Meditation + Talk: Anxiety – and the Noble Truth of Cessation

Meditation + Talk: Anxiety – and the Noble Truth of Cessation

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 33-minute meditation and 49-minute talk and discussion about the Four Noble Truths in terms of anxiety, focusing on the Third Truth: Anxiety and Cessation. You can find notes for this talk here.

I hope you find it helpful, and you are welcome to join my free Wednesday Meditations – open to everyone!

Meditation: Anxiety – and the Noble Truth of Cessation

Talk: Anxiety – and the Noble Truth of Cessation

Dāna offering:

These teachings are offered freely, at no charge.

To practice generosity through making an offering – called “dāna” in the language of early Buddhism – please enter your email and donation amount below. Once you click “Donate” you will be directed to PayPal, where you can pay via credit card (no PayPal account required) or your PayPal account.

Would you like to make this an automatic, recurring weekly donation?*
Would you like to make this an automatic, recurring weekly donation?
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Generosity itself is a beautiful practice that opens and gladdens the heart, relaxes the contraction of “self,” and ripples out into the world to touch many people – and perhaps, eventually, even oneself.

Additionally, many expressions of generosity are not about money. People offer attention, encouragement, and patience many times a day. Sometimes we withhold when it would be so easy, actually, to listen quietly for another minute or to offer a word of appreciation or simply a look that says, “I’m with you.” Try being a little more generous for a day and see what happens.

Anxiety and the Noble Truth of Cessation Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:02] I hope the meditation was good for you. And tonight, what I’d like to talk about is the Buddha’s third noble truth, the truth that we can indeed bring our craving and our suffering to an end. We can bring them to cessation, in other words. And I’m going to explore two different kinds of cessation and two different kinds of ways to enable cessation to occur. First, a little bit of context. If you’d like, you can go back and take a look at the notes from the previous two talks on both the first and the second noble truths. Tonight’s about the third one, cessation of craving and suffering. You can also listen to the talk and do the meditation from the previous weeks if you want. Overall, this year, I’m going to be focusing on what in many ways is the heart of the Buddha’s teachings: the four noble truths. The truths that ennoble us as we practice with them. And right now, I’m giving an overview of the four noble truths through the lens of anxiety. I’m presenting a fair amount of material in a kind of packed summary. Fear not, there will be no midterm. I hope you don’t get anxious about not getting everything I’m saying about anxiety. You can come back to it and we’re going to take the rest of the year to unpack these topics, particularly in their practical, experiential implications. I’ll keep moving along tonight, and hopefully there will be some time for discussion. But I just want to acknowledge and apologize upfront that I can’t possibly get to all of the questions that come in. What you see in the public chat is kind of a fraction of the total, including questions that come to me privately. OK? You can get notes from the previous classes if you go to the page Wednesday Meditations, which I think I may have put in that chat. I’m going to put it in that chat right now. Sending a note to everyone. Great. And if you just take a look there, you’ll see it. Also, you can go to the archive where you will definitely see my notes and talk on the first and second noble truths.

[00:02:43] You know, the Buddha emphasized learning. He taught a lot. I was in a room with the Dalai Lama—I was very fortunate many years ago—and he emphasized the point of understanding things. It’s not the primary matter, understanding things as a means to the end of experiential transformation, but it’s an important means to that end. Okey doke, let’s begin.

[00:03:13] OK, so, looking through these topics through the lens of anxiety, it would help if there was something specific that you had in mind. Some particular worry or concern, like, I, right here, I’m suddenly getting a little worried that, oh, we don’t have all the gizmos working on my website. You know, the donation button this, we haven’t properly posted the talks that, oh, what are we going to do about it? You know, it’s a fairly minor thing. You might have a perhaps more acute, or intense, or even chronic worry or anxiety or concern. Some maybe underlying general feeling of foreboding or dread, uneasiness. Maybe anxiety first thing in the morning, which is really quite common, in part because we’re at a physiological low at that time, the body’s very vulnerable and undefended. So, it’s natural that if we’re inclined to anxiety, we might feel it acutely then. And then less so as we get more active and metabolically engaged and revved up over the course of the day. Or maybe there’s somebody in your life, an adult child, a not adult child, state of your country, state of the world that you’re anxious about. So, it helps if you have one particular thing.

