Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Talks on Mindfulness, Chogyam Trungpa

Posted by Wisdomeye in http://www.sgforums.com/forums/1728/topics/401155
I find the following sections very helpful in guiding our daily mindfulness practice.

Synopsis/paraphrase of talk 5, Mindfulness of Mind

May 22, 2010

This talk is about relating to the variety of experiences in practice, experiences of clarity and confusion.

Ground: Balance of tight and loose, inclusive and restrictive

Mindfulness includes watchfulness. We know what we are doing, what's going on. There is a watchful intelligence functioning. Practice is not a purely mechanical process but includes intelligence.

So, there is the experience of conflicts, struggle within practice and experiences that come up when we practice, and also the technique itself, coming back to breathing. There is a sense of balance in relating to conflicts, but also not indulging in them. One accepts conflicts as part of the process of meditation, but also controls them by coming back to the technique. One is inclusive, including experiences and whatever mental states arise, keeping things fresh, not too rigid. On the other hand, one does not get lost in daydreams or fist-fights with experience. Not too tight -- not too loose. The watchful intelligence is "light-handed."

Not too tight, not too loose also means being aware of being tight or loose. Different people tend to have different styles, more tight or more loose, and some go back and forth.

Path: Simplicity, the small immediacy of experience, the dot of nowness

Mindfulness of mind, of being with mental experiences, brings the four foundations of mindfulness together. It is about developing a sense of accuracy.

If you are not there, you miss yourself. But if you realize you are not there, you are there. Back to square one. This is a simple matter. It is about you and your world. It's not particularly about enlightenment. It's about the small area that you are at moment by moment. We are just little people concerned with this dot that exists....nowness.

Mindfulness of mind is the austere attitude of "one at a time." All experience is personal; it cannot be thrown away. It is limited, "so limited that there is no room to be claustrophobic." Each experience is a one shot deal, thinking. "I think I hear a sound.... I think I smell scents.... I think I feel hot ...." Sexual fantasy -- thinking.

Fruition: The imperialism of mindfulness. Mindfulness and totality

Everything, every experience, is included in mindfulness. If you try to get away from mindfulness, when you notice that, that is also mindfulness. The back door is also the front door. If you try to sneak up on yourself, you are already there.

Bare attention, even, is not two personalities. There is watchfulness, but watcher and actor cannot be separated. Bare attention to what you are doing is impossible. That would require two personalities. There is no one to watch you being mindful. "Bare attention is being there all at once." If you try to look at yourself, that's "too much watcher.... So just watch. And when you watch, you are there."

Synopsis, Talk 4, Techniques of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Effort

May 19, 2010

This is a talk about discipline, patience, and exertion in relation to practice and everyday life conduct. It is about the effort involved in relating to mind-itself, simple self-consciousness.

Discipline arises as a question because of the apparent conflict between instinct, referred to here initially as doing what one would like, and ethics. Pejoratively, discipline or effort means to go against the "indulgency of the natural flow and behaving oneself," being a good boy or girl. This could feel alienating, and could bring loss of heart. Effort/discipline seems like a struggle, unnatural, counter to instinct. So this is a teaching on working with resistance, resistance based on the conflict between doing what one would like, which seems natural, and practice. One could feel like a naughty schoolboy or schoolgirl, not wanting to practice, or seeing practice as some punishment or deprivation.

In mindfulness of effort, Chogyam Trungpa points out that instinct, our basic mental equipment, is not just a vague sense of naturalness or flow, but is related to simple self-consciousness, "unconditional self-consciousness," referred to elsewhere as "first thought." This is the first flash of relating with anything, simple duality, separateness. This goes back to the definition of mind (sem) in the earlier talks as "that which has an other." Mindfulness of effort has to do with developing the "clear-seeing vision" that is able to relate to this simple mind, which is always available.

So discipline, here, means being subtle enough to relate to simple dualism, this and that. Since the potential for this simplicity, this plain cognition, is already part of our mental equipment, it is referred to as instinct. In mindfulness of effort, this basic structure is exploited as the basis of practice.

In particular, this effort in meditation as basic discipline is related to simply getting to the cushion and engaging with mind and body on the cushion, "breaking the ice," or, one might say, working with resistance. Just touching the resistance itself, or the resist-or, is practice. It is "easy to break down" the naughty schoolboy mentality by simply being aware of resistance. With that awareness, one has started already, one is there already. One is already back. Resistance becomes the "doorstep." [This is a basic theme in many of Trungpa Rinpoche's mindfulness teachings. For instance, the seminars on which the book The Path is the Goal is based also include teachings related to using resistance as a stepping-stone and overcoming the naughty schoolboy mentality.]

