Shinzen Young is an American mindfulness teacher and neuroscience research consultant.
His systematic approach to categorizing, adapting and teaching meditation, known as Unified Mindfulness, has resulted in collaborations with Harvard Medical School, Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Vermont in the bourgeoning field of contemplative neuroscience.
Shinzen’s interest in Asia began at the age of 14 when he decided to attend Japanese ethnic school in his native city of Los Angeles.
After majoring in Asian languages at UCLA, he entered a PhD program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin. As a part of his thesis research, he lived as a Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana) monk for three years at Mount Koya, Japan. It was then that he received the name Shinzen (真善).
Also during that time, he became friends with Father William Johnston (author of Christian Zen). Fr. Johnston helped broaden Shinzen’s interests to include comparative world mysticism and the scientific study of meditative states.
Upon returning to the United States, his academic interests shifted to the dialogue between Eastern meditation and Western science.
Shinzen is known for his interactive, algorithmic approach to mindfulness, and often uses mathematical metaphors to illustrate meditative phenomena.
He is the author of The Science of Enlightenment, Natural Pain Relief and numerous audio offerings.
Shinzen leads residential retreats throughout North America. In 2006, he created the Home Practice Program. These phone-based mini-retreats are designed to make deep meditation practice accessible to anyone in the world regardless of their location, health situation, and time or financial constraints.
Shinzen gives us a reading of TS Eliot’s poem “The Little Gidding”. A great ending to a great interview.
This is the Shinzen’s Periodic table of happiness. Click Here.
Shinzen’s in depth look at Mindfulness. Click Here
A ruff transcript of our conversation:
Hello, I’m here with Shinsen Young an American mindfulness teacher and Neuroscience research consultant. Welcome.
Thank you. This is my favorite thing to do talk about meditation mindfulness and so forth. So I’ll yes, feel free to ask whatever you would like to ask.
I appreciate it. The first question is very basic.
Why meditate? I have a set answer to that question personally my favorite answer but then I think I would preface it by saying that the answer is Technical and therefore requires some explication. So in a word. Why should someone meditate? Or in afraid it’s the phrase would be in order to optimize happiness, but we’re going.
Be precise about what we mean by happiness. I have developed something that I call the Periodic Table of Happiness elements. It looks yeah, it looks a little bit like a periodic table of chemical elements except. It’s only got 20 boxes instead of hundred and eighteen. I think anyway, it’s got 20 boxes and it cross classifies happiness along two Dimensions.
The first is a qualitative dimension. Current basic kinds of happiness and then the second is a depth depth measures the degree to which that particular happiness element is obvious to the average person. So the five basic kinds of Happiness are relief which means relief from physical suffering mental suffering.
Emotional suffering. Relief, next time you have any bigger small physical mental and or emotional suffering. Would it be nice? To not have to suffer. Most people would say. Yeah, that would make me happy now sort of and one of the reasons to meditate is that meditative attentional skills. Will allow not one but several different strategies for reducing suffering now.
Second reason to meditate is to increase fulfillment. So in addition to physical mental and emotional discomforts, we have physical mental and emotional pleasures and to increase the degree the degree of fulfillment that we derive from what is pleasurable evident that’s
Are in a sense not that extraordinary because they’re just examples of understanding yourself. We all want to understand ourselves, but the deeper levels of self-understanding involve an experience of insight or Liberation that is sometimes called Enlightenment. So to understand yourself at all the levels.
From the personal biographical level to the sort of collective unconscious that young or shamans would talk about the some Pogo Kaya as it’s called in Buddhism and then to understand yourself as sensory system the self arises through Mind Body Experience and when Mind Body Experience is. Complete then we have a insight into the spiritual nature of mind and body.
So that’s another aspect of happiness self-understanding at all levels including the deepest level. Then another aspect of happiness is too. Make positive behavior changes to be an admirable person to have good character. So it turns out that meditative skills concentration power sensory Clarity Equanimity the attentional skills that get developed when you do a meditation practice those skills.
Can help you understand yourself psychologically, so they’re an adjunct to therapy but those skills can also help you understand yourself spiritually at the deepest level. And that’s where we get some of the classic goals that the Traditions talk about Liberation Satori can show Enlightenment true self.
No self and so forth. Well, It turns out that these attentional skills that we develop systematically through meditation help us understand ourselves a personal level, but they can also take us down to the deepest level and then for Behavior change well minute meditation skills allow you to deconstruct negative urges and they allow actually for a variety of once again of strategies for sort of.
