15 Unblocking Our Feelings

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Differentiating the Various Aspects of Feelings

Adjusting the ten mental factors is an effective means for increasing attentiveness to problems and for enhancing the intention to respond. Several factors, however, may still hamper this response. One of the more troublesome is not feeling anything. Here, we shall not limit the term "feeling" to its definition as one of the ten innate factors, but use it also to mean emotions.

Often we experience what seems to be a block in our feelings. We speak of being "out of touch" with our feelings – in other words, alienated from them. We say we feel nothing. Sometimes, we are so confused that we do not even know what we feel. This is because our feelings are so complex that they can be bewildering. We can dispel our confusion about the feelings we experience by seeing their component elements. Two of the most relevant components when trying to gain balanced sensitivity are feeling some level of happiness or sadness and feeling some level of sympathy. Let us examine each in turn and then the relation between the two.

Feeling Some Level of Happiness or Sadness

Though we may not have sympathy for someone, we always feel something on the spectrum between total happiness and complete sadness. This is because feeling some level of happiness or sadness is an integral part of how we experience each moment of life. Therefore, when we say we feel nothing when we encounter somebody, our impression is inaccurate. If we examine ourselves carefully, we discover that we are actually feeling a low level of either happiness or dissatisfaction. Rarely are our feelings exactly in the middle so that they are neither one nor the other. Moreover, feelings in the low intensity range on either side of neutral are not bland. Nor do they suggest that we care little about anything because nothing impassions us. Such feelings are simply another portion of the happiness/sadness spectrum, no more and no less.

We can appreciate this point by considering our feelings while looking at the wall. If we lack interest and want to look away, we are dissatisfied. This means that we are experiencing low-level unhappiness. If we keep our gaze on the wall, even out of laziness or boredom, we are content with what we see. Thus, we are experiencing low-level happiness. We consider the sight soothing or neutral.

We need to keep in mind the definitions of happiness and unhappiness and not confuse the mental factor of feeling with feeling as a physical sensation. Happiness is a pleasant feeling that we wish to continue experiencing and unhappiness is an unpleasant feeling that we wish to end. A physical feeling, on the other hand, is a sensation perceived through the faculty of touch. Under novocaine, for example, we do not experience a physical sensation when the dentist drills our tooth. Nevertheless, we may still feel unhappy at the experience.

Understanding this difference, we discover that when we see the expression on someone's face, we do feel something. This occurs whether or not we have sufficient interest and attention to notice if the person is upset. We know that we feel something because either we continue to look at the person or we avert our eyes. In other words, either we are comfortable at seeing him or her or we are ill at ease.

Ridding Ourselves of Upsetting Feelings That Block Sensitivity

Any feeling on the spectrum of happiness/sadness can be of two types – upsetting or not upsetting. The difference between the two depends on whether we mix the feeling with confusion. According to Gelug-style analysis, when we are confused about our feelings we inflate them into what seem like solid entities existing on their own. They seem as if they had a thick line around them like something in a coloring book. We then color them in with a seemingly concrete identity that our confusion projects. Believing our feelings to have these imaginary "true identities," we regard them with attachment or fear.

For example, being happy may give us a greater capacity to be helpful to people in pain. Yet, if confusion makes our own happiness appear as the most wonderful and important thing in the world, we become attached and possessive when experiencing it. We do not want to meet or deal with anyone having problems, because it will ruin our good mood. Happiness experienced in this inflated way is an upsetting experience, despite it being pleasurable and even exhilarating. Because we are worried about being robbed of our pleasure, this type of happiness renders us insensitive to others and to ourselves. We often notice this syndrome in people who are under the influence of recreational drugs. Furthermore, if we do not have this seemingly wonderful, yet elusive happiness, we become fixated on attaining it. This also causes us to act insensitively toward others, for instance by being obsessed with our orgasm when having sex.

