October 21, 2008

The Buddhist view of Health…via the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin.

I took the Buddhist Refuge Vow with the Regent when I was (too) young—eight years old, I think. I was very proud, dressed up and went with my mom and my kyudo teacher, Don Symanski, who was my idol. After the interminable wait and long ceremony, the Regent—number two teacher in my world, after Chogyam Trungpa—took me aside and made sure I’d understood his talk.

The Regent, who died tragically young of the very sense of outrageousness and brilliant egotism that made him such an explosive, warm, communicative teacher—was also a gentle-man, great with children, a talented calligrapher…his talks still blow my conceptual mind out of the water. Below follows three talks, on Health in the Buddhist Tradition, with thanks to Toby Sifton for the tip.

With gratitude and sadness– Yours, Waylon Lewis ~ elephantjournaldotcom’s editor-in-chief.

Health In The Buddhist Tradition
Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin
Naropa Institute ~ Boulder, Colorado
Talk One: July 27, 1981

In this course of study we are using the term “health” to mean an intrinsic capacity of all beings, rather than as a thing or a condition to be acquired.

“Health in the Buddhist Tradition” means that this intrinsic capacity has a particular description and involves a particular journey, or path. The fundamental quality of health is a sense of being: relating to the earth, feeling solidly here, being grounded. The opposite of being grounded could be described as a sense of floating above the earth. That quality of floating comes from our confusion about the relationship between body and mind. That confusion is continuously fueled by conceptual preoccupations that produce an unhealthy state of being.

The journey of discovering genuine health begins by learning to be simple, settled, and relating to the earth. To do so we must realize that body and mind are synchronized; that is, they are not separate.

The conventional notion of health is based on the belief that we must nurture our existence, cherish it, and preserve it in some way. Believing that health is something we can possess, we also believe it must be guarded and maintained. Genuine health is based on trust and confidence in our basic state of mind, which also involves trust and confidence in our environment. We can learn to trust in what is happening in a simple, straightforward way. Generally, we rely on the continuous production of thoughts and emotions to fortify our existence, to stabilize our sense of healthiness. But the reverse happens: our preoccupation with thoughts, emotions, fantasies and expectations produces a constantly unsettled situation.

To overcome this unsettled situation, we need to be practical. We need to be interested in what actually happens.

As human beings we have an instinct to survive. The body survives because we breathe. If we have a problem with breathing, we try to get more air. If we are in danger, we look for a way out. The instinct to survive is not alien to our existence or foreign to our state of being; but we twist that instinct into a concept.

The result of that twist is that we try to survive either mentally or bodily, but the two never meet at one point. Generally speaking, we have a mental instinct to survive. In other words, our concepts and expectations seem to rule our state of being. When that occurs, our state of being is full of struggle, tension and anxiety. That struggle and tension produces a further conflict between mind and body, and we experience our existence as chaotic. We don’t know which way to go or what to pursue.

However, survival can be understood as part of a total experience of being grounded, being here. Surviving does not depend on our constant conceptual elaborations. We are here, at this very moment. We don’t need to tell ourselves, “Be healthy, survive, exist.” We are simply here. Nevertheless, in our day to day, moment-to-moment experience, we constantly flip-flop back and forth between the real experience of being here—simply and without elaboration—and our interpretation and concept of being here, of being alive.

To realize that body and mind are not separate, it is important to feel one’s body in the environment. You might ask, “Isn’t that just more conceptualization, more thought process, more emotion?”

Yes, it is; but there is a slight difference. If you direct your thought process, your emotions, and your sense of feeling the environment simply to being where you are on the spot, then the separation between body and mind becomes fuzzy, indistinct. When it becomes indistinct, there’s a possibility of touching on this moment as the ground of healthiness, the ground of existence. There is a possibility of being part of the total situation. When we separate ourselves from the environment through conceptual mind, then we encourage unhealthiness because we don’t take part in the total power and strength of the environment.

Our discursive thoughts, with all their motives and implications, create an atmosphere of constant complaint, dissatisfaction and resentment, which leads to all kinds of illnesses.

