Meditation + Talk: The Emptiness of Interpersonal Upsets

Meditation + Talk: The Emptiness of Interpersonal Upsets

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 33-minute meditation and 47-minute talk and discussion about The Emptiness of Interpersonal Upsets.

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

Meditation: The Emptiness of Interpersonal Upsets

Talk: The Emptiness of Interpersonal Upsets

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The Emptiness of Interpersonal Upsets Talk (download transcript here)

Rick Hanson [00:00:00] So I think we had a bit of a Zoom glitch, maybe during the last little bit of the meditation. So I would like actually to do something I’m not sure I’ve ever done before, which is to recap the steps in a meditation, which are pointing out instruction, in effect. These are experiential stepping stones. And like any guidance at all, feel free always to adapt what I’m suggesting to your own purposes, what works best for you, and find your own way about it, remembering that sometimes it may not work. We try to get things going and they don’t happen. You may know this description of his own life of practice from Milarepa, the great Tibetan sage, who said that in the beginning nothing came, in the middle nothing stayed, and in the end nothing left. So sometimes in the beginning nothing comes. You know, you hear me saying something and sounds like a good idea, Rick, but it can’t feel it. Then in the middle, you can kind of feel it, but it’s not very stable yet. It’s not established. And then in the third stage, in the end, as it were, aha, you can come home to and rest in that way of being really quite readily because it’s established in you. You can find it quite easily.

[00:01:29] So with that said, essentially I was establishing with you a sense of what’s called open presence. This is a classic, meditative instruction in which we’re remaining in the present moment, focusing on a sense of growing openness and spaciousness, just being, while experiences pass through awareness and we remain stably present. Then I began to invite you into getting a sense of being openness, being spaciousness. And what does that feel like to have that sense of open presence, being open presence? Who are you then? You’re not so identified with any particular thoughts or feelings or sensations or thought balloons. You’re not carried away by little trains of thought. Little impulses or fantasies arise and you keep going out to the whole when you abide as open presence. Increasingly you feel like you are the field, you are the ground in which experiences are occurring. What’s that like? And can you feel increasingly established, with practice, more and more, and with practice established in the sense of abiding as open awareness, open presence that has qualities of peacefulness and a kindness, a blessing quality, a benevolence, and good wishes, wishing well. That’s the practice.

[00:03:28] If you can’t get in touch with it, it’s OK. You will. In part because as we not do, and as we undo the knots of the contracted self, we naturally increasingly open into the sense of open presence which has—and can be directly observed—aspects of warmth and peacefulness and well-being, a kind of contentment in it. That’s really pretty sweet. So that’s what that meditation was about. Some people, myself included, you can start to have a sense that this kind of remarkable quality of open presence that is a knowing quality, knowing quality. As you kind of rest more and more as it, you start, maybe getting an intuition that this that you’re resting in extends into something beyond you, extends into something that feels transpersonal, more ultimate. And it’s useful to not start forming beliefs about that or getting dogmatic at all, but just take it as an exploration. Don’t know. Don’t know. Oh, what’s this? You know, as you more and more fall away, what remains? OK.

[00:05:03] So that’s kind of an introduction to what I hope to talk with you tonight, which is ways that are practical, that we can tap into this wisdom that we feel within us. The sense of a depth within us that has a knowing, observing, witnessing quality, no matter what else is happening. You know, parts of us can be very upset about something or reactive to another person, but underneath it all there’s like a stability of witnessing, a stability of kind of calmly being with what’s happening, even if what’s happening is not calm at all. How can we apply this kind of thing? And how can we apply a tremendous amount of teaching from the Buddha about the recognition of the fact that all our experiences are dynamic and changing and connected to other things. And objective reality as well, in addition to our subjective experiences, has the same qualities of interconnectedness and change, right? As Thich Nhat Hanh offered in a teaching that I heard recently, in his very powerful and soft voice, he said, essentially, you must let go of the notion that anything is permanent. Nothing is permanent. So how can we use this? What could seem philosophical or ideological or, what do you mean, you know, the Grand Canyon’s kind of permanent or the thing that happened to me in third grade permanently has happened. Or isn’t impermanence permanent? You know, you can spin out into all kinds of crud about this. And I want to focus here on what, for you, you can find most helpful and useful in applying these very, very deep teachings into the trenches, in the trenches, really, of conflicts with other people.

