June 20, 2012 Wednesday Morning, Emrich Retreat, Morning Instruction

Morning vipassana instructons on choiceless awareness; spaciousness.

Barbara: So, picking up from John yesterday, objects arise into our experience through any of our senses. They may be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If they're pleasant, sometimes there's a shift into grasping. If they're unpleasant, sometimes there's a shift into aversion.

We watch the flow of this. We're not fixing our attention on one object and pushing anything else away, but present with each object as it arises into our experience with the bare experience of that object, not the stories about that object.

An exercise that many of you have done with me before. Just sit, breathing in and out. Breathing in, breathing out. Aware of nada, aware of the flow of the breath, the presence of the breath in the body. And then something comes up. (sound of feet patting on floor) Hearing, hearing. And it immediately pulls you away from your primary object.

It's probably a neutral sound, (feet patting) just feet patting on the floor. Hearing, hearing. As it stops, you come back to either the breath as a primary object, or nada, spaciousness, luminosity, whatever you're using as the primary object.

As people's practice deepens we very strongly recommend that you not come directly back to the breath as a conditioned mundane object, but-- I want you to feel this. I'm going to pat my feet on the floor again. Hearing, hearing. And then when the sound stops, feel the spaciousness. (feet patting, pause) There is an interval that has space as a primary expression. Nothing arising. Stillness. And then the mind may pop up with a thought, is she going to do it again? Or, what next? Note thinking, and then come back to your primary object. Or when the thought dissolves, rest in spaciousness again.

If we need a firmer anchor, we can come back to a more concrete primary object. If the tension becomes stable, we can rest in spaciousness. Gradually our ability to rest in that spaciousness expands. Were you able to come back, even for a moment, to that spaciousness?

Now we're going to try something a little bit harder: I'm going to shout. So instead of hearing the patter of feet, you're going to hear a loud shout. I'm going to do it unexpectedly so you will be startled. Two things are likely to happen then. One is hearing, but probably overriding the hearing itself is the startle reflex and some feeling of unpleasantness. Energy reverberating in the body, contraction. Whatever might have come up for you.

I want you to allow attention to move, knowing first hearing, just that moment of hearing, and then the shift of the attention to whatever has become predominant. For me it would probably be contraction in the belly or in the shoulders, tension, tension. A feeling of unpleasantness. The experience of being startled. What is the whole experience, the direct experience of being startled without any stories about it? Do you understand what I mean by that question?

The stories may be things like “I shouldn't have minded that,” or “Why did she do that? Is she going to do it again? I'm not a good meditator. I shouldn't be disturbed by that.” These are all stories. What is the direct experience with the (shout!)

Just be with it. Startled, startled. Breathing in, and aware of being startled. Breathing out, and centered wherever in the body I'm holding that startled reaction with kindness. If there's contraction, you can move your hands to the place of the contraction. Breathing in, with kindness to this contraction.

Gradually, we watch that experience dissolve. The body is the slowest of our four bodies so it holds the contraction and the startle longest. The emotions are second; mind third. The spirit body lets go of it pretty quickly. So it's normal that it stays in the body for a while. We don't have to chase it away. We don't have to fix it.

That which is aware of contraction is not contracted. Can you be in both places at the same time, aware of contraction with no denial of the contraction, and also aware of that which is uncontracted? I'm going to be quiet for a minute...

Can you feel the contraction, the startle reflex, dissolving out of the body? Not fully dissolved yet, maybe, but dissolving? Can you feel the spaciousness right there with the contraction? I'd like to get some feedback on this, how people are experiencing this.

(recording ends; remainder of instructions not recorded. The main point is to move to what is predominant, be with it , aware of any tension, grasping, aversion, then moving back into spaciousness when that becomes predominant. Don't think about it; just be present. )