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The mind and body in meditation

The mind and body in meditation

Part of a series of teachings given during the Manjushri Winter Retreat from December 2008 to March 2009 at Sravasti Abbey.

  • Mindfulness
  • Counteracting lethargy during meditation.
  • Meditation posture and dealing with physical discomfort.
  • Results of actions are not punishment or reward.
  • Contemplating attachment to the body.

Manjushri Retreat 10: Q&A (download)

Okay, Q and A, how’s everybody doing?

Audience: I’m making lists and planning [during meditation].

Venerable Thubten Chodron(VTC): [laughter] You’re making lists and planning?

Audience: Yes, Manjushri comes and goes. But I’ve just finished a book by Bhante Gunaratana about mindfulness, and it’s been very helpful because I’m really starting to understand how little I am present in my life. And the way that the book is written, is that he’s very clear. He just diagnoses what mindlessness is, in a very specific way. And so as I follow through my day, the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing myself and catching myself. Dozens, and dozens, and dozens of times during the course of the day when I’m not in the moment. I’m not with my feelings, I’m not with the person that I’m with, I’m not with my meal, I’m not with the turkeys, or I’m not with the dishes. I’m either in the past—or I’m planning, anticipating, figuring out. And so I sometimes wonder why I can’t remember things and why I think that my life has sort of gotten a little boring, is I’m not here.

But watching myself and becoming aware of the level of it I’m very relieved and very excited to know that it’s not getting me like really bummed out. It’s got my curiosity up. It’s very subtle at times, mindlessness, thoughtlessness. It’s very subtle because it’s so conditioned that you don’t even realize that you’re not here—until you realize you’re not here. And you can see the symptoms.

So when I go into the meditation hall, I’ve been doing breathing meditation, I’ve been doing lamrim and mantra. But it’s deceiving, having to pull myself back over, and over, and over. Over the course of an hour and a quarter, it’s amazing. I’m off and running every seven, eight seconds. But it’s been very helpful.

VTC: Yes, very helpful. Very good.

Audience: So I’m inspired to just start committing to paying attention more to my life. Because the question that you asked last week is, “What is the essence, what makes meaning in your life?” I don’t really know the answer to that question because I’m not here to really experience it the way that I want to. Here I’m in this incredible environment and some days I’m just like catatonic. I just don’t want to have to go on like this. I want to be here. So it’s been really helpful.

VTC: Good. And how, when we go in the past and the future, not only are we missing on the present, but our minds are so tormented and confused because of what we’re thinking about.

A man meditating on a rock, surrounded by the sea, sunset in the background.

Cultivate the clarity, and cultivate the wisdom and the open-mindedness that will give you the tools to be able to handle any situation. (Photo by HaPe_Gera)

Audience: And then the main thing that he said that was one of the most powerful things. He says if you go into your practice and you’re there with your practice, don’t worry about planning in that moment. It’s not going to make the situation any better. By increasing your clarity, and your wisdom, and your mindfulness in the session gives you the tools that whatever’s going to happen outside of that space, you’re going to be able to deal with it with much better tools. It’s not like sitting there ruminating about what’s going to happen tomorrow, or how I’m doing, or what happened yesterday. That doesn’t give me any more wisdom. It just rehashes stuff that, half of it hasn’t even happened, the other half has and it’s over. So he said, “Cultivate the clarity, and cultivate the wisdom and the open-mindedness that will give you the tools to be able to handle any situation. You do it. Don’t waste your time in there.” It’s been really cool.

VTC: Good, very good. Anybody else?

Antidotes to lust, lethargy, and past drug use

Audience: As I was saying, I was working with lust this week for a couple of days, I think, maybe just two days. It actually was quite productive and I found my antidote, I guess I would say, for lust. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. Like they usually say for antidotes you contemplate this or that or whatever, so you contemplate the unsatisfactoriness of the other person. But I realized that wasn’t really for me the actual antidote to the situation. The real thing was just turning my mind towards the mind that already knows the dissatisfaction, that already knows the experience of not getting quite enough. And then all I really need to do is to look in the right direction. And just the act of doing that—because I have enough experience with the unsatisfactoriness of lust, and sexual pleasure, and all of that love, and everything in that realm—is like it very quickly dissipates anything there. I think the word that best describes this is disillusioned. Like when you were saying you can have a kind of low [sober] mind and have it be virtuous. And that was what it was like earlier on. Now I start to be joyful to be able to see the disillusion. But first, it was kind of like, it was like, “Wow, this is really something that I have found pleasure in and there’s no satisfaction at all. Not even for a minute. Not even just the briefest: not during it, not before it, not after it.” There wasn’t a second of satisfaction. And there’s a little bit of pleasure, but it’s not anything that was satiating.