[00:07:17] So to begin, I’d like to quote from the Buddhadharma and just kind of share some quotations that will kind of set the larger frame and establish some of these big themes. And then we’ll get into some details. I’ll also take a peek from time to time at the chat comments that have come in. If you want to use the chat side bar, please focus on your own practice and don’t advise or criticize others. And if you want to make the chat side bar go away, just push the chat button at the bottom of your Zoom window. We are recording this. We post these recordings on Saturday and you can go back and take a look at it. I think transcriptions have been turned on. Yes. And so you can take a look at those, too, if you want. All right.

[00:08:02] So here’s some quotations, the first from Matthieu Ricard, wonderful Tibetan practitioner born in France. He says, one should learn to let thoughts arise and be free to go as soon as they arise, instead of letting them invade one’s mind. In the freshness of the present moment, the past is gone, the future is not born, and if one remains in pure mindfulness and freedom, potentially disturbing thoughts arise and go without leaving a trace. I’m going to put this quotation in the chat side bar. You’re welcome to use it. So here we go. The citation for this quotation is in my book Neurodharma somewhere. I can’t fish it out right now. OK, so here we have this focus on the present moment and this recognition that what we often get upset about structurally has the characteristic of what scientists call now mental time travel, a kind of preoccupation in ourselves with the past or the future. The past may be focusing on resentments, regrets, self-criticism, traumas, wounds, disappointments, missed opportunities. You know, ruminating about them, being preoccupied with them. Or mental time travel, being anxious about the future or getting very pressured about making a certain kind of future happen. And to be clear, in the present, we can reflect upon the past in productive ways we can plan for the future in productive ways. But we all know what it feels like when we start getting into trouble, when, as Matthieu puts it, we’re invaded by preoccupations about the past or the future. So we have some wisdom here that you might think about bringing into sticky relationships, conflicts, ongoing struggles, disappointing situations. What would happen to your own well-being, to your own suffering, and your own effectiveness if you had less ruminating about the past? And you decide what’s the proper amount of rumination about the past. If you were less preoccupied with the past, how might that affect you and be helpful for you in, you know, a difficult relationship or situation? Similarly disengaging from thinking about the future and being anxious about the future in ways that are unproductive, how might that help you? Yes. Thinking about the future and anticipating problems and preparing for them as best you can, taking action as best you can, you know, as best you can, given the limitations of your life, that’s productive. But anxious ruminating about the future in a relationship, what would happen if you focused on letting go of that and, you know, rested more in the wisdom of Matthieu Ricard here?

[00:11:35] Then we have from the, Dhammapada, one of the most fundamental recurring teachings in Buddhism. Impermanent are all compounded things. When one perceives this with true insight, then one becomes detached from suffering. I’m going to put this also in the chat. Impermanent are all compounded things. Compounded simply means made of parts or basically arising based upon causes and conditions. So we have this advice from the Buddha who says, if you’re suffering, bring it down to Earth. If you’re unhappy, if you’re upset about stuff, understandably, we’re human beings, big monkeys. We naturally get upset about stuff. If you’re upset about stuff, see what happens when you look at your own experiences and recognize their impermanence. Even if they’re fairly stable, like the ache in your heart about losing a loved one, or depressed mood, or background of anxiety, or, you know, invasive traumatic imagery that comes to you, even if they’re fairly stable, if you look closely, there’s always a dynamism. There’s a quivering and a kind of a fizzing quality in our experiences, in part because of the underlying unstable, continually changing metabolism in your own nervous system, biologically. Buddha points out, when you recognize the impermanence of experiences, you know, things change. Our mind moves on to other things. We shift in our attitude about it. When one recognizes this and when one gets closer and closer to the present moment, as Matthieu Ricard is saying, and recognizes, wow, how much experiences are changing right at the emergent edge of now, continuously. We become increasingly free of suffering.