Genuine health means being totally grounded in our body—our sense of existence—and in the environment. We should explore how to synchronize body and mind. We can discover how both the instinct to survive and the experience of being part of the environment can be one expression. It boils down to this: clinging to the notion of health only drains you of health. Clinging to life through experience, whether it’s exciting or depressing or painful or pleasurable, drains you of real healthiness. The discovery of true health comes from allowing yourself to be with the process of living each moment as it is.

In the Buddhist tradition the technique for uncovering your own healthiness is simply allowing yourself to be as you are. That is a simple approach, but at the same time it is profound and deep. It is deep in the sense that there is no bottom, no limit to the notion of being as you are. It is profound in the sense that when you are as you are, then you’re not looking for something else.

Practically speaking, without a discipline, it would be difficult to understand and experience genuine healthiness. The discipline of being as you are is the discipline of meditation as taught in the Buddhist tradition. Meditation means acknowledging one’s groundedness, one’s being on the earth, simply and straightforwardly, without complication. It means being with yourself as you are moment by moment, without the complications of having to go somewhere, having been somewhere, having to get healthy, or having to cure yourself.

Meditation practice is the straightforward proclamation of genuine health.

Simply be as you are, without complication.

Question: Does the Buddhist approach to health disregard, for example, the use of herbs? Is it just  based on working with the mind through the practice of meditation?

Vajra Regent: We are not talking about  disregarding anything. Generally speaking, it is when we disregard some aspect of our existence that we become unhealthy. The problem is one of carelessness. When we are careless we produce all kinds of diseases, not only on a personal level, but also in terms of society as  a whole.

Q: I understand that meditation is helpful, but don’t things like herbs keep your body healthy while you’re practicing?

VR: We have to look at our notion of body altogether. There seem to be two aspects to our experience of physical existence. We could call one “mind-body” and the other “body-body.” “Mind-body” is our conceptual interpretation of the actual body. We have an idea about our body, a concept of what it should be, and so we put things into it, rub things on it, or take things out of it.

“Body-body” refers to the direct experience of the body without interpretation. In the practice of meditation, the concept of body and the direct experience of body come together and then we begin to experience intrinsic health.

Q: So we know that we have a body, and sometimes it gets sick..

VR: Are you sick?

Q: I don’t feel sick now, but in the past I have been ill.

VR: What did you do about that?

Q: I gargled hot salt water. It’s supposed to be good. [Laughter.]

VR: Gargling with hot salt water is precisely working with your mind. The primary way of healing anything is by working with your mind. What’s your impulse to gargle with hot salt water?

Q: To cure my sore throat.

VR: The hot salt water didn’t come out of your body; it came out of your thought process.

Q: Well, my mother told me about it.

VR: Exactly, and you thought about it when you got a sore throat, and you remembered it. Two things happened: first, you got a sore throat, and then you remembered, you had a thought about it. The question is how to combine those together to uncover basic health. There’s no fundamental problem with the salt water, or with herbs or with any of those physical remedies.

Q: Then is it my mind that causes my sore throat? Do I get a sore throat because I am thinking that I need one?

VR: No; it’s because of trying to preserve your existence that something like that happens.

Q: Is trying to preserve your existence linked to the knowledge that you are going to die?

VR: Yes, very much so.

When you begin to cut yourself off from the real source of health then your survival instinct turns toward death rather than health. When you are not willing to be part of the whole environment, it’s like cutting a beautiful flower from the rest of the plant and putting it in water, thinking that it will stay that way for a long time. Then it begins to wither and die. This is what happens when you separate yourself from the totality of the basic healthiness of situations. When you are not willing to take part in the complete experience of each moment, you begin to feel panicked and unwilling to be sick. There’s a definite resistance and resentment toward being who you are in the moment. You even resent the fact that you have a body at all, because the body can cause all these problems.

Q: You said that being as you are is the basis of health. Does being as you are include your neurosis?

VR: It certainly does. It includes everything.

Q: How can you work with that? I got the impression that there is a problem with over-conceptualizing.