[00:04:33] Second point, as a bit of a frame, certainly factors out there in the world and factors in our own body, such as health concern or a, you know, pain in your back—a friend of mine just broke his ankle badly, you know, he said he’s never experienced such pain in his life—you know, that can actually make you anxious. We’re going to focus here on factors inside your own mind. In other words, mental factors that promote anxiety and also mental or psychological, broadly, interventions for anxiety. Not because that’s better than or more important than intervening out in the world or in your physical body, but because it’s what I’m going to focus on. And I do think it has some merit because it’s always a field of opportunity and you take the fruits of your practice always with you, wherever you go, no matter what worldly conditions or bodily conditions are the case.

[00:05:31] Anxiety further appears as both a state and a trait. In other words, we can feel nervous, let’s say, as a passing experience, and we can also feel nervous as an ongoing background kind of quivering or humming, you know, in the background of awareness. States and traits foster each other in circular ways. So, for example, having a background trait of uneasiness, unsettledness, a predisposition to worry can intensify states of anxiety, experiences of anxiety in particular situations. Also, experiences, states of anxiety, particularly with repetition, can become internalized. They can lead to lasting physical traces, they can leave lasting physical traces behind in changes in neural structure or function. This is a natural process of learning whereby our states can become traits. This process of learning is mainly somatic and emotional and motivational and attitudinal. In other words, it’s what’s called implicit learning. Yes, we can have explicit recollections of particular events and explicit knowledge, let’s say. Those are you under the heading of explicit learning. But most of our learning is implicit. It’s the accumulating residues of lived experience that kind of stick to us. They stick to the body in effect as they pass through the mind. This process of implicit learning, the process of the conversion from states to traits, which does apply to positive states and positive traits certainly, is intensified negatively by what’s called the brain’s evolved negativity bias. I’ve written a lot about this. This is not my made up theory. There’s a lot of research that supports the idea of the negativity bias, the fact it. For a quick summary, I’ll say that over the 600 million year evolution of the nervous system, it heightened survival to gradually evolve a nervous system and brain that does five things routinely. And you can be aware of this when you look into your own mind. Looking for bad news. What might go wrong? Who might leave me? What might break? Right? What, you know what might be, you know, how I might be getting sick? You know, we, you know, we look both internally and externally for bad news routinely. OK? Second, we over focus upon negative stimuli. When things are fine, we tend to stay open to the whole field. But when one red light is flashing on the dashboard out there in the world or inside our own minds, that’s what we focus on. Third, we overreact to negative stimuli, or we act more intensely to negative stimuli than to, you know, positive stimuli. So we, you know, get more upset typically by loss than by gain. We’re more affected by criticism than praise, typically. You know, one bad event, one bad interaction with our partner or colleague tends to have more impact than five or 10 or 20, you know, good interactions. Right? We’re more affected. That’s third. And then fourth, the whole package is preferentially fast tracked into memory. We tend to, you know, we learn more from experiences of pain typically than from pleasure. There are some examples of a positivity bias, but on the whole, the negativity bias is very real, very pervasive and generally more powerful. We’re rapidly affected. We rapidly remember when things don’t go well, fourth. And then fifth, the process of all this, in the process of all this through the stress hormone cortisol that goes into the brain and overstimulates the amygdala, the alarm bell of the brain, and cortisol weakens a different part of the brain, the hippocampus, that calms down the alarm bell amygdala. And the hippocampus puts things in context, and the hippocampus tells the hypothalamus in your brain to quit calling for stress hormones. Enough stress hormones already. So in effect, stress today jacks up our reactivity to stress while weakening our resilience a little bit, which then tomorrow makes us an extra little bit more vulnerable to feeling upset, to feeling anxious, to feeling hurt, frazzled, frustrated, or helpless. Which then text tends to make us be a little more sensitive, a little more reactive, a little more vulnerable the day after that in a vicious cycle. This is designed by Mother Nature. Thanks, mom. Right? You know, this is designed by Mother Nature to help our ancestors survive. We’re here because they went negative a lot. OK? It’s not the only way they went. But it’s a major way they went, so it’s not a bad thing. And in fact, the negativity bias can really be helpful under certain conditions today. But on the whole, it creates a lot of unnecessary suffering and conflicts with other people. So, you might want to reflect on your own worries, your own anxieties, including the ways that anxiety plays a role in your mind, even if it’s not apparent. When you procrastinate or put things off or swerve away from doing something you know would be good for you, but you don’t want to risk feeling, you know, bad about it. So anxiety plays a role there. In regard to your own anxieties, how has the negativity bias been a factor for you, in terms of looking for bad news, over-focusing upon it, overreacting to it, overlearning from it, and gradually sensitizing yourself to it along the way? In other words, in what ways have you overlearned from your bad experiences in the conversion of states to traits and underlearned from your good ones? We’ve got a brain that’s naturally like Velcro for bad experiences, but Teflon for good ones. It’s worth reflecting on the role of the negativity bias. It’s not your fault. It is your responsibility for what you will do with it in your own life.