Patience means to maintain nonaggression in practice. Aggression, here, has to do with looking for the results of sitting practice, or evaluating one's practice, with the notion of trying to gain something. However, mindfulness is not about trying to eliminate all goal-oriented thinking from our lives. If we try to do that, "you can't even open your mouth." But when there is a greater "spiritual implication," behind one's practice, a self-improvement project, that's a "greater goal, which is a greater problem."

Resistance only becomes solidified when one makes too big a deal out of it, identifies it as a "problem," and there is too much ambition -- for instance, the ambition or goal to obliterate duality, or to become a better person, which is a kind of aggression towards oneself. Patience is not looking for a way out of resistance, but a willingness and interest in relating to resistance. The key to this is to "start with what you are," be with what you are.

Exertion, then, is the ongoing practice and willingness to use dualistic mind, including the experience of resistance itself, as a stepping stone to mindfulness. From this point of view, as discussed in the questions and answers, there is no such thing as a "big resistance." Anytime one simply touches resistance itself, one is already back. That is already mindfulness. Simple self-consciousness, dualistic mind, is always available as a stepping-stone.

Beyond that, exertion is an unceasing interest in sitting practice and awareness practice. Looking for alternatives to what's actually going on -- one's mood, physicality, mental state -- is anti-exertion. In that sense, exertion is nondiscrimination. The metaphor is driving along a wet highway at night, the wet highway of life, just driving along and "disregarding the sign posts," and not looking for other routes. Exertion is continuity, steadiness, not looking for alternatives. Exertion is not making a big deal out of anything along the way -- feeling good experiences, feeling bad experiences -- but using everything that arises as a stepping-stone to mindfulness.

"Mindfulness awareness practice requires a lot of work, energy, effort, and surrendering. It has to do with recognizing that a working base does exist and not looking for an alternative to that. It is "bare attention that keeps going further."

Talk 3: Mindfulness of life/livelihood

May 18, 2010


This particular talk on mindfulness of life, or livelihood, (also "life attitude") addresses, first of all, the general misunderstanding that the meditative state is something to be captured, then cherished and nursed. "This brings regression on the path." Such an approach kills "freshness", and turns meditation into a "domestic hassle," "house chores," "a painful demand."


Instead, while the object of awareness is focused on, "at the same time we disown it." Being willing to disown the object of awareness and disowning the meditative state itself is an attitude and approach which brings confidence. One is confident enough not to have to secure one’s practice, but just to "tune in" to practice. Trungpa Rinpoche refers to this approach, connecting to the tangibility of the meditative state and letting that go, as "touch and go."

So, all life experiences are included; nothing is rejected. In particular, the common human survival-mind, the tendency to protect oneself from death with every breath, with every living experience, is not rejected, but acknowledged and used. "Whenever there is a sense of survival instinct, that is transmuted into awareness of a sense of being, a sense of ‘survived,’ a sense of existence [...] I am alive. I am here. Sobeit." Touch and go.

In that way, the instinct to live, to survive, is shown to already contain mindfulness, both on the cushion and in everyday life. This "brings a sense of clarity, skill, intelligence... You are already living. Let it be that way. Let every beat of your heart and breath be mindfulness."

This approach to practice is not about "fantasizing a pure environment" or a pure mind. "You accept fear and pleasure as they are. Wherever you are, however you are, you are in the midst of it."


Having "such an accurate relationship to the present situation" brings strength, energy, and power... dignity, ... delightfulness." If one tries to get away from the energy that is going on, that is what brings weakness. To reiterate, connecting with what’s going on at this moment includes the survival-mind, and the basic approach to working with any experience, positive or negative, whatever pleasure we might want to hold onto, whatever pain or threat we might want to reject, is "touch and go."

Postscript commentary

Unlike the "first turning" mindfulness teachings, these are not contemplative analytic practices aimed at discovering how the five skandhas do not constitute a permanent, independent, unitary self. While not promoting indulgence in or addiction to pleasurable states of mind, these teachings are not designed to help the practitioner develop revulsion towards seemingly pleasurable but actually painful worldly experiences. Similarly, unlike the "second turning" teachings, these are not contemplations which reveal how each of the skandhas are, in themselves, empty of self nature.

Rather, they are instructions on how to be, and how to conduct oneself on the cushion and in postmeditation. Acharya Richard John, following Dz. Pönlop Rinpoche, refers to the Vidyadhara’s mindfulness teachings as essential instructions, which reveal how to practice, how to place the mind. In this, all experience is included, including the mind continuously concerned with survival, which all sentient beings have.

Note. The next talk, talk 4, on mindfulness of effort has never been published.