VR: We don’t have to try to capture health, to make it a prisoner of any particular concept. Rather, you can expand your view. You can let down the walls of your conceptual mind. Then you begin to see that you are part of the healthiness of the whole atmosphere. You become part of it. Otherwise you are trying to take care of your personal existence by taking your daily vitamins or herbs, and so on. You think, “I’m going to become healthy and continue to be healthy, and therefore I won’t ever have to worry about not being healthy, which means I don’t ever have to worry about this existence coming to an end.” If you try to be healthy in that way, you become a slave to death.

When I lived in Los Angeles in 1968, we bought all our vegetables from a farm that grew only organic produce. After doing this for a year, we came across an article in the newspaper that said they had been lying: they had been spraying everything. [Laughter.] All that time we thought we had these great organic vegetables, and we felt healthy because we ate them.  [Laughter.] So the joke is on us. It is absurd to try to maintain health by identifying with a concept.

Q: The Buddha taught that human existence is full of suffering. Doesn’t that contradict the idea of  intrinsic health?

VR: The fact that we are here is itself a powerful statement of health. The first noble truth, the truth of suffering, is a statement that we are awake. That’s a very important point. When everything looks completely empty, painful and without any substance whatsoever, then you actually give up the notion of surviving. Then you see what is. That is healthy. You can’t discover it unless you have the discipline to let things be as they are. That is the practice of meditation, purely and simply: let things be as they are.

Thank you very much for your kindness and your patience and your basic healthiness.

© Copyright Irene Rich. All rights reserved….click here more.

Health In The Buddhist Tradition
Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin
Naropa Institute, Boulder Colorado
Talk Two: July 30, 1981

In our first talk we discussed being grounded, relating with the earth, which involves the body. By “body” we mean not only the physical body, but also the body of the environment, the world we live in. Being grounded is extremely important because it brings about freedom from fantasy, from wishful thinking. In some sense being grounded has a quality of boredom. However, if we look carefully, we can see that our preoccupation with fantasy discursive thoughts, expectations, implications, motives and so on produces an unsettled quality in our life. We also discussed the notion of trust in our basic state of mind, which means that we do not separate ourselves from the environment. When we create a citadel, a fortress of who we are, so as not to partake in the energies of situations, we isolate ourselves in that way, we become weak. The last point we discussed was that in order to uncover basic health it, it is necessary to synchronize body and mind.

We could continue by talking about the psychosomatic body, or what we call the “mind-body ” as opposed to the physical body. The psychosomatic body is the result of mind’s interpretation of body. We look at, feel and sense things, but generally we don’t do that as a single process. Our perceptions, sense consciousness and so on are intertwined with the projections of mind. Mind projects itself onto the environment, projecting our notion of a self onto whatever appears as phenomena. This process of projection, when coupled with the notion of protecting oneself, gives rise to our belief that health is something that has to be nourished, protected, and increased. When projecting and the impulse to protect oneself come together, we create a distorted version of reality, of things as they are. That distortion creates further expectations about this body, this person. For example, right now you might be sitting on a chair. You feel your body on thËe chair and your feet on the floor; if your legs are crossed, you feel the back of your leg over your knee. You have a sense of the temperature and the light in the room. All of these sensations are psychosomatic, that is to say, they are mind-body interpretations. We do not relate directly to our own body and the environment, but to a projection, an interpretation of those things. We shape the world according to our projection of the world.

That being the case, our task is to understand how to bring together mind, body and mind-body the interpretive factor, that which connects the actual body and mind together. We flicker back and forth very quickly between the actual experience of body and our interpretation of that experience. That flickering brings a sense of uncertainty in our being, as though something is missing, and that uncertainty causes us to think that to be healthy we must protect and nurture ourselves. The flickering also gives rise to further and further elaboration of the mind-body experience. Eventually we elaborate so much that we allow illness into our body.

Illness is not intrinsic, but the result of a split between who we are and who we think we are. Because of mind’s flickering back and forth there is uncertainty; uncertainty gives rise to elaboration; elaboration gives rise to further fantasy. When we are caught up in such fantasies, we become totally fascinated by sensation and our interpretation of it. We indulge ourselves so completely that we are constantly, day by day, moment by moment, checking how we feel. “How do I feel right now? I feel irritated, I feel good, I feel…oh, I have a pain in my left knee.” On and on we go, continually preoccupied with the psychosomatic body. Because we are so preoccupied, we invite all kinds of chaos into our lives. Chaos is the result of lack of mindfulness, and illness is the result of chaos. When these preoccupations, these projections of mind, continue over a period of time they become quite solid. We develop habitual patterns of relating to our body and the world in an egotistical way. That relationship becomes so solid that we actually become martyrs to the common cold. We become so preoccupied with our fascination with being Miss, Mr., or Mrs. So-and-So, that basic health is completely missed it’s simply wishful thinking.

