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Good evening. It's nice to be here.
It feels very cozy.
The end of the first day has always got its own particular feeling like there is some
sort of a sense of bearing witness to like, wow, how did that first day go.
And for some there may have been a real stream of stillness and bliss – that may be one
or two of you – others might be, you know, in that “I thought this was Club Med and
it’s not,” it’s completely different and many, many sittings and how much that
affects the body and it’s unfamiliar.
And so I wanted to just ask a few questions and actually look around as I ask for these
How many of you felt like you struggled with sleepiness today?
Can I see by hands?
Okay, look around, just see…
How many restless, scattered, distracted?
I am seeing the same hands.
How many working with some physical discomfort or pain?
I am amazed you are all here.
I mean, you stayed.
What’s it like when you look around and see that maybe seventy-five percent of the
room has joined you in having these different experiences?
Does it change anything to see how many others?
How many, when you notice that, there is some shift in perspective?
Can I see hands?
I ask that harkening back to something often that especially in the old days we used to
play with at retreats which was to imagine as you’re sitting there that all the thoughts
and feelings you’re having are coming from the person sitting behind you, okay, and that
it starts being less personal when we realize that it’s not so much “my sleepiness”
as just the energy of sleepiness that is usually eighty percent of a group struggles with sleepiness
on the first day.
It really shifts our relationship to it.
And there is a universal illusion that turns unpleasantness to suffering and that is that
what’s going on right now is “my fault,” that “I should be able to control this”
and “that it should be different.
If you unpack that – in other words, if you don’t add on “There is something wrong
with how it’s happening” – it’s unpleasant but it’s not suffering.
So there’s a wonderful little quote I heard years ago from A.R.
Ammons and it’s, “The wind said, ‘You know, I am the result of forces beyond my
That whatever is happening is not something we sign up for or we can control.
We can’t control the feelings that come up, we can’t control that thoughts happen,
that restlessness happens, that distraction happens.
And if we can realize that it’s conditions playing out and not react, this space opens
up that makes it possible to be with it.
So what I’d like to explore tonight as our theme is how we can discover freedom in the
midst of difficulty with this non-judging, openhearted presence that we keep pointing
And it’s really the theme of many dharma talks and we’ll be building on it, like
really: How do we bring an openhearted and clear presence to what’s here?
And I start tonight with one of my favorite stories from the Tibetan tradition.
This is the yogi Milarepa.
And in this story he returns to his cave after gathering firewood only to find that it’s
filled with demons.
In other words: they are cooking his food, they are reading his books, they are sleeping
in his bed, they’ve totally taken over the joint, okay?
And so he has this sense that they’re really projections of his own mind.
But nonetheless, you know, all these unwanted parts of himself, it’s no fun, he wants
to get rid off them.
So his first strategy for getting rid of them in the story is that he decides to teach them
about spiritual path, you know, it’s basically cognitive, affirmations.
“You don’t have to be reactive right now, everything is changing, can relax in the midst
So he’s basically trying to talk himself cognitively into a better state of mind.
That falls flat.
That doesn’t work.
Can’t do it cognitively.
Next thing he does because the demons are still there is - he is really pissed off and
so he loses patience and he gets angry and he runs at them.
And that made them all laugh.
That didn’t work either.
So finally he gives up.
And he sits down on the floor and he says, “Well, I’m not going away, looks like
you are not either, so let’s just live here together.”
And that works fairly well, most of them are gone, except for one and it’s the one that’s
the real core issue - that’s particularly vicious.
And we all know that one.
Some of us have a handful of them.
It’s the feeling that this is really… this is the stickler, it’s like “I keep
coming back to this one.”
And he doesn’t know what to do, so he surrenders even further and he puts himself right … he
goes right up to the demon and puts his head in the demon’s mouth and he says, “Just
eat me up if you want to.”
The demon vanishes.
So the message of the story is that when the resistance is gone the demons are gone.
When the resistance is gone the demons are gone.
Unpleasantness, when we fight it, solidifies a sense of self; our sense of who we are gets
organized the not liking, an aversive self.
So you might have noticed today with restlessness or distraction or sleepiness or whatever the
demons were that, rather than just surrendering – “Okay, that’s how it is” – there
was some sense that it shouldn’t be this way.
And in those moments the equation is that pain times resistance equals suffering.