[00:12:37] For me, the takeaway is kind of straightforward from all this, and it’s been really useful to zero in on these three things. Deal with the bad. For sure. Deal with the bad in practical ways as best you can and deal with it in your own mind by practicing with it. And in particular being mindful of it, relating to whatever’s painful, whatever is frightening in your own mind with spacious awareness so that there’s a lot of space around it. One way we can train in that is through meditations in which we practice spaciousness, and a vastness, and a sense of awareness, like the vast sky through which clouds of reactions and other experiences come and go. You know, that’s one. Deal with the bad, for sure. No positive thinking here. Deal with the bad. And turn to the good. Turn to the good news that’s also true, whatever it might be, not to cover over the bad, but to see what is also the case. Turn to the good news inside yourself. The good news of your own capabilities, your own good heart, your own innate natural goodness. And third, take in the good. Deal with bad, turn to the good, and take in the good, so you can gradually hardwire psychological strengths of various kinds such as grit, gratitude, compassion, and happiness itself into your own nervous system. All right. That’s very practical.

[00:14:15] So, with that is context now, I’d like to talk about what kind of cessation and then talk about how can cessation happen. So, let’s consider two kinds of cessation. The first kind is incremental, gradual, fading away. If you think about things you’ve been worried about, let’s say, there’s an incremental, gradual process whereby there’s an easing, a diminishing, a removing, a fading away of suffering and its causes. I think there are three major ways this tends to happen with anxiety and with being upset in general, we become less easily triggered. It takes more and more to really, really get us going. I’ve practiced a fair amount in my life and I can still get caught, but it kind of needs to take me by surprise or be pretty intense or related to a particular chink in my armor left over from childhood. But on the whole, you know, a person can gradually become less easily triggered. Second way that incremental gradual change can occur is that we can have less intense reactions to the same triggers. We might get triggered, but instead of on the 0-10 reactivity scale, you know, what used to be an 8, now it’s more like it’s like a 2. And then third, we recover more rapidly back to a healthy equilibrium. You know, maybe it becomes a 2 and we come back to baseline within a few minutes rather than a few hours. So those are three examples of a process of gradual incremental change. All right.

[00:16:16] Second kind of cessation that can occur is qualitative. Like you go along quantitatively and then, kaboom, there’s a breakthrough. Sudden, right? There can be a sudden rapid marked shift into becoming less anxious about something. Suddenly, you’re not nervous anymore. Or suddenly there’s a dramatic reduction of fear about something. You know, if you look really, really closely, you might find a few molecules left. But on the whole, clear. Clear skies. You know, maybe not a complete release, but definitely a marked change. So here, can you think about an example in which you had a kind of breakthrough about something? There was like a shift, or maybe you didn’t even know what happened, but you went to bed worried about something and you woke up the next day and you weren’t worried and you’ve never been worried about that since. Or maybe somebody said something to you that helped you realize something about yourself. You know, I had a kind of insight when I was in my early 20s that growing up I had been a nerd, but not a wimp. And that reframing really of a whole bunch of history, a whole bunch of personal, autobiographical episodes with other kids in particular—I was very young going through school, kind of scrawny with glasses, but I was not a wimp, you know. I was stubborn, and determined, and I stood up for myself when the chips were down. You know, reframing things like that cleared out a lot of stuff. So, you might have some example of that yourself. I think back on the S training days in the mid 70s and we would talk about just pulling the whole stack. Sometimes you get to the tip of the root. That’s the metaphor I typically use, the tip of the root. All gone. OK? All right. And meanwhile, key point, no matter whether your anxiety is ceasing incrementally and gradually, or whether your anxiety is ceasing suddenly and qualitatively, you can keep coping, meanwhile. This is a critically important point. We can be alert, vigilant, wary, cautious, prudent walking down a dark street in the middle of the night. We can be, you know, definitely alert, determined, and gritty, stubborn on our own behalf, full of moxie for ourselves, all without feeling anxious. It’s really interesting to experience managing threats like rock climbing or driving in traffic while, you know, being maybe a little heightened, a little revved up, a little activated, but not worried, not upset, not bothered by the situation you’re in. And this speaks to the metaphor of the Buddha and the great possibility in the distinction between the first and second darts of life.