When we inflate sadness, our mind makes it appear monstrous and frightening. It seems capable of swallowing us in a pit of quicksand. Because of this, we want to avoid unpleasant situations so as not to become depressed. Consequently, we do not want to hear about others' troubles or to visit them when they are sick.

When we inflate neutral or low-intensity feelings, our mind makes them appear to be an unfulfilling "nothing." If we are not impassioned about an issue or a person, it feels as though we are not real. Thus, if we are hyperemotional, we find neutral feelings upsetting. Trying to avoid them, we go to extremes and overreact to what people say. For example, we feel outraged at any injustice they suffer or we break down and cry. Our self-indulgent display of emotion makes others feel threatened, embarrassed, or uncomfortable to speak to us about their problems. Instead of receiving comfort, they have to calm us down.

Balanced sensitivity requires happy, sad, and neutral feelings, but only those that are not upsetting. To have such feelings, we need to divest them of inflation. We can do this by seeing that our fantasies about how they exist do not refer to anything real. The happiness of sharing life with a partner never matches what someone in a fairy tale experiences who lives "happily ever after" with a prince or a princess. The sadness of losing a loved one may last many years, but it never signals the end of our life. Similarly, neutral or low-level feelings do not exist as an empty nothing, incapable of making us feel alive. We are alive no matter what level of happiness, sadness, or between that we feel.

When the balloons of fanatsy about our feelings burst, the sobering experience does not deprive us of feelings altogether. We do not become completely insensitive to others or to ourselves. Nonupsetting feelings are not equivalent to a total lack of feelings. We still feel pleasure when having sex. Enjoying it for what it is, while it lasts, we do not whine over its loss once it is over. Similarly, when we hear of someone's misfortune, we still feel sad. Our sadness, however, does not upset us to the core. We also do not feel bored when experiencing neutral feelings. We are comfortable with them or with any level of happiness or sadness that we feel.

Overcoming Alienation from Feelings

Sometimes, we may find feelings so difficult to handle that we block them. Occasionally, this may be helpful. For example, when we have a serious accident or a loved one suddenly dies, we automatically go into shock as a survival mechanism. Our feelings are too intense and may overload us. At other times, we block our feelings for neurotic reasons. Our confusion makes feelings seem dangerous and so we consider them inherently upsetting for us. This causes us to be stiff and inwardly frightened.

The Kagyu approach to overcoming this problem is to see that our mind normally tears in half our experiences of levels of happiness. It makes them deceptively appear as two opposing elements, "me" and "them," that is, the feelings appear as "other." Conceiving of feelings as existing like that alienates us from them. It blocks us from responding to others and to ourselves with sensitive spontaneity. We may think, for example, that we will not allow ourselves to feel happy because we do not deserve it. In addition, we may not allow ourselves to feel sad because we are afraid we might lose control. Further, we may not allow ourselves to feel neutral because then we are not really responding to someone. Consequently, we force ourselves and fake feeling happy or sad at someone's news, which does not fool anyone.

We act as if feelings of happiness or sadness were somewhere menacingly or alluringly "out there." It then seems as if we were sitting safely at home with the choice of whether to go out and feel them. This is absurd. We need to experience whatever feelings naturally arise, without making something monumental of them or of ourselves experiencing them.

Serenity and Equanimity as the Container for Balanced Feelings

According to the Sarvastivada and Mahayana traditions of abhidharma, a mental factor of serenity (upeksha) accompanies all constructive states of mind. The Theravada tradition similarly presents equanimity (upekkha). Balanced sensitivity requires both factors. Neither of them suggests an insensitive lack of feelings or response.

Serenity or equilibrium is a mental state free from flightiness or dullness. With flightiness of mind, our attention flies off to appealing objects or to compelling thoughts. For example, although someone may be speaking to us, our focus strays to the television or to self-centered thoughts. With dullness, our mind is unclear. We listen, but do not really hear what the person is saying.

