Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Developing Equanimity

This presentation is adapted from the research of Dr. AmyCuddy, professor of social psychology at Harvard Business School. The terminology is mainly from Dr. Cuddy and from Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training teacher Elizabeth Pyjov. I hope you enjoy it. 

Developing equanimity is essential for any person, for any mind. What's genuinely good for the mind is good for everyone. 




Elizabeth Pyjov, Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training teacher, substituted 'compassion' for Dr. Cuddy's 'admiration.' I added 'respect.'


The encapsulated “I'” is the “I” that perceives itself to be separate, independent, not interconnected, fixed, permanent, unchanging and that exists inherently, intrinsically, from its own side. The encapsulated constrained I is the I in the square, the small narrow self. When the sense of “I and mine” is very strong, all other people are “them,” “not I and not mine.” That is a suffering mind, an ordinary mind. How can an ordinary mind perceive all other people? 


According to Dr. Cuddy, we perceive four types of people based on two characteristics that are represented on two axes: warmth and functioning (which Cuddy calls 'competence'). Those we perceive as being high warmth and high functioning are perceived as “like me” and we react to such people with respect and compassion. Let's take a look at all four types...


 We regard people we perceive as being high functioning and low warmth with envy and schadenfreude.


Dr. Cuddy attributes the genocides of Jews and Tutsis in Rwanda to the ordinary tendency of the mind to perceive so-called successful people with envy and schadenfreude. The antidote to envy is rejoicing in the happiness of others, sympathetic joy. 




In a neuroscientific study, when people were shown pictures of homeless people, the pre-frontal cortex, which becomes activated when we recognize another human being, didn't respond at all. Consistently, people did not perceive homeless people as human beings. We also tend to treat single mothers as lesser beings, with an attitude of contempt and disregard. 



The types of people shown in the graphs are just examples (e.g., rich, poor, housewives). For every person, the specific categories will be different. For instance, instead of housewives, some might feel pity and sadness towards children, the elderly, pets, etc. 




Now let's do the whole round again, but this time we'll do it with mind training. We are learning to think and use the mind in a realistic, correct, kind, wise and beneficial way, for ourselves and others.

The starting point is the exact same starting point. We start training our minds exactly where we are right now. 


We consciously choose to treat others differently. We begin opening our hearts in stages. Changing a habit requires a lot of practice. We need to be very patient and forgiving of ourselves and others. After all, we are all just human. 
 






The divisions disappear and we perceive ourselves exactly as we are – interdependent and interconnected with all others. My own happiness depends on the happiness of all others.





With the hope and prayer that we will all come to perceive the light that is within each and every heart, for the benefit of all beings. 
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Being Your True Nature is the title of a documentary film by Osel Hita and Matteo Passigato 
Hebrew version on The Marker Café - mobile devices require Desktop setting

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Happifying

Inspired by the Buddha's Twelve Links of Dependent Origination and Happify.com

We often think of happiness as being due to external factors, as a noun or an adjective. Happiness has no verb form. It's a little sad that there's no happiness verb. Without a verb, all we can do is hope for happiness, wait for it, long for it – happiness remains an object somewhere out there in the distance. Sometimes, we get lucky and we experience it a bit.



Thinking of happiness as being dependent entirely on external factors is totally mistaken. We incorrectly think of happiness as either being outside of our control, or being dependent entirely on external factors, such that I try, endlessly and tirelessly, to control them.



In reality, my happiness mainly depends on me, on my mind, on internal causes within me. Happiness is a state of mind, and my mind is essentially the only thing that is in my control – as long as I train it. Right now I'm at the mercy of my mind. But through mind training, it's possible to change that situation, to change habits of mind, to gradually become happier and happier, and eventually, to develop genuine and lasting happiness.



There are causes for happiness and causes for suffering. When we abandon the causes for suffering and adopt the causes for happiness, we happify ourselves.


Public Health Model to Heal Violence

The Public Health Model to Heal Violence can help us understand how the destructive emotions that mess up our happiness, that obscure the supreme happiness, the hidden inner radiance that lies within each one of us, that hover like a cloud hiding the sun, arise.


Let's look more closely at what happens in the mind when the mind engages with any object.


 What happens in the mind?


Since our mind is untrained, as soon as we engage with any object, as soon as the mind perceives an object, as soon as an object appears to the mind, and without us noticing it at all, that troublesome “I” is already there. Because of the “I” point of view, the “I” perspective, the "I" misperception, “I like” and “I don't like” immediately pop up and forcefully overtake us. As a result, we grasp at the object, reify the object, give the object a concreteness that it doesn't really have. “I like” so intensely that I MUST get that thing. I hate so much that I HAVE TO get away from it or destroy it. 

The three main destructive emotions or the three root destructive minds or mental states that we need to abandon are: (1) Ignorance, our mistaken view of self/ego/"I," (2) Attachment/Greed, and (3) Aversion/Hatred/Anger.  


A trained mind, a mind that is mindful of itself, discerns the stages that precede the intense splitting. The ability to discern the mind moments that precede the arising of attachment and aversion (splitting, dualistic perception) frees our grasping at the object and reduces our destructive emotions. We begin to become the masters of our own mind, instead of being its subject, instead of being enslaved by it.



In this image, we can see what really happens, without our noticing it, without our realizing it. One of our sense consciousnesses (seeing, hearing, etc.), a physical sense organ (eyes, ears, etc.) engages with an object. We discern an object. This is Contact. Alternately or additionally, our mental consciousness engages with a non-physical object, for example: love, truth, ethics. We discern these non-physical objects with our mental consciousness, not with our sense consciousnesses (after our eye consciousness and the physical eye engage with text, in this instance). 


Immediately after some object appears to the mind, immediately after Contact, we feel, we experience, we perceive, one of three feelings, one of three possible perceptions: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. Neutral is not very interesting, not so important. Every mind, every consciousness, every sentient being, will always feel an infinite continuity of “pleasant” and “unpleasant” (and neutral). This is Feeling.



A mind that is free of suffering experiences pleasant and unpleasant, but does not grasp strongly at the pleasant and the unpleasant. The pleasant and the unpleasant simply pass; they come and go, arise, abide and disappear. The drama happens when the mind grasps strongly at the “pleasant” and “unpleasant,” and as a result, also grasps strongly at the object.



This perceptual error of a solid, permanent, independently existing ego is responsible for all the destructive emotions, for all our negative emotions. All the violence in the world comes from this mental misperception. If we want to cultivate happiness, to happify, and if we want a more pleasant world for all of us, the way to expel violence from our hearts and to eradicate violence in the world is through learning, through education, by mindfully observing the process by which the destructive emotions arise in our mind.



Once we understand that we are all interdependently linked and interconnected, that my happiness depends on your happiness and vice versa, we will not want to harm any other being. We will be ethical and happy. Lack of ethics is like mud that clouds water when we stir a cup of water and mud. The mental mud can only settle by practicing ethics and honesty, and then we can start to discern the internal mental process I described. I pray and wish that everyone's mental mud settles.

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These are the days of the Tibetan New Year, the Year of the Fire Bird. I wish everyone a happy New Year, health, long life and the realization of all our compassionate wishes.