Developing Balanced Sensitivity:
Practical Buddhist Exercises
for Daily Life
(Revised Second Edition)
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Part V: Advanced Training
18 Relaxing Triplistic Appearances of Mind's Natural Functions
To dispel the problems of insecurity that our confusion and its instincts create regarding mind's natural functions, we need to identify the triplistic appearances that fuel these problems. Recognizing the absurdity of our fantasies, we then need to deconstruct these deceptive appearances. Methods such as seeing experiences as waves on the ocean help with the process.
Clear light mental activity is like an ocean. Its natural functions, such as producing verbal expression, are also activities. They naturally arise like waves or swells in mid-ocean. Circumstances, motivation, and an intention – for instance, seeing the flight attendant coming down the aisle, wanting something more to drink, and deciding to ask – affect when waves of certain activities arise and what form they take. Nevertheless, the waves repeatedly arise as characteristic features of everyone's clear light mind.
When the impulse that brings on the wave of an action is a karmic one, mixed with confusion, our mental activity projects a triplistic appearance onto the wave and the winds of our karma churn the energy. Consequently, one side of the wave seems to be a concrete agent, the other side seems to be a concrete object, and the wave itself appears to be a concrete action. Our mind becomes agitated and we experience the naturally arising wave as monstrous. This alarming experience throws us off balance: we become self-conscious and nervous. Indicative of insecurity, these two unsettling feelings drive us to grasp at, fear, or try to drown ourselves in being the seemingly concrete agent or object of the seemingly concrete activity. For example, inflating the orange juice, ourselves, and the act of asking for some into monumental objects, we feel too shy to ask for anything. We suffer greatly.
When we stop projecting triplistic appearances onto the waves, or we at least stop believing in these deceptive appearances, the winds of our karma automatically die down. Waves of clear light activity still naturally arise, but they no longer seem monstrous. The problem is not with the waves. Waves consist merely of water and do not disturb the depths of the ocean. The problem lies with the triplistic appearances that our mind unconsciously projects onto them. Experiences, such as asking the flight attendant for something to drink, are not disturbing in themselves. They disturb us only when we mix them with confusion.
To deconstruct our disturbing experiences correctly, we need to understand that we do exist. We do not exist, however, as a concrete "me" in our head that we need to make secure. We do not need to prove, justify, or defend our existence. Nor do we need to drown it in something. The vain attempt to do so just brings us battering from the waves of our disturbing experiences. Further, we need to divest words, deeds, and so on of the unrealistic power we imagine that they have to grant us security if we express or avoid them.
The deconstruction process does not leave us with sterile relations with others or with ourselves. What remains is the automatic functioning of mental activity's seven facets. No longer on an endless quest for elusive security, we can act, speak, experience sensory and mental objects, love, be energetic, be quiet, and enjoy life with balanced sensitivity.
During the first phase of this exercise, we try to recall situations in which we grasped for security based on projecting and believing in triplistic appearances of our mental activity's seven natural facets. With each mental action, we consider four forms this syndrome may take - grasping to express the action, clutching to receive expressions of it, being afraid to express the action, and being uncomfortable at receiving expressions of it. We also try to recall any insensitivity to others' feelings or hypersensitivity to the situation that may have accompanied our experience.
During the exercise, we work with common illustrations of each syndrome. Later, we may explore other forms on our own. If we have never experienced some of the examples, we may try to empathize with someone we know who suffers from these problems and imagine what it must be like. For practice in a workshop, the group facilitator may choose one syndrome for each of mind's seven natural functions. When practicing at home, we may do the same, choosing only personally pertinent forms. For advanced or thorough practice, we may consider all the cited variations.
We start by creating a quiet, caring space and then recalling a specific situation and our imbalanced response to it. Regretting the suffering our behavior may have caused and resolving to avoid recurrences of it, we try to recognize the triplistic appearance involved. It may have taken one of two forms. The imagined triplicity may have consisted of (1) a seemingly concrete agent "me" who hoped to gain security by grasping at, avoiding, or drowning in (2) a seemingly concrete activity directed at (3) a seemingly concrete object. Alternatively, the triplicity may have comprised (1) a seemingly concrete recipient or object "me" who hoped to gain security by grasping at, avoiding, or drowning in (2) a seemingly concrete activity performed by (3) a seemingly concrete agent. We projected one of these triplistic fantasies onto a wave of our experience; and the winds of our karma churned the experience into something monstrous.