[00:19:36] The first darts are inescapable physical, emotional and social pain. No way around it. It’s just part of having a body, part of biology, part of being human. Then there are the second darts that we throw ourselves. In the kind of famous saying, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” And so you might ask yourself, how much is your own anxiety and other forms of suffering based on an unnecessary overreaction to something? Like, do you really have to be that worried about that, especially realizing that you can let go of worrying, you can let go of apprehensiveness and fear while still firmly, seriously, coping? How much of your anxiety and other forms of suffering are based on unnecessary overreactions including things like ruminating about stuff, worrying about it, beating yourself up about it, rehashing conversations with other people way past the point that’s useful? I think the teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche one time said, “Think the same thought again and again; that’s fine. No worries. But 10 is enough.” In other words, at some point you just go, “There’s no more value here.” OK? Anything beyond that is needless suffering. OK?

[00:21:03] So, we have two forms of cessation. Two kinds of ending of our suffering, including the suffering of anxiety. Incrementally and qualitatively, suddenly, two kinds. Now how does cessation happen? Cessation happens because it has causes. It is a conditioned phenomenon. All right, what are the conditions that lead to cessation? Right? What are its sources? What are the factors that lead to it or promote it? Now, of course, before we go any further, we have to ask the question: Does the person really want cessation or at least reduction of their own suffering? You may have heard the lighthearted but still profound joke: Question. How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer. Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. All right. So, ask yourself. It’s worth asking yourself in terms of your own real motivations related to anxiety and any other issue, do you really want to change? How much do you want to change? All the great teachers have really talked about motivation. Motivation is really central. Not motivation that’s stressful, contracting, and pressured, because that just keeps fostering the suffering and the contraction and the selfing that ostensibly we’re motivated to relieve. You know, our methods are actually perpetuating the problem if we get too uptight about it. But still, there’s a place for clear eyed, steadfast intentions. You might ask yourself, what are some of the functions that my anxieties serve or my frustrations or my hurts, or my sense of inadequacy or my anger? What are the functions that this serves? And which of these functions are problematic? You know, what are the payoffs that I’m getting out of this to some extent? This is not about blaming yourself, it’s about just a clear eyed look which can actually help you realize that you might be able to serve those functions, whichever functions are actually useful, in a more kind of mature, effective, less harmful ways. Mature as in maybe more psychologically, more adultlike, less childlike, perhaps. All right. And what might help you be even more committed? However committed you are to your own healing, purification, training, and awakening, what might help you be more committed? One thing that’s been helping me lately is deepening my relationships with people that are farther along the path than I am. And just in relationship with them, in sangha—in community—with them, being drawn increasingly in their direction. So—and also it’s helped me recently to kind of implement a much more consistent 45 minute meditation. You know, more time for practice that supported my motivation during the course of the day. What’s been helpful for you or what could be helpful for you in terms of your motivation in being the light bulb who really, really wants to change? OK.

[00:24:23] So, to continue, how does cessation happen? A useful answer to this question, I think I mentioned it last week, comes from Bodhidharma, a semi legendary individual who, around the fifth century of the common era, around a thousand years after the Buddha lived, apparently right around that time Bodhidharma, or several people unified as Bodhidharma, whatever, brought Buddhist teachings into China. And Bodhidharma—and I’m going to summarize and simplify and probably mangle some things here—said that practice was, and the process of awakening, he likened it to a cart with two wheels following two tracks. So the two tracks that lead to the cessation, the two wheels, the two engines, let’s say, that lead to the cessation of craving and suffering. First track is the process of developmental change, of healing, training, and purifying one’s mind. There is, in this process, the building of the three traditional pillars of practice in the teachings of the Buddha. First, virtue, morality, restraint. The word for that is Sila, in Pali, the language of early Buddhism. The second major pillar of practice alongside personal virtue is mindfulness, stability of presence, steadiness of mind, concentration, meditative absorption, the jhanas, these non-ordinary states of consciousness summarized in the right concentration element of the Eightfold Path. This is the second pillar of Samadhi. And third, there is the development of better understanding of how your mind works, observing impermanence, realizing more and more deeply how suffering is made, how it’s constructed in real time, developing wise intentions, and accumulating wisdom. This is the third pillar of what’s called Panna, in Pali. So, we have Sila, Samadhi, and Panna. These are built over time. In effect, in this process of developmental change, the first of the two wheels of the cart of awakening, we can cultivate capabilities and other inner strengths that reduce or end, bring to cessation, our anxiety and other forms of suffering. Good.

