"I want to be in the natural state"... that´s hopeless - you are already there.


I recently found this as a Facebook post.



 

Transcend and include: A Ken Wilber meme

This is Ken Wilber´s, an American slightly crazy super-brain philosopher's brand term. He, in his megalomaniac intellectual enterprise, has "transcended and included" all conceivable indo-European philosophy traditions plus psychology and and and....


I loved "Grace and Grit" and "One Taste", the two autobiographical books. But sadly, his purely philosophical books are too dense for me. My fault.

In which context does the post-author quote Wilber? What exactly is transcended, and how is it included? The post author surely refers to psychological phenomena, eg emotions and thoughts.


Not suppressing


Not repress or suppress

Not repressing or suppressing is a meditation principle of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. They moved away from the negativity or "nihilism" that required erasing the self, thoughts, and emotions.


And, it is not only about "not suppressing": it is also not making something happen. In particular, it is also about not making specific states or outcomes happen. I will come to this later.


In Mahamudra, thoughts and concepts are eventually not enemies. Instead, everything is (eventually) recognized as "lively awareness", as "mind-only". Thoughts too, and concepts, are like the rays of the sun. Or, like the waves of the ocean. Non-Dual. The ocean IS its waves. This is the third turning of the wheel for Buddhism.


Non-judgement

For this reason, Mahamudra and Dzog Chen are therefore the preferred approaches for therapists: everything is allowed, no judgement. Let it flow. Terry Real describes "non-attachment to outcome" as a pre-condition for good therapeutic work. The same is true for Bruce Tift.


Non-judgement and morals

Dzog Chen, of course, has a little problem. If everything is allowed, even crime, impulses hate etc, where are the moral boundaries?


The solution is somewhere else: awareness (or consciousness / constant self-knowledge of the ongoing mental events), which keeps "darkness known" (see next part) and results in what´s called "self-liberation", or "automatic emptiness": as soon as a mental event begins to form, the mere act of awareness will let it melt. A famous metaphor for this is the snowflake melting in a warm ocean, or on a hot rock.


Karma clearing and trauma

Of course, for us today, there is a snag to the theory of automatic emptiness and karma clearing. The old Tibetans did not know psychology, the "growing up" parts. They did not know about trauma. So, they put a little too much hope into the "knowing" part. They did not know about the somatic parts, the neurological wirings etc.


Meta-cognition


Awareness keeps the light and darkness known...

Awareness. Consciousness. Mindfulness. Knowing. Meta-cognitive awareness. Various authors use a wide range of terms with different meanings and different degrees of precision. It´s sometimes hard to disentangle what they mean. Culadasa uses the most precise language, followed perhaps by Shinzen Young. Both take neuroscience / cognitive science into account and make a difference, for example, between the distinct brain faculties of focused attention and peripheral awareness. These are processed differently in the brain and work at different speeds.


Regarding "keeping light and darkness known": all authors refer to the capacity of the mind to know itself - to be aware of what is happening retrospectively, but also in real-time.


"Keeps the light and darkness known..": for the quote´s author, this is probably a psychological context. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is no "light and darkness" in the sense of "good light" and "bad darkness", or of "the shadow". This would be a dualistic view.


"Keeping known": describes the ideally uninterrupted awareness of the mind of itself at every moment, preventing the knower from any kind of attachment to what´s going on in the moment.


The natural state


Progressively moving into the boundary-less state of our natural state

What is this "natural state" in Tibetan Buddhism? Daniel P Brown describes it here:


The natural state entails direct experience of a timeless, limitless, non-dual field of awareness wherein whatever arises in this expanse is immediately and automatically known as empty upon arising (6 Lamps, p4).

The first point is that the meditator needs to have a "direct experience" in this field. As long it is only a vague intellectual concept, it´s of no use.


Tibetan Buddhism has developed many ways of "bending the mind" of the student to have this direct experience of the field. The teaching is necessary because without the training we tend to overlook the ever-present background, the "groundless ground": Instead, we only experience objects and events, the foreground (the movement).


A key teaching device to support the experience of the "field of awareness" is the space metaphor. Space, we all kind of know intuitively, is without boundaries, it is timeless and changeless.


The "Pointing Out the Great Way" organization has constructed and tested over 40 years of very specific formulations, that ease the meditation student into this direct experience. These instructions help the listener´s mind to mentally construct this space as an experiential reality without edges, corners, borders, and limitations.


Dan Brown, in "Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment",


For example, pointing out limitlessness as serves as the basis for the realisation of enlightenment. In order to fully experience limitlessness it is important to see if the ordinary mind has imposed any mental constructions of edges or boundaries upon limitless space. If so, the practitioner "opens" ... his or her awareness directly into any edges or boundaries, like pouring space into space, until the edges dissolve like mist into the atmosphere. The practitioner continues this process until all resdidual impositions of edges and boundaries disappear and there is a direct experience of genuinely limitless empty awareness/space (Gyaltsen et al., 2022, p 117)

Translated into a pointing out instruction, it sound like this:


Now investigate if this field of knowing awareness-space extends in all of the directions, like an infinite vast expanse. Boundless. If the ordinary mind imposes any edges and boundaries on this awareness, you can move right into the boundaries or edges with your awareness. When you move into the boundaries with your awareness, limits immediately dissolve like mist dissolving into the atmosphere. Just keep moving into all the edges and boundaries. It is like pouring space into space, pouring awareness into awareness. If the ordinary mind imposes edges and boundaries somewhere further out, just keep moving into those edges and boundaries with your awareness, until it is perfectly obvious to you that this awareness is boundless, edgeless. This field of knowing awareness space is timeless and changeless on one hand, and boundless, edgeless on the other hand, like a vast ocean of changeless, boundless awareness

Then, the previous text continues:

Automatic emptiness of whatever arises immediately upon arising is important because automatic emptiness serves as a clearing agent for all residual instances of doing anything during meditation, and all residual attempts to conceptualize about state or outcome. As a result of automatic emptiness, the mind returns to its natural state of simplicity (absent of all doing) and freshness (absent of all conceptualization). ... This natural state is also referred to as "non-meditation meditation".

Automatic emptiness means, that whatever arises is immediately recognized by awareness as "empty". For example, when the thought occurs "am I meditating the correct way?" this is immediately recognized as a thought/concept, therefore as empty, and it loses its effectiveness to "grab" the mind. It´s just a thought, just like an itch, of hearing a bird sound. No need to follow it. On the other hand, the truly experienced meditator can follow the entire thought, story, and emotion without being grabbed by it. That is "meditating with thought".


So, to take that metaphor, in reality, becoming aware not the natural state is not a movement. Instead, it´s a recognition. It is a perceptual shift where the first one lives in a world of objects and events, and then suddenly experience unfolds in a boundless space in which everything arises and subsides.


It is not only boundary-less. It is also timeless and changeless. In Sam Harris´ terminology, it is the timeless condition in which change occurs.


The meditation teacher has the task of preparing the mind of the meditation student for this categorical shift. Once that shift has occurred at a visceral and experiential level (ie not only at a conceptual level), the student has taken an important step towards "awakening".

I am not there, but my heart tells me this
Automatic emptiness serves as a clearing agent for all residual instances of doing anything during meditation, and all residual attempts to conceptualize about state or outcome.

The term "clearing agent" can be understood as "filter" or "cleansing tool". "Conceptualizing about state and outcome" is something to be overcome. For example, the idea that "I am not there yet" is an example of "conceptualization", and the student has an outcome in mind. So, this very thought itself can be "cleared".


Within a state free from any fixation to meditation, arouse your perseverance and fortitude, but do not harbor the signs of hopes or fears, such as thinking, “I am meditating,” “I will meditate,” “I was meditating,” “It would be good if something happened,” or “If nothing happens that is bad.” Being free from hopes and fears is the immediate condition. Therefore, practice within an uncontrived state. Namgyal, T. D., & Callahan, E. (2019a, p 499)

First, as stated, there is no "here" and "there", no distance to overcome. The statement imposes the concept of space and time, and of movement. Instead, it is just a recognition.


Second, this formulation shows, that the author has a longing to be "there". It´s an attachment. It is an attachment to an outcome.


Eventually, meditation in Mahamudra lets go of everything, even of meditation as a separate activity itself.


What remains, is the adoption of a "view" ("the view is the meditation"), but even that is eventually discarded because even "the view" is a concept.


In practice, as Daniel P Brown would say, the "meditator" adopts a particular perspective and leans back without engaging. It´s even a kind of indifference. In real life, of course, activity is required - it to do the shopping. But it´s done without a particular contraction around this goal.

My heart tells me this

I don´t think so. It´s the conceptual mind, not the heart. Something that "tells" is conceptual. Although, in old Tibet, the seat of the mind was not the head. It was the heart, so the term "heart-mind". In the "Six Lamps" , the heart is the second lamp as "The Lamp of the Fleshy Heart-Mind" (Tapihritsa et al., 2022, p 11).


In this tradition,


While it is certainly true that awakened awareness is non-localised, and its limitless unbounded wholeness pervades everywhere, it is also true that focusing the view in a localised manner on the center of the space within the physical heart space enhances the recognition of awakened awareness. Tapihritsa et al., 2022, p 11)

So, the emotion mentioned here is probably the expression of a wish to be free of pain, misunderstood as the language of the heart. It is a striving for state and outcome, a longing to be somewhere else. It fires up the constant question: "Am I there yet? Am I there yet?", and thus fails to see that this very question and the concept of the natural state/mind are just appearances to a non-existing Self, as empty concepts.


Resources


"Gyaltsen, S. T., Gurung, G. S., & Brown, D. P. (2022). Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment: [of Bon Dzogchen Meditation] (English Edition). In No Title (2nd ed.). Mustang Bon Foundation. https://www.amazon.com/-/de/dp/1732157944/


Namgyal, T. D., & Callahan, E. (2019a). Moonbeams of Mahamudra (Tsadra). In No Title. Snow Lion. https://www.amazon.de/dp/1559394803/


Tapihritsa, G. N., Brown, D. P., & Gurung, G. S. (2022). The Six Lamps: According to the Zhang Zhung Oral Transmission Lineage of Bon Dzogchen. In No Title. Mustang Bon Foundation. https://www.amazon.de/dp/1956950044 th

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