“Communication is not only a basis for naming and identification, but is shaped in turn by those activities.” Tarthang Tulku, Knowledge of Time and Space
Of course, it’s nice to get it. I had a teacher of martial arts who once said that the techniques you “get,” the ones you feel good doing, proud of, should not be the ones you practice, this said with a mocking, satyircal look on his face (mocking the “I get it” part). I don’t entirely agree. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the challenges are the only place you grow. At the same time, I do agree that it’s very easy to stick with what makes you comfortable and confirms you.
My grandmother is quite old. She’s had a rich and interesting life, and is one of the few women of her generation to have not only entered the business world, but done quite well in it. Since she is old, her mind lucid sometimes, other times not as clear. I got a chance to spend some time with her last year, when I was living with my parents, preparing to move to Thailand with my wife. I have books on the dharma, most by Trungpa Rinpoche, so I tend to leave these lying around wherever I go.
I left one by VCTR where my grandmother could read it, and when I asked her what she thought of it, she said it was pretty good, but he seemed to try to have it both ways- he would say something, and then reverse it. This annoyed me at the time, and I didn’t know what to say. It’s true, a lot of the time, I think: Trungpa Rinpoche often uses wordplay in a fashion that suggests a LOT of things, often including the opposite of what he said. I find it wonderful and complex, but she was right.
The argument against this “having it both ways” being a problem? I think basically that things are both ways, and that master teachers like the Vidyadhara express this when they teach.
At the beginning of the post, I used logic that was somewhat “having it both ways” (and I apologize for the implied comparison to Trungpa Rinpoche, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not some meditation master or tulku, I’m just a guy who practices and has a life)— I said that I didn’t agree with my teacher about what to practice, but I agreed that comfortable practice could be seductive.
Is that paradox too easy? I don’t think so. I will say why. I think the idea that comfortable practice makes it too comfortable is based on a kind of “tough love” approach I don’t buy. I would not question this teacher’s integrity, but I will say that in general, people who say that probably don’t live up to that completely: everyone who practices does some stuff that is easy, or doesn’t push them. I think a little of both is good. One interesting thing about this area is that it brings up the fact that you don’t just have practice/not practice: there’s practice and then the associations that go around practice, the worlds that practice exists in.
The initial excerpt was about communication, and concept (language). The reason I brought up the old story of my martial arts teacher was that I felt like I “got” this quote- there is a circular process involved there. Language has a game-like quality to it; this is apparent to someone with a competitive personality such as mine. We say things that connect to a range of meanings and implications, and the responses connect to a whole other range of meanings and implications. It gets interesting when people who from very different worlds of meaning try to communicate. The mix of meanings gets even more mixed up.
I don’t know very much about communication. I do my best communicating when the audience is not able to respond (via writing). Maybe good communication finds a balance between the complexity of those games, associations, logics, and the simplicity of being able to connect. But that’s really a guess on my part, and not something I can do yet.
So about space. In the book, I’m leaping through the section about the “Giant Body” exercises, although as a sort of apology, I am doing some body based meditation. I forgot to do this today, actually, and so had to run back to the shrine and do it again, after my first meditation.
It is a refreshing practice. I have no way of saying how “powerful” it is, or how far along it could take you, but I have experienced its benefits in terms of relaxation, grounding, and rejuvenating one’s energies. Basically, one decides to do the meditation at a given time and place, bus, train, home, whatever, and this is an important step. Setting aside time to practice is signficant, and different from just trying to practice on the spot (ie trying to be mindful while washing one’s face).
Of course the latter, practice in life, is good. But setting aside time to practice is like the battery charger.
Having set out to practice, you do the practice. This means you start by bringing your awareness to the top of your head, and then moving down to the brow, face, mouth, neck, moving all the way down through the body. If you get distracted, which will happen, start again at the top.
Then when you’re done, open your eyes. I begin and end with traditional Buddhist aspirations, which would sound something like prayers. Of course, those are optional.
So that’s it, more or less. I recommend it highly. If you do it for a half an hour or longer, the effects can be very pleasant and stimulating. I don’t think it’s as profound as shamatha/vipashyana meditation, but that’s ok.
So I did that, and will keep doing that for at least the remainder of the space section. In the book itself, Rinpoche goes through the exercises, and then analyzes each one. After this part, the chapter ends with a kind of summary.
Once again, the summary has a lot to do with lower/great space (which is very similar to the relative/ultimate paradox in Buddhism).
I think I’ve said this before, but I suppose when I’m able to gracefully explain the distinction between relative and ultimate, I’ll be enlightened. I’ll give it another unenlightened stab here. In this part, Rinpoche emphasizes allowing. He explains that doing the exercises in the book with an allowing attitude can help them take effect.
I can’t comment on that, not having done much with the TSK exercises. Now, I do think that some feeling of openness is very helpful when trying a technique- this is to say that if you’re totally closeminded when trying a new technique, it won’t tend to work. It’s not a matter of bainwashing yourself or deceiving yourself, but a matter of being somewhat openminded, at least for a little bit.
Then, Tarthang Rinpoche goes on to say that this openmindness or allowing quality is itself the essence of space.
“This ‘allowing’ is both a generous ‘sacrifice’ and an effective path to higher spaces, since ‘allowing’ is of the very essence of ‘higher space’.”
How is allowing a sacrifice? I think it’s one in terms of sacrificing familiar concerns and habits, but also a sacrifice of the self’s needs. Which is not to say be a martyr or a victim neccessarily. Why is allowing the essence of higher space? This is something Ican’t answer yet. Rinpoche does make it clear that space does only exist as the partner of things, but somehow allows them to exist (and, at the same time, the idea does not seem to be that things allow space to exist).
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.