[00:27:00] This process of developmental change, of course, must involve lasting changes in the nervous system. Any kind of lasting change of mind must involve lasting change of body, notably in the brain. This is the process of durable alterations of neural structure and function that underlie durable alterations of character, of personality, of a felt sense of what it’s like to be you, you know, on average on a typical day. This process of physical change is summarized or is based on what’s called experience dependent neuroplasticity. Or as Donald Hebb, or the work of Donald Hebb was used to summarize this process of neuroplastic change as, “Neurons that fire together, can wire together.” All right? So, we have developmental process that must involve, you know, developmental change in the body as well. Or in simpler terms, in the traditional metaphor, your mind takes its shape from what it rests upon. What does your mind rest upon routinely? You know? Does it rest upon what you’re worried about all the time, past the point of what’s useful? Does it rest upon resentments and grievances with others? Or are you able to rest your mind upon the good news of your own good nature and your own opportunities? For example, the good that is real. Not as a spiritual bypass, not to look on the bright side, but to gain the benefits in the moment of resting your mind there and to gain the benefits over time of acquiring traits, beneficial traits, by resting your mind there.

[00:28:53] Now, this process of developmental change is really centered. It’s at the center of the teachings of the Buddha as best we know about them and his immediate contemporaries, as summarized in what’s called the Pali—the language of early Buddhism—Canon, this collection of teachings that were finally put down in writing and in records that survived several centuries after the Buddha lived. So, there’s some uncertainty about the exactness of them. But in any case, there’s basically books that are this long that summarize a lot a lot of teachings. I think of that kind of semi seriously semi facetiously as original Buddhism. So, not quite like OG, you know, original gangsta. It’s original Buddhism. But that’s really, you know, the heart of the Theravadan tradition. And it’s been the heart of my own personal practice and training. This process of developmental change is really central there. Then and now, many, many people have gotten enormous value from it, me included, and some have taken it all the way to full enlightenment. So, this is the first wheel of the cart of awakening. And as Bodhidharma usefully pointed out, in the Mahayana tradition that kind of took off from original Buddhism has really focused on, we can recognize true nature. We can recognize the true nature, the original nature, of all phenomena, all experiences, all phenomena, including ourselves. Everything. What is the original nature, the underlying deep nature of everything inside and outside, here and there, everywhere, always? Buddha nature. Show me your original face before you were born. Or as the Zen master, Hakuin, put it, “pointing directly to the heartmind, see your own nature, and become Buddha.” This true nature is beyond words. And, of course, lots of people have tried to talk about it, and I’m trying, inexpertly, to talk about it tonight.

[00:31:26] Henry Shukman, wonderful teacher, wonderful writer, guest teacher a few weeks ago, wrote a beautiful book about the realization of a true nature. His book, One Blade of Grass. He emphasizes the quality of love, certainly in the sense of the generous endless arising of all things, and certainly in our response to the recognition of original, true nature. But perhaps even as an innate quality in the nature of everything, he wrote, “Original love is the ocean. It’s been there all along. Finally, there is no difference anymore between us and it. And that is a great, great blessing.” That’s from Henry.

[00:32:23] So, the Mahayana traditions generally do not ascribe theistic attributes. The Buddhist traditions do not generally ascribe theistic attributes to original nature. In other traditions, such as Christianity, though, some are explicit about this, such as Mother Julian of Norwich, who said, “We are not just made by God, we are made of God.” And people can interpret that tricky, three letter word in a whole variety of ways. We are made of, you can fill in the blank. In Hinduism, for example, there is the fundamental teaching of, I think in Sanskrit, tat tvam asi. Thou art that. The union, we could say, of the relative and the absolute. You can find similar language about original nature, the ground, the infinite, the ultimate, pervading everything. You can find similar language in other traditions, such as non-dual Advaita and other wisdom traditions around the world, including those of the indigenous First Peoples. I’ve gotten particular value from the teachings and example of both Adyashanti and John Prendergast, and I can certainly recommend their work highly to you.

