The Berzin Archives

The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

Switch to the Text Version of this page. Jump to main navigation.

Home > eBooks > Unpublished Manuscripts > The Sensitivity Handbook: Training Materials for Developing Balanced Sensitivity > Exercise 11: Validating the Appearances We Perceive

The Sensitivity Handbook: Training Materials for Developing Balanced Sensitivity

Alexander Berzin
July 1999
Revised February 2003

Part III: Dispelling Confusion about Appearances

Exercise 11: Validating the Appearances We Perceive

I. While focusing on something from your life

1. While focusing on an upsetting incident

  • Imagine seeing your sink full of what seems like a pile of dirty dishes, but you wish it were something else
  • Picture validating the appearance, by putting on the light and looking closer
  • Having confirmed that the sink is full of dirty dishes, imagine viewing them with calm acceptance of what they are
  • Recall seeing such a sight and how the dishes seemed like a disgusting mess and, in your reticence to wash them, how you felt like a prima donna, too good to get your hands dirty
  • Revive that feeling and then reflect that you are inflating the situation
    • They are merely dirty dishes in the sink, not an inherently disgusting mess
    • You are merely a responsible adult who needs to wash them, not an immaculate prima donna
  • Reject the fantasy by imagining the sharpness of your insight bursting it like a balloon and focus on the absence of anything findable inside
    • An inherently disgusting mess and an immaculate prima donna cannot be found, simply because they are not real
  • Note that you have been creating and reacting to an inflated dualistic appearance of the dishes and of yourself – all that occurred was the seeing of a sight
  • Reject the fantasy by imagining the storybook "The Prima Donna Faces the Disgusting Mess" shutting and dissolving into your mind
  • Focus on the fact that the dualistic drama was merely a production of your imagination
  • Imagine calmly washing the dishes, without identifying yourself as either a martyr or as a servant

2. While focusing on a photo or on a thought of someone you live with or know who might often leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight

  • Imagine seeing the sink filled with dishes in the morning and then seeing this person
  • Before jumping to conclusions, picture checking whose turn it was to wash up last night
  • If it was this person's responsibility, imagine calmly accepting the fact that he or she did not wash them
  • Recall such an experience and how the person appeared to you as a "lazy slob" and how you self-righteously felt like the overtaxed victim
  • Remember that no one exists as a lazy slob who is incapable of ever washing up or as a victim who always must clean up after others
  • Reject the fantasy by picturing the balloon popping and focus on the absence of these fictional characters inside
  • Picture the storybook of "The Lazy Slob and the Self-righteous Victim" shutting and dissolving into your mind, and focus on the fact that the fairy tale came from your imagination
  • Imagine patiently waiting for the person to wash up after breakfast, if that is his or her habit, or calmly reminding the person

3. Repeat the procedure while focusing on other disturbing scenes from your personal life

II. While focusing on someone in person

1. While sitting in a circle with a group and focusing on each person in turn for the entire sequence

  • Look carefully in order to confirm the conventional appearance that you see of the person – for example, as someone who colors his or her hair
  • Without mental comments, accept what you accurately see
  • Notice how the person appears to you and how you feel – for instance, the person might look like someone totally vain and you might feel like the self-appointed judge
  • Dismiss these images and feelings by picturing the balloon bursting and the storybook shutting and dissolving into your mind
  • Look at the person acceptingly, without feeling guilty or foolish for what you felt

2. Repeat the procedure while sitting facing a partner

  • After repeating the procedure, note any feelings of nervousness or fear and, specifically, any feeling of yourself as a concrete "me" in your head confronting a concrete "you" sitting behind this person's eyes
  • Picture the balloon of this fantasy popping and the storybook shutting and dissolving into your mind
  • Note the deep feeling of relief and the natural warmth and openness that this release of fantasy brings

III. While focusing on yourself

1. Repeat the procedure while looking in a mirror

  • Reject dualistic appearances and feelings, such as of Beauty and the Beast

2. Repeat the procedure without a mirror, by validating what you think you are feeling at the moment and the impressions you have about these feelings

3. Repeat the procedure while looking at photographs of yourself spanning your life, by validating the appearances you see and the feelings they elicit

[ Corresponding Chapter 11 of Developing Balanced Sensitivity.]