According to the Buddhist tradition, the excellent means of not corrupting one’s basic health is the practice of being mindful. Mindfulness is based on working with the psychosomatic body. We realize that we are constantly projecting the notion of “me” and “my body” and “my world.” They’re not separate, yet we live in a world of separation because we haven’t synchronized mind and body together. That’s why we call the practice of meditation the practice of mind-full-ness. Mindfulness means mind is full, therefore it includes everything. Nothing is left out, nothing is discarded. It’s a simple, direct situation. Mindfulness is not a matter of discarding projections; rather, we begin to become mindful that projecting is taking place. When we become mindful of the fact that we project, that we shape our body according to our mind, then we become more attentive to how we conduct our moment-to-moment existence. We become much clearer about how we think, how we act, how we are sensitive to the environment. We understand that the split between mind and body creates and shapes the psychosomatic body, which is what we are dealing with all the time: our version of ourselves. The practice of mindfulness works directly with the psychosomatic body, the interpretive factor of mind. The practice of mindfulness is the reminder of basic health, basic well-being. Everyone has a notion of being, but it is entirely caught up with our thought process, our emotions, and our projections. In this case well-being is that which is grounded, which does not move, does not flicker back and forth in relating with situations.

Our bodies are shaped by our mind, wherever it goes. Let’s say we are at a party. Some people there are aggressive, some are pleasant and lovely, and some are bored and couldn’t care less. As we project onto that situation, our mind shapes our body according to our projections, so we become either aggressive or bored or lovely or happy. Whatever the situation seems to present, whatever seems to arise, we become. The practice of mindfulness is to refrain from capriciously taking on the image or shape of the situation. By practicing in that way we develop a relationship to the ground, to the earth, and we are no longer subject to self-inflicted illness. Later we’ll talk about illness that is not self-inflicted, but which is environmental. Self-inflicted illness arises because we follow projections from the point of view of psychosomatic interpretations. We shape our body because body and mind are not completely one, not synchronized. The point of mindfulness is to work with interpretation and to allow interpretation to dissolve so that the union or completeness of body and mind can be seen straightforwardly. Health does not have to be invented; it simply is.

Question: Our most celebrated meditation teachers His Holiness Karmapa, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche have all been very ill in the last decade. Are their illnesses symptomatic of a split between body and mind? Are they self-inflicted?

Vajra Regent: I think not. When you begin to feel healthy then you see the unhealthiness of the larger situation. At that point you might have to work with that.

Q: Could you explain the stages between awareness of the unhealthiness of the larger situation the mental pollution of society or the physical pollution of the environment and the physical health and life and death of a teacher?

VR: When someone actually understands body, then they are not ruled by the fear of illness. In that case the appearance of illness is not all that important. For most of us the appearance of illness is shocking. We might simply have a rash nothing serious yet it brings a sudden flash of uncertainty: Is this body? Is this mind? What’s going on? For enlightened beings, it’s very different. According to the Buddhist tradition, enlightened beings are able to take on the larger illnesses of society. But if you happen to meet any of those people you find that they’re never depressed about their illness. They’re not in a state of euphoria induced by being so sick that you can’t think clearly. Certain teachers like our own for example who have been afflicted by very serious illnesses have at the same time a completely lucid and clear moment-to-moment awareness.

I think that’s what we’re aiming at here seeing body free from interpretation. When you interpret what’s happening to your body then you separate “me” and “my body,” and you are always uncertain as to which is which. That fear invites further illness. When the body is understood as it is, then perhaps what’s called illness, conventionally speaking, is not a big deal.

Q: Would you relate body, mind-body, and mind to body, speech and mind? In traditional Buddhist teachings speech is described as being a link between body and mind.