To the degree that you were at war with reality, with how it was, that’s the degree of suffering.
And of course the same equation goes pain times zero resistance equals ultimately liberation,
you know, no suffering.
I remember at my first Buddhist retreat that the take away from the whole retreat was that
the boundary to what we accept is the boundary to our freedom.
And that was my take away; that it didn’t matter what it was – whether it was not
liking my thoughts or not liking the food in the dining room or not liking what a teacher
was saying or what another yogi was doing – the boundary to what I could accept was
the boundary to my freedom.
And hand-in-hand with that is that meditation basically undoes our resistance.
Meditation isn’t a doing.
Actually in those moments of presence we’re undoing our habits of resisting reality.
Does that make sense?
We all have these different ways that we’re running away.
I kind of think of it like we have this bicycle and we are peddling away from presence and
the more stressed we get the faster we peddle.
And we all have different strategies for how we’re getting away, for how we’re resisting.
And meditation actually undoes those strategies.
The challenge is that it’s a very deep patterning in all of us whatever your particular mode
of resisting is.
And we’re going to look at the different ways we resist.
They’re deeply grooved in, you know, like in those neuropathways we keep doing the circuits:
we have a certain thought and then we do our tensing against things and then we have a
feeling and then we have more thoughts and we lock into our way of resisting.
So it takes a really strong intention.
And each one of you is here because in some way you have a deep motivation to be free,
a deep motivation to step out of the squeeze of those patternings.
You might not know how and you might feel like you don’t have the discipline or whatever
it is but there is some longing.
The challenge is we get caught because we…
I think George Carlin said it best, he says, “I’m not into working out.
My philosophy is: no pain no pain.”
So here’s the problem with that which is that, if we don’t work out, if we don’t
learn to be with the pain, we actually increase the pain.
Carl Jung describes it this way, he says, “What’s not brought to consciousness comes
to us as fate.”
So whatever we’re resisting, you know, whatever demon is active that we’re in some way either
trying to fight or judge away or hate ourselves for not doing anything but whatever way we’re
resisting, as long as we resist it kind of locks in our future, it locks in a kind of
patterning that keeps us trapped.
So one of the images I have always loved that describes the beauty of facing the demons
is when they’re described as animal-headed goddesses.
And in the Tibetan tradition you see them in lots of art work: you see them in the mandalas
that, you know, you have to go through them to the center of the mandala where there’s
freedom or if you’re entering the temple, a sacred temple, you have to go through the
animal-headed deities to get to sacred space, through the rage and through the lust and
through the anger and through the fears, it’s not like we get to that awakened space because
that’s not there, it’s the alchemy of engaging with presence with the demons that
And I like the Tibetan tradition because demons are not bad, demons are energies that by engaging
with presence we free up our natural intelligence and aliveness and spirit.
It’s like that phrase “no mud no lotus.”
It’s the nutrients that actually let us bloom.
So our motivation for facing the demons is because there is a love for truth and there
is a love for aliveness and a love for love.
I mean, if you really check in you’re motivated to stay present or stay with what’s here
because in some way you love life.
And the first step of staying present is noticing how you’re leaving.
I’m just going to go through some of the most common ways we leave.
Like any animal with a limbic system we leave by fighting, by fleeing, by freezing.
Freezing happens when we are traumatized and there is just that confusion and paralysis,
we leave that way.
Flight or fleeing is really common, the most common way that we flee here, just thinking,
thinking, thinking, thinking…
It’s our mental control tower, we kind of escape into it.
We talk to ourselves a lot.
We flee in relationships when we, instead of feeling the feelings that are there, we
pretend to feel a certain way or we divert attention with our intellect or humor or where
we accommodate or where we withhold.
We flee online regularly.
I mean, have you noticed that how much fleeing from vulnerability or angst, how many times
we go and just check our email or whatever?
And texting, you know, for so many people texting replaces other forms of contact.
One writer from the New Yorker described who when his son turned twelve they kind of lost
His son just was constantly texting and just grunted, you know, didn’t really communicate.
So he decided finally that well he would just text too.
And he started catching on to some abbreviations from his son.
And he wrote, “One my son did not have to teach me because it was so self-evident was
I knew right away it meant ‘lots of love’ because he put it at the end of every message
he sent me.”