But the thing that’s been a problem now is that I’m getting a lot of sloth or, I don’t know exactly, the definitions are so tough, so just in the meditation, of getting sleepy in the meditation. Not necessarily falling asleep, but getting to where you can’t hold an object anymore, and all you can do is try your best to stay alive, and aware, and awake, and there, and the object is almost totally gone.

VTC: Is it gone because you’re falling asleep, or is it gone because your mind is low energy, or is it gone because your mind is somewhere else?

Audience: It’s not distraction. It’s definitely not. It’s not like going out to other objects. There’s actually, it’s, I think, the definition of lethargy in Calming the Mind seems to suit it well. It was a heaviness of mind that was unserviceable. Is completely unserviceable. That like when it’s there, there is nothing, no matter how much effort I put in, there is nothing that will change it—at least short of getting up and doing jumping jacks in the meditation hall. So that doesn’t really work. But completely unserviceable in every way. And even when it just starts, I can feel it, just barely, it’s like I already know. It’s like, “Now, what can I do to keep it from coming?” It’s already here, but it’s not quite. I mean it’s so interesting, last night I did a session in the late evening. And I was like, “Well, I don’t need the extra lights on.” And the second I turned them off, I didn’t notice it until later. But the second I turned off, the change in my mind was like, “Well, now I can relax and I don’t actually have to kind of really put effort in here.” And it was like immediately that sense was there, was like just the slightest degree of lethargy and then so quickly it was just …. So I’ve been trying to figure out kind of where this stems from, what is the underlying cause of this. I know part of it is because I’m doing a lot more practice than I’m used to doing. But I’m not physically exhausted. It’s definitely a mental thing. So it’s a little bit disheveled I guess but obviously it’s all mental. And I did a lot of meditation on it today. I really haven’t been able to come up with any sort of suitable understanding to where I can try to find an antidote sort of in the same way I did for lust, kind of finding the way to turn the mind, the way in which you actually operate.

VTC: Well, this kind of heaviness is a way of exiting from the situation, so maybe explore how that’s been a pattern.

Audience: That was the one. Actually I found that the lethargy is very much akin to my attachment to sleep and not necessarily that I always need lots of sleep, but I like my sleep. And that getting into bed and it’s quite comfortable, and it’s all just very, it’s refuge. It’s very much a refuge. And I found that that was just the attachment to intoxicants just turned into that, and completely. It completely, it didn’t even, it just struck me, it was just like, “Maybe this has something to do with it.” And so I started going back through my history. I was dumbfounded by the amount of drugs I’ve done. And I was like, “Oh, my goodness.” I didn’t even know I’d done this many drugs. And then I started thinking, sort of using the lust mind, like, and there’s still something in my mind, somewhere in there that thinks that maybe I can find it in drugs. It’s still, and not necessarily drugs, but intoxicants in general, some sort of something that I can get from the outside. But not lust so much anymore like, yes, sort of just intoxicants, but maybe TV could be the sort of thing, or anything like that.

But still, out of the last four sessions or something just really, just analyzing that and going over and around, and circling, and trying to figure it out. And then unable to fully apply that back to the lethargy in such a way that I can turn the mind. And I’m wondering whether, it does seem to be, it’s an unserviceability of mind, it really feels like that.

So is it something that I have to do ahead of time? Is it a certain sort of, you set the motivation prior to so that the mind doesn’t turn that way? Or is there actually a way to …

VTC: … yank it back? Yes, once you’re in it, if the mind is really heavy, they usually say end the session and stand up and go get some fresh air. That would probably disturb everybody in the hall if you did that. So I think prior to the session, one thing is if you’re too warm, and the room’s too warm, or you have too many clothes on—that’s a real big one for making the mind heavy. Then make sure before you go in the hall get some exercise. Do what I was saying yesterday: prostrations every time before I go in the hall. Try some of the running in place. And then check your posture in your meditating, and when you’re walking, because that poor posture really effects the circulation of the winds.

Audience: I know that that has some small thing to do with it because I’ve been having a lot of back pain so I’ve just been really just trying to do whatever I can to even stay sitting. So I know that is part of it.

VTC: Yes, try sitting with a small cushion under your rear and having your rear be higher. That can help straighten the back.