Carrying oneself in a more admirable way in terms of positive behavior. And then finally if you’ve been counting that’s for sort of Happiness columns relief fulfillment insight into who you really are at the deepest level Mastery, which is mastering your actions and behaviors and then finally, although people don’t really.
Realize it in many cases. Everyone is drawn to be of service to others in some way or another and that dimension of you improve yourself. That’s mastery. And then you make the world around you either locally or globally as wide as you you know, choose you make the world a better place that’s service.
So relief fulfillment understanding yourself at all levels mastering your how you carry yourself in the world and. Call towards a life of service in some way or another. Those are the five basic types of happiness. And then the different there are different strategies for achieving these that represent more subtle levels of that particular kind of Happiness.
So. If someone says why meditate well, first of all, what do we mean by meditation? I would say it’s the systematic cultivation of a well defined set of attentional skills. So why develop these attentional skills? Well, because they’re Central to all aspects of human happiness. They’re either are directly related or their indirectly related.
And to every single thing that any individual or culture has ever said this is an aspect of flourishing or human well-being. Now when I say that meditative skills or attentional skills are. Our Central it doesn’t mean that they represent the whole picture of human happiness. There are limitations as to what they can deliver but I would say that meditative skills are relevant either directly or indirectly to every issue of Happiness relief fulfillment Insight Mastery service.
It’s not just a subjective experience of being in a good mood. It’s the ability to deconstruct physical pain. It’s the ability to understand your spiritual Essence. It’s the ability to be a nicer person and ultimately it’s a natural pull tour happiness is very associated with a life of helping to make the world a better place.
So our definition of happiness is much broader and much deeper than. What is normally connoted by the English word happy which just sort of means you’re in a good mood or your right have good luck recently. It just meant good luck happen happenstance. So yeah happened good one for that. Yeah. Yeah, the words change, you know semantically they develop so originally it just meant lucky and then it meant fortunate and then it meant other things but I use happy in as in a very Broad and very deep way and I would claim that meditative.
Attention skills are directly or indirectly related to every aspect of that happiness issue. Do you find a do you find that a teacher is important to this process? I think having at least one competent coach you are in personal contact with. Say once or twice a year at least to give seems check in on the big picture of your practice.
That’s highly desirable. So the answer is yes if you. Want a high probability of achieving the classical results, then you’d do best to have at least one competent coach that you’re working with notice. I didn’t say that it has to be an exclusive right? Neither. Did I say that it has to be someone that makes claims about being some I don’t know.
World Guru or something like that a competent mindfulness coach. Yes, something a modern mindful as coach is actually a new profession in this world and it’s an interesting perfect. We train them out. Well many teachers do I have a training program run by one of my senior facilitators Julie an array at unified mindfulness.com.
Where. We teach you how to do the techniques and how to teach the techniques at the same time. It’s things are really evolving in in the west here so far away great questions fire away with your next question. The next one is what is your definition of mindfulness? And what does it look like to live a mindful life?
So I would say that different people are going to give different. Definitions of mindfulness. Yes, I wrote a long essay like an 80 page essay called what is mindfulness that sits on the internet? There is sort of ha ha well link to that. So that’s 80 pages and it’s loaded with technical Asian. Arms and in Sanskrit and Pali and Tibetan and so forth.
So clearly there is a lot that we can say about how to define mindfulness. So the most important thing is. There is no definition of mindfulness. There’s just mindfulness as this particular person or organization has chosen to Define it. So I use the word personally. This is just my choice and there are reasons why I made this choice, but I would use the word mindfulness.
As a synonym for contemplative practice. So for me, it’s very very broad. It’s basically synonymous with meditation. Now you would say well why Define it that way the reason is practical mindfulness is an acceptable word. All around the world now and it means car. In the sense of contemplative practice coevolving with science.
So we have a cooperation going on between contemplative practice and science that’s lend that lends credibility to the contemplative practice anywhere in the world. You can give a mindfulness course without the government. Or individuals being upset by the word mindfulness on the other hand if you were to use the word meditation.
That has more loading. It imply, although it could be used synonymously. When you see meditation. Most people first of all don’t think of something linked to science or that has a lot of you know, empirical evidence. Whereas when you see. We’re talking about something where we’re going to show you the brain scans.