So he said, “It’s such a safe way to express love, such a beautiful, telegraphic abbreviation
for the twentieth century, it’s like a little arrow of love you can send out to anyone you
And he describes how for the next six months he had this infatuation with texting and he
texted everyone he knew, you know.
He said his sister was getting divorced and he wrote to her, ‘We’re all behind you
and beside you.
LOL, your brother’,” you know.
His father got ill and he sent him, “Get well soon, LOL in Canada’.”
He said, “Everybody I knew at work, at home, everyone – I sent them ‘LOL’.”
Here is the coming to truth: He was texting his son from the airport saying he hates being
away but he had to travel to make money ‘cause it’s tight these days, signed off “LOL.”
His son responds, “Dad, what exactly you think ‘LOL’ means?”
“Well lots of love obviously.”
And of course his son set him straight and his world crumbled and he had a lot of emails
to write to explain himself to other people why he had LOL’d them in the midst of their
But I bring it up – it’s fun, it’s cute – and also that our fleeing-approaches,
ways we remove ourselves and create distance, really make it so that we are unable to see
who is there, we are not really communicating, and that’s a deep part of fleeing whether
we’re doing it through pretending or withholding or in some way getting lost in our thoughts
we are no longer connected with our hearts.
Second big way: fighting.
And that’s where we’re resisting some vulnerability that’s going on in our lives
by saying, “This shouldn’t be happening, I’m bad, you’re bad.”
That’s the kind of fighting that’s going on.
And it’s when life is not working out the way we want it.
Instead of being with that, there is a lashing out or lashing inward.
And as I describe these, just sense where you notice this for yourself.
In one story a new business was opening and one of the owner’s friends wanted to send
him flowers for the occasion.
So they arrive at the new business site and the owner reads the card and it says, “Rest
So the owner is angry and calls the florist to complain.
He tells the florist the obvious mistake and how angry he is, the florist replies, “Sir,
I am really sorry for the mistake.
But, rather than getting angry, you should imagine this: Somewhere there is a funeral
taking place and they have flowers with a note saying, ‘Congratulations on your new
So blaming and judging is the big one.
And you can notice it at retreat.
Again, think of it that this is a way of resisting the demons that you may have gone through
thinking, “I am not doing this right, I am not doing this day right.”
So, rather than just being with how it was and the feelings of it, it’s just this blaming
oneself or you may be blaming others – “This person is too noisy” or “This person in
some way is taking my space” or blaming the way somebody might be eating or walking
or something in the group.
And what we find - whether it’s here or you probably have better examples at home
where relationships get more charged - that whenever there is blaming it’s whatever
we practice grows stronger.
And the more we blame – we are resisting the demons – the less access we have to
the vulnerability that’s behind the blaming.
The more we blame the less access to the vulnerability behind the blaming.
Okay, so there is the fleeing – usually into our thoughts – there is the blaming
– often towards ourselves – and then the last piece to mention the ways that we resist
is by grasping.
And you can watch it here, you know, the kind of the grasping “Oh!
Gosh I want a nap!” or the grasping after “I want the food to be different or more
or something but not how it is!” or grasping “I want to go online and just check something!”
and you can see it.
Or as one person described today the grasping after the sound of the bell at the end of
the sit “Please, oh please, I want the bell!” you know, it’s like “Please may it end!”
it’s grasping for something different.
And then through our lives we have different ways of leaving by grasping around consuming.
Most people have some way of resisting how this moment is by consuming – could be food
or sugar or alcohol.
One story a friend gave me that I love: A man goes to a bar and orders a drink.
Bartender gives it to him and then the man pushes it off to the side, orders another
Bartender gives it to him.
This time he drinks it.
And the bar tender says, “Well, what gives?”
“Well you go to AA meetings and you hear regularly: It’s the first drink that leads
So we go ahead and grasp and then we in some way make it okay to ourselves.
But the reason I’m really reviewing these is to have you look at your own lives mostly
here right now, while you are here, but also at home and sense if you can begin to see
how you resist the present moment.
Begin to see how the mind moves away from the present moment, how your body might tighten
against the present moment, how your activities might keep you from the present moment.
Because if resistance, the way we leave, is below the line…
And by below the line I…
We often talk about Joseph Campbell’s circle of awareness and there is a line going through
and anything that is below the line is outside of our awareness and anything above the line
is in the light of awareness and the more we meditate we’re bringing life into awareness
which gives us freedom because if it’s below the line we’re identified, if we are resisting
we are identified, what you resist you’re identified with, you get hooked to it.