VR: Projection is basically an interpretive function. To interpret means to feel some basic split, so we want to make a connection. I want to make a connection with you asking this question, and you want to make a connection with me answering, so there’s something in between. What is in between is our projection. That is what we have to work on to be healthy: to be mindful, to not get lost in interpretation, but to see body, speech and mind as one.

Q: So body, speech and mind are inseparable?

VR: Yes. The quality of speech, which we usually refer to as the intellect, is the connecting factor it connects body and mind together. In discovering basic healthiness, the intellect, the interpretive factor, is our ground, what we have to work with. From the point of view of being grounded, you dÁon’t say, “I think, therefore I am.” If you are actually grounded, then being thinking, speaking, acting is one movement rather than three different things.

Q: Is illness the intellect misinterpreting the situation?

VR: Generally the illness is the misinterpretation. What happens when you feel sick?

Q: I compare my state of being with some memory of another state of being, and I see there’s something amiss, so then I define it.

VR: That’s a very important point. When you feel sick you’re very conscious of a state of being, that you exist as somebody. Generally speaking, when you don’t feel ill you don’t have a sense of being. When you feel out of synch, then you feel that you exist. Any little thing throws us into chaos, and as soon as we run into chaos, we question who we are. As soon as we question who we are, we experience uncertainty and ungroundedness, and we begin to float, so to speak. Then we become sick.

Q: You said that we flicker between our feeling of body and our interpretation of body, and I feel as though I’ve only been working with my interpretation. Could you describe a little what the feeling of body would be like?

VR: It’s simply the absence of interpretation. The feeling of being grounded, of well-being, is very hard to describe. It’s the absence of struggle. When there is the absence of struggle, then the body is intrinsically healthy, even if it has an illness.

Q: So when I’m flickering back and forth and I feel that absence of struggle and then start to doubt that, the doubt is the interpretation that I’m putting on the space that was free of struggle for that moment?

VR: Definitely. Then we feel guilty about the whole process so we begin to suffer. That’s another very good point.

Q: You were connecting the idea of interpretation with projection. Is it possible to discover accuracy in one’s mind? Is it a matter of completely stopping interpretation?

VR: Yes, absolutely.

Q: Then there’s no such thing as an accurate projection?

VR:There’s no reason to discuss the accuracy or inaccuracy of projections. Mind projects. That’s the truth, and that happens. We get involved whether it’s accurate or inaccurate.

Q: So mindfulness is just not interpreting so much?

VR: Mindfulness is certainly not interpreting. It’s just being there with the projection, with the whole process. In other words, it’s being still. When you see how mind and body form the interpretive body, the psychosomatic body, then you begin to experience genuine health.

Q: I read somewhere that you should consider your body as “other.” It was very shocking but it made a lot of sense, in that there seems to be a tremendous sense of poverty when we think of our body as “me” we don’t take care of it. But if we consider it as other, as a practitioner on the path, we would have to respect our body and take care of it as we would take care of others. Would you relate that to what you have been talking about?

VR: That’s fine if you actually understand and see clearly how body, mind-body and mind work altogether.

Q: It seems that in our culture there’s a tremendous disrespect for our bodies.

VR: That’s always the result of the interpretive factor. That’s why there is pollution and so on. There’s no real experience of body; it’s always mind-body. Everyone sees their projections as real. Then, because there’s “me,” there’s “my health,” and that has to be protected. We have to create a fortress, or otherwise our health will be intruded upon by the other.

Q: So it’s a concept that we’re not strong enough to withstand the disease that’s outside?

VR: Yes; we have to protect ourselves or sooner or later the disease outside will get us. When you think about that, it’s actually humorous, because the fundamental disease of the body is that it’s going to die. Death is going to get everyone in any case. That is not to say that one should not have a healthy state of mind and body. But that doesn’t come from trying to protect it from the inevitable which in this case is death.

Q: It usually seems you’re healthy and other people are diseased and there’s something not particularly death to protect yourself from.

VR: You’re just interpreting that you’re healthy and they’re diseased. It’s very arbitrary. You feel healthy simply because your projections line up with your expectations. It has nothing to do with the actual body; it’s the psychosomatic body.