To be properly sensitive, we need to rid ourselves of these two major hindrances, flightiness and dullness. Being serene is not equivalent to being spaced-out and not feeling anything. With serenity, we are focused, alert, and do not fall to an extreme. We are not so intense and nervous that we make the other person uneasy. Nor are we so calm and relaxed that we give the impression that we do not care about anything.

Furthermore, a serene state of mind is a happy mind. Neutral feelings that are neither happy nor sad accompany only the serenity experienced as part of a deep meditation trance. The happiness felt in non-trance serenity, however, has a special quality. It resembles a feeling of freshness. If our mind is restless or sluggish, we are not using its potentials. We feel unfulfilled. When we are free of these disabilities, our mind is fresh and uplifted like after a summer shower. We naturally wish to maintain such a feeling and thus, by definition, we are happy.

Equanimity is a state of mind free from attraction, repulsion, and indifference. Suppose we are sitting next to someone on an airplane and the person starts to tell us his or her life history. If we feel sexually attracted, we are so preoccupied that we do not even hear what the person says. If we find our fellow passenger repulsive, we may interrupt and say something rude. On the other hand, if we are indifferent, we ignore the person and do not look up from our magazine. In all three cases, we are insensitive to this man or woman as a person. We feel uncomfortable in his or her presence and are unhappy.

Having equanimity is not equivalent to feeling nothing. Nor is it the same as polite resignation. We do not simply tolerate the person's words while considering them rubbish and inwardly wishing for the plane to land. If we have time, we pay attention with openness and interest. Our fellow passenger is a human being, like us, and could easily become a close friend. As we wish the encounter to continue, we experience it with happiness. If we are truly busy, equanimity allows us to tell that to the person, without losing our calm. We would love to listen, but unfortunately we have something important to finish before we land.

The happiness that comes with equanimity is a relaxed and mellow feeling of relief. We feel relief because we neither crave nor are frightened of anything. We are not pushing ourselves on anyone, nor are we so rushed that we have no time. This state of mind provides a protected space in which we are comfortable about responding warmly to others and to ourselves. Tantra practice acknowledges the need for a protected space by including the visualization of one before attempting self-transformation. Here, a feeling of emotional ease acts as a safe container for transforming ourselves into someone with balanced, nonupsetting feelings.

Components of Sympathy

Balanced sensitivity not only requires serenity, equanimity, and feeling a level of happiness or sadness that is not upsetting, but also requires sympathy. Sympathy is a complex of several emotions and attitudes, each of which spans a spectrum. The three major ones are empathy, compassion, and willingness to become involved. As with the happiness/sadness spectrum, some element of each factor accompanies our encounter with anyone.

The first component of sympathy is a degree of empathy. It ranges from empathizing fully with someone's situation to not empathizing at all. The variables that affect this component are the willingness and the ability to understand someone's situation by imagining ourselves in the same predicament. Suppose a friend suffers from cancer. We may be willing to try to appreciate his or her pain and be either able or unable to imagine it. Alternatively, for various reasons such as lack of interest or fear, we may be unwilling to imagine the pain. This may happen whether or not we can conceive of it.

The second component of sympathy is some point on the spectrum between compassion, indifference, and malevolence. We might wish that someone be free of torment, not care whether he or she suffers, or wish that the person experience more pain. For example, even if we cannot imagine the physical and mental torture of terminal cancer, we may still wish our friend to be cured. On the other hand, we may know very well how much cancer hurts, but either not care about a malevolent dictator suffering from it or feel that such a person deserves the pain.

The third component is some element from the spectrum that runs from wishing to become involved to feeling antipathy toward any involvement. The variable that determines this factor is willingness to do something about someone's predicament. We may empathize with our friend, be concerned about his or her comfort, and wish him or her not to suffer pain. Yet, we may be unwilling to visit because of fear of the feelings that might arise. This is different from being unable to visit because of having to go out of town on business.