If you are resisting your loneliness, you’re identified with it.
If you’re resisting your anger, you’re identified with it.
So the first step is to start noticing what we’re resisting because our resistance is
like wearing a mask, - you know, whether we are withdrawing and that’s where we are
in our withdrawn-mask or avoiding or controlling and we start to consider ourselves a controlling
person, a withdrawn person, a scared person - we identify with the mask and we forget
who we really are.
The more we resist.
So a story to give an example of kind of shining a light on strategies of resistance is something
that really came forward a pattern with Jonathan and myself.
For most of the time we’ve been together, we’ve a kind of a twice a week meditation
And during that meditation we check in.
And it’s a chance to feel what we’re grateful for and also to look and sense well is there
anything really that’s getting between us, is there anything going on, any pattern that’s
keeping us open-hearted, loving and caring.
And personality wise I have been the one that’s more intent on making sure we communicate
about things that might create separation just ‘cause that’s the way it’s happened
And also it’s been part of my temperament to feel like you’re not really willing to
go where I want to go and talk about such and such.
So, one day, this was a long time ago in our relationship, we’re way past this now, but…
We’d done our meditation and we’d pretty much talked about everything but our relationship.
So before we ended, you know, I paused us and I said, “So how are we doing?
Is there anything you feel would be good for us to pay attention to?”
And then I kind of sat back to listen really kind of self-satisfied that I had kind of
framed the inquiry in a positive invitational way.
We were on my turf basically, you know.
And just so you know: I had nothing really on my mind, I didn’t have a complaint, I
was just on some way wanting him to remember that it was important that we talk about things.
Jonathan squirmed a bit and kind of looked towards me to give him a clue, was there something
I had on my mind, ‘cause he was afraid he had missed something, you know, it wasn’t
our anniversary or anything like that, but he was afraid that there was some right answer
he should be coming up with.
So he did look at me hopefully and I just kind of sat silent.
And it really was a deer in the headlights look to him.
So then he got a mischievous look and he pulled out his iPhone and he asked Siri, “How do
you respond when your wife asks, ‘How are we doing?’”
Within moments he got an answer – And I swear this is the truth – Siri said, “I
am okay, you’re okay and this is the best of all possible worlds.”
Really, he showed it to me.
And of course I instantly gave up and, you know, it lightened up everything and we didn’t
talk but we went on and had fun.
But what we did at other times is point out the patterning that was playing in that dynamic.
And the patterning was and the way it comes down to is that for me if I feel unattended
to like he doesn’t want to be intimate or close or whatever, then my way of reacting
to that feeling, rather than just being with that feeling of going down to that deep, deep
early place of “I am not lovable or wanted” my way is to then be judging and blaming trying
So I was being aggressive so, you know, I was trying to put him on the spot.
And his way of resisting the demons is when he feels insecure or threatened, rather than
sitting and feeling it, he will either accommodate me or do something to distract or humor or
whatever but not just sit in that fire.
So, you know, there is a learning that comes out of it that he really needs to cooperate
with me more… [laughter] I am actually sharing on purpose about us
because whether it’s in relationship with another person or in our own relationship
with ourselves catching on to our pattern – “Oh when I feel unlovable I then judge
somebody” – catching on to those rather than just staying present is the beginning
of being able to undo the patterns, is the beginning of freedom.
And so I’d like to invite you…
We’ll do a couple of reflections…
The first reflection is demon’s reflection number one.
If you will just to take a moment to close your eyes.
So this is coming up with a situation in your life where it’s like Milarepa entering the
cave, where the demons are active.
It may be somewhere where it’s in a relational context where you get triggered.
It might be hurt, anger, fear.
And as if you are bearing witness to Milarepa trying out his different strategies, you might
sense that when you get caught in this, what’s your strategy initially at least for resisting
How do you try to leave the vulnerability of the moment and control things.
Do you withdraw?
Do you get controlling and blaming?
Do you try to numb it in some way?
Do you try to talk yourself out of it?
Give yourself a dharma talk?
And if you could keep exploring a little that wonderful question: What are you unwilling
to feel in those moments?
What are the demons that are there that you’re in some way avoiding?