© Copyright Irene Rich. All rights reserved.

Health in the Buddhist Tradition
Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin
Naropa Institute ~ Boulder, Colorado
Talk Three: August 3, 1981

The practice of mindfulness is in no way medicinal. If we approach mindfulness with the view of either trying to cure or prevent disease, we will subtly pervert the practice. What is needed is to recognize our basic state of being as intrinsically pure. Generally speaking, we have a sense of separation: me and my body, me and my world, me and my environment, me and my problem, me and my disease. We feel that something foreign, something alien is happening to us. If there is something alien it follows that we need to get rid of it and get back to being pure. This is a universal concept of disease: whether we look at disease as a physical, religious, political, or scientific phenomenon, it is always pervaded by that need.

In pure mindfulness practice we don’t fall into the extremes of trying to ward off disease or get back to a pure state. This approach leads us to a neutral position. For the psychosomatic body, that neutral position is the most beneficial, sane and healthy one we could find ourselves in. Because we are always dealing with the psychosomatic version of body, the discovery of the neutrality of mindfulness loosens and dissolves our projections.

Sensations of the body, whether pleasurable or painful, can be seen from within the experience of mindfulness. When something hurts, we usually approach it from the point of view of interpretation. When something is pleasurable–that is, it doesn’t hurt–still we approach it from the point of view of interpretation. Through the practice of mindfulness, pleasure and pain can be seen clearly, directly and precisely, without interpretation. We can remain in a state of neutrality: not taking sides, so to speak, with regard to pleasure and pain, for and against, prevention and cure.

When we practice and live in this way, we experience life as it is happening, moment by moment. Therefore, our instinct to survive is not separate from our life. When we practice mindfulness, surviving becomes inseparable from the flow, the force, the energy of our life. The survival instinct is often considered unintelligent–if you have the instinct to survive it means that you are operating on automatic: you’re not thinking.

At the same time this instinct to survive, when not complicated by expectations or projections, is totally sane and healthy. We are not constantly in the process of trying to ward off disease, nor are we constantly seeking a cure. Whether we experience pleasure or experience pain, it simply is what it is.

At this point we have no cause to lay blame anywhere. When we’re not laying blame then we are simply being as we are. You might say, “If that’s the case, then anyone who is sick should just be sick; there’s no point in doing anything about illness. And those who are healthy are healthy by coincidence and there’s no point in doing anything about that either.”

That’s not quite the point. The problem comes from thinking that something is outside; whether it’s health or disease is not important. Altogether, that sense of something being external, separate from who we are, from our being, from our instinct to survive, creates the uneasiness and anxiety that we all experience. It also creates a tremendous mental rat race in which we try to become something or someone other than who we are.

In creating illness, there is an underlying mechanism constantly at work. According to the Buddhist teachings, that underlying mechanism is the law of karma, or cause and effect. The basic cause of our existence is mental activity. On the ocean of mind a wave appears: in other words, from a sense of being a thought arises. When a thought arises it creates its own effect.

So, strictly speaking, cause and effect is mental activity and its result. The practice of mindfulness is the examination of mental activity and its result. When you examine the process of cause and effect, you see
that particular thoughts produce particular reactions in the body and in the environment. Pleasurable thoughts, as well as painful or aggressive or lustful or jealous thoughts, produce particular reactions–they all have their own accompaniment, shall we say.

The practice of mindfulness–that neutrality we spoke of earlier—allows one to see, moment by moment, the generation of a thought and its result in terms of body, speech, and mind. A thought motivated by anxiety about survival produces another thought; that thought produces bodily responses as well as verbal activity. Mindfulness is the practice of seeing that process and not interfering with it. It is the practice of no elaboration.

When you do not elaborate on the process, you can be very precise and clear about looking at the nature of thoughts and their resultant activity. If you practice well and do so continuously, you begin to see the constant formation of the patterns that shape our body, speech, and mind and our environment.