Audience: So anything that I can do to work with mind, not just my body, before I come to sit?

VTC: Well, of course setting your intention. Maybe do a little bit of reflection about this leprosy example and make it really graphic. Because sometimes when we imagine something really, like that graphically, the mind has some more energy, like that. But continue really to investigate this whole habit in life, of when do you exit? How do you exit?

Audience: I hope I didn’t overexplain this time. The last time I seem to haveunder explained so I wanted to make sure that I got adequate information.

More antidotes to drowsiness

VTC: Does anybody have ideas? How do you work with this kind of lethargy and drowsiness?

Audience: I open my eyes real wide and I think of death. I think, “If I die in the next five minutes where do I want my mind to be?” I think of people that have died or just to get a clear feeling about this is brief here, why waste your time, gently, not in a negative way.

VTC: In an encouraging way. Yes, but also opening your eyes can be good. And imagining, when you’re breathing, inhaling light and exhaling dark smoke.

Audience: Bhante G. also recommends, don’t play with it, but a little bit, he says that actually holding your breath. For me it’s always somewhat similar to J’s lethargy of sleeping. He says you actually take a deep breath and hold it. He says you’re warming up the inside of the body. He says it seems to wake him up. So I’ve tried it a few times, usually in the mornings when I have it the worst and it seems to help. I do it about six or seven times and it seems it gets the heart pumping, so the oxygen gets cranking a little bit more to the body.

Audience: It’s like getting up and doing jumping jacks without actually doing them, without disturbing anyone.

Audience: Seems to help a little bit.

Posture and back pain in meditation

Audience: I’m wondering about posture. I had back pain and a kind of discomfort. Like this image, you need to curve a little bit [the spine]. And of course I understood that in this way [curving the spine to the back] but then I find that it’s more in this way[curving inward]. And then I get to a point where I’m aware, but I couldn’t think. I don’t know if that’s right.

Audience: In a dull sort of way?

Audience: No, it’s like I’d be awake and mindful I’d say, aware, right. But I wouldn’t be able to do another thing.

VTC: Yes, but, what’s your object of meditation at that time? [laughter]

Audience: It’s like, whatever. Because first I try to do my posture right, and calm down. So then at that point I wouldn’t to be able to focus on a certain topic.

VTC: There are times when you get to know your mind that is kind of like, “I’ve had enough thinking, I need more placement meditation right now instead of so much conceptualization.” So then you do, you tend towards something that’s going to give you a brighter, more alert, concentrated mind, but without necessarily thinking about something. But that’s why I asked you what your object of meditation was.

Audience: Since I’ve been reading stuff from Shasta Abbey and there was something like, “neither thinking, nor not thinking.” So not pushing thoughts away and not deliberately thinking, so just trying to calm down and relax somehow.

VTC: Yes, I can’t give you any help with their kind of meditation because it’s not something I’ve trained in.

Audience: I go like this [waving gesture back and forth] depending on what I read.

VTC: [laughter] And you’re not going to get anywhere if you do that. Yes, if every time you read something you change the kind of meditation you’re doing.

Audience (another): She reads something different every night.

VTC: Yes. So you’re not going to get anywhere. You have to stick with something and go deeper in it. But you can do something to calm your mind down. Because especially if you’re going in and you’ve been thinking about lettuce and whatever. You can sit and get your mind calm, but then know what you’re going to meditate on. Because if you don’t have any idea what kind of meditation you’re going to do, then you’re going to sit there in either dullness or distraction.

Audience: I was thinking though, because I said here before, in regards to posture. And I was thinking that there are, I don’t know, like there is a posture in which I can listen, but there is another posture in which I can think, like I’m more to the interior, so ….

VTC: You mean you’ve noticed how you hold your body?

Audience: Yes. What I’m able to do depends on this.

VTC: Okay, so what’s your thinking posture?

Audience: When I’m more like this and I’m not thinking that much it’s more at the other end. It’s like curved in here a little bit.

VTC: You don’t want to force any curve in your back, not at all. They say to imagine that your vertebrae are like coins stacked or like beads stacked with a string and you’re pulling up this way.

Audience: Ever since I did tai chi and so on, I’ve heard so many ways of explaining how to keep your spine, that the only thing is to try it experientially. I just tried to arrive at a place where I wouldn’t feel that pain in my back.

VTC: Maybe don’t have that goal. [laughter] Because when are you going to ever find the most comfortable position where you’re not going to have any pain?