And just to sense: What’s the experience of yourself when you’re in some way avoiding
those demons, playing out your resistance or your reacting, in other words if you’re,
instead of just feeling what’s here, you’re blaming yourself or you’re blaming someone
else or you’re withdrawing from the situation or you’re trying to control.
What’s the felt sense of self that comes with that?
In other words: What’s your small self-identity?
If this is a deep pattern, it’ll feel very familiar, it’ll feel like a very familiar,
unseen, withdrawn self or a very familiar controlling self or a very familiar blaming
This is the mask.
This is the mask that we get identified with when we are resisting, when we are doing anything
but presence, and it starts developing very early on as a way to help us navigate, but
it’s a way of resisting reality and it creates the sense of a separate, not okay self when
we do anything but real presence with the feelings that are there.
James Baldwin writes, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without
and know we cannot live within.”
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live
He goes on to say, “I used the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but
as a state of being or a state of grace, not in the infantile American sense of being made
happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”
So this last part of our exploration together we’re going to go further into this surrendering
of the mask - whatever our mask is the controlling mask or the blaming mask, the avoiding or
withdrawing mask - that we fear we can’t live without it, we don’t know how to operate
without it, it seems scary to drop it and yet we can’t live within it because it keeps
us as that small, unreal, separate, not okay self.
So as Baldwin says we need that love that’s a courageous love to stop withdrawing, to
stop controlling, to stop the judging and to open to what’s here.
So if you’d like to open your eyes it’s fine.
One of the ground levels of our training together is to recognize that if we are lost in thought
we are fuelling the mask.
If we’re lost in thoughts, our thoughts are going to keep on triggering the emotions
that loop back to the thoughts and we’re going to keep on looping and being identified
with the mask.
So one of the first things we do in meditation training is just what we are doing here: is
come into these bodies, come into the senses, come to the breath so we can begin to sense
the difference between being lost in a thought which is a virtual reality that keeps the
mask going and being right here which is the undoing of resistance.
We start undoing the resistance by waking up from thoughts.
Carlos Castaneda writes, “You talk to yourself too much.
You’re not unique in that.
Every one of us does.
We maintain our world with our inner dialogue.
A man or woman of knowledge is aware that the world will change completely as soon as
they stop talking to themselves.”
I really love that because of course we don’t stop talking to ourselves forever, there is
a certain amount of thinking that actually is necessary to survive and can be profoundly
creative, but we need to know the difference between thinking which is virtual and hereness.
In fact, one of the most powerful little ways of practicing you can do as you are here is
when you notice you’ve been thinking wake up from the thought, you know, just thinking,
thinking and notice the difference from being inside the thought and this living reality,
just notice the difference.
And the more you get the knack of noticing the difference between virtual and real the
more there is almost a gravitational kind of pull to live in the immediacy of what’s
So part of the training is that we over and over again wake up from our thoughts.
I love the way Veronica Tukoleva puts it, she says, “We speak about losing our minds
as if it’s a bad thing.
I say: Lose your mind.
Do it purposefully.
Find out who you really are beyond your thoughts and beliefs.”
We can’t find out who we are beyond the mask if we don’t wake up out of our thoughts.
Does that make sense?
Wes Niskar - good buddy of many of us, dharma teacher - talks about the relationship with
He says – and he talks about his relationship with his own mind – he says, “We are still
friends and we still live together but I’m no longer co-dependent.”
So how do we now practice when we become aware the demons are in the cave, we become aware
that we’ve been throwing at them every strategy we have, we’ve been blaming ourselves and
blaming them or trying to control or huddling in some way or trying to go to sleep and give
up, how do we practice?
And this is where we will take the RAIN acronym and just explore when you’re caught in the
cave and the demons are really activated, how can you use mindfulness and self-compassion
to wake up?
And I’d like to check here and say: How many of you have never worked with the RAIN
Can I see by hands to give me a sense?
Don’t be shy ‘cause it’s an ever-deepening process.
So RAIN, the acronym, is Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture.
And then there is what I call After the RAIN, which is noticing the shift, the waking up
from the small identity.
And RAIN is a way of doing what you might think of as a U-turn that when there is demons
going on – when there is feelings of insecurity or self-doubt or restlessness or anger – our
tendency is to fixate on them and either fight them or fixate them but run the other way
but either way we are hooked.
With RAIN we are making a U-turn and bringing our attention to what’s underneath, to the
actual felt sense that’s going on behind that resisting.