To practice intrinsic health it is necessary to allow everything to exist within the atmosphere of mindfulness. In such an atmosphere we begin to understand strength. Generally speaking, our strength comes from aggression or passion. If we want something very badly, we pump ourselves up–we might grab every new health food as soon as it appears. As well, if we are afraid of something we pump up energy to repel what is coming at us. Precision, clarity, being in the moment–that state of neutrality–brings real strength, because we are not separating ourselves from things as they are and therefore we are not fighting anything.

You might ask, “How is anything going to ge t accomplished? What if we’re really sick? If we simply take a neutral attitude we might die.” From the teachings that have been passed down and from my own experience that is not the case. When one is accurate–that is, when the environment is accurately reflected in one’s own mind, free from projecting and manipulating–the question of sickness and health resolves by itself. Being accurate, in tune with the environment, and synchronized in body, speech, and mind requires two key qualities. Those qualities make the difference between being healthy and being obsessed with being alive. The first is a sense of being in touch with the precise feelings and sensations of our body; the second is not hanging on to those feelings. You actually feel your thoughts in your psychosomatic body. Having felt them, let them go. Don’t hang on to them and don’t try to manipulate, strategize, or interpret them. Feel as you feel and then let go very lightly, gently. In this case, nothing is left out and nothing is added. This is a pure and simple way of working with what we call a sense of being.

Question: You said that when one is accurate, the environment is accurately reflected in one’s mind. If the accuracy has to do with the development of neutrality, when that neutrality is present-

Vajra Regent: There’s no mistake.

Q: Then what is experienced in your mind is a reflection of the world around you at that point.

VROT: Exactly as it is.

Q: Then are you, as you think of yourself, not present?

VROT: No. You, as you think of yourself, are precisely present that way. You don’t develop a sudden loss of memory of how you think of yourself.

Rather, the memory of how you think of yourself becomes very vivid–so vivid you can see that you have been thinking about yourself for a very long time.

Q: I’m not sure I understand what you mean by psychosomatic body. In our discussion group we came up with two explanations. One was negative in the sense of it being unnecessary interpretation and elaboration, and the other was that it was inherent.

VROT: It’s definitely inherent and sometimes unnecessary. Basically, it’s the thought of the body. It’s inherent–it doesn’t exist simply because we pretend it exists. It’s much more than that. It’s very powerful and very real and it is the key to health. At the same time it is also the cause of disease. When one thinks of the body from the point of view of expectation and fantasy, then that is perverted body. When one thinks of the body without elaboration, then that becomes purely a vehicle, shall we say, a way of touching experience as it is and letting go.

Q: Would you equate the psychosomatic body with ego?

VROT: When it is concerned with itself, certainly. When you live in the psychosomatic body, that’s ego. When you realize that the psychosomatic body is simply what you might call a bridge between mind and body, then it becomes transparent. It’s just something you walk across rather than something that makes a big deal out of “Who am I?”

Q: Do you reach a point where you don’t need a bridge?

VROT: As long as you have a river and two shores you always need a bridge.

If you don’t have this and that you have no water and no shores, and then you don’t need a bridge, you don’t need either side, and you don’t need the river. As long as you have a body, you have thought. As long as you have thought you have speech and action and so on. Let that be as it is. That’s the point–health is to let it be as it is.

Q: Why does meditation work at all?

VROT: It’s very simple: it works because it doesn’t have any axe to grind.

It’s not for or against. If you look at your experience it’s always for and against, health and disease, good and bad, pain and pleasure. We bounce back and forth all the time. Mindfulness means simply being there without movement.

VROT: When you say, “release it,” what do you mean?

Q: I mean just come back to being as I am.

VROT: That’s an excellent point. I hope everyone understands that you don’t actively release anything. All you have to do is touch experience; it lets go by itself. If you practice mindfulness properly there’s no active letting go. That’s a mistaken view. That’s why, when we’re trying to get healthy, we panic.

I’d like to encourage you to be mindful. Even one moment of mindfulness overcomes years of forgetfulness. The practice of mindfulness is very simple and does not require expertise, which makes it immediately and gently available. Please take advantage of it if you can. When you wake up in the morning, be mindful of how you feel. Don’t judge it. Whether you feel sick or feel wonderful, either way, as you wake up, take note of that, be mindful of that. It’s a very interesting point.

© Copyright Irene Rich. All rights reserved.

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