We’re going to show you how it works for clinical applications, like pain management addiction recovery. You’re coming at it in a more secular scientific back to base way. I would say I’m. Justifying why I choose to Define mindfulness very broadly because it’s an acceptable word for meditation or contemplative practice in all cultures.
You can have mindfulness in a school system in the US where as a board of education might have some resistance to having meditation in a school system also. Meditation has a strong visual connotation of someone sitting on the floor mellowing out with their eyes closed whereas mindfulness should not have that connotation.
Now, of course in theory meditation can be done in while you’re working and so forth. That’s well known but when you use the English word meditation people. First think of okay someone sitting on the floor. Maybe they’re oming. They’re in a certain posture. Their eyes are closed. They’re withdrawing they’re trying to cool out mellow out common connotation and a common visual image of that m word where and I think that that’s not going to fly in.
Human call him and cultures, but the but if we had a different metaphor that we’re doing exercises that elevate certain attentional skills, and those exercises could be done seated, but they could be done while you’re driving the car. You can mindfully drive your car certainly, so to get away from the notion that were withdrawing and sitting in a certain posture.
And to strengthen the connection with logic and evidence. Or I would I would use the word mindfulness to broadly mean contemplatively practice and I would claim that there are three core skills. That are either. Explicitly or implicitly involved in all meditation practices around the world and their those three skills are concentration power sensory Clarity and Equanimity.
Each of these is a technical term. Concentration is the ability to focus on what you deem relevant. You can think of it as that you can think of sensory clarity as the ability to untangle the sensory strands. What part of self is mental image what part of self is mental talk? What part of self is emotional body sensation what part of self is physical body sensation when those get tangled together, they produce the impression that the mind and body are a thing and a prison that limits your identity when you untangle those strands.
Then the prison bars go away and you’re set free sensory Clarity the ability to divide and conquer break a complex phenomenon into its sensory atoms is. Very Central to the Buddha’s discovery of I like that description. I have never heard that that particular definition of or that phrase and it makes a lot of sense.
Yeah, and then Equanimity you can think of it as non grasping or a relationship to sensory experience, which is the ability to allow sensory experience to come and go without push and pull so. Either explicitly or implicitly these three attentional skills are part make up the contemplative practice of.
Human history East-West ancient and modern now what characterizes the modern mindfulness movement is, two things one. It explicitly talks about all three of these skills, explicitly if someone. Does a program with me and I’m guiding them in meditation. I’m going to give them an technique and as I’m guiding them in the technique, I’m going to say something like.
By bringing your attention back to mental talk space you’re developing concentration by noticing the presence or absence of mental talk. You’re developing sensory Clarity by having no preference with regards to the content of mental talk or even its presence or absence you’re developing. Equanimity so I’ll actually point out how this particular mindfulness techniques that I’m teaching you is developing The Three core skills and I would claim that I can show you how concentration Clarity and Equanimity are an explanatory mechanism for Relief fulfillment in sight.
Mastery and service these basic aspects of Happiness. So I choose to Define mindfulness. as the development and application of those three skills and they are attentional skills or another way to put it is they are. They represent a relationship to sensory experience. Most people do not have the ability to focus on one thing.
If even if they want to most people do not have the ability to parse the somethingness of self. Into mind-body elements most people do not have the ability to experience physical emotional or mental discomfort as a flow of spacious energy. There’s almost inevitably a coagulation around discomfort that causes it to become suffering if you have equanimity.
Your discomfort is Flowing which causes less suffering and your pleasure is also flowing which causes more fulfillment and your sense of self is Flowing which causes you to have a liberated sense of self and so forth. So I would say I would Define mindfulness. As mindful awareness as concentration Clarity and Equanimity working together mindfulness practice is the development and application of those skills the development of those skills and the application of those skills.
To all dimensions of happiness that I mentioned now when you say going just going to the second part of my question about what does it look like to live a mindful life? You’re not talking about going through life very slowly and paying, you know, paying a hundred percent attention to every single thing you do or are you ha ha that is a great question.
And that might be a an interesting. I would almost be tempted to make that question be a litmus test for mindfulness teacher how they answer that question might indicate the depth of their understanding and the subtlety of the understanding because it’s a very interesting. Way to formulate a question.
