March 25, 2011

The Practice Of Loving-Kindness.

Love is complete and total freedom because it is selfless. Selfishness is the worst kind of prison.

In past articles, I have explained the ego’s developmental stages. I talked about how inbred thought experiences life as though it is that or some how other than, which gives rise to the feeling of this. The feeling of this has some quality of “me-ness,” but this quality is vague… Since this is vague or naked, there is an attempt to clothe or define this nebulous sense of self. Definition is acquired through relationship with that. This co-dependent relationship attempts to freeze these interactions through the process of conceptualization. The experience of that and this is the first stage. The second, third, and fourth stages are about acquiring confirmation or some sense of identity. And the fifth stage is about maintaining that sense of identity. (If you are interested in any of the before highlighted topics please click on the link and read more.)

This article is going to focus primarily on the third stage, which is called impulse/perception.

The ego can be seen as a centralized point of observation. This centralized point of view transforms the world into a cosmic chain of events orbiting around a central theme. This theme is the self… As a result, the world and everything in it is seen as a reference point— something used to define ourselves and our position in the world. Therefore, the value or worth of everything is determined by how it affects this central character. If it provides us with confirmation or validation it is good, but if it fails to do so or pushes our buttons then it is bad. This is what it means to be self-centered. So, when I use the word “perception” I am referring to this self-centered point of view… And of course the term self brings with it a great deal of subjective baggage.

The installation of a centralized observer gave rise, not only to the belief that life was personal, it also created the concept of speed. Life is change without beginning or end. If you try to implant a permanent point of observation at the center of this change everything appears to be hectic…  Perception then personalizes this speed. As a result, life appears violent or aggressive— like it is attacking us.

So, with the installation of a central authority the experience of life became violently muddled and incomprehensible. From a self-centered point of view, life appears to be a million things happening to me all at once! So, the ego had to evolve… There had to be some method of subduing the revolt. To meet this need, central headquarters developed the perception/impulse mechanism. Interpreting and managing all information received from ego’s violent interactions with life is the duty of perception/impulse.  This was the third leg of development in ego’s conquest for empire.

Perception/Impulse is not a reasonable or logical operation. There is no time for that sort of thing. Reason and logic function in hindsight. They are incapable of keeping up with the speed of a self-centered world. Since, perception/impulse is a preset system of measurement it is somewhat capable of managing all of the information as it is received. Good and bad are predetermined… It is simply a matter of filling the information as it comes it. This is the bureaucratic branch of ego’s government.

Perception/Impulse is a mechanical device that is both conditioned and reflexive. The perception is conditioned by past experiences, and impulses are pre-ordained reflexes that arise in association with perception. In other words, impulses are the expression of perception. When a self-centered point of view is pressed out, this expression is selfish… So self-centered describes how we see the world, and selfish describes our public relations policy.

This whole operation is incredibly simple-minded and fast… It is sub-conscious. Perception voices its opinion and in rapid succession, impulses fire off in order to manage the situation. It is an extremely narrow-minded approach that pigeonholes experiences into classifications of good, bad, or indifferent. Then, either clings to them, pushes them away, or ignores them. This point of view is so self-centered that it has managed to reduce the entire spectrum of experience down to three groups; I like it, I don’t like it, or I don’t get it. To go along with this childish mentality ego developed three equally immature re-sponses; give me that it’s mine, stop that it hurts, and I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Needless to say, there are a ton of flaws with such an instrument. Not the least of which, is the fact that we are re-acting to life. We are attempting to manage the present moment with unreliable intel. We perceive the world through the eye of our memory, and that eye is blind to reality. When we get tangled up in the past, we ignore the present moment, which is the inspiration for fresh/sane thinking. So, perception is stale or insane, and the corresponding impulses are predictable and out of place…

With the past as our guide, we wander through life making decisions based on expired information. Then we employ knee-jerk reactions, which are little more than childish behaviors cloaked in layers of superficial adult sophistication. Not to mention, every time we do this we are re-enforcing the same pattern. We are constantly re-creating our past. It is no wonder that ever-so-often we experience moments of déjà-vu. We are bound to experience the same thing over and over again, because our life is nothing more than a re-enactment of our past…

We have made ourselves a prisoner of the past, and the sad thing is we like it.

If we wish to be released from this self-imprisonment, it is a must that we recover from this inborn form of Stockholm’s Syndrome. In order to do this, we must realize that the sense of security or comfort we derive from our conditioned and reflexive existence is a false sense of security, and a false sense of security is really just insecurity in drag!

We have used our memory to create a cocoon of sorts… Ego wraps itself in the sheath of its own self-consumed perception, in order to remain protected from any sort of genuine communication with the raw energy that is Life. Through the tedious repetition of reliving the same thing over and over again we have been lulled into a state of hypnosis or apathy... We are ignore-ant. We have misplaced freedom, traded spontaneity for comfort, and replaced clarity with self-conscious gossip. We are like robots, stomping around from place to place repeating the same behaviors over and over again; simply trying to re-produce pleasurable experiences and avoid undesirable ones.

In order to move beyond this self-contained prison, it is essential that we discover the inherent freedom embedded in each moment, love.

Trungpa Rinpoche so elegantly described love as, “A vast share of energy which is not centered, which is not ego’s at all.”