Feeling No Sympathy

When we say we do not feel anything, meaning we feel no sympathy for someone, we must analyze carefully which components of sympathy are deficient. From this, we can know which steps to take for remedying the situation. For example, if our lack of sympathy for our friend with cancer is due to being unwilling to empathize, we need to heighten the factor of interest that accompanies our meeting. We can do this by thinking how everyone is interrelated in our complex world. As Shantideva pointed out, how would it do for our hand to refuse to take interest in the welfare of our foot? Similarly, how would it for us to refuse to take interest in others who are part of our circle of friends or community?

On the other hand, if we feel nothing because our interest in our friend's problem is purely intellectual, we need to think how he or she is a human being like ourselves. Just as when we are in pain, it hurts, the same is true with our friend. As Shantideva also once said, pain needs to be removed not because it is my pain or yours, but simply because it hurts. Thinking like this helps us to take his or her situation seriously.

Suppose we take sincere interest in our friend's problem but cannot empathize because we are unable to relate to what he or she is feeling. We may recall something similar that we have experienced, like a severe stomachache. Although the pain of a stomachache does not approach that of cancer, still it can serve as an example to help us understand our friend's situation.

Perhaps we do take interest and do appreciate our friend's torment. In other words, we can fully empathize. Yet, because we are presently angry with him or her, we feel no compassion. We do not care whether our friend suffers from cancer or we think that he or she deserves the pain. To overcome our insensitivity, we can imagine ourselves in the same predicament. No matter how many cruel things we might have said or done in our life, we would intensely wish our agony to end. Our friend feels the same. Unless we were a masochist, we would not ignore our misery or refuse ourselves a reasonable amount of painkillers because we felt that we deserved to suffer. Similarly, why should we be indifferent to our friend's situation or think that he or she should be tortured with pain? We are all human beings with the same wish for happiness and aversion for suffering.

We may understand our friend's intense discomfort and feel compassion that it may quickly end. Yet, we might lack sufficient sympathy to visit in the hospital. If our reason for staying away is that we are too busy, we can think how we would not appreciate someone making the same excuse to us. We must reevaluate the priorities for our time in human, rather than financial terms. Moreover, if we do visit, we need to remind ourselves of these priorities so that we avoid looking constantly at our watch.

If we shun the hospital because of fear of emotion overwhelming us, we can apply deconstruction techniques to overcome the self-preoccupation causing our fear. We may try to see through the dualistic appearance our mind creates of a frightened, oversensitive "me" meeting an emotionally unbearable "you." We may also try to focus on the absence of any real referent to our fantasy when we inflate the visit into an ordeal that we will be unable to handle or endure. Nothing exists in this impossible manner.

Overcoming Fear of Unhappiness When Feeling Sympathy

When someone is suffering, we need to feel both sympathy and a level of sadness that is not upsetting. Fear of becoming unhappy, however, may block one or more of the components of sympathy: empathy, compassion, or willingness to become involved. Overcoming this fear is essential for a balanced and sensitive response.

Tibetan masters explain the etymology of karuna, the Sanskrit word for compassion, as connoting that which destroys happiness. When we see someone suffering and feel compassion, we naturally also feel sad. When we mix our compassion with confusion about reality, however, we experience a sadness that upsets us completely. For example, thinking that life cannot continue after a loved one with terminal cancer passes away, we may become totally depressed when we think of the person. It seems safer to feel nothing. Being afraid of an upsetting feeling of unhappiness is understandable. On the other hand, an uninflated feeling of sadness that rests on a stable foundation of serene equanimity is not upsetting. It offers nothing to fear.

