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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast of Dan Harris. Hey, guys, a couple of things to say before we dove in. One, you may be hearing some background noise. That is one of our cats, Toby, who will not get off my lap. So you'll have to put up with some purring in the background here. So it'll stop once we get into the interview. But anyway, listener, beware. Here's the second item of business I wanted to get to before we dove in.
There's a new podcast I wanted to tell you about from our colleagues at ABC News. It's called In Plain Sight Lady Bird Johnson. And it's full of new revelations about Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency and reveals the former first lady as LBJ's closest adviser and most indispensable political partner. It's fascinating stuff. It's drawn from over one hundred and twenty three hours of ladybirds, daily audio diaries. The podcast presents a surprising and original portrait of the former first lady told in her own words.
You'll hear how Lady Bird Johnson quietly shaped the future of our country and influenced the Johnson presidency, including the decision to end said presidency. Just search for in plain sight, Lady Bird Johnson, wherever you're listening right now, and you'll be able to pull it up. And also just just for ease of access, we'll leave a link for you in the show notes as well. OK, let's get to today's episode, I know you guys by now, I think I do, and I think it's pretty clear that you love Deep Darma episodes today.
We've got a Darma episode that is quite timely, as you all know. Of course, we live at a moment in history when most people are getting their news from carefully curated information silos. As a result, we often create very specific views about public figures, current events, our fellow citizens, and we can cling to those views pretty tightly. Today, we're going to talk about how useful and even pleasurable in a way it can be to dig into the roots of these biases and dismantle them, to pop our bubbles of delusion.
It can be a relief. It can be eye opening. It can change the way you relate to yourself and to other people. My guest is Andrea Feller. She's the co teacher at the Insight Meditation Center and the Insight Retreat Center in California. She's been practicing inside meditation since 1996 and teaching insight meditation since 2003. She's got a long history of intensive retreat practice. She's done a number of long retreats both in the United States and in Burma and one of those long retreats in Burma.
She was ordained for a while as a nun. It's a fascinating conversation. She's a fascinating person. I suspect you'll enjoy it as much as I did. Here we go now with Andrea Feller. Andrea Feller, thanks for coming on, really appreciate it. Pleasure to be with you. Nice to meet you. Likewise. So I know from reading the notes of your discussion with my esteemed colleague Samuel, that you're interested in talking about the subject of views and delusion.
Why that subject?
Why is that interesting to you? And what do you mean by views and delusion?
It feels to me like views in our country right now are creating a lot of stress and suffering and looking to me. I like to kind of look at what the interface is between what's happening in the world and what the Buddha had to say. The Buddha talked a lot about how suffering works, how stress, how people get into stress and difficulty, and the tools and the the analysis he made of our minds. It really speaks to us with all of the changes that have been in the last twenty six hundred years, there's not been a lot of change in how our minds work.
And so what he has to say about how our minds work and the kind of problems and stresses and suffering that we're in now as a world, I'm interested in that kind of overlap and how what the Buddha understood in terms of how the mind works can speak to us now, can help us to maybe find some ways to navigate the difficulties that we're in in terms of delusion. Delusion operates in a lot of different ways. In our minds.
There's kind of a basic way that delusion operates, which is that we're not aware of what's happening. That's the kind of most obvious way that delusion works. You know, when we're kind of checked out or spaced out or not really connecting with what's going on, that's a form of delusion. But it's that's not even the most kind of insidious form of delusion. The more dangerous we could say or the more kind of hidden, even hidden forms of delusion, because we all kind of know when we come out of being spaced out, it's like, oh, yeah, I didn't I don't even know what was happening.
Like, we we wake up after we were driving on the freeway. It's like, wow, how did I get here? We know that we've been lost, but the kind of delusion we're not aware of is when we are kind of aware of what's going on, but not aware that how we're. Taking in information, how we're interpreting the world is based on a perspective, based on a view or a belief in the Buddhist teachings. He talks a lot about a delusion based on taking what is impermanent to be permanent, what is unreliable, to be reliable, what is not self, to be self.
We could also throw in there what is uncontrollable, to be controllable. And those are deep forms of human belief or view that we tend to believe that what's impermanent is permanent. We tend to believe what is unreliable is reliable. But there's a kind of a middle ground place where views, beliefs, ideas that come just from living and by view.
I really do mean kind of what we normally mean in in our language about a view or a perspective or a belief. Those are what I would call synonyms. We all have views, beliefs, perspectives that are shaped by how we have. Lived in our lives, shaped by our personal conditioning, shaped by our families, by our culture. And this is the terrain I'm kind of interested in exploring today the terrain of what we might call the views and beliefs that are shaped by our personal and cultural conditioning, because this is where I think a lot of our suffering is happening right now in our world and our country, in particular in the United States.
So the the shaping of those views is natural. I mean, the whole way that our minds work, our human minds are always.
Encountering the world and learning from it and shaped based on how we have been trained, how we what we've experienced, this is just the conditioning of our lives.
Because I grew up in a particular family, I learned certain things about how families operate, because I grew up in a particular culture. I learned certain things about how people who are strangers interact, just things like that.
And also it's not just about the simple things, it's about bigger things to like how we relate to people who don't look like us, people who who are of a different racial or ethnic background. You know, the beliefs and the views that are shaped in our minds as we're growing up. We often aren't aware of those beliefs and views as beliefs or views. We often will take them to be just this is how things are. This is the truth.
So the process is in our mind.
And this is something that the Buddha speaks of a lot, the processes that shape our mind, our natural processes, and they can lead us in the direction of stress and suffering and struggle, or they can lead us in the direction towards.
Freedom towards not being caught by habits and patterns of greed, aversion, delusion, confusion, so the processes are just their natural processes, the conditioning process, it's a natural process in our minds.
We all will, of course, we will learn based on what our conditions have been. One of the famous quotes of the Buddha is whatever one frequently ponders becomes the inclination of the mind. And what we frequently ponder is not only I mean, the word ponder, often we think of that as meaning we think about, but pondering, I think, also refers to or means what we are exposed to.
We ponder things that we aren't consciously thinking about, we find ourselves in a particular environment and we just absorb how things are in that environment.
Like when I was a kid, nobody sat down and told me, for instance, you know, this is how close you stand to somebody you don't know. This is how much eye contact you make with somebody you don't know that was just absorbed. And so it's a form of pondering when you're in a it's kind of like we're in a soup with a particular flavor and we're a vegetable in that soup and we're just absorbing that flavor. And we are unaware in many ways that we are absorbing those views or those perspectives.
We just take it to be, well, this is the flavor. I guess the classic analogy is not seeing the water you're swimming in or not being aware of the air you're breathing.
You know, that that kind of shaping happens. And so it's natural for us to have perspectives, for us to have views. And I think in many ways, the the system, the human system, our human organism probably needs perspectives. It probably needs views in order to navigate the complexity of our world. You know, it needs to if we had to, like, look around and figure out everything that's going on every moment of the day, I think we just be exhausted.
And so this kind of absorbing of perspective helps us to navigate the world much more easily, helps us to know how to make choices, to engage with people. We learn all of that, and we don't have to think about it moment to moment. And so the perspectives that we have, this is not delusion. Having perspectives I think of is not necessarily delusion. Having views, having beliefs, not necessarily delusion, but where the delusion comes in is when we do not know that we're acting out of a perspective or acting out of a belief, making choices based on a belief, receiving information, even based on a belief or view or even an agenda.
It's kind of amazing how much our minds are shaped by what we believe or what our perspective is. I really like what you're driving at