[00:13:51] I’ve written about the neurology of this in the book Neurodharma. And in the chapter, especially around receiving nowness, why is it that when we come increasingly into the present moment, suffering decreases? But what you can look at directly in your own experience is what happens when you do this. So imagine here, too, if you’re in the middle of some struggle with somebody, what would happen if you just really stayed with what is happening right now? Rather than rewinding the last five things they said or the last five seconds or five minutes, right now. Right now. Right now. How would that feel? Usually what happens is our sense of upset really starts to reduce. Compounded things, Sue Bowes, just simply means things mean of parts. And of course, everything is made of parts. So, you know, in a way, the word compounded could be taken away there. But there’s this clarity that things are made of parts and the parts are changing.

[00:14:57] There’s also this clarity in the deep Buddhist teaching that things are connected with each other. I want to build on a couple more things here, though, before I go further about recognizing how everything’s connected with everything else and how that helps us in our upsets with people. Here, I’m quoting Joseph Goldstein, wonderful Buddhist teacher, mindfulness teacher in America. We train in seeing the momentary arising and passing away of all phenomena. And we train in the non-clinging wisdom, the non-clinging wisdom that arises from that clear seeing. I’ll put that in the chat, too. So this is something we train in. Right? You know, we get better and better at observing just the continually changing nature of everything. And in that clear seeing, in that clarity, we realize increasingly we just can’t hold on. We need to let things flow and shift. So much of what creates upset and trouble in our relationships is we’re trying to hold on to one thing or another. I find in my relationships, which are pretty peaceful with my immediate family members, still, if I were to look at any, you know, if I were to work backwards from getting irritated or hurt or reactive with my wife, or either of my two kids, our two kids, I could see in all cases I’m trying to hold on to something. You know, I’m holding on to my position or I’m holding on to my view or I’m trying to hold on to some point I’m trying to make or some result I’m trying to produce in the black box of their mind, right? While they’re saying, get out of there, dad. You know, I don’t want you in there. That sets up trouble. It’s this idea that we’re holding on to something. So you might ask yourself what would happen in a struggle with another person if you let go more and you were less trying to cling to one thing or another? OK.

[00:17:21] And then I think I’ll just say one more thing here that’s a beautiful haiku from the Japanese poet Issa. You’ll see it in the chat if you like, and then I’ll read it in a moment. So here we are, we’re dealing with all these changes, right? We’re recognizing things are changing. Things are changing. We’re recognizing the less mental time travel I’m doing, the happier I be and the less of a footprint on other people. Good. Second, the closer I come to the present moment with a recognition of the changing nature of everything, the less upset I get, the less pressured and contracted I get. Come in to the present. Just like all the teachers say, be here now. Third, I can recognize that in my sticky relationships, as soon as I start to try to cling to things, to thingify things that I can then hold on to, my story, my view, my point, my victory, as soon as I try to do that, tons of suffering begins. I can recognize these things. I can apply them in my relationships, all right? And then, as Issa teaches, Issa teaches, yes, we can recognize that things are continually changing. And meanwhile, meanwhile, ah, we can be in the present moment. We can be in the present moment as it falls away beneath us. We can be a body exposed, in the Zen teaching, to the golden wind, inherently exposed in the golden wind. And meanwhile, on a branch floating down river, a cricket singing. We can live in this way amidst the ongoing changes of everything.