When we rid ourselves of flightiness, dullness, attraction, repulsion, indifference, and confusion about reality, we achieve a stable peace of mind. Its hallmark is a deep, mature, and quiet feeling of joy. Ironically, we find that if we previously had emotional blocks that prevented us from crying, we now cry more easily. Yet, even when we feel sad about our own or others' suffering and are spontaneously moved to tears, we remain internally composed on an emotional level. We are not crying because of feeling hopeless, lost, or overwhelmed at the injustices of the world. We have no feelings of self-pity or outrage. Our basic happiness remains unchallenged and quickly returns. Although the sadness of compassionate sympathy briefly overrides our happiness, we are not afraid to experience it. Sadness is merely a wave that naturally arises on the ocean of the mind.

The Relation Between Love and Happiness

Love is the wish for someone to be happy. Such a wish naturally follows from compassionate sympathy. Though we feel sad at someone's pain and sorrow, feeling morose is difficult while actively wishing the person to be happy. When we stop thinking about ourselves and focus instead on someone's happiness, our heart naturally warms. This automatically brings us a quiet feeling of joy. Thus, when love is selfless and sincere, a gentle happiness accompanies it that is not upsetting. Just as a parent suffering from a headache forgets the pain while comforting his or her sick child, similarly the sadness we feel at someone's misfortune disappears while we radiate thoughts of love.

Training to Respond to Problems with Nonupsetting Feelings

Balanced sensitivity to someone's problems requires listening with sympathy and sadness and then responding warmly by trying to comfort and cheer the person. The traditional Mahayana method for training to do this with nonupsetting feelings is tonglen (taking and giving). As an advanced practice, it requires emotional stability, strength, and courage, gained, for example, through training with the previous sixteen exercises. We take on others' suffering and give them our happiness. With a feeling of compassion, we imagine others' pain, sorrow, sickness, or injury as a black light that leaves them, freeing them from it. This light then enters us as we breathe in; we experience the suffering that it represents; and the light subsequently dissolves at our heart. We then generate a loving wish for them to be happy. As we exhale, we imagine this happiness leaving our heart as white light. This light fills them completely with health, well-being, and soothing joy.

Several points are crucial when attempting this practice. First, we need not only compassion, but also the other two components of sympathy: empathy and willingness to become involved. Second, we need to feel appropriate levels of sadness and happiness. Doing this requires having no fear of these feelings. We lose any fear we might have when we experience sadness and happiness nondualistically, based on serenity and equanimity. Feelings experienced in this way are not upsetting.

Furthermore, we must be careful not to mix our practice with the dualistic feeling that we are a saint or a martyr taking on the sufferings of some pitiful wretch. We must also be cautious not to inflate the others' suffering into a solid monster that we now hold inside so that it overwhelms us. Although feeling the person's pain is important, otherwise we may not take it seriously, nevertheless we must let it go. One method is to imagine the pain passing through us and ending. Another is to see it as a wave that does not disturb the depths of the mind. Understanding and wisdom must always accompany the practice of loving compassion.

Even in the saddest moments, such as at a funeral, this practice enables us to smile warmly, with sympathetic and understanding eyes, and to comfort other mourners with love. We feel sad at the loss and may even cry. Yet, our main concern is wishing happiness and well-being to both the deceased and those left behind. Our smile is not flippant, distasteful, nor disrespectful. Nor is it false. We do not force it before we have sufficiently mourned, nor do we scold ourselves for being silly and crying. Nevertheless, our tears quickly pass. We understand death, impermanence, and cause and effect. Anyone born must some day depart. With the wish that the other mourners might also understand this, we accept and imagine relieving their suffering and bringing them comfort.

Exercise 17: Accepting Suffering and Giving Happiness

During the first phase of this exercise, we look at a photo of a loved one or mentally picture the person. After quieting our mind on a rough level with the "letting-go," "writing-on-water," and "swell-on-the-ocean" methods, we try first to settle into a state of serenity, free of all flightiness and dullness. To quiet our mind, more deeply, of tension, worry, or speediness, we may again apply the methods of "letting go" and "writing on water." To uplift our energy if we are depressed or dull, we may imagine that we have just emerged from a refreshing shower. We then turn our attention to the person, without probing or intruding with insistent intensity, but also without feeling removed or distant. The more relaxed and fresher we are, the looser our intensity and the more sincere our concern.