And the way we do it is to begin by noticing okay, the demons are here, Recognizing and
Allowing the different mix of the thoughts and the feelings, just let it be there.
The Investigating is primarily somatic.
I’m going to give you an example but I want to just point out right now that when you
investigate the biggest misunderstanding about investigation is that we’re trying to figure
something out, it’s not like, “My parent basically gave me the message that I was never
good enough and then when I tried to do this I internalized it…” it’s not that.
It’s checking and finding in your body what’s there and how it feels knowing that our issues
are in our tissues really bringing that gentle investigation into the body and then nurturing
By way of example – I’d like to give stories of how different people use RAIN – and because
it’s the holiday season and some people are coming from the rawness of what happens
in the relational field or the rawness of lacking a relational field I thought I would
share a story about a woman – this took place around the holidays – she is really
estranged from her daughter-in-law and growingly estranged from her own son, she felt very
pushed out of their lives especially boundaried around the grand-children.
And the dynamic had been that she would express her opinions rather forcibly and her daughter-in-law
really just did not want to put up with a controlling mother-in-law and then, you know,
got an allay in her husband and from her perspective she had told me she asked things like, “Well,
are the children getting enough protein?” – because the parents are vegan – or she’d
bring to them, you know, “What about music lessons?
It’s supposed to develop…” you know.
But they didn’t want that from her.
And she started to become more restrained but it seemed like anything she would say
was a violation.
And so she did RAIN with that.
And we got together and she would think of her daughter-in-law and get very angry and
she’d basically blamed her daughter-in-law as the main one that was keeping her from
And she felt like her daughter-in-law hated her and, “No matter what I say or do she
doesn’t want me in their…” you know, and so on.
So we started there.
Recognize and Allow: There is anger.
These are the thoughts and these are the feelings that are swirling around.
And allow doesn’t mean we like it, doesn’t mean we want to stay with it for very long;
allow is like pausing with something, saying: Okay, we’re just going…
I’m not going to resist right now.
I’m not going to negate it.
I’m not going to fight it.
Just going to let it be here.
Because unless we pause and create some space there is no way we can investigate and get
intimate with what’s underneath.
So there is recognizing and allowing.
And then she began to Investigate.
And I helped her by saying, “Let that anger be as big as it wants to be.”
And she felt like it was exploding through the room that she was in.
And then she felt like it was exploding through the east-coast and exploding through the whole
United States and the globe and everything was going to bursting into flames and exploding.
It was big anger, okay.
And she kept let it getting bigger and bigger.
And then she got quiet and she said, you know, “Nothing is happening.
I said, “What are you aware of?”
And she said, “Well, I am alone.”
I said, “Yeah.”
She said, “Well, I am alone and I’ve been pushed away, I’m not wanted and there is
no one here.”
And so there is this feeling of complete abandonment and being alone.
And as she opened to that and really let herself feel it she started weeping.
And that was when she could begin Nurturing.
And I’ve often found that if we investigate and investigate and really get down to where
the vulnerability is there is a natural sense of care or tenderness that comes.
And I often have people put their hands on their heart.
And the final question for investigating – or one of the most powerful ones – is, “What
does this place most need right now?
How does it want you to be with it?” you know, but to really sense the need.
And for her it needed to know that she wasn’t leaving, that she was staying.
Because when we feel other people are always leaving us or abandoning us if we look close
there is often a sense that we have left and abandoned our self.
And so she found that her nurturing was just to say, “I’m not leaving.
I’m not leaving.
And that’s the nurturing.
And then After the RAIN is just to sense what’s there.
And she said, “All I can feel right now is that there is this kind of that space that’s
kindness and there is a hurting inside it.
But what that means is that her sense of her own being was larger than the hurting.
And this is the shift in identity that really is at the heart of all dharma practice: that
when we stop resisting and instead of resisting the demons there is a presence with which
is a surrendering, we’re surrendering the resistance, that presence actually becomes
a space, a tender space, like an ocean that has room for the waves.
And there is a sense of freedom with that.
So for her many, many rounds.
This was a deep wound.
And it took many rounds of RAIN till she got more and more familiar with being that kind
of space of kindness that was holding the young child that felt abandoned.
That was more the truth of who she was than that self that felt pushed away, unloved and
really was very angry about that.