Audience (other): That [becoming comfortable], becomes the object of meditation.

Audience: No. I think if you sit totally wrong then it’s always going to be painful, no matter how much time you spend in there. You feel pain, because it’s just plain not healthy.

VTC: Yes, you try and sit in a healthy way and have your spine straight, and not sit flat, and not have your legs …. But if your whole object is to be comfortable, you’re never going to get there. You have to learn to deal with some physical discomfort when you meditate, because we have bodies. If you don’t meditate, is your body ever completely comfortable?

Audience: It is though better if you don’t have pain.

VTC: It is better but, if you do tai chi, and you do yoga, and you do those kinds of things to eliminate pain, then you’re doing the best that you can. But if you’re looking for a perfect position, it’s really hard to come by. Because you’ll find something and you’ll be comfortable for a couple of minutes and then the nature of the body is it’s going to be uncomfortable again.

Coming out of retreat

How’s everybody else doing? How are you doing coming out of retreat?

Audience: Good. Yes. I miss being in the hall, it’s different. But I’ve been quite joyful and doing offering service. I feel more than anything just the sense of gratitude for the extended period [of meditation retreat]. So it’s a little bit of longing for that. I want to be aware of, the way in which I can remind my mind can slow down, where I can do things differently. I’m acclimating and it has been actually good, just different.

VTC: Good.

Karma, punishment and purification

Audience: I have a question from the teaching last week. I was really struck again with how even though I can say out loud that a result is just a result, it’s not a punishment or a reward when we’re looking at karma, my deepest, innermost feeling is the punishment trip. And I’ve really been watching, actually this whole retreat but in the last week especially, how much I want to go there and punish myself. In a way it’s almost a relief. If I feel like anger comes up and it’s expressed. There’s enough shame in there in some ways that it’s a lead to actually see it as, see some sort of punishment to relieve the burden of having had the feeling come up.

VTC: What feeling comes up?

Audience: To have the anger come up at all. You know it’s like, “It’s such a terrible, terrible thing that you had that moment of anger. Worse if you expressed it.” It’s not gross and traumatic; there’s not a big whip, whip, whip. It’s a very subtle judgment that’s, “You shouldn’t have. You shouldn’t have that. And you shouldn’t even have that.” And then there is a thing like, “Oh, the punishment is almost at relief because the pain of having done something terrible like having a moment of anger is so great.” It’s almost like the pain would be, well, like the fire, cauterizing the wound. So it’s just …

VTC: … like you’re wanting punishment.

Audience: Yes.

VTC: Because it satisfies this thing of, “Well, I was bad and so I deserve this.”

Audience: Yes. If I have that, then I get my goal. So, how twisted that is!

VTC: It reminds me of the people who self cut.

Audience: Yes. Well, I think it is that. It is exactly that, only it’s not acted out. But the thing that drives me crazy, it’s not about I’ve have done zillion years of therapy on this. So that didn’t work. So what I’m looking for is what kind of antidote. Yes, I think like I’m quite clear about: I can see it. I’m not horrified about it. I’m not even embarrassed about it anymore.

VTC: What about a little bit of purification, instead of punishment?

Audience: Well, I do that. I mean, this is something I discovered at the Vajrasattva retreat, is that my purification always has that, used to always have that piece in it.

VTC: Of punishment.

Audience: Of punishment. Also it’s love and nectar, which I really love envisioning light and nectar but, it’s because I did something bad, right? So anyway I’m working on that aspect. But just this notion of punishment and reward seems so deep. And then I project it too. I mean I see all this interconnected stuff. But I don’t know quite know how to antidote it besides just looking at it and pulling it apart.

VTC: Maybe just watch when your mind’s going punishment/reward and say, “Is that a punishment, is that reward?” Just the mere fact of questioning—I’m defining it as punishment and reward—“Is that what’s going on?” “No.” And five minutes later, “Punishment, is this what’s going on?” “No.”

Audience: Oh, so I can do the designated object and the basis of designation too. That little exercise, oh, that would be good. Okay.