This energy, love, is ever present; without beginning, middle, or end. It is complete and total freedom because it has no center. This energy is not possessed or owned by any-one or any-thing… It is free flowing. It does not revolve around this or that, it unifies and sustain this and that. Truth be told, there is no us at all, just love. Thomas Merton beautifully elucidated this point when he said, “Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.

This love is complete and total freedom because it is selfless. Selfishness is the worst kind of prison. Selfishness keeps us chained and shackled to ourselves… To the past. A self-centered state of mind is reserved to making decisions which serve only its own narrow-minded agenda… An agenda that is not only outdated, but centered upon a misunderstanding.

The moment we realize that we are not only a prisoner but also the jailer, we discover love— a raw energy that instantly consumes our being! Love is freedom from self.

Selflessness and love are two sides of the same coin— openness and energy. It is the play of emptiness and form. The realization of selflessness is not some doom and gloom event. On the contrary, it is a total immersion in the waters of love, a type of baptism. Ego is a conceptual levy, a wall that keeps the waters of love at bay. Through the practice of meditation this wall is dismantled. Eventually, the levy is breached and love begins to pour in. At this point, life no longer revolves around some fixed point, as all notions of self and other are washed away in a great flood. Therefore, aggression dissolves. Chaos is seen as order, because the authority which established the system of measurement that attempted to re-create the world as it ‘should be’ was realized to be a false authority.

The realization of love is very similar to those brief moments or examples of love, which emerge when we are with someone whom we care deeply about. For a second, we see no faults in them. There is no-thing which is missing. There is just the realization that the experience is whole; nothing need be added nor taken away. It is complete…  It is as it should be.. It is perfection!

There is awareness, but no one owns the awareness… This awareness does not revolve around some central theme. You cannot be differentiated from the awareness. Love has no perimeters, and is therefore centerless. There is no one who realizes this, for the “I” has been washed away and love is all that remains.

Discovering such freedom is a very tricky matter, because any attempt to pursue freedom is an escape, and escape is a function of the ego. Escape is little more than an attempt to produce or create freedom. It is a grass is greener on the other side kind of an approach. Freedom is not something to be pursued or earned, it is already here. To discover this freedom, we must unlearn all of our self-centered ways of seeing and relating with the world around us. In order to do this, we have to challenge not only the self-consumed verdicts of good, bad, and indifferent, but also the narrow-minded way in which we re-act to them. We can issue such a challenge through the practice of loving-kindness.

Once again this meditation is not a thinking exercise or some means of indoctrinating ourselves. It is an experiment, and it is through such an experiment that we can discover the vastness and receptivity of mind. It does not produce or create a new mind, but works to un-do the conditioned perception and reflexive impulses that ignore original mind. We discover the spacious or centerless quality of mind by seeing through perception… The claustrophobic self-centered mind. Through the practice of loving-kindness we can begin to recover a selfless sort of innate autonomy and natural spontaneity.

The practice of love works to unravel our narrow-minded perception of life. While, the practice of kindness serves to depreciate the knee jerk re-actions associated with ego’s self-centered perspective. At some point, there will be a gap in the perception/impulse mechanism. Light will shine through this gap. This light is the unearthing of love. Without trying to possess it or take hold of it, in anyway, simply allow the mind to settle with the experience… Relax. If mind remains empty, it will naturally fill with love.

This practice should be complimented with the practice of calm-abiding. Also, it is the second of the Four Immeasurables. So, it should be preceded by the first, the practice of equanimity.

Click here for:

Instructions on Calm-Abiding

Instruction on the practice of Equanimity

To begin take a seat on your cushion. Align the body and place the mind. Continue with the practice of calm-abiding for about ten minutes or until the mind is reasonably calm. Next go through the practice of equanimity. Having completed these practices allow the mind to settle with the breath for about ten minutes, and then proceed with the practice of loving-kindness:

Gently bring to mind the image of a friend, someone whom you have positive feelings toward. Allow this image to become vivid and any feelings which might arise to do so. Once the image is vivid introduce the wish for this person to be totally happy. Spend a moment cultivating this wish, by simply reinforcing it. Now consider what this person needs in order to be totally happy. Being totally happy covers the entire spectrum; physical, mental, and spiritual. Think about their physical needs, whether they are food, money, health, etc. Next consider their mental & emotional needs. These may include love, attention, friendship, etc. Finally, consider their spiritual needs, which may include wisdom, prayer, meditation, etc. Now, visualize all of the things that this person may need in order to be completely happy in the form of a white smoke resting in your heart-center. Visualizing this smoke rising off of a symbol, that for you is sacred or symbolic for the essential nature that unites us all. On the out breath you open up by releasing this smoke. As you exhale the smoke makes its way over to them, and enters their nostrils, filling their entire being. As the smoke settles, they re-appear completely fulfilled. Resting in their heart center is that same sacred symbol. Repeat this process three times.

Now allow your mind to settle on the breath. Rest there for a few minutes. Then go through the same process using an enemy and a stranger. In between each stage of practice allow the mind to come back to the breath for a few minutes. At the end of that practice allow the mind a few minutes to settle with the breath. This completes the practice of loving-kindness.

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