During this time, she was having, you know, email contact and so on with her son and with
And it was pretty uneventful.
And she kept doing the practice the way she described it – and a Tibetan teacher used
these words – she kept meeting her edge and softening with RAIN.
She would meet that edge of that anger and just soften by investigating and holding herself
And that phrase really helped her.
And I’m sharing it with you because I found it helpful too.
You can do a very brief RAIN: you meet your edge and there is some softening and opening
to what’s here.
Well, she went and last year – this was during the holidays last year – went and
And this was after… it may have been two hundred rounds of RAIN.
So she had done a lot of working with that anger.
And as it turned out her daughter-in-law was kind of under the weather, you know, kind
of sickly when she came and so she got to step in and she had kind of sensed who her
daughter in law just worked herself ragged, she really cared about her kids and she worked
herself ragged, and so she was kind of…
It was really felt good to her.
And she went ahead and made those, you know, Beyond Burger, vegan burgers and the vegan
lasagna and she did everything the way her daughter-in-law wanted it.
And before leaving her son kind of hugged her and said, “Thanks for showing up, we
really, really needed you.”
Her daughter-in-law walked her out.
She had an Uber taking her to the airport.
Walked her out to the Uber and she said, “I really needed a mom around.”
And for this woman she gone to her Uber and just broke down but it was a good breakdown
because she felt that belonging.
And she told me, “What let me feel that belonging is I met my edge and softened so
much I was just soft enough to belong.”
And that just stuck with me: soft enough to belong.
So the final commentary I’ll make on this is that when there is a deep wound, many,
many rounds of RAIN, the key piece that often is forgotten is that after doing some nurturing
to pause and notice the difference between who you were – the masked person who began,
the identified person, the controlling person, the hurt person, the fearful person, and whatever
the sense of your being is in those moments - notice the difference, because the difference
is pointing to who you’re really becoming.
Sometimes we can’t directly open to what’s there when we’re doing RAIN.
This is a topic that’s too big for right now.
Sometimes before we can even begin to recognize and allow and investigate, we simply need
to do a lot of metta to make it safe enough because we can retraumatize by going directly
into the vulnerability.
So the point is not that you always should put your head in the demon’s mouth, that’s
not the teaching, okay.
The teaching is that we’re leaning in that direction and that we have to do a lot of
kind of self-nurturing almost to build the kind of stability in our nervous system to
be able to fully surrender.
So I’m just putting that out as a reminder.
And let’s go back to the cave again, okay?
So if you will … closing your eyes.
What we’re doing now is just a very brief RAIN that I invite you to expand on your own.
Again a situation – relational situation – that can bring up the demons whether it’s
fear, hurt, anger or shame.
The demon might be aversion, hatred.
See if you can go to the most challenging part of that situation so that you can remember
what’s going on, see the person’s face, where the setting is, the room you are in,
see if you can get yourself in touch with what it’s like when this comes up and perhaps
notice the way you might habitually resist or react – be defensive or withdraw, blame.
Instead you can make the U-turn and recognize and allow as much as you can notice about
what’s going on inside you.
It helps when you are recognizing and allowing, sometimes just to say “This belongs, this
is a wave in the ocean right now, this is the way it is.”
Just to let it be there.
It’s like saying “Yes, this is reality right now.”
It’s the beginning of undoing the resistance.
And then to deepen attention with Investigating.
Just to feel in your body.
You might even put your hand on your body where you feel most feelings and that helps
to connect and just notice: What does it feel like?
Where do you feel it?
What does it feel like in your body?
There may be a belief that goes with this about how other people are perceiving you
or you, maybe that you’ll always be the same or a belief that you’re failing or
Just to notice the belief and then how that feels in your body.
And sense deep into where you feel most vulnerable what that part of you that is vulnerable most
What does it need?
Exploring just in these moments any gesture of kindness – and if you’re touching your
heart you can just send energy and care through your hand – it could be, you know, “I
see this suffering and I care” or, “I am not feeling,” it could be, “Trust your
goodness,” sending some message of kindness.
And then relaxing back a bit and just sensing if there is any shift from the self that was
in reactivity, kind of identified with the mask, caught in that small self, and the space
right now of care and presence, a sense of who you are is shifting.