[00:19:39] So I’d like to make a related point about interconnectedness and the fundamental Buddhist teaching with the fancy title, dependent origination. That everything has its origin in underlying preceding causes and conditions, which implies that everything is connected essentially to everything else. So here’s where I want to invite you into a little mini experiment here. It’ll take a couple of minutes. Pick something that’s mildly-to-moderately aggravating with someone in your life. Could be an ongoing issue. You know, how they leave the toothpaste cap on or off the toothpaste tube. You know, it could be a big issue. Something, you know, medium sized, essentially. All right. So first, imagine that you have tunnel vision and you’re really zeroed into that issue. You know, you’re really stuck with or glued to the particularities, the words they used, the event that occurred. Right? Maybe the exact time and place it occurred in. You’re tightly focused on it. How does that feel? And then just play with it. See what happens if you start to widen your view, almost like, you know, starting with a narrow tube and then gradually widening it to take in more and more of the larger context. More and more of the whole situation you were in. More and more on the whole history with you and that another person. More and more widening your view of the influences on that other person. Their biology, their temperament, you know, the parenting they received, the parenting their parents received, you know, their grandparents, the culture, external forces, economics, culture, prejudice, finances, schedules, jobs, recessions, COVID. And then you start moving wider and wider, you know? Other aspects of life, not just the human species, you know, other animals, other plants, Mother Earth all together. You start going out to the scale of the planet, this beautiful blue-green pebble in the sky. What happens then to your upset? And I don’t mean it philosophically. If you start getting conceptual about it, come back down to visualizing it or kind of knowing it, knowing that many things led that other person to act the way they did that day. Many things led you to act the way you did in the ways you and they are may maybe tangled up together. All kinds of forces, different kinds, you know, influencing you. I imagine that we’re like knots in a vast net. You know, we’re like a local knot in a big net. And our knottedness is connected to all these other threads, right, that are wiggling and jiggling and rippling and surging in and pulling away, and because of which, there is this knottedness that we find ourselves in with this other person. But when we widen our view to recognize more and more of these causes and conditions, these threads, these influences, and we start to untangle the knot, kind of air it out, create more open spaciousness, immediately less upsetting with other people.

[00:24:20] There still often is practical stuff to deal with. We still need to, you know, mend the heart. But this recognition, which might begin kind of conceptually, but more and more becomes in your bones, really, it’s just how you be in the world, this recognition of interdependence intertwiningness, you know, becomes really, really helpful in softening contracted, pressured upsets with other people.

[00:24:54] I’ll finish here with quoting Thich Nhat Hanh, who talks about this. He says, beloved one, you are not something that has been created. You did not come into the realm of being from the realm of non-being. You are a wonderful manifestation, like a pink cloud on the top of a mountain or a mysterious moonlit night. You are a flowing stream, the continuation of so many wonders. You are not a separate self. You are yourself, but you are also me. You cannot take the pink cloud out of my fragrant tea this morning. And I cannot drink my tea without drinking my cloud. I am in you and you are in me. If we take me out of you, then you would not be able to manifest as you are manifesting now. If we take you out of me, I would not be able to manifest as I am manifesting now. We cannot manifest without one another. We have to wait for each other in order to manifest together. I’ll put this in the chat as well. OK.

[00:26:36] So I see you, Farah. I’ll get to you first question. I’m going to take a quick peek at the chat. I know this is pretty deep territory and it can get abstract. Keep bringing it down. And to see any key questions. I’ll always read the whole chat so you can be sure that even if I don’t respond directly, I will have read and received what you’ve said, including private messages to me. Briefly, Cindy asks at 6:50 p.m., how long does one need to practice meditation before you’re able to summon the spaciousness? I think it depends on the person. Some people already have kind of an openness and spaciousness in their awareness. They’re already arrested there. Other people like me, I had to kind of practice with it for a while. It helps to be able to kind of calm down because for if we’re upset, if we’re stressed and freaked out, and anxious, it’s kind of—we naturally tend to contract. So it helps to do what we can to find some basic calming and then try it, just kind of try it. Then increasingly, you can find yourself there. You can stabilize there. OK, good. OK.