So here’s how I would put it we do. So you said you know, how important is a teacher? Well, I’m not a believer in like gurus, but I do believe in coach and I believe in competency so you can be a competent modern mindfulness coach. So what you need to be successful. With mindfulness is. you need to do some Retreat practice.
You need to practice in life between Retreats you need to get support from at least one coach and ultimately it’s good to learn to give support to teach it because you discovered that by teaching it. You were the best and yeah. Yeah, that’s that. I’ve always found that the those are the pillars Retreat practice life practice get support give support once those pillars are in place.
What happens well as time? moves on. Your base level of concentration Clarity and Equanimity becomes elevated so I can make an analogy here if we do physical exercise if you work out on a regular basis and you keep it up week after week month after month year after year. Your let’s say that you do a very rounded cross-training kind of exercise.
So we could say that your base level of strength physical strength is going to increase we can also say that your endurance. your cardiovascular is going to increase we can also say that your flexibility will increase because you’re stretching so. Three features of the fabric of your body the physical fabric of your body three features will be.
Sort of permanently changed maybe not permanent permanent because we get old we die. We get sick, but effectively we’re elevating your base level of strength flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. Now what that means is. that that strength is with you all day. You don’t have to be pumping iron.
In order for that strength to be there the strength is always there the exercise elevated. the base level of the strength whether you’re exercising or not at a given moment the strength is there likewise the flexibility is there whether you’re stretching or not and the cardio is there whether you’re on a treadmill or not sure so in the same way.
By doing systematic practice you elevate your base level of concentration Clarity and Equanimity and we’re going to Define your base level of CC and e2b how concentrated clear and equanimous you are as you go about ordinary life activities without particularly trying to be. Concentrated clear or equanimous.
So that’s the measure that’s the way you can in you can kind of look at yourself and see how you’re moving through your other through your world on Let it go unless you’re not so the answer to your question is a mindful life does not necessarily mean all day. You’re going around trying to be mindful.
Not necessarily now when you’re on a retreat you’ll be doing that. So what ordinary life not necessarily however your base level of mindful awareness elevates. So even though you’re not making an effort to necessarily to be mindful you are very very very mindful because it’s on autopilot, right?
It’s second nature, so. I’m sitting I’m standing here talking to you. Okay, I’m just standing by a space heater in my house Northern New England and we’re having a conversation. My bandwidth is going into organizing this conversation. Sure, and I’m also sort of warming my buns here and looking at the you know that we have Leaf peeping in New England.
I’m I’m I’m looking at a postcard of Vermont right now. I’m looking at at the oak trees in the maples, etc. Etc. So this is very ordinary. I would say that my quote State as I’m standing here flailing my arms looking out the window. Using my mind to organize words right my state of consciousness.
Is incomparably deeper right now than it was in the middle of my deepest Retreat 20 years ago. So without particularly trying you actually are going around. 24/7 because it also affects your dreaming life you start to meditate in your dreams even meditate and dreamless sleep. So we’re talking about we’re talking about elevating your base level.
And because we’re elevating the base level. You are in fact stunningly dramatically mindful every single second, but without necessarily having to make an effort to do that. In La especially everybody wants everything immediately right now. When I talk to them about meditation is that it’s not a quick fix.
What does it take to get to that point? Is that a consistent practice over a period of time? Yes. Yeah. It’s it’s a consistent practice over a period of time. So what do you need? You need at least one technique? Some people have a set of techniques. It could be like open presence or it could be a breath counting could be whatever you want.
But you need at least one technique. Maybe you have a whole set of techniques that you organized into a little workout routine, but you need at least one technique and any Focus technique as two sides on one hand it. There’s sort of what you focus on we’ll call that the focus range could be broad or narrow and then there’s sort of how you focus on it.
We’ll call that the instruction set or the focus method. So you need at least one technique. Maybe you have three or four techniques and then you need to. Do Retreat practice life practice get support give support and all of this. I described in the literature on my websites and sure which I’ll be linking to also.
Yeah, so most people can’t get away to residential Retreats. That’s why we created the home practice program where the pipe micro retreats. Into your into your home so you don’t even have to travel and therefore our very tight modules. So that’s the minimal case of retreat practice. Most people around the world are not in a situation where they can get away to a residential retreat, but they could do the home practice program.
Then there’s systematically organizing. Your mindfulness practice each day between Retreats I call that life practice and I’ve got a life practice program where we talk about a systematic way to do that. Then there’s getting support you have at least one competent coach you work with and then there’s giving support which is at some point.