Next, we try to compose ourselves further, with equanimity. We think how our loved one is a human being and, like us, does not like to be clung to, rejected, or ignored. The more relaxed and alert we are, the easier it becomes not to want anything from the person and not to feel repulsed or indifferent. Furthermore, when in need, the person does not appreciate someone who is overprotective, frightened, or too busy to spare any time. Releasing those attitudes as well – with the breath or the image of writing on water – we try simply to be open and attentive.

We now recall a problem in life our loved one may be facing and the pain and sorrow he or she might be experiencing and generate a caring attitude by thinking, "You are a human being and have feelings, just as I do." To develop full sympathy, we need to generate empathy, compassion, and the willingness to become involved. First, we think how the person and we are interrelated, like our hand and our foot. Ignoring his or her pain would be shortsighted. Then, we consider that this pain needs to be removed, not because it is our loved one's pain, but simply because it hurts. With these two thoughts, we develop the interest to try to empathize. Next, if we cannot imagine what his or her pain might be like, we recall something similar that we have experienced. The person's suffering is not so alien.

Once we can empathize with the physical or emotional pain, we reflect that if we were in the same predicament, we would want it to end. So does our loved one. With this line of thinking, we develop compassion: the wish for him or her to be free of the pain and its causes. To gain the willingness to become involved, we think that just as we would not appreciate someone's excuses, our loved one also would not welcome our hesitation.

If we are frightened of feeling his or her sorrow, we try to deflate our dualistic projections. To do this, we alternate tickling our palm, pinching it, and holding one hand in the other. We try to experience each as a wave of the mind without a dualistic impression of a seemingly concrete "me" and a seemingly concrete physical sensation. When we are successful, we naturally have no fear of these experiences. Just as feelings of physical pleasure or pain are not upsetting or frightening when experienced nondualistically, the same is true with feelings of mental happiness or sadness.

Now, without tension or fear, we try to imagine the suffering and its causes leaving our loved one as black light, freeing the person from his or her pain. As we breathe in, we picture this light entering our heart. We accept and try to feel his or her anguish. Then, viewing the experience of pain from the perspective of the ocean of our clear light mind, we try to see it nondualistically like a wave. What our loved one and now we are experiencing is unpleasant and naturally evokes a feeling of sadness. We do not trivialize it in any way. This feeling, however, does not upset the calm, composed depths of the ocean. We try to let it naturally subside and pass.

From our clear light heart, a warm and loving concern for the person's welfare now naturally arises. With the wish for him or her to be happy, we try to picture our concern as this happiness and its causes, but in the form of white light. Reinforced by the natural joy of the mind, we try to feel deep happiness ourselves as we imagine the light entering the person and filling him or her with joy.

Next, we imagine supplementing our gift of happiness with an additional present of understanding and possible solutions for his or her problems. To do this, we try to tap the abilities of the five types of deep awareness that also endow our clear light mind. We picture our understanding and solutions leaving us also as white light and filling the person. Sometimes, experiencing frustration and displeasure is healthy for our loved one to grow, as with a child learning social skills. In such cases, we may imagine taking away simply the rough edges of the experience and giving him or her valuable insight.

We may also give other factors related to clear light mind. For example, if a loved one needs self-confidence, we may recall Buddha-nature and transform the self-confidence we feel in our natural abilities into belief in our loved one's innate talents. Radiating confidence to the person, we try to imagine our loved one filled with the white light of both self-confidence and our faith in him or her. When we repeat this process during actual encounters with the person, our confidence reinforces his or her self-esteem.

Since mind's natural qualities automatically translate into physical and verbal expression, we also try to imagine our loved one acting and speaking self-assuredly. Moreover, we try to imagine ourselves interacting with the person with faith in him or her. In real life encounters, similar words and actions will stimulate our loved one to speak and act self-confidently.