Recognizing the absurdity of our fantasy, we picture ourselves entering the situation afresh. Our clear light mind naturally swells and gives rise to an impulse for responding with an action. Mixed with confusion, the impulse grows like a wave and brings on a deceptive triplistic appearance of the action we would take. Consequently, the impulse grows larger and becomes an urge to respond in a neurotic way. At this point, we stop the turbulent process. Recalling that the projected appearance does not refer to anything real, we picture the projector of the triplistic movie in our mind shutting off and dissolving. In doing this, we make sure to avoid any dualistic feeling of a seemingly concrete and paranoid "me" shutting off a seemingly concrete projector in our head. Imagining that the winds of our karma die down, we try to relax our grasping or our fear. The wave of the experience no longer seems monstrous. It grows less intense.
From the perspective of the entire ocean, waves of activity are surface events. They can never disturb us: they naturally pass. Realizing this, we return to the original impulse simply to respond to the situation with an action. Now, however, we imagine engaging nontriplistically in the deconstructed activity, without self-consciousness, tension, or worry. We try to experience the imagined action as a wave naturally arising from clear light mind and naturally settling back into it. In this way, we arrive at a nontriplistic experience of a wave of a natural mental function.
As a final step, we recall someone else acting in each disturbing manner toward us: imposing unneeded help, constantly speaking, and so forth. To defuse our hypersensitive response, we try to understand that he or she was overlaying one of mind's natural functions with a triplistic appearance. The person was grasping at (1) the seemingly concrete activity in order to gain security from being (2) the seemingly concrete agent of it, when directed at us as (3) its seemingly concrete object. Alternatively, the person feared (1) the seemingly concrete activity as a threat when we as its (2) seemingly concrete agent directed it at him or her as (3) its seemingly concrete object.
With this insight in mind, we deconstruct our own triplistic experience of the person's action. Again, we use the images of the projector of our fantasy shutting off and dissolving, the winds of our karma stilling, and the wave of the experience settling. As with Exercise Fifteen, we then direct compassion at the person, by wishing him or her to be free of the suffering that his or her confusion creates. Lastly, we try to imagine responding appropriately and nontriplistically with balanced sensitivity.
(1a) To dispel the feeling that we always need to keep busy, we recall a wonderful conversation at the dinner table. Feeling too tense to continue talking when people had finished dessert, we jumped up and immediately washed the dishes. We might have felt out of place in the conversation and unconsciously hoped to escape our insecurity and discomfort by losing ourselves in the task. Our insensitivity in fussing with the table killed the conversation. Regretting our action, we see through the triplistic appearance of a seemingly concrete servile "me," the seemingly concrete unbearably dirty dishes, and the seemingly concrete imperative task of washing them, and imagine handling the situation differently. We try to feel that the projector stops and that the wave of our tension to do something settles. Then, we picture enjoying the rest of the conversation, without feeling uneasy. We clean up only when the talk is over.
Recalling someone else who suffers from this compulsive "washing up" syndrome, we think how tense and miserable it must make the person. Instead of intolerance, we wish for him or her to be free of this pain. We imagine telling the person it is all right to do the dishes later.
(1b) To overcome our need to order others around, we recall seeing a relative or friend sitting idly in front of the television. Recognizing the triplistic scene of a seemingly concrete police officer "me," a seemingly concrete lazy bum, and a seemingly concrete productive action to justify a person's existence, we try to see its absurdity. Picturing the projector turning off, we try to feel our tension loosening. The wave of impulse loses intensity so that we no longer feel compelled to order the person to get moving. We imagine asking him or her to do something only if there is an urgent task, otherwise we are patient.
With understanding and compassion, we imagine similarly releasing triplistic feelings of outrage at someone telling us what to do. We picture calmly telling the person that we are enjoying the program, or simply getting up if there is something urgent.
(2) To stop expecting someone always to do things for us, we recall sitting at the table and noticing that we do not have a napkin. Dismissing as absurd our triplistic feeling of a seemingly concrete aristocrat "me," a seemingly concrete servant "you," and the seemingly concrete act of someone catering to another's need, we imagine the movie abruptly ends. As the wave of our tension dies down, we picture getting the napkin ourselves.
Thinking of someone who expects us to wait on him or her, we apply the same method to try to calm our triplistic response of outrage or servitude. We imagine politely telling the person that we are in the middle of eating, or simply getting what the person wants if we are finished.