[00:28:07] I can see the questions and comments that are coming in. This is great. So if someone has a particular question like Farah, that’s specific to the topic of an interpersonal upset, which is my focus here, and how the recognition of impermanence and interdependence, connectedness in other words, can be helpful. That’s what I’m interested in talking about. OK? Great. With that said, no pressure, Farah. I’m going to ask you to unmute and yeah. Whatcha got?

Farah [00:28:42] Thank you so much. I truly appreciate that. So interpersonal can be the relationship between me and me as well, right?

Rick Hanson [00:28:51] OK.

Farah [00:28:52] OK. So I wanted to connect that I 100 percent agree with you. I get to that spaciousness. It’s wonderful, amazing. But the question that I have is about the role of the trauma in changing that pattern of thoughts and feelings. Because of my past trauma—and I’m practicing mindfulness and I’m very committed to it and doing it in every single day, every single moment, I’m sorry. What I see when I’m noticing, when I observe my thought pattern, when I was in my belief system because of the past trauma, the feeling of hopelessness, the belief that I’m nobody, that I’m this and that. It’s constant. In the mindfulness world, everybody said that the thought comes, thought goes, right? And if you’re not attached to it, it’s going to let you go. But I am not—

Rick Hanson [00:29:57] Not always.

Farah [00:29:57] Not always.

Rick Hanson [00:29:58] Can I jump in, Farah? Right there. So a couple of things right there and you can even try to do it while we’re talking about it. Sorry. So let’s—experiences. Coughing. So let’s say you have an experience of hopelessness. So you pause, right? You could pause right there and you could look into, you could observe the experience of hopelessness. And one way into it is to say, OK, hopelessness, what’s this experience like? And it can be helpful to do it a little systematically. What are the body sensations of hopelessness? What are the postures in your body like slumping over? OK. What are the related emotions that come with hopelessness, like despair or sadness? Right? What are the thoughts that come with hopelessness? You know, beliefs like, oh, nothing will change. I can’t be better. I’m always going to be afflicted with this. Whatever those thoughts might be. No one will help me. Help is not on the way. And then what are the desires related to the experience? So we have sensations, emotions, thoughts, desires.

[00:31:34] There might also be perceptions of different kinds, like what do you see around you? But these these are the main: sensations, emotions, thoughts, desires. Sometimes the thoughts are nonverbal. Are there images or memories that come with hopelessness? Right there we have the compounded nature of this experience of hopelessness. Right there. And this practice of observing insightfully experiences that trouble us, you could apply this to desires, cravings of different things, for drugs, whatever. You can apply it to reactions of anger like I really want to let it fly. When you do this, you start to tease apart the elements of the experience. And you can also recognize that this burdensome experience of hopelessness, you can observe it’s changing qualities. Even if it’s kind of stable, it’s still sort of quivering. It’s still kind of moving in your mind. And then you can also recognize that after a while it will fade and you’ll start thinking about or experiencing something else. That practice is different from passive mindfulness.

Farah [00:32:53] I have done that for about three years, four years, and this hopelessness come. It seems that there is one part that’s so much believing to that there’s so much commitment into that. And me, that is a separate entity, I’m more hopeful. I’m very joyful and blah blah blah. So these two come together. Right? So my question, specific question from you because you are very unique, you’re a therapist, a psychotherapist and a neurologist, as well as the mindfulness teacher. So I see the two ways to approach. In therapy, we just say we need to heal that part, right? Which I’ve gone through that over and over. I see as a circle. And mindfulness that’s saying that just observe. It comes and it goes. And I’m just, as mindfulness therapists, I’m just kind of torn between—with myself and with my client that I’m treating. So should I jump into healing with EMDR, with, you know, family therapy systems? Or just observe?