You learn how to teach yourself. So if you have these. Pillars in place and the months and years pass then what happens is your base level of concentration Clarity and Equanimity become elevated as a consequence of that your base level of Happiness becomes elevated. That’s the. final Criterion for is the practice working.
Am I improve is my happiness improving in enough ways fast enough as a result of this practice. Anyone that can answer. Yes to that question. Then I say their practice is well structured. Yeah, and they’re making progress so it’s true. What you say? It’s not necessarily a quick fix, but it compensates for that by being a deep fix about half of the different elements of happiness that I document are impossible without mindfulness skills.
And those are the. The elements of happiness that are independent of conditions so we can’t always know our control conditions. So it’s very important if we want to live our life fully that we have a resource that we know if we encounter physical mental emotional discomfort even in severe. That we know that we have a way of.
Still being in contact with primordial Perfection for real now. So yes, it may not be a quick fix, but it is a deep fix and it may be the only fix many human beings. Will find themselves at some point in their life in a situation where they will either discover the power of mindfulness or they will have to suffer horribly.
The next question is what is the what is your difference between meditation contemplation and prayer? Because I am talking to a lot of different religious religious leaders of with different backgrounds. So there yeah it even seems well. That’s right. You’re going to get a lot of different answers on this.
And once again, it’s just sort of how do you want to think of it? So I use the word meditation.
Pretty much synonymously with mindfulness and as you know, I use mindful awareness to be those attentional skills concentration Clarity and Equanimity. So I would say that meditation practice and mindfulness practice. To me are pretty synonymous as far as now just to get a little bit of background though.
Sure meditation. Well, it’s English. But what what language does it come from? It comes from Latin mitad. Talk to you meta tatio. Contemplation. Well, it’s English, but it comes from Latin contemplative. In traditional Christianity sometimes meditation and contemplation are distinguished. In fact, sometimes there’s a four-fold distinction lectio.
Meda tatio. Ruma natio. Contemplative. This is a traditional Christian terminology. I believe associated with Saint Benedict. At least a Benedictine nun told me this lectio is you read the scriptures that the Psalms or whatever a passage you just read it, maybe out loud lectio, right? It’s Latin for.
Then in this case Meda tatio. Which literally would be meditation it just means you think about the passage that you just read you intellectually. Think about it. They use sometimes meditation means just think about right and room and RTO which gives us the English word rumination. Like chewing your cud you bring it back up.
So room and not Tio is you’re not you’re not thinking about it anymore, but it’s got your embodying the impact of the scripture reading. In the substance of the fell substance of your soul and that’s called room room and natio and then in a very technical sense contemplate EO or contemplation in this framework means you completely go beyond form.
Time-space self and World disappear. This is technically called infused contemplation. So sometimes in Christianity meditation is just a certain level of practice a depth and contemplation refers to an incomparably deeper. Also known as infused contemplation like Saint John of the Cross and Juan De La Cruz.
Says so Todo it hmmm. the Honda me cuidado. And three last asanas all votado. That’s a poem in Spanish called The Dark Night of the Soul where he describes infused contemplation Cecil total everything stopped Edith Emma, and I was set free they handle me cuidado relieved of all concerned. And 3 Los asesinos all vedado my worries forgotten among the lilies.
That’s a poetic description of formlessness Ryan fuse contemplation or what we would call well anyway. Emptiness in Buddhism sure. So sometimes contemplation means that but sometimes contemplation just means a lifestyle you were either in an active lifestyle meaning you were in service. Or you were in a contemplatively lifestyle meaning your cloistered and mostly pray and meditate or you’re in a mixed lifestyle and these are for the different Christian orders, like the carmelites the benedictines Dominicans franciscans and so forth.
So anyway, these are some of the ways that those terms are used. Within Christianity, so it’s quite complex really there really is. No. Hey, this is what meditation means this is what contemplation thanks. There’s there’s no it’s not like this is what energy means this is what power means the charge what actually physics.
Yeah. It’s not physics in physics. We know what these words mean sure, but but so far in. World meditation, we’re not out of common vocabulary yet. Although I suspect we’ll be there within a century or two the way the dialoguing is taking place now. So as far as prayer goes, well, once again whose definition the Catholic Church says, there’s two kinds of prayer discursive prayer that involves words and images.