Audience: I also had something similar this week on one of the days I was in the hall. I actually felt quite positive about what I was working with, although parts of it were getting me into trouble. But one thing I realized is I was starting to feel not so great about purification. And so I was looking at that and somewhere in there I realized that there is, sometimes a part of it, not always—because I actually think it is very positive, but there’s a part of it where I realize that the remedial action feels like penance. And I’m sort of looking at that word penance as like punishment. And this kind of ties in with the questions I was asking and I think it’s because I find it difficult to use the antidotes in some ways. And so what I did that was actually quite useful was I was looking at this teaching that you gave on the heaviness of karma. And so I spent a lot of time, like twenty or thirty minutes doing breathing meditation, setting my motivation, and going through these different things. Trying to generate what is regret and not guilt, which I don’t discern well. But really focusing more on the determination side and telling myself that, I’m doing a constructive action here because this is a thing that I have a hard time with. I just feel like sometimes that the purification is just like a whip. It’s just this old Catholic thing.

VTC: You Catholics! [Laughter]

Audience: It’s so hard to see it, you know, it’s so hard to see it. And so this is why I’m wanting to kind of shift this thing. Then I realized, “Wow, purification is a constructive action!” Well, I never really had those two things together in my mind before. There’s a part of it that is, this is the problem, is that I can’t separate out these things of like, for me, having these emotions is bad. It’s really hard to separate out experience from, “You’re not okay. You’re really not okay to have these things.” And I can’t separate them out. And so when I do the purification it seems like sometimes, it’s like reinforcing it [these wrong conceptions]. So I have to re-phrase the whole thing with the things that I know that are positive. And then it’s like “Oh wow, that’s what that thing really is supposed to be. This purification is a constructive action.” It was like a light bulb. It feels like remedial action isn’t penance.

VTC: Yes.

Transforming negative mind states—going to the two extremes

Audience: I can’t separate these things. But I think that what I was doing, there are parts of it I want to keep—because I think they were really good. I really could see that doing something constructive and just even formulating things in my mind that way. When these thoughts come up that I think are really kind of judgmental about myself or others, just taking that moment—and it’s easier on retreat when things aren’t busy and your mind has the space—to just completely rephrase it. This is the way I want this to be said to myself, and just every time.

VTC: Can you make an example?

Audience: Yes. Like, “This guy is such a jerk, because he’s doing this, this, and this.” Or, “I’m so crazy because I’m doing this, this, and this.” Instead, “No, this person is doing wonderful things and I’m looking at these things and working with these things.” And just always turning it into a positive, so I think that was part of that was good. And then that I feel comfortable with. The part that kind of got me into trouble, I don’t know, this didn’t work so well, was last week when you were teaching, I had the really strong experience, and I think it’s because of just kind of seeing everything in samsara is suffering. And what came to my mind really strongly was “There’s nothing left for me in samsara.” And then when I worked with that during the week, because there was something in that, that had value; because when I worked with it in one way then I can say, and so “Just don’t cling after these things. None of these things will get you satisfaction.” The problem was sometimes when I went there I was so far away from having an open heart and a clear mind. There was something in it that went really like what you were talking about tonight, “So I’m not going to trust, so I’m not going to care.” And it feels like I’m exiting. I could really feel that there was a part of this that was really useful, and then there is a part where, “This is a little dangerous way for me to think because I’m going to exit left from people and caring and trusting.”

VTC: And that’s not the purpose at all.

Audience: Exactly, right, so I just was seeing that, I would just say, “This isn’t a way to use this idea. But maybe you shouldn’t [inaudible] that idea.” That’s why I wasn’t so sure.

VTC: Yes. Well you use it, but you notice, because we happen to be real extremists. So when you go to one extreme it doesn’t mean give up. It means bring your self back to balance.

Audience: Yes, I know, that’s what’s so hard because when you want to pull away from something, instead of just pulling away into here, you just go. [gestures way far the other direction] That’s what I notice so much in my mind. I’m like, “I’m here. I don’t want to be this way.” And I pull away and I’m like boom! I’m way off over there, And it’s not good over there either.

VTC: No, it’s not good over there. And then you’ll find, actually if you look closely you’ll find that both extremes are based on similar premises. And the middle way you’re looking for is not halfway between them, it’s some place outside of both of them. Because they’re both based on some kind of, usually on a very similar premise, but you’re just buying into different sides of it at different times.

Audience: That’s what I’m kind of trying to see because somehow they’re both self-centered. I mean this is what it feels like. It feels like, “This is not where I want to be. And this is not the way I want to be.”

VTC: Uh huh, uh huh, and so you go “Oh, okay, I don’t want to be that, don’t want to be that. Then there’s got to be other alternatives. There’s got to be more. I shouldn’t just think there are only these two alternatives. There are other alternatives, so what could they be?” And this is where I find it’s very helpful to think “Okay, if Chenrezig were sitting here, if Manjushri were sitting here, how would Manjushri look at the situation?” Yes?