The whole trajectory of our path is not getting somewhere as much as relaxing back to discover
this presence, this tenderness, this kind of empty radiance of being that’s who we
And, for most humans, it involves engaging with the demons, with the different energies
of fear, hurt, anger; rather than resisting being willing to face them.
And we’re talking on an individual level – the importance of facing the demons to
really wake up to our true being – but it’s also the same shift in consciousness that
we really need as a world on a group level.
We can behold our world and sense the demons of fear and when we don’t face them what
How our group survival brain goes into fight-flight-freeze, we are in a group limbic hijack that creates
an unreal self and unreal others, leads to demeaning and violating.
You can open your eyes if you’d like but just take a few more moments here to say that
we talk a lot about how we’re practicing and it’s not just for individual freedom,
it’s a practice that that really is for the evolving consciousness in this species.
And on the group level, if we don’t face our fears, we live in a sense of inferior/superior,
Even with each other, any moment there is comparing mind, any moment there is comparing
mind, you can’t see the purity of beingness that’s here, you lose track of your own
essential goodness and another’s.
And what science shows now is the brain when it’s afraid, when the brain is afraid, it
locks into superior/inferior.
Our survival brain does not perceive the innate worth of all beings; our survival brain doesn’t
So we’re waking up from our survival brain here individually and we also are learning
to wake up on a group level through ways of having dialogue with those that we’ve locked
into unreal othering with.
And I want to share an example of that – of going beyond the mask kind of in a group way.
One of the bridge builders that I watch out there who's doing that a lot is Van Jones
and he brings groups together so that they can see beyond the mask.
And I saw a spontaneous video of him that I want to tell you about that I think is a
really amazing example of waking up out of the habitual ways of defending and aggressing.
This was right before the election of President Trump when some supporters of his who were
white supremists confronted Van Jones.
He is a CNN commentator, he wrote “The Messy Truth” and as I mentioned he brings groups
of difference together.
And they confronted him calling him a racist saying that, “What about the white policeman
that was just killed?” and they are really angry at him.
They’re also videoing his response.
So this is like he is on the spot being kind of attacked verbally by these guys and it’s
really high energy.
And he keeps talking to them and talking to them and asking them about their feelings
and experience and so he actually treats them really respectfully and he listens.
And this is what he said at the end, he said, “If you cried just as much when that black
man died in that police car and I cried just as much when that horrible big-head shot down
the police, if you’re crying and I’m crying just as much and we’re crying together,
then we can find a way to get our cops better and our kids better.”
And he is speaking and this young man – you know, just to watch it was amazing – is
nodding and they end up hugging.
Now there’s a reason that in talking tonight we started very much… spent most of the
time on individual, but I wanted to name this because every time you make that U-turn and
are willing to face your own vulnerability and fears, you wake up out of a small identity
that creates “other” and you become enlarged and more and more living with an inclusive
When you include your own vulnerability, you start including others more and more.
And I think it’s such a powerful and important question for us to ask ourselves: Who don’t
we cry for?
You know, we know we cry for some but who don’t we cry for?
Who do we make “less than” or “other” and then not cry for them?
Can we cry for the earth?
It’s like when we are not facing the demons, we are not in touch with vulnerability, can
we really cry for the earth?
Because if we are not crying for the earth, we are not going to save her.
Do we cry for the billions of animals that are tormented each year and killed to feed
humans, the cruelty of that, do we cry for them?
Do we cry for the people that we work with when…
And when I say “cry for” I mean “care for,” “cry for, care for” because our
So we end tonight – I invite you to close your eyes one last time,
last time in the cave.
We explored tonight really the masks that we wear to avoid the demons, how we identify
with those masks.
The masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
And it takes intention.
And our intention, what motivates us, is love.
To make the U-turn, over and over again, not just when there’s major issues and we need
to meet our edge and soften but in any moment, can we choose to be here?
So I invite you in these last moments right now to perhaps sense: Is there anything between
me and an awake, open-hearted presence?
And with whatever you notice, can you meet that edge and soften with a kind attention?
Can you say “yes” to what’s here, “this belongs?”
From Danna Faulds, the poet, “In the shared quiet an invitation arises like a white dove
lifting from a limb and taking flight.
Come and live in truth.
Take your place in the flow of grace.
Draw aside the veil you thought would always separate your heart from love.
All you ever longed for is before you in this moment
if you dare draw in a breath and whisper ‘yes’.”
Thanks to each of you for your presence and attention.