

So we quiet down and for each of these exercises, first we just quiet down by looking down and focusing on the breath; sort of the entrance into each exercise and the exit. The entranceway is looking down and focusing on the breath, and the way of exiting the exercise is again, looking down, focusing on the breath and letting the experience settle. It's a much more gentle way of practicing these exercises.

Then we look up and look around the circle with a quiet mind,

"I'm not going to tell stories about you in my mind, not going to comment, not be judgemental.

You’re a human being and have feelings just as I do.

You're a human being and have feelings just as I do.

You are a real human being and have feelings; real feelings just as I do.

No stories or comments.

The mood you are in will affect our interaction just as my mood will affect it.

The mood you are in will affect our interaction just as my mood will affect it.

How I treat you and what I say will further affect your feelings.

Therefore just as I hope that you care about me and about my feelings in our interaction, I care about you. I care about your feelings.

I’m not going to make up or tell any stories about you.

Human being and have feelings.

I care about you, I care about your feelings."

These are keywords that we can repeat ourselves in our mind, not just hear me say it. "I'm not going to make up or tell any stories about you. Human being and have feelings. I care about you. I care."

Okay, let the experience settle. What comments or questions?

Experiencing the Quiet Mind and Caring Attitude

Participant: [Russian]

Alex: What did she say?

Participant: She said she had a funny feeling. Goosebumps.

Alex: Goosebumps, yes. That is because it is an emotionally moving experience and it is something which is perhaps new. Not so much new, well, you have to analyze, I don't know.

Participant: I feel very warm inside.

Alex: You feel very warm inside, absolutely. You are able to generate a warm feeling.

It was difficult to focus on a lot of people like this, so it would be easier in a smaller group, sure. But where it's helpful to have this with a very large group is when you have to speak in public in front of a large group. There are some people that are very, very nervous and self-conscious in doing that. If you realize everyone in the audience is just a human being like I am, then there's nothing to feel frightened about.

Or I find it useful with a large group of people on a bus or on a subway, in a subway car, to realize that everybody in this vehicle is a human being and has feelings. But for practice in a group, sometimes it is easier with a smaller group, sure. But a mixed group like this has the advantage that maybe there are some people that you know and then there are some people who are strangers and that's helpful. When we do the exercise with the photos, then what we do is a series of these. First photos of people that we don't know, but then you have your own personal photographs of somebody that you do know, that you have a good relationship with, somebody that is just an acquaintance – you know them but not very well, and then somebody that you don't like. Then you can also put all three photographs in front of you and try to have that equal quiet attitude and the equal caring attitude toward all three. That is much more challenging, but very worthwhile to work on.

Participant: The strongest emotions...

Alex: Yes, she's saying when doing this with a caring attitude and your eyes actually meet with somebody else, that then there's a strong emotional feeling that we get, definitely, because there is more emotional contact with the person. This of course is a much higher energy. Depending on how familiar we are with that experience, it will be either a little bit shocking, or it will be something which makes you feel more relaxed and more warm. It depends on our own mood. As it says right in the exercise, "My mood is going to affect the interaction," so a lot depends on what we were feeling right before. That quiet mind is very important, if you were doing this while having your iPod in your ears, listening to techno music and trying to do this exercise at the same time, it would be very, very different, wouldn't it?

Conceptual Understandings of Energy

Participant: I was looking at people before and I felt pressure at the top of my head, most of the time.

Alex: Uh – huh. Well, pressure... She was looking at people and she felt some pressure at the top of her head, was it a warm feeling or a slightly uncomfortable feeling?

Participant: It was a comfortable feeling.

Alex: A comfortable feeling. When you have a feeling at the top of your head, that's some movement of energy within your body. Obviously it's coming from somewhere, so it's some energy in your body. If the energy in your body is quite high, high meaning elevated within your body, then some people mention feeling a warm feeling around the heart and other people like yourself might feel that by the top of your head.

Participant: While I listen to your lectures, I always feel a light pressure – the same as when I see a person – sometimes I feel like different color perception...