[00:33:54] Now, there’s often an emphasis on recognizing original nature in the present, in the ordinary mind of everyday life. You may have the recognition of the original nature of yourself, the deep, true nature, always already nature of yourself in some kind of dramatic episode. Henry Shukman, for example, has written beautifully about a number of those for himself. Or you may have a simple sense of the underlying ground to be being, the mysterious, beyond words nature of everything simply in this space between thoughts or simply an airing out in the spaciousness of the unknotting, of the untangling of some kind of knot of anxiety. You know, we don’t need to journey to great places or distances. We don’t need to go far, far away. I think Dogen said this quite eloquently, more eloquently than I’m going to do it right now. We can, in the present, right now, look right at the center of an experience and ask ourself, what’s there? What is there?

[00:35:22] Now, here’s a really important point. Both of these ways of fostering cessation, both of these tracks, work. The process of developmental change, really foregrounded in the original teachings of the Buddha, can lead to sudden qualitative shifts of consciousness, including that shift into nibbana, nirvana, much as the process of developmental change can lead to incremental gradual growth. Similarly, getting in touch with your original nature, the true nature of all of us and everything, getting in touch with it can support gradual incremental growth. It gives you a sense of a refuge. It gives you a feeling of, you know, even as, there’s a gradual training, and healing, and purifying of the nervous system, you can have a sense of connection with something beautiful and transpersonal and universal along the way. It’s an error, in other words, and it’s a common error you’ll find it, to equate the recognition of true nature with only sudden awakening. Or to equate developmental change with only incremental healing and growth. Do you kind of get what I’m saying? The gradual, you know, process of developmental change can lead to sudden awakenings. And staying in touch with the underlying ground of being, whatever language you want to use, I’m going to be not using theistic language here, the underlying ground of being, staying in touch with it, can be a beautiful refuge and wellspring of support for you as you incrementally and gradually heal and train and purify and grow. It’s good, it’s very good.

[00:37:33] So, I want to ask you. If the two wheels of Bodhidharma’s cart of practice support each other, is the cart of your own practice, your own engagement with healing and training and awakening, is your own cart resting on two wheels or just one? I’ve known some people who got trapped in the process of developmental change. And they got kind of stuck there, endlessly trying to improve things. I’ve also known people who overvalued the second wheel or track of practice and, you know, just sometimes with starry eyes would just say, “Oh, just be your original nature. It’s all fine.” You know? And yet they were not very wise or skillful and kept on stepping on their own two feet. We need both. We need both tracks to fully awaken. So, you might ask yourself, is there one in particular that’s been important to emphasize for you? And might there be one that would be useful to emphasize, perhaps as a corrective? In my own case, I have really worked the first track. I haven’t gone as far as I want to go in the Jhana trainings, the concentration trainings in the track of original Buddhism. But I’ve worked it pretty, you know, pretty decently, and lately I’ve been really, really getting value from the second wheel, the second track. To preview some of the places will be going to and I’ll turn it over to your questions in just a moment, I think that the matter of our deep, true nature, original nature, is the primary matter. It’s what I explored in the seventh practice in my book, Neurodharma, finding timelessness, that which is beyond conditioned processes of impermanence and change. I think it’s the primary matter. But still, it’s very important to engage developmental change for most people to foster the conditions that allow us to access our true nature. And then after people have had an awakening to original nature, it’s still important to wake down, not just wake up. You know, wake down, as Samuel Bonder puts it, and kind of build out and implement the realization of awakening in everyday life. And we’ll talk more about that in the months to come.

[00:40:16] If I could finish here with a great Zen teacher, Dogen, who certainly had his own awakenings to true nature while also emphasizing the process of abiding in true nature, here and now, Dogen wrote, “Great is the matter of birth and death. Quickly passing. Gone, gone. Awake, each one. Awaken. Don’t waste this life.” OK. Any questions?