(3) To overcome feeling afraid to do something, we remember needing to change the ink cartridge in our printer. Our mind projected the absurd triplistic scene of a seemingly concrete incompetent "me," a seemingly concrete overwhelming machine, and a seemingly concrete impossible task. Imagining that the projector turns off and dissolves into myth, we try to relax. As the wave of impulse to act turns gentle, we imagine facing the challenge straightforwardly, without melodrama. Even if we do not succeed, that does not make us a worthless person. We picture trying to figure out how to do it ourselves and only seeking help if all else fails.
Then, we think of someone who always asks us to do things for him or her because of lack of self-confidence. We try to imagine facing the person without feeling that the request is an imposition on a seemingly concrete "me" whose kindness everyone abuses. Instead, we imagine patiently guiding the person through the task. If the person cannot do it, we picture helping him or her without resentment.
(4) To dispel feeling uncomfortable to accept someone doing something for us, we recall sharing the driving with someone on a long motor trip. The action movie came on of a seemingly concrete "me" who is not in control, a seemingly concrete "you" who has all the power, and a seemingly concrete terrorist act of someone usurping command. With our insight, the triplistic movie stops. Feeling the wave of terror quiet down, we trying to imagine sitting in the passenger seat without any tension. We also try to picture not making the other person feel nervous by commenting on his or her driving throughout the journey.
Then, we try to imagine responding nontriplistically, with balanced sensitivity, to someone finding it difficult to be a passenger while we are driving. We make sure that we are driving safely.
(1) To overcome insisting on having the last word, we recall listening to someone say something with which we disagreed. Triplistically projecting a seemingly concrete threatened "me," a seemingly concrete challenger "you," and the seemingly concrete act of speaking, which would have the power to restore one's integrity, we felt compelled to retort sharply. We remind ourselves that voicing our opinion cannot make a supposedly solid identity more secure. At this reminder, we imagine that the projector shuts down and disappears. We try to feel the wave of tension to speak slowly settling. Without making the person feel that we can never accept what he or she says, we imagine only adding something if it is constructive.
Then, we recall someone who forever feels compelled to disagree with us. With understanding, patience, and compassion, we try to imagine listening silently
(2) To quiet the insecurity behind our insistence that someone talk to us when he or she has little to say, we remember someone visiting us and hardly speaking. We were haunted with a triplistic vision of a seemingly concrete unloved "me," a seemingly concrete rejective "you," and the seemingly concrete act of speaking words that could prove one's affection. The person's silence, however, did not mean that he or she did not love us. It did not invalidate the visit. As we focus on this realization, the movie stops. Relaxing our expectations, we try to feel the wave of insecurity that pushed our demand slowly quieting. In its place, we try to imagine enjoying someone's silent company.
Similarly, we recall a loved one complaining that we never talk to him or her. Viewing this remark nontriplistically, we try to calm our overreaction to the implied accusation that we do not care for the person. There are many ways to show love.
(3) To dispel shyness at speaking up, we recall having to make a report to our organization. We were afraid that we would make a fool of ourselves and that the audience would laugh at us. The triplistic feeling was of a seemingly concrete moronic "me," a seemingly concrete judgmental "you," and the seemingly concrete act of opening one's mouth and thereby proving one's inadequacy. With our realization that the world does not end even if others criticize us for being a poor speaker, we try to feel that the projector crashes and our nightmare ends. Slowly relaxing the wave of our tension, we try to picture delivering the report so that people can hear us, without feeling nervous.
Similarly, if someone is too self-conscious to speak audibly when we ask a question, we imagine gently excusing ourselves for being unable to hear. Demanding with annoyance that the person speak louder only makes him or her feel more insecure.
(4) To stop feeling uncomfortable with others' words, we recall someone saying something politically incorrect. Even if he or she directed these words at us, we realize that they do not have the power to rob us of our self-dignity. We took personal offense only because we subscribed to the triplistic program of a seemingly concrete self-righteous "me," a seemingly concrete bigoted "you," and a seemingly concrete act of speaking narrow-mindedly. Imagining that the projector shuts off, we try to relax. The wave of someone talking passes. If the person is receptive, we imagine suggesting a more sensitive way of speaking. If he or she thinks we are too touchy, we try to imagine holding our tongue.
We then recall ourselves unwittingly using a politically incorrect term and someone taking offense. Without feeling annoyance or guilt, we try to imagine accepting the person's correction nontriplistically, with patience and gratitude.