Audience: Yes. And I’m actually doing that, I do find that helpful. I mean I’ve heard you say that so many times that it comes to my mind and I’m like, “Wow! What would they think?” It makes my mind, just any way I can turn it, like what J was saying. This little part that just turns and looks differently, it almost takes only just that much to get all these other ways of seeing things to turn as they arise.

Working with the judging mind

Audience (other): In working this week with the judging mind, similar kind of [experience]. And when it arises, it’s, what you said you were doing would be staying kind of in the story and the guy is a jerk or that, yes? What I’ve been trying to do is step out of it totally and I tell myself, “Thinking this way isn’t bringing me any peace. Or any clarity, any peace, any happiness. It isn’t working.” So I just kind of try to step out of it totally. And by doing that the other thing that I’m starting to recognize is when I’m in that mind, there’s adrenaline going on in my body. And so that’s kind of the fuel. That’s an old pattern. I came from a lot of adrenaline, a lot of chaos so that’s a very familiar place. And so that’s been very helpful. So then I started working on calming that down some. And then I would start going to the lethargy. [laughter]. It’s very interesting, chasing it around.

Audience: I think the thing I found the most helpful that I did a number of times was the equanimity meditation. And it really is so clear to me that I’m the one who’s making the complete discrimination of the whole thing. It’s just so clear. That’s where I think I should stay. I’m just labeling it, the whole thing all based on my opinions, my preferences, my wants, my needs, my reactions, my feelings. I’m just creating the whole scenario.

VTC: And it’s all to nourish this sense of I; the whole thing is to nourish I and mine. Because even when we have a judgmental mind, we’re nourishing the sense of I, aren’t we? We’re miserable as all get out, but the sense of I is thriving.

Audience: It’s like what you said today about “mine.” Because I was feeling sick today and often times when I’m here and I’m feeling sick and I don’t feel like this is home. And I was feeling, “This is not my home.” And when you were sharing about “mine”, I went like, “Okay, it’s not my home, it’s just the place that I live.” And I felt fine about it then. [laughter] So it’s not my home anymore, it’s just where I live, okay, fine. [laughter]

VTC: Our mind’s so strange, isn’t it?

Audience: Yes. Kind of funny.

Relaxing in the body

Audience: One thing I’ve found just extremely helpful all week was going to that idea of the body being neutral and doing some meditations about, like “Here’s a pile of rocks. Is that a pile of rocks?” Like those big rocks that are out there by the road. And I go, “What do I think about that rock?” I go, “It’s just a rock. It’s like sitting there, it’s a rock.” And okay. And applying that to my body; and then that application felt so new that I actually didn’t. What I realized I don’t just have the Catholic piece, which is fading a bit, thank goodness, of the bad and evil. But then the whole reaction to that as a young person of, “No, the body’s wonderful. And sensations! And they lied.” And so the total reaction, the whole, “Give me a head with hair thing” [laughter] and it was just a reaction. And just seeing the two again, two extremes. And either or both of them being just fantasyland nuts. And then just coming to this really quite peaceful place of, “What do I think when I pass that rock and I look at it?” It’s like, “Oh, okay, so you have a body. It’s just like that rock. It’s just, there it is. It’s just, that’s how it is. That’s what you got.” And it’s been, I just can’t tell you how with that one thought, there’s something really shifting. One thing that’s happening is just kind of a happier place, but I don’t quite know all the steps and I don’t care if I get them all, but there’s just some sort of a more happy sensation, without those two, because they’re both so false.

VTC: Right, right. And you can see how they’re both based on incredible amounts of attachment to the body.

Audience: Yes.

VTC: That’s why I was saying, the two extremes often have something very much in common.

Audience: Yes. It’s so off, and it’s so wonderful, and they both cause so much stress. So my body’s feeling quite a bit more relaxed.

VTC: It’s not, isn’t it? It’s just a body. Yes.

Audience: Okay, that’s good. Good enough.

VTC: I mean because it could be really helpful to sit there, and like just sit there, and look at the rock for a while. And what’s the difference between the earth element in my body and the earth element in that rock?

Audience: Yes. Well I just went walking by it and have been looking at it. It’s been a little cold to stand there. Standing there and going, “Well what do I feel about it?” “Well, it’s just fine, it serves its purpose.” So it feels like it serves its purpose. So thank you so much.

VTC: Thank Buddha, Buddha thought of that, not me. [laughter]

Okay, shall we dedicate?

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.