[00:40:55] So, I’m going to take a peek at some of what’s come in. This is great. People are tracking things. I want to underline, Dan Brooke at 25 minutes past the hour, “It should be noted, one’s original nature never disappears.” Entirely true. It’s always already the case. We’re just on in touch with it. And it’s important to be kind of careful that the idea of true nature is not the same as true nature. And important experiences such as spaciousness or a deep well-being that have aspects that are like original nature are not the same as it. They are like it, you know, they can be openings into it, they can keep moving us in that direction in addition to their other benefits, but they’re not exactly the same. And also, it’s important to realize that sometimes our efforts to think about or get back in touch with what’s the case gets in the way of getting in touch with it. So, you know, you want to see all of that. OK, good.

[00:42:01] So, I see people are coming here. Powerful quote by Dogen, and I’ll say it again. “Great is the matter of birth and death. Quickly passing. Gone, gone. Awake, each one. Awaken. Don’t waste this life.” OK.

[00:42:25] So, let’s see. Other questions? Talking about cessation and kind of the key point here is two processes whereby cessation occurs. We can say gradually and suddenly. And two great engines or, you know, wheels of cessation, developmental change grounded in physical changes in the nervous system and tapping into, being in touch with the underlying quality of wakefulness and peacefulness and goodness, goodness innate in our very being. Which is to be experienced and not philosophized about.

[00:43:18] Let’s see here. OK. Two tracks. Developmental progressive change particularly reflected in the progressive processes in the Pali Canon, which aim at transformative revelatory encounters with true nature through cessation and nirvana, through nibbana. No doubt. But it’s kind of a progressive process of moving ever more slowly to the cliff and then kawoosh. Whereas in Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan, Chinese, Zen, so forth Buddhism, there’s a real emphasis on accessing and resting in true nature already. Already awake, already pure. And there’s a critique of the tendency in, you know, the Theravadan tradition, the original teachings of the Buddha, to, you know, have a kind of jaundiced, disenchanted view of human existence, rested in true nature. The nature even of our anger or our fear is empty and somehow all OK. It doesn’t mean in touch with true nature that we lose our morality. It’s probably not coincidental that, you know, historically there’s probably been more problematic hankie panky in the Mahayana traditions than in the Theravadan traditions, because in that first track, there’s a lot of emphasis on Sila, on virtue, restraint, you know, getting your passions under control, using them wisely, not letting them use you. Principle, morally, of not harming, it’s deep, deep, deep. I’m not saying that this is not present in the Mahayana, I’m just pointing out that the moral trainings are really, really, really important. And just because we’re, you know, tapped into Buddha nature of everything, which is so difficult to talk about and I’m not sure what I’m talking about it very well, but whatever. Go to others who could talk about it better, like Henry and Tara Brach and people like that. But anyway, you know, it doesn’t mean that just because we’re all tapped into true nature that we don’t want to stop at red lights or feed our children. You know, we still want to engage things morally. OK.

[00:45:57] Great. Well, that was a lot. That was a lot. Let’s see, next week I’m going to stick with—oh, next week we’re going to have a guest teacher, Steven Snyder. You could pepper him with questions about your nature. He’ll probably do a much more articulate job than I am. He’s someone who’s had a lot of experience with original, original nature, let’s say. And Steven Snyder will be guest teaching next week. He’s also someone deeply trained in the jhanas, deeply trained in concentration. He has guest taught before. And I’m really glad he’s going to be teaching. I’m going to be up in Tuolumne Meadows doing some rock climbing, safely, safely. Vigilantly, but safely, even though there are threats out there. But I will be back in two weeks to finish up with the final aspect of the noble truths, the fourth truth of the path. The path whereby we can deepen our contact with true nature while also supporting the necessary process of developmental change, including in our own brain along the way.

[00:47:06] So, how about we sit together just for our last minute here letting this sink in? If I could, I’d like to maybe highlight a couple of questions. You know, stepping back, what’s been your process of, I’ll call it needlessly negative learning, overlearning due to the negativity bias, converting states to traits? And how might you be served by tilting more toward dealing with the bad while also definitely turning to the good and taking in the good so that you’re fostering traits of inner strengths of various kinds and less anxiety? Also, how are you working the two tracks, the two wheels of the cart of awakening? And what might serve you there? OK. Thank you so much for coming. Hope you come next week for Steven and for me two weeks from now. Thank you very much.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

Get the Just One Thing
Weekly Newsletter

A simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

You can unsubscribe at any time and your email address will never be shared.