And non-discursive prayer that involves. something beyond words and images. Both of those are considered forms of prayer. So from that point of view infused contemplation is the highest form of prayer according to traditional Christianity, right so I don’t myself. I have my own definitions. You can read TS Eliot read his poem little getting where he talks about the essence of prayer.
You have someone says what’s prayer I would have a tendency to give a poetic answer. Let me just this is a incredible poem. Little getting Elliot talks about. Prayer in its deepest sense is how do we promote compassion in ourselves? And in the world around us? I would say. a couple things come to mind one is.
Let’s just set up put it in a little more explicit terms. So some people are unhappy about the political situation in the US for example, and so when that situation arose of course or when these situations arise people, Constantly come to me, you know, do you have a suggestion? You know what to do Etc.
I have a phrase that I like to use. Okay, that’s sort of summarizes the whole thing sort of idiosyncratic way of talking and thinking so my phrase is. Love deeply and act effectively. That’s good. So you heard me before say, you know, hey, I’m giving technical terms to love deeply is.
a. noble aspiration it.
Is something that might take a while to develop but it’s worth it. It’s worth devoting one’s entire life because in the end it’s what everyone really wants. So let’s say that there’s something in the world that is troublesome to you. Some one or group of people that are doing things that untenable unacceptable in your way of thinking so.
acting effectively means taking measures that really work in the real world to improve that situation. That’s what acting effectively means now part of acting effectively means to understand how the world works. You can’t act effectively unless you understand deeply how the world works. But another part of acting effectively is to not be distorted by suffering.
And you’ll recall that I mentioned first off relief from suffering is a one of the major answers to the question why meditate or and suffering has two sides subjectively. It’s it blocks the Perfection of the moment, but object if we it can drive and distort our our behaviors sure so that even though you may understand how the world works.
You’re you’re unable to act effectively because of the distorting forces. Due to the suffering that you’re going through compassion composite EO mean in Latin means share the pain so you share the pain but I would encourage people not to share the suffering and that is a subtle but very important distinction Compassion or sympathy means you resonate with the pain.
You experience it fully as you would experience your own pain you experience the other person’s pain. Does it hurt? Yes. Does that Brock block the primordial Perfection? No, right and therefore if you understand deeply how the world works. And you’re willing to let go of certain perhaps preconceptions about how you’d like it to work or how it should work.
Now. That’s not a thing. That’s an understand how the world Works
thing sure and you so that’s you have to go to you have to learn that but a meditation component is. In addition to understanding how the world works you are not distorted in your perceptions or your actions due to suffering you just feel the pain it motivates and directs. Your actions but it doesn’t drive in distort your actions as it tends to so acting effectively.
There’s two parts one is understand how the world works and that may that may require a letting go of a certain preconception or wishful thinking about how the world works. You have to understand how it works. I don’t that’s not my specialty. I can’t tell you but I know I could make it my specialty.
I could study political science and I would study if I studied it. I would study it with a very open mind. I have my own. I have my own beliefs and prejudices for sure. And I have candidates that I like and dislike intensely for sure. But that’s not based on a good knowledge of how the world works.
I don’t claim to that’s just based on my prejudices, right if I really wanted to know how the world works. I would study political science economics and I would study it from a. A very neutral point of view not from my own prejudices. But anyway, and I would try to find out how does it really work.
So two things the meditation can allow you not to suffer because of the way the world works and then if you understand how the world works now you’re in a position to act effectively you need those two things, but then what about love deeply. Let’s say that there’s a certain person that does things in the world and I I disagree with what they’re doing and I think that it hurts a lot of people.
How do I know this person exists? And it’s doing what they’re doing. I don’t ask this as a rhetorical question or even a philosophical kind of question. I mean literally, how do I know the way I know is through my senses I turn on the internet. I see this person. I hear them. If I was in their presence, maybe I shake their hand or something.
I’d have physical contact with them. So that’s outer see here field. But if I’m not listening to them and looking at them are shaking their hand, I could be thinking about them. I have an inner see hear feel. All right. I have a mental image. I hear what they say. I hear what I would say in response in my talk space and I have emotions maybe rage tear grief shame and so forth in my emotional body.
So some combination of inner and or outer see hear feel in the moment arises. That lets me know this person the situation exists in the world. Now the question is. what is your base level of concentration Clarity and Equanimity recall that your base level of mindful awareness is how mindful you are in ordinary life doing ordinary things when you’re not particularly trying to be mindful.