We may follow a similar procedure if a loved one feels his or her self-dignity threatened, for instance by the ravages of disease or old age. Tapping the self-pride we feel in view of our innate good qualities, we try to imagine self-dignity filling the person with white light. We reinforce it by also sending the person our respect for him or her. Then, we try to picture our loved one acting with strengthened self-esteem and ourselves interacting with sincere deep respect.

Repeating the procedures of giving and taking with a stranger or with someone we dislike is not recommended for initial practice. Our feelings may not be sincere. We may attempt it only when we have gained some experience with the method and are well advanced in our sensitivity training.

Outline of Exercise 17: Accepting Suffering and Giving Happiness

I. While focusing on a photo or on a mental picture of a loved one who is troubled with a problem

  • Quiet the mind with the "letting-go," "writing-on-water" and "swell-on-the-ocean" methods
    • To settle into a state of serenity, silence flightiness of mind, by imagining tension, worry, and speediness leaving with your breath or simultaneously arising and disappearing like writing on water
    • Dispel dullness, by imagining just emerging from a refreshing shower
    • To compose yourself with equanimity, calm any feelings of attraction, repulsion, or indifference, by thinking how your loved one is a human being and, like you, does not like to be clung to, rejected, or ignored
    • Release overprotectiveness, fright, or feeling too busy, with your breath or the image of writing on water
  • Recall the problem your loved one is facing and the pain and sorrow he or she is experiencing
    • Generate a caring attitude by thinking,  "You are a human being and have feelings, just as I do."
    • To develop interest, think how the person and you are interrelated, like your hand and your foot, and consider that this pain needs to be removed, not because it is your loved one's pain, but simply because it hurts
    • To empathize, recall something similar that you have experienced
    • To develop compassion, reflect that if you were in the same predicament, you would want it to end – so does your loved one
    • Wish for him or her to be free of the pain and its causes
    • To gain the willingness to become involved, think that just as you would not appreciate someone's excuses, your loved one also would not welcome your hesitation
  • To dispel fear of feeling the person's sorrow, deflate dualistic projections, by alternately tickling your palm, pinching it, and holding one hand in the other, experiencing each as a wave of the mind without a dualistic impression of a seemingly concrete "me" and a seemingly concrete physical sensation
    • Reflect that just as feelings of physical pleasure or pain are not upsetting or frightening when experienced nondualistically, the same is true with feelings of mental happiness or sadness
  • Without tension or fear, imagine the suffering and its causes leaving your loved one as black light, freeing the person from his or her pain
    • Picture this light entering your heart as you breathe in
    • Accept and feel the person's anguish
    • View the experience of pain from the perspective of the ocean of your clear light mind and see it nondualistically like a wave
    • Feel the sadness that what your loved one and now you are experiencing naturally evokes, without it upsetting the calm, composed depths of the ocean
    • Let the feeling of sadness naturally subside and pass
  • Feel a warm and loving concern for the person's welfare naturally arising from your clear light heart
    • With the wish for your loved one to be happy, picture your concern as this happiness and its causes, but in the form of white light
    • Reinforced by the natural joy of the mind, feel deep happiness while imagining the light entering the person and filling him or her with joy
  • To gain understanding and possible solutions for your loved one's problems, tap the abilities of the five types of deep awareness and picture your understanding and solutions leaving you also as white light and filling the person

II. While focusing on someone in person

1. Repeat the procedure two or three times while sitting in a circle with a group and focusing on a different person each time, by working with general problems that afflict most people, such as insecurity, and by using the key phrases to settle into the preliminary state of mind

  • "no tension, worry, speediness, or dullness"
  • "relaxed and fresh"
  • "no clinging, aversion, or indifference"
  • "not overprotective, frightened, or too busy"
  • "open and concerned"
  • "interest"
  • "empathy"
  • "compassion"
  • "willingness to become involved"
  • "no fear of feeling sad"

III. While focusing on yourself

1. Repeat the procedure while looking in a mirror

2. Repeat the procedure without a mirror, by extracting your problems as black light from your entire body and bringing them to your heart, and by filling your body with happiness as white light emitted from your heart

3. Repeat the procedure followed without a mirror while looking at photographs of yourself spanning your life, taking on any unresolved problems, blocked feelings, or emotional turmoil left from or still concerning those times.