Alex: You mean like aura?

Participant: Yes.

Alex: That was the word that she used.

Participant: Yes.

Alex: Again, that could be accurate or it could be a projection. I'm not familiar with that type of sensitivity to other people's energy, in that type of form. There needs to be certain criteria to check the validity of what you're experiencing. A part of sensitivity, or another dimension of sensitivity, is to be sensitive to energy, both in yourself and in others. The more that you quiet down and actually pay attention, the more that you can feel your own energy; and is it out of balance? Whether you're looking in terms of an Ayurvedic discussion of energy, or a Tibetan medicine discussion of energy or chakras or whatever – those are just different conceptual systems.

It's very helpful for knowing how to somehow – if you have the ability – to adjust your energy to deal with it. It's very helpful. It's a matter of being quiet enough so that you can sense it. Similarly, with other people’s energy, whether you conceptualize it as auras or as vibrations or just as energy, it can be very helpful to sense the other person's energies. Is it nervous energy, or what it is. And you can sense it visually with the other person; you could also sense it in terms of your own response to that.

As always – we have this in this training – you have to analyze the accuracy of what you are perceiving and the accuracy of how you interpret it. Are we just feeling the other person's vibes because it makes us feel good, or is it giving us information in terms of how best to relate to this person? If we have sensitivity to the energy of others and ourselves like this, we have to make sure that it's accurate. And what are you going to do with that information?

Participant: The comment is: when I am quiet, I quiet down, I feel different phenomena like auras and feelings of other people.

Alex: Right. As I say, this is not unusual in the descriptions of attaining perfect concentration. One of the side effects of having perfect concentration, which is really a quiet mind and very alert and sharp, is that you get extrasensory perception, which could take the form of... depending on how you experience it and how you interpret it… auras or vibes or energy or many different ways of experiencing it.

There are two ways in which it occurs, these extrasensory perceptions. One is that it naturally occurs as a leftover aftermath from previous life type of experiences, or it could be something that is attained through meditation. The one that is attained through meditation is usually more stable and more reliable. So if you are experiencing these types of abilities as a natural thing that came without any effort, in order to make it more reliable and stable it would be recommended to try to supplement it with the meditation practices. Then it can be used to benefit others. Anything else? Pardon?

Participant: Practice more.

Alex: Practice more. We only have twenty minutes left if we keep our schedule and one of the great advantages of this room is that we have this mirror. So what I would suggest is that we regroup our chairs around this mirror and make a semi-circle around the mirror.

[chairs moving and chatter]

Practicing the Caring Attitude

That was noisy wasn't it? Okay, now we want to look at the mirror, look at ourselves in the mirror and the same thing. First of all, no comments. But before that let's quiet down by just focusing on the breath. Then we look at ourselves in the mirror and look at ourselves with the quiet mind.

"I'm not going to make any comments about myself, not going to make up any stories, just quiet.
I'm a human being and have feelings just as everybody else does.
How I regard and treat myself affects my feelings,
How I regard and treat myself affects my feelings, just as how others regard and treat me affects how I feel.
Therefore just as I hope that others care about me and about my feelings in our interactions, I care about myself.
I care about my feelings.
I care about my feelings towards myself.
I care about how I treat myself.
I'm not going to make up or tell any stories about myself.
I care about myself.
I'm a human being like everybody else.
I care about myself, I care about my feelings.
I care about my feelings towards myself.
I care about how I treat myself.
Not going to tell stories about myself.
I'm a human being like everybody else.
I see everybody else in the mirror, and I’m no different, just another human being. Another penguin in the flock in Antarctica.
I look around the circle in the mirror and see that I’m just another person.
Just as I care about you, I care about me.
As you have feelings, I have feelings.
I care about you, I care about me.
I care about my attitude and my feelings toward myself.
How I feel and how I treat myself.
Balance: self and others.
Balance between self and others.”

And then we look down and let the experience settle.

Okay, so now perhaps you have some questions. Comments? Questions? Yes?