Rick Hanson [00:34:08] Yeah, it’s a deep question and. I will say, I mean, I hear you about, you know, practicing Vipassana, insight into the nature of an experience, the nature of hopelessness. You could apply it as well to the other material. And the fact that you’re bringing, you know, a sustained practice to bare of insight, the fact that that is not clearing the issue is, to me, strong evidence that it’s important to look for other medicine. Now that said. I want to nudge you a little bit, Farah, just because I kind of have a sense of you from previous, you know, moments with you here, that you’re a deep practitioner and I’m going to kind of nudge you to go a little more hard core in your recognition of emptiness. You know? And see what happens when you just see—I just invite you, check out if there’s another level, another, for you as an experienced practitioner in the liberating recognition of the emptiness of all experiences, including ones that are painful. You know, I just have a hunch about that, you know, that you might be able to take it to another level.

[00:35:29] All that said, I’m a big believer as you know, in therapy. What I mean by that is that I think active engagement with the mind is really important, not just passive witnessing. And so absolutely, especially if we try standard practices of mindfulness and they’re pleasant, they’re nice, they give us some calm, some peace. But still, we’re affected by our traumatic histories. Then to me, it’s useful to do things that I call linking. You know my material about linking where you’re often aware of positive and negative together and you use the positive to go into the negative. So for example, if hopelessness would arise, you could follow a sequence. And I’m going to name this for other people who may not be familiar with it. It’s three steps. You’re aware of the experience of anything, hopelessness, sadness, anger, something. First, you be with it. Spaciousness, you hold it in spaciousness. You recognize the emptiness of it as an experience. You’re not trying to change it. You’re not nudging it, but you’re bringing insight into the nature of that experience. If that’s not enough, then you move into releasing, actively letting go. You know, letting go of hopelessness, letting go of old sorrows.

Farah [00:36:48] How could you let go?

Rick Hanson [00:36:51] Oh.

Farah [00:36:51] Mentally, I can say I’m going to let go. But, practically how I can really release it from my body?

Rick Hanson [00:37:00] You, that’s a great question. Fine. So you can relax. You identify the physical sensations, the somatic anchors that underlie the, I’ll call it, negative experience. And you directly relax those parts of your body. You relax tension in those areas. You release those somatic markers. So maybe in hopelessness is a subtle sense of slumping and despair and your head drops and oh. And you go, let it go. Let it go. Let it go. Hopelessness beliefs, you know, that are beliefs about the future, that’s what hopelessness is. It’s a belief about the future. Well, now sometimes we have to argue against those beliefs to let them go. But it’s like we disengage from them. We say goodbye, hopelessness. We go, you know, hopelessness, you are ego alien. That’s a term you might know. I have you, but I am not you. I’m letting, you know— it’s like that. It’s sort of like, you know, it’s just the spirit of releasing. And sometimes it’s helpful to start with something easy, like, what’s it feel like to release the breath or to hold on to something and then let it go and know what that feels like? I got to keep moving here, but I just—I’m glad you’re interrupting me. It’s good because you’re getting at the how. But yeah, the how is to one way or another try to release, try to let go, try to disidentify from it. That’s important. Instead of being hijacked by it or, you know, saying this is ego syntonic, you know, this is me. No, it’s ego distonic, it’s not me. It’s outside me. It’s there. I’m not at war with it, but I’m not identified with it. Very important. OK? Step one, be with it, step two, release it. And then step three, which is where I really get the action is for you, is to replace what we’ve released. And then replace it both in general, this is growing flowers in the garden of the mind. So you would say, what do I have hope for? Hope is a funny word. You know? I almost would think in terms of what can I have realistic expectations that are positive about? All right? And, you know, trauma almost always in childhood is interpersonal. You have every reason to expect good kind of relationships and good interactions with other people. You have so many good qualities. They’re just completely evident here already. You know, there’s a basis for these positive expectations that we’re replacing negative expectations that are hopelessness. Right? So you’re replacing it. Bringing in a sense of others who really can cherish you and appreciate you and value you. You know, bringing that in. So just growing that in its own right and other related resources in its own right.