Helping Others and Ourselves to Overcome Insecurity

During the second phase of the exercise, we practice giving and taking while sitting in a circle with a group, by repeating the procedure two or three times and focusing each time on a different person. Doing this practice while facing a partner is too intense and, in real life encounters, may seem pretentious. The classical texts advise always to keep the practice of giving and taking private so that no one knows that we are doing it, not even the person who is the object of our focus.

Here, in the circle, we may not know the specific troubles that anyone is currently facing. Nevertheless, we may work with the general problems that afflict most people. Let us take the example of insecurity.

First, while focusing on someone, we need to settle our mind into a state of serene equanimity and sympathy as before. To help the process, we may use the key phrases:

  • "no tension, worry, speediness, or dullness,"
  • "relaxed and fresh,"
  • "no clinging, aversion, or indifference,"
  • "not overprotective, frightened, or too busy,"
  • "open and concerned,"
  • "interest,"
  • "empathy,"
  • "compassion,"
  • "willingness to become involved,"
  • "no fear of feeling sad."

Then, we imagine relieving the person of the suffering of being insecure. We do this by picturing that suffering entering us as black light. Not frightened to feel the person's pain, we try to view it from the perspective of the ocean of the mind and let it settle. Remaining in an oceanic clear light state free from the worries and tensions that feed insecurity, we try to experience the natural joy of our mind. With feelings of love, we then radiate this joy as white light, which we imagine fills the person.

Further, we try to understand that the person's insecurity stems from not viewing his or her experiences from the perspective of life's changes, parts and causes, and waves on the ocean. We also emanate as white light our understanding of these points and the consequent security and sense of well-being that it gives us. Feeling secure in ourselves, we try to reinforce the person's own feeling of security. If we know the person, we may also practice giving and taking with his or her specific problems.

During the third phase, we focus on ourselves, first in a mirror and then after putting the mirror aside. We begin by trying to identify any personal problems we may be currently facing. To settle ourselves into a state of serene equanimity and sympathy, we may use the ten key phrases as before. Next, with compassion for ourselves, we imagine taking on our difficulties as black light either drawn from the mirror image or extracted from our entire body and brought to our heart. In other words, we accept working on our problems and try to feel free of worry about them. Without tension, fear, or feelings of dualism, we try to experience the pain they cause, from the point of view of the ocean, and let the experience pass. Trying to find possible solutions with the understanding of our deep awareness, we radiate these remedies lovingly and joyfully as white light. The light fills our image in the mirror or fills our body from within if we are practicing without a prop.

Using the same procedure as when working in a circle, we may also try to take on any manifest or residual feelings of insecurity we may have. We then send out to ourselves a sense of security.

Lastly, we practice giving and taking while viewing the series of photos of ourselves from particularly difficult times in our life. If we have any unresolved problems, blocked feelings, or emotional turmoil left from or still concerning those times, we try to bring them to the surface. Taking them on compassionately, we try to experience the pain they produce, and deal with them now. We try to send loving wishes of joy to ourselves at those times and possible solutions we can presently use to resolve these problems. If we do not have pictures of ourselves from those periods, we may think of those times and practice as we did without a mirror. We try to draw the pain from our entire body as black light. Then, we try to emanate the white light of joy from the center of our heart so that it permeates our body. Finally, we try to feel this light beaming from all the pores of our skin.