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Home > eBooks > Unpublished Manuscripts > The Sensitivity Handbook: Training Materials for Developing Balanced Sensitivity > Exercise 8: Appreciating the Clear Light Nature of Mental Activity

The Sensitivity Handbook: Training Materials for Developing Balanced Sensitivity

Alexander Berzin
July 1999
Revised February 2003

Part II: Uncovering the Talents of Our Mind and Heart

Exercise 8: Appreciating the Clear Light Nature of Mental Activity

I. While focusing on someone with whom you have a volatile relationship

  • Choose a photo of the person having a neutral expression and look at it while understanding the mental activity that is occurring: the simultaneous production and perception of the sight of the person's face
  • Recall an upsetting incident that you had with the person and generate a feeling of annoyance
    • Examine whether the disturbing emotion prevents the mental activity that produces the sight of the face and your seeing of it
    • Look away from the photo and think of the person, by using a mental image, a feeling, or simply a name to represent him or her
    • Again recall the incident, feel annoyed, and examine whether the emotion blocks the mere arising of a thought of the person and your thinking it
    • Repeat the procedure by recalling an upsetting incident that had nothing to do with the person, by generating a feeling of annoyance, and by looking at the photo and then merely thinking of the person's name while being annoyed
    • Conclude and focus on the fact that emotional upset does not affect your mental activity of producing appearances and perceiving them – no matter how distraught you are, you can still be aware of others' situations
  • Look at the photo and then merely think of the person nonverbally, while also thinking, "This person is a human being."
    • Examine whether the thought prevents the mere arising of the sight of the face and your seeing of it, or the mere arising of a thought of the person and thinking it
    • Repeat the procedure while thinking something that has nothing to do with the person, such as "It's time for lunch."
    • Conclude and focus on the fact that thought also does not affect the basic mechanism of your mental activity – no matter how distracted you are, you can still be aware of others' situations
  • Look at the photo and then merely think of the person, while also thinking, "I can't relate to this person."
    • Examine whether this thought creates an inherent flaw in your mental activity that prevents you from seeing or thinking of the person
    • Conclude and focus on the fact that no matter what you think, your mental activity is not stained by natural flaws that prevent it from functioning – no matter what you believe, you can be properly sensitive
  • Look at the photo and then merely think of the person, while feeling fear and also thinking, "This person is a monster."
    • Examine whether this projection makes the person into a monster
    • Conclude and focus on the fact that neither your emotions nor your thoughts can change reality - your mental activity is devoid of existing with this impossible power
  • Look at the photo and then merely think of the person, first with a variety of emotions, and then with a variety of thoughts
    • Examine what provides the continuity of experience
    • Conclude and focus on the fact that the level of mental activity that provides continuity is more subtle than and underlies emotion and verbal thought
  • Alternate looking at the photo and, with eyes closed, thinking of the person
    • Again, examine what provides the continuity of experience
    • Conclude and focus on the fact that the level of mental activity that provides continuity is more subtle than and underlies seeing and thinking – the level of mental activity that merely produces appearances and perceives them is always there
  • First while looking at the photo and then while merely thinking of the person, repeat the sequence of understanding each point about mental activity, one at a time, by using the key phrases
    • "producing and perceiving appearances"
    • "unaffected by emotions or thoughts"
    • "not inherently flawed"
    • "incapable of changing reality"
    • "always there"
  • First while looking at the photo and then while merely thinking of the person, add understanding of an increasingly larger number of these points simultaneously, by using first two, then three, four, and finally all five key phrases

II. While focusing on someone in person

1. Repeat the procedure two or three times while sitting in a circle with a group and focusing on a different person each time for the entire sequence, but without focusing on someone who is simultaneously focusing on you

  • When generating various emotions during the first step toward someone you do not know, recall an emotional incident involving someone from your life

2. Repeat the procedure while facing a partner

  • When generating various emotions during the first step toward someone you do not know, either do the same as when sitting in a circle or use the nervousness and shyness you might now be feeling
  • When merely thinking of the person, simply close your eyes

III. While focusing on yourself

1. Repeat the procedure while looking in a mirror and then merely thinking of yourself

  • When generating various emotions during the first step, recall moments of feeling low self-esteem, self-hatred, or self-importance

2. Repeat the procedure while looking at photos of yourself spanning your life and then merely thinking of yourself as you were then

  • When generating various emotions during the first step, recall moments of feeling self-hatred or self-importance regarding yourself at those periods
Corresponding Chapter 8 in Developing Balanced Sensitivity