Right. So let’s say that I turn on the internet and I look at the political news and I start to think about politics. I’m not particularly trying to be mindful, but I’m seeing I’m hearing I’m feeling if my base level of mindful awareness is high enough. In fact, and now I have to pause for a moment and apologize.
Okay, there’s a big sharp turn a head in the road. Okay, a big sharp turn warning. Okay hairpin turn in this conversation. Okay. Okay. I’ve warned everyone the next thing I say maybe a little bit on the weird side. Okay, if there’s enough constant concentration Clarity and Equanimity in the inner and outer see hear feel and sound touch sight sound touch mental image mental talk and body motion.
That’s what I mean by inner and outer see hear feel if your base level of mindfulness is high enough. Okay. So here’s the weird Zen poetry. Okay, in fact you do not see. Hear and feel. the world. You manifest the world you cold participate with Consciousness in loving? Each person and each thing literally loving them.
Into existence from nothing and loving them back into nothing. Moment by moment that is the activity of Consciousness at the deepest level. Remember when you understand yourself at the deepest level you understand that each of the ten trillion something’s. That constitutes an experience in a person’s life each of those arise from one nothing.
So all of our experiences are actually manifestations of a kind of cosmic love that you participate in and so the first thing that you experience. When you think about a person that maybe is unacceptable in their actions the first thing that you experience before you act effectively before at the instant of arising you experience consciousness.
Loving that person into existence in your inner and outer see hear feel in real time. Right? I’m more primero this perception that the universe is our Consciousness or I same thing, uh-huh are loving each thing that I see hear feel. Into existence moment-by-moment. that. participation with Consciousness in the creation.
So instead of perceiving a world you manifest the world. So a primordial love comes first and then. Effective actions. Can be based on that so that’s when that when the first thing you experience is the universe loving each of its parts into existence as you perceive that part when that’s the first thing.
And you don’t have to work on it. You can’t avoid it Christians used to call it the practice of the presence of God, you don’t you don’t go don’t go to church anymore because you can’t leave church every place is church. So that’s what I mean by loving deeply it’s a lifelong Endeavor. But what else are we going to do?
So love deeply. And act effectively. is what I would recommend for more compassion in the world. Do you see do you see the act of the actin practice of meditation and and what we’ve been talking about as do you see this as a result of that? It isn’t something that you actually have to go after because it just comes to you when you when you start to Envision the world and bring the bring the world into it.
Well, it’s I would say that I just described a facet of the column of Happiness called understanding yourself at the deepest level. Okay? So are we good? Have we covered most of your questions? I think we’ve covered them all and I I just I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this and I’m honored by the time that you’ve spent with me.
So do we have a do we have another five minutes? We certainly have another five minutes. So I’m just going to read a poem uh-huh part of the four quartets by TS Eliot. Okay, this is little getting and there’s a lot that you can say about this a lot in the cliff notes.
Eliot once said that. you don’t necessarily have to understand a poem in order to feel it. So those listening may not understand all the specifics. Of this little getting poem because there’s a lot of history and literary allusions and footnotes connections and so forth. We’re not going to go into that.
So you may not understand the details, but you will be able to feel something. It’s a poem about the nature of prayer, but it’s also. So one thing that you and I didn’t get into is there’s another way to define mindfulness, which is present centered non-judgmental awareness. Right. You’ve probably heard that now that’s John Cabot sins phraseology, right?
I would I would say though that you could say that present centered is enough if you’re in the absolute present. You can’t be judgmental. There’s no time or space to be judgmental. So a case could be made that another definition of mindful. Awareness is absolute present centered. Now what Elliot did is he wrote a poem you asked about prayer, right?
So for him prayer so Elliot was a Conservative Christian. Who lived in the 20th century most of his life in England? Although he was born in the US and he considered his profession to be a religious poet. And he said the job of a religious poet is not to try to convince someone else of your religion, but to give someone else the experience of what it is.
To be in your religion. So Elliot was high Church of England High Church Anglican. And so it’s very similar to Catholicism really just the King instead of the Pope running the church sure, but the sacraments and the theology is pretty similar. So he. He wrote this poem about Christian meditative practice.
But of course it’s a poem about all meditative practice called the four quartets. He was what’s interesting is although he was primarily Christian. He was very strongly influenced by him. Hinduism and Buddhism really so that the yeah, that’s a very interesting combination. Yeah. He actually learned Sanskrit and Pali when he was at Harvard.