The Next Step: Positive Interactions with Others

Participant: When on purpose looking at everybody and saying things like "I care" and having a look at them, I'm automatically analyzing in a way, not judging, but it felt a little bit like taking too much responsibility, if you know what I mean? Because once if I look at a person, I analyze and see some things which I think are projections or not and it seems to me that I want some sort of feedback about, "Are you okay? Are you fine?" Those sorts of things. Because in our interaction I just see you and I care. When I had a good look at the person, I started to care more. It feels a little bit vulnerable, okay like, watching you guys and have to care about you now.

Alex: Well, you're saying that when we just do this exercise of generating the caring attitude, that that actually is not enough. These are just the legs on which the whole training is going to stand, on which they will stand. Then we develop further with that basis in terms of how we actually relate with others. The responsibility is in terms of now we're going to interact; it’s not just that you look at the people and care.

But consider the case of being on a crowded bus, or a crowded subway car. There are a lot of people. How do we feel? We could just be thinking of "me, me, me. All these horrible, sweaty, smelly people around me,” and feel very uncomfortable and it's a very unpleasant ride. Or "'I'll just pretend that they don't exist and just get lost in my iPod music. If I can move my hand at all I will play a game on my phone."

In a sense we are putting up the walls around us to try to stay safe inside, which is a very insecure feeling, actually. When we attempt to be secure it is guarding against insecurity. Or we could develop the caring attitude that everybody in this bus or subway car is a human being, everybody has feelings, everybody is, in a sense, feeling crowded. It's not so pleasant but we have this warm feeling. You experienced it; someone mentioned there's a warm feeling. So you are at ease, you are comfortable and you are feeling that we're all in this together, rather than "me, me, me. Poor me." It changes completely your way of experiencing that crowded bus ride.

If we're relaxed and feeling comfortable, maybe there's a smile on our face. Not an idiotic smile that people think we're a crazy person, but a relaxed, comfortable smile that makes other people around us who are also feeling very crowded a little bit more at ease. "It's not so bad."

Participant: In the metro, I'm looking at lamps, at the ceiling and after that I feel a sense of clarity.

Alex: Remember we said earlier when you're feeling dull and low energy that one of the ways of lifting it up, which you get in the meditation manuals, is to imagine a bright light, or looking at a bright light. So your experience just confirms what it says in these texts. If you're feeling very oppressed and smothered in this crowded car, looking at the light is actually a very good strategy. Anything else?

Participant: [unintelligible]

Alex: Right, so she's saying when we're looking at the group, actually in person in the eyes, and looking at them in the mirror, it's quite different. In the mirror it's less intense. Yes, however that was not the main focus or main purpose in looking at the group in the mirror. The main purpose was to see that we're no different from anybody else, that we are part of the group, nothing special about me. That's a very unique view that we don't get very frequently, if at all. It’s to see ourselves as just another member of a group, and to actually, visually see that. We don't have that point of view unless you look at a picture, a photograph. When you're looking at a photograph, you're basically just trying to find yourself. "Oh, there I am!" But that's not what we're doing here. So one needs to remember what the purpose was for looking at ourselves, at the group in the mirror. Right.

Concluding Remarks

Okay, well that brings us to the end of our session and I hope that through this small taste of these exercises that you get a general idea of what's involved. There are many more steps in each of the exercises and of course there are many exercises. But if it is something that you find beneficial, then the material is available in your own language as well, in Russian, on my website for free. And if you like to work in a group with a few other people, wonderful. But give yourselves enough time with each of the steps of the exercise to discuss it, digest it, work with it. Don't just rush through it. And I believe in the book itself – on the website I mean, in the material – it also indicates how to abbreviate the course if you don't have so much time to do the full thing. It would be a small number of exercises that you could do in sort of a compact package, rather than the full thing. That's also outlined there.

The way that we usually end in a Buddhist manner, if I may add that here, is that we hope that whatever understanding, whatever good experience that we've had, may it go deeper and deeper and help us to lead more meaningful lives and be of more help to everybody. Thank you.