Talk2: Mindfulness of body/forms

May 1, 2010

In this second talk on mindfulness of body/forms, Trungpa Rinpoche starts off by presenting mindfulness of body as being related to "the need for a sense of solidness, sense of being, sense of groundedness," in contrast to the vagueness and grasping of ego-process described in talk 1, and the tendency to "perch," to put special demands on one’s body. Here, he describes how placing one’s body simply on the ground with good posture and placing the mind simply on the breathing brings a sense of being, a sense of groundedness.

The basic logic goes: Mind takes on the shape of whatever it is placed on. As well, mind imitates body. So, when "psychosomatic body" simply places itself on the ground, mind takes on that shape as well and become simple. Thoughts become simple, "flat-bottomed. [...] There is the feeling that you are actually doing something ... a project of some kind which has a flat bottom ... rather than wings."

With respect to placing the mind, the technique of identifying with and following the outbreath is also introduced in this talk, identifying with the outbreath and letting the inbreath be "just gap, space...You breathe out and dissolve and gap." So psychosomatic body is placed simply on the ground and mind imitates that simplicity, that "flat-bottomness." And mind is placed on breathing out, the simplicity of the outbreath.

In the questions and answers, he makes a number of points. Among these, he encourages people not to be too tight, not to be too deliberate, not to be industrious or ambitious, but to be simple, to let go and go along with the technique.

Nota bene: It is easy to confuse this encouragement to simplicity with the notion that we’re not supposed to think at all, not even supposed to know what we’re doing. It’s because we know what we’re doing—we know something about how mind works and how we confuse ourselves—that we take on this simple approach. We can actually afford to exist, to be, simply, rather than jumping all over the place, or letting frivolous projects jump into our laps.


April 24, 2010

The notes on Chronicles introducing the previous seminar, "Training the Mind," also provide a good introduction to this "Techniques of Mindfulness" seminar and to this 1973-1975 stream of teachings by the Vidyadhara which present the basic mindfulness and awareness teachings.

This first talk from the "Techniques of Mindfulness" seminar may be best studied in conjunction with the first talk from the "Training the Mind" seminar, also posted on the Chronicles, as well as the first talk from the Naropa meditation seminar. The notes and audio for this seminar are also posted on this website.

As well, the transcript of the 1973 seminary talk "8 Stages of Consciousness," if you have it, or the audio related to that, also applies. These together provide a broad window on the Vidyadhara's typical presentations of view as preparation for studying the four foundations of mindfulness and mindfulness-awareness practice in general.

Talk 1: Techniques of Mindfulness, summary

April 24, 2010

Trungpa Rinpoche begins this first talk by drawing the students away from speculative notions about the nature of spirituality and motivation, thoughts of power or transcendental happiness, or the project of searching for the best or easiest spiritual path. Instead, he asks us to consider mind itself as the necessary starting point and the basis for the path.

As in the seminar given in Colorado the previous week, Trungpa Rinpoche defines sentient beings as those who have a sense of other, discriminating awareness. Basic mind, sem (sems), in turn, is defined as that which can think of the other. Since this simple sense of other is too boring, and regular daydreaming and discursive thoughts are not confirming enough, waves of emotions are generated to prove oneself and one’s existence. This may start out as a game, but the game could turn desperate and deadly. (Elsewhere, Trungpa Rinpoche does go into further descriptions of the workings of mind, which are well worth investigating, such as teachings on the five skandhas and eight consciousnesses.)

Further frustration of emotional ego-process causes one to create a thing called "god," or "saviors, gurus, mahatmas… whatever." External objects are created as "hit men," so "you could re-round your territory again." This amusing, touching, and sad process is all mind.

Later on, Rinpoche briefly discusses the most desperate expression of this as psychotic process. "Mind cannot exist on itself alone, but on the other hand it cannot exist if it’s completely crowded, overcrowded. Mind looks for a mate, a friend. Mind losing that survival game could become psychotic. Meditation practice is trying to save oneself from psychosis."

Trungpa Rinpoche further states that, to meditate, it’s important to understand mind’s complexities, or at least that certain aspects of experience are organized by different aspects of mind. "Generally we get frustrated when we meditate, feeling wretched, hassled, putting all experiences in the same bag and blaming them on ‘this thing.’"

In this talk, he says that in order not to get caught up in some vague notion of mind as unworkable, the definitions of three traditional aspects of mind: sems, rikpa, yid are presented.

Sem (sems) was defined before as that very basic mind that has an other, that can think of the other. All mental experience is experience of "other than mind" by mind.

Rikpa is defined as a cleverness, sharpness, that develops from basic mind, sems. Rikpa is like a research worker that sees things from all angles, anything that could go wrong. It is "an intelligence which judges… which acts as spokesman for you and the rest of the world in a very simple way."

Yi (yid) is usually referred to as the sixth consciousness, the "switchboard or central headquarters" which mechanically integrates the experience of the five senses into a world, moment by moment.

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