This is in this is still in the 1800’s right late 1800s. You had to really have an interest in index civilization to study those kinds of languages at that time. You know, that was. Even now Sanskrit in college is relatively esoteric what to say of you know, the 1890s of but anyway, he wrote this poem about the Christian experience of meditation entirely based on the notion of being in the presence moment.
Absolutely. and also because it’s a poem about. The power and desirability of the absolute present. It’s also a poem about how miserable it is to not be in the present moment. Right? So like I say, I’d like to give all the cliff notes on this, but we don’t have time but but people should be able.
To feel it one last thing. I’ll say this poem was written in the at the height of World War Two when England was being blitzed fire bombed by Germany and Eliot wrote this. As an inspiration to his fellows British subjects. You know anyone can write. Nationalistic. patriotic poetry anyone can write that but only only the Great’s can write a patriotic poem.
That transcends nationality at the same time. Okay, right, right. It tastes the like of an Eliot to do that sure and you’ll see that he’s pulled it off. So it’s a poem about surviving the war. He was he was a fire. Marshall our fire warden so, you know he had to like deal with these buildings burning and whatever it was very real to him.
So it’s about surviving the war but it’s also about transcending time and space at the same time and and it describes nature and. the cycles of time. And the Transcendence of time in the cycles of nature. So here we go. Okay Mid Winter Spring is its own season simp eternals or sodden towards son Sundown suspended in time between pole and Tropic when the short day.
Is brightest with frost and fire the brief Sun Flames the ice on pond and ditches. In windlass cold. That is the hearts heat reflecting in a watery mirror a glare that is Blindness. In the early afternoon. That glare that is brought blindness. In the early afternoon, that’s the clear light of the void and a glow more intense than blaze of Branch or Brazier stirs.
stirs the dumb spirit. No wind, but Pentecostal fire in the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing the souls sap Quivers. There is no Earth smell or smell of living thing. This is the springtime but not in times Covenant. Now the Hedge grow is now the Hedge grow is Blanche for an hour with transitory Blossom of snow.
a bloom more sudden than that of Summer neither budding. nor fading. Not in the scheme of generation. He’s talking about what the Christians called The Unborn the uncreated light of Mount Tabor and so forth. So not in the scheme of generation the on generated light of the Void. Where is the summer the unabashed?
Sorry, I get a little for Klimt, you know emotional when I read this. Where is the summer the unimaginable zero summer? Completed complete Enlightenment. Okay. This is intermediate Enlightenment. He’s describing here right midwinter spray. So he’s not describing is going to describe a place called little getting which had been a small angle of cutting contemplative community that got caught up in the politics of the.
English Civil War with Cromwell and the you know, the Puritans and what have you and the. government destroyed the community but the remnants are there and it’s called Little getting so he’s describing this this community that had been a contemporary of community just described destroyed because they were loyal to.
Loyalty to the king yeah as opposed to Cromwell. So if you came this way taking the root you would like be likely to take. From the place you wish be likely to come from if you came. This way in May time. You would find the edges white again in May with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same. at the end of the journey.
Sorry, if you came at night like a broken King if you came by day. Not knowing what you came for it would be the same. When you leave the rough road. And turn behind the pigsty to the doll facade and the tombstones. And what you thought? You came for his own is only a shell a husk of meaning from which the purpose breaks forth only when it is fulfilled if at all either you had no purpose or the purpose is beyond where the purpose is beyond the end you figured and altered in.
Fulfillment. There are other sorry there are other places which are also the worlds. The World’s End some in the see jaws or over a dark late or in a desert or a city but this is the nearest In Time. In place and time now and in England if you came this way taking any route starting from. Anywhere at anytime or any season it would always be the same you would have to put off since and notion you are not here to verify.
It’s struct yourself or informed curiosity or carry report. You are here to Neil where prayer has been valid. and prayer is more than an order of words the conscious occupation of the prey mind or the sound of the voice brain and. And what the dad had no speech for when living? They can tell you being dead.
The communication of the communication of the Dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living. Here the intersection of the Timeless moment he is. England. And nowhere, never and always. That’s what Elliot has to say about prayer. Sorry. I lose my composure when I reach the greatest works of art.
So there you go. Thank you. So very very much.
Are you got it?