[00:40:11] And then with linking, which is a standard therapeutic method—I’m just calling it linking for the whole class here—in which we use the positive that we’re bringing in in this third step to directly contact the negative, including the very young layers of the negative deep down inside us. All right? And we do that. We do that and, you know, it’s funny the more practiced I get in a kind of way, the more I get kind of both mellow and feisty, fiery. You know, there’s this quality we bring to bear that when we’re practicing with our own mind, we’re helping the positive go into the negative. We’re not at war with the negative. We’re not fighting it, but we’re really helping the good news to come in, right in a very muscular way. We’re not interested in the yes, buts in our own mind. You know? And it kind of reminds me a little of bit times when I’ve been in wilderness and the chips were really down. It was really hardcore. or times I’ve been in interpersonal situations that were very threatening. We start to realize there are certain situations in our life where we cannot afford to put up with certain things. We just cannot put up with what those other people are yammering. Be quiet. I need to focus here. Or we say to our own minds, sorry, the stakes are too high. This is too serious. I’m not going to indulge you, those beliefs, those thoughts, those voices. I’m not going to identify with you any more. I’ve had it. There’s a place for that. Right?

Farah [00:41:58] That’s right.

Rick Hanson [00:41:59] Yeah.

Farah [00:42:00] Setting boundaries. That’s what I’ll do.

Rick Hanson [00:42:02] That’s good. OK. Oh, totally cool, Farah. Way to go. And way to go to keep prodding me. Right? So I just want to take a look at the chats that have come in and see what else is there. Oh, yeah. OK, good. Oh, thank you for the kind comments that are coming in and—all right. So, well, I’m going to bug you a little more, Farah. So indulge me here, and I’m going to relate this to the larger points that I know we just have a couple of minutes left. So the structure of bad things, especially that, you know, happened, traumatic things in our childhood in our history, very much structurally involve the sense of us being separated from what is good. You know? We’re separated from it. We’re not being helped, we’re not protected, we’re not rescued, you know? And the bad thing that comes at us when we’re traumatized is itself separated out of the totality of everything. You can see that as a key structural feature. And you might inquire into the things that upset you, whether it’s from your past or the things you’re grappling with today. Conflicts, struggles, issues, you know? The structure of upset always involves separations of various kinds, partitions, turning things into parts, isolating particular parts. OK? And our healing—so, our suffering is grounded in some kind of isolation and separation, always. So our liberation and our healing always is grounded in connection of one kind or another, including the recognition today, no matter what has happened in the past, of our connection into the field of everything, the ground of all. In very real ways, we’re part of the wholeness of humanity, the wholeness of life, the wholeness of the universe in the ultimate sense, the underlying ultimate ground of all. You can have the sense of that. And then when you’re grounded, I’m sure Farah, I know this is true, and when I’m grounded there myself, I see the northern lights pulsing behind you, right, when we start to have that sense of, oh, you know, opened out into everything. You know, what happened to us then was bad, but somehow it’s not invading us now. In the now, we may have the memory certainly of what happened then. But in the now of being opened out into the ground of all, opened out into connection, opened out into the wider view, we’re being lived by life, we’re being breathed by life. Everything Thich Nhat Hanh was saying is literally true. The cloud is in us. The sunlight is in us. Right? The love we’ve received, our own warm heart. You’re in a helping profession, Farah, you know, you have helped so many people and they know it. They’ve received your help. And you can recognize that. You’ve been helped yourself by so many people, right? Like, this is the truth of things. And when we open out into this knowing, this truth, so much of our contracted suffering and struggle falls away.

[00:46:08] So how about—I’m sorry, Catherine, I’m not going to be able to get to you. I’m sorry about that. How about we just kind of sit for a moment, perhaps in the sense of our connectedness with each other and just the felt sense, the knowing, if you can, the knowing that as connection, being connected to all, allness is OK. And we, too can be floating down the river singing like the cricket.



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.

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