(1) To overcome the compulsive drive to indulge our senses, we recall being at a buffet and tasting every item. We behaved as if in the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete "me" about to face execution, a seemingly concrete "last meal," and a seemingly concrete act of eating that could somehow make one's life worthwhile. Our belief in the movie was clearly absurd. Imagining the preposterous movie stops, we try to relax any swell of feeling deprived of our last chance to eat. In its stead, we try to picture leaving several dishes behind once we are full.
We then recall someone with us stuffing his or her plate. Without disapproval or disgust, we suggest before the person goes for a second helping that we come again when we get hungry.
(2) To stop feeling that we need others to know everything about us, we recall sitting next to someone on an airplane and telling the person all our problems. Understanding that others knowing what we are doing does not establish or confirm our reality, we try to see through our narcissistic fantasy. We had triplistically imagined a seemingly concrete, extremely important and interesting "me," a seemingly concrete "you" who was dying to know our life story, and a seemingly concrete affirming act of knowing a person's vital information. Imagining that the projector turns off and disappears, we try to feel the wave of our self-importance die down. Exercising discrimination, we try to picture telling others only what is necessary for them to know and confiding only in those whom we can trust.
Next, we recall someone who compulsively tells us every detail of his or her day. Normally, we find this very tedious. Understanding the person's insecurity, however, we try to imagine gently changing the topic of conversation.
(3) To dispel feeling uncomfortable with sensory experience, we recall feeling shy and nervous to look directly at someone during a conversation. Realizing that the seemingly concrete act of looking in someone's eyes does not expose a seemingly concrete inadequate "me" sitting behind my eyes, whom a seemingly concrete "you" will discover and surely reject, we imagine that the triplistic movie ends. As we try to relax, the wave of the experience becomes gentler. Instead of making the other person feel bad by looking at the wall while we are speaking, we picture maintaining normal eye contact during the conversation.
Recalling someone not looking at us while speaking, we try to understand the person's triplistic feeling and not take it personally. Instead, we try to feel compassion for the person's self-consciousness and discomfort. When we scold a child, for instance, if we insist that he or she still look at us, or if we still look at him or her in the eyes, we do not allow the child any self-dignity.
(4) To dispel our fear of being the object of others' sensory experience, we recall having close body contact with a crowd on a subway. Realizing that a stranger's body touching ours is not equivalent to rape, we do not wince and make the person feel terrible. Instead, we imagine that the projector stops showing the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete virginal "me," a seemingly concrete filthy "you," and a seemingly concrete disgusting act of physical contact. Doing so allows us to relax. With a calmer wave of response to the encounter, we picture merely experiencing the sensation and letting it pass.
Recalling an occasion when our body inadvertently touched someone else's on the crowded subway and the person grimaced, we try to imagine shifting positions without feeling offended.
(1) To overcome compulsively expressing affection, we recall seeing our partner or child and feeling that we simply must voice our love. Doing so in front of his or her friends embarrassed and annoyed the person. The projector was playing the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete "me" who is starved for love, a seemingly concrete "you" who must be similarly starved, and a seemingly concrete act of expressing love that can fill the empty hole inside. Understanding that saying "I love you" does not make our love or us more real, we imagine that the projector stops. As the wave of anxiety behind the compulsion to express our love loses momentum, we try to relax and not make the person feel uncomfortable. We imagine saying "I love you" only at appropriate times - not too often and not too rarely, but especially when he or she needs to hear it. When overused, the words "I love you" lose their meaning.
Then thinking of someone who compulsively tells us he or she loves us, we try to relax our triplistic feeling of being humiliated. We imagine responding warmly and sincerely, "I love you too."
(2) To overcome grasping to receive affection, we recall seeing our partner or child and asking for a hug. He or she told us not to be stupid. Although receiving a comforting hug may make us temporarily feel better, it cannot make us more real. Realizing that our need for someone constantly embracing us is like that of a small child for a security blanket, we relax our demands. We imagine that the triplistic movie ends of a seemingly concrete "me" whom nobody loves, a seemingly concrete "you" whose love we wish were real, and a seemingly concrete act of expressing and thereby affirming affection. As the wave of tension behind our compulsion dies down, we try to imagine asking for a hug only at appropriate moments and otherwise feeling secure in our relationship and in ourselves.
Recalling someone who makes such spoken or unspoken demands on us, we try to relax our triplistic feeling of protest at someone having expectations of what we should do. We picture hugging the person if the time and place are appropriate and, if they are not, telling the person we will hug him or her later when the situation is more comfortable.
(3) To dispel feeling uncomfortable at expressing affection, we recall seeing a loved one who needed reassurance of our feelings. We had difficulty telling the person we love him or her. Saying "I love you," however, or giving someone a hug, is not a sign of weakness. It does not deprive us of anything. Nor does it mean that we have become a slave to our passions or to this person and that we are no longer in control. Understanding this allows us to see through the triplistic appearance of a seemingly concrete self-sufficient "me," a seemingly concrete imposer "you," and a seemingly concrete act of expressing affection as a threatening demand. Imagining the projector turned off, we try to relax the wave of our tension and not let the person feel unloved, especially when he or she is depressed. On the contrary, we imagine saying "I love you" and sincerely meaning it. Then we give him or her a reassuring hug.
Recalling a loved one who has difficulty expressing affection, we try to understand that the person does not have to verbalize his or her love in order for us to be reassured of its existence. Instead of feeling unloved or rejected, we try to feel compassion for the person.
(4) To dispel discomfort at receiving affection, we remember feeling threatened and stiff when a loved one kissed us. Receiving physical displays of affection, however, does not rob us of our independence. It cannot render us into a baby who is no longer in control. Realizing this, we do not make the person feel like a fool by saying something nasty or by being passive. We picture the projector cutting off the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete grown-up "me," a seemingly concrete degrading "you," and a seemingly concrete act of expressing love as something childish. As the wave of anxiety quiets, we try to relax and imagine accepting the show of affection warmly and responding in kind. If our discomfort is due to feeling that we do not deserve to be loved, we remind ourselves of the natural good qualities of our mind and heart. In this way, we try to banish our low self-esteem as absurd.
Then, recalling someone who feels uncomfortable receiving displays of affection, we imagine compassionately restraining from embarrassing the person. We can show our love in other ways.
(1) To stop feeling it necessary to assert our will, we recall going out for dinner with our friends and insisting that we go to the restaurant of our choice. Getting our way does not prove that we exist. We do not have to feel insecure if we are not in control of everything that happens. No one can control everything anyway. Remembering this, we picture an abrupt end to the triplistic action movie of a seemingly concrete "me" who must control what happens, a seemingly concrete "you" who must be directed, and a seemingly concrete act of asserting energy to gain security through domination. The projector dissolves; the compelling wave of internal pressure to assert our will grows weak. We try to imagine, instead, being relaxed when discussing where to eat and being open to other suggestions.
If a friend insists on getting his or her way and there is no good reason to object, we try to imagine graciously accepting if only the two of us are going out. We do this without feeling defeated or hurt. If we are with a group of friends, we picture asking their opinion and going along with the majority choice.
(2) To overcome feeling the need for others to focus on us, we recall feeling frustrated when visiting or living with someone engrossed in the television or in the computer. Feeling insignificant and unloved, we insisted that the person shut off the machine and pay attention to us. Our insecurity caused resentment and no one enjoyed the encounter. We try to imagine seeing the person engrossed like this and not taking it as a personal rejection. Even if the person is trying to avoid us, we reflect that perhaps we are contributing to the problem by being too pushy and demanding more attention than is reasonable. We try to relax by imagining that the projector stops showing the triplistic melodrama of a seemingly concrete "me" who needs attention to establish his or her worth, a seemingly concrete "you" whose attention is vital, and a seemingly concrete act of directing energy that can affirm the existence and worth of its object. The wave of tension driving us to demand attention slowly dies down.
If we have nothing else to do and want to spend time sharing something with the person, we can try to develop interest in the television program or in the computer. Why do we feel that quality time with someone is restricted to sharing only what we like? Sometimes, however, we may need to remind someone addicted to television or to the computer that there are other things in life. But, we need to do this nontriplistically, without haughty disapproval or fear of rejection.
Recalling someone who demands our attention when we are engrossed in something or having a conversation, we try to imagine not feeling invaded. We picture warmly trying to include the person, if appropriate. Suppose the person is a small child and is not content if we merely hold him or her on our lap. We picture leaving what we are doing or excusing ourselves for a moment. Without triplistic feelings of resentment, we imagine taking care of the child's needs.
(3) To overcome feeling afraid to assert ourselves for fear of rejection, we recall silently complying with someone's will or submitting to his or her outrageous behavior. If we wish to avoid confrontations, we need to remove our triplistic feelings, not our active input into the relationship. The passive contribution of our resentful silence shapes the relationship just as much as if we say something. We try to see through the triplistic appearance of a seemingly concrete unworthy "me," a seemingly concrete "you" whose acceptance is crucial, and a seemingly concrete act of expressing energy as something unreasonable. With this insight, the projector stops playing the unfortunate scene and the wave of self-doubt settles. We try to picture, instead, being more assertive without feeling nervous or tense. Even if the person becomes angry and rejects us, this does not reflect our worth as a human being.
We then recall someone who is afraid to assert him or herself with us. Dismissing any triplistic feelings that may lead us to take advantage of the person's docility or to become exasperated with it, we try to imagine gently encouraging him or her to speak up. We let the person know that even if we momentarily become angry at his or her words, this will not lead to our abandoning the relationship. Instead, this change in his or her attitude will enhance our respect and improve the relationship.
(4) To dispel our fear of others' energy, we recall dreading to visit a relative who always complains. We were afraid that his or her energy would infect us. The triplistic movie playing in our mind was starring a seemingly concrete threatened "me" and a seemingly concrete depressing "you," and was portraying the seemingly concrete act of emitting draining energy. With this recognition, we picture that the projector shuts off and disappears. The wave of anxiety quiets down. More relaxed, we try to imagine listening to the complaints and letting the energy pass through us. Depression or annoyance comes from making an invading force out of the person's energy and from putting up walls to defend us from it. The energy itself is just a wave of clear light activity, as is our experience of it. We take our relative seriously, but do not take the complaining personally.
We then recall someone who found our energy too threatening and shut him or herself off from us. Perhaps it was our teenager who rebelled at us being an overbearing parent. We try to imagine easing off without feeling anxious. Playing a more removed role in our teenager's life does not mean that we are no longer a caring parent. We can still be involved, but at a distance that the teenager finds more comfortable.
(1) To overcome grasping for a break, we recall feeling overwhelmed with work. It feels as if we are not really ourselves at the office. We can only feel like a person on the weekend. This triplistic science-fiction movie of a seemingly concrete exhausted "me" who is not myself, a seemingly concrete refreshed "me" who is myself, and a seemingly concrete act of resting that can bring the metamorphosis, is clearly absurd. We are equally a person on the weekdays and the weekend. Both are equally valid parts of our life. We may need a rest after a hard week of work, but a break cannot make us real again. This realization shuts down the projector. The wave of anxious longing settles down and passes. We try to imagine calmly looking forward to the weekend, without resentfully feeling trapped at work.
Recalling someone who takes frequent coffee breaks, we try to imagine responding calmly without triplistic feelings of disapproval or annoyance. If the person is lazy, we may need to speak with him or her about it. On the other hand, if the person's workload is unreasonable or the working atmosphere is unpleasant, we may need to do something to improve the situation.
(2) To quiet our grasping at receiving a break from others, we recall our parents, for example, pressuring us to find a job or to get married. We feel that if they would only leave us alone, we would be all right. To release the anxious feeling of a seemingly concrete victim "me," a seemingly concrete oppressor "you," and a seemingly concrete act of respite that will solve all one's problems, we picture the projector of this triplistic movie shutting down and dissolving. With the passing of our wave of tension, we acknowledge and try to appreciate our parents' concern. When we build emotional barriers to an onslaught from parents, we can never rest or relax. We are always defensive and become hypersensitive to any remark they make.
Suppose our parents' concern is valid and we have avoided doing anything because of childishly wanting to be independent and not liking someone to push us. With the projector absent, relaxing our tension becomes much easier. Imagining taking steps to improve our situation, we try to feel reinforced, not bullied by our parents' concern. If we have been trying to find work or a partner, but have not succeeded, we imagine gently explaining this without feeling guilty. If we have valid reasons for not finding a job or for not getting married, we try to imagine calmly explaining them without being defensive or apologetic.
Suppose our parents become melodramatic. We try to experience their words and energy nontriplistically and reassure them that we are happy the way we are. We will be all right. If our parents are facing ridicule from their friends about our lack of a job or a spouse, we need to show sympathy. However, this does not mean that we need to be insensitive to ourselves. We may ask them, for instance, without arrogance, which is more important, their child's happiness or their friends' satisfaction.
We then recall someone who feels that he or she needs a break from us to feel like an independent, real person. Without taking this as a personal rejection, we try to imagine nontriplistically giving the person the time and the space to be alone. Everyone needs a rest sometime.
(3) To overcome being afraid to take a rest, we recall feeling uneasy about going on vacation. Then, we think how no one is indispensable. Suppose we were to die. Business would still go on. Realizing this, we picture that the projector stops showing the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete irreplaceable "me," seemingly concrete work that no one else can do, and the seemingly concrete irresponsible act of taking a break. With the wave of tension quieted down, we try to relax and imagine leaving our work without feeling anxious or guilty.
Recalling someone else at work who does not want to take a vacation for the same reason, we imagine reassuring the person that everything will be fine while he or she is away.
(4) To quiet our fear of abandonment, we recall no one calling or visiting us when we were sick. We felt that nobody loved us. People, however, are busy and perhaps they thought that we needed a rest without being bothered. Considering this possibility, we try to picture a halt to the maudlin triplistic scene of a seemingly concrete abandoned "me," a seemingly concrete uncaring "you," and a seemingly concrete act of lying in bed, forsaken. The wave of self-pity driving us to reject any rest quiets down. We try to imagine regarding our loved ones' silence nontriplistically and picture enjoying peace and quiet.
We then remember someone feeling ill who would feel abandoned if we did not call or visit constantly. Relaxing our impatience, we imagine telling the person of our intention to let him or her have a total rest.
(1) To overcome grasping for pleasure, we recall switching endlessly through the television stations out of boredom or dissatisfaction. We never give any program a chance because we compulsively search for something better. A black hole will not swallow us, however, if we find nothing to watch. At this realization, we imagine that the projector turns off the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete "me" who requires constant amusement, a seemingly concrete program that provides complete entertainment, and a seemingly concrete act of enjoying pleasure. The wave of energy pushing us in an endless quest for pleasure dies down. More relaxed, we picture putting on the television only when we actually want to watch something. If we find something interesting, we try to imagine enjoying it, without clutching the remote control in case the program suddenly displeases us. We also picture shutting off the set when the program is finished. If nothing interesting is on, we imagine accepting that fact and turning off the television without repeating the search.
We then recall watching television with someone who compulsively switches channels. Feeling compassion for this person who can never enjoy anything, we try to experience his or her restlessness nontriplistically, without feeling it as an attack on our pleasure. In this way, we defuse the situation from becoming a battle of wills. This enables us to find a reasonable compromise.
(2) To quit compulsively striving to win others' approval, we recall doing something just to please someone, such as taking a prestigious, but boring job. Pleasing others, for instance our parents, is of course very nice, but not at the expense of what is beneficial for others, such as our mariiage partners and children, or for ourselves. Realizing that we do not need to justify our existence by gaining others' approval, we try to relax. This means an end to the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete inadequate "me," a seemingly concrete "you" on a pedestal, and a seemingly concrete act of showing pleasure with someone as an affirmation of worth. With the wave of our insecurity quieted, we try to imagine making choices that feel comfortable and that are right for us. If others approve and are pleased, that is very good. If they do not approve, we feel secure enough that it hardly matters.
Then, we recall someone who always tries to win our approval. We try to relax our triplistic feeling of a seemingly concrete "you" who is trying to place responsibility for the success or failure of his or her decisions on a seemingly concrete "me" and the seemingly concrete act of someone granting approval. We try to imagine encouraging the person to decide for him or herself and assuring our love no matter what choice the person makes.
(3) To stop being afraid to have a good time, we recall being at an office party and thinking that we will lose our dignity if we dance. Realizing that having a good time and dancing are expressions of our human qualities, not a denial of them, we see through the triplistic movie. The projector stops reflecting a seemingly concrete proper "me," a seemingly concrete undignified dance, and a seemingly concrete degrading act of expressing pleasure. The wave of tension dies down. Without making everyone feel uncomfortable by sitting with a frown of disapproval, we relax and try to imagine dancing and enjoying ourselves like everyone else.
Thinking of someone who is afraid to relax and have a good time in our presence, we try to drop our triplistic feeling of impatience and disapproval of his or her shyness. It only makes the person feel more nervous and insecure. We then try to picture accepting the person no matter what he or she does.
(4) Lastly, to dispel feeling uncomfortable to accept others being pleased with us, we recall someone expressing his or her pleasure with our work. We protested, feeling that what we had done was inadequate and that we are no good. There is no harm, however, feeling good about what we have accomplished. It does not render us vulnerable or conceited. Understanding this turns off the triplistic movie of a seemingly concrete undeserving "me," a seemingly concrete patronizing "you," and a seemingly concrete insincere act of showing of pleasure. With the projector gone and the wave of tension quieted, we try to imagine, instead, accepting the approval graciously, saying thank you, and feeling happy.
We then recall someone being unable to accept our pleasure with him or her. The person is convinced that no matter what we say or do, we do not love him or her and we disapprove. We try to imagine quieting our triplistic feeling of outrage at the person not believing us. This enables us to relax and be more compassionate so that the person feels more secure in our approval.
During the second phase of the exercise, we practice with a partner. We try to experience the seven waves of natural activities without a triplistic feeling of a seemingly concrete "me" encountering a seemingly concrete "you" through involvement in a seemingly concrete act. This means engaging in and receiving the actions without feeling self-conscious, without being nervous of the person, and without worrying about our performance or about being accepted. To do this, we ourselves need to be totally receptive and accepting of the person and of ourselves. Being nonjudgmental and being free of mental comments are the keys to this practice.
If triplistic feelings of nervousness or self-consciousness arise, we try to deconstruct them as in the first phase of the exercise. We imagine the projector of fantasy in our mind shutting off and dissolving. Then, we try to picture the winds of our karma stilling, the wave of the experience seeming no longer monstrous, and lastly the wave settling back into the ocean of our mind. If various positive or negative feelings arise while doing this exercise, we also try to feel them pass like an ocean wave, without grasping at or fearing them.
Holding our own hand for a few moments to accustom ourselves to nontriplistic sensations, we begin by massaging the person's shoulders. We then experience being massaged. Following this round, we sit face to face and massage each other's shoulders simultaneously. Without worrying about what we are doing or how well we are doing it, and without judging our own or the person's performance, we simply experience the wave of the physical activity and let it pass. We enjoy the wave, but do not inflate it into something concrete to grasp at, to fear, or to lose ourselves in.
Next, we speak to the person from our heart for a few minutes about how we have been the last few days and what we have been feeling. Then, we listen to the other person do the same. When speaking, we try not to worry about the person accepting or rejecting us. When listening, we try to be totally attentive, receptive, and nonjudgmental. In both situations, we try not to make a big deal out of the conversation. We accomplish this by recognizing as absurd and then imagine an end to any triplistic movie projected onto the interaction.
We follow this with gently looking in the person's eyes, without feeling we have to say or do anything. The other person does the same. We completely accept each other. When it feels right, each of us expresses our warmth to the other, without forcing it or feeling self-conscious or nervous. We may take the person's hand, give him or her a hug, or say, "I really like you" or "It's nice to be with you" – whichever feels natural. We then try to feel and accept each other's energy, without being nervous or putting up defenses. Then, we completely relax and sit quietly with each other. In the end, we just feel the joy of being in each other's presence.
First, we practice this sequence with someone of the opposite sex, then with someone of the same gender. If possible, we practice with persons of each sex who are our own age, then younger, then older - first all three of the opposite sex and then all three of the same gender as ourselves. Including among these persons people from different cultural or racial backgrounds and alternating people we know with those who are new to us is also helpful. We try to note the different levels of self-consciousness and nervousness we experience with people in each category. In each case, we use the image of projector shutting down to deconstruct our triplistic feelings and just be relaxed and accepting.
We practice the third phase while focusing on ourselves. Since looking at ourselves in a mirror or at pictures from our past often supports a feeling of dualism, which then provides a foundation for feeling a triplicity, we work without props. We try to experience the seven natural actions directed at ourselves without a triplistic feeling of a seemingly concrete action and two "me"s present - the agent and the object of the action. This means being nonjudgmental, fully relaxed, totally accepting of ourselves, and verbally silent in our mind.
First, we smooth our hair without inflating the action and without feeling like either the doting parent or the child enduring the insult of being groomed. Next, we speak to ourselves silently about how we need to work harder or to be more relaxed. By imagining that the projector stops showing a triplistic movie, we carry this out without identifying as either the disciplinarian or the naughty child. Relaxing our confusion also allows us to avoid making the soliloquy traumatic. Without feelings of self-hatred, disgust, or guilt, we simply say what we need to do.
We now hold our hand reassuringly, without a projector and a confusing movie. In this way, we try to relax the triplistic feeling of a seemingly concrete person doing the touching, a seemingly concrete someone else feeling the touch, and a seemingly concrete and rather silly act of touching. Then, we show ourselves warm concern by stretching our legs if we are sitting cross-legged or by loosening our belt. We try to do this without feeling we are rewarding someone, being allowed to relax, or doing something monumental. Next, we try to feel our own energy, without being frightened. Totally accepting ourselves, we try to relax fully and to sit quietly without feeling lost, restless, or bored. Lastly, we try to feel the joy of simply being with ourselves. We enjoy our own company, nontriplistically and fully at ease. Practicing this phase of the exercise immediately after the second one makes the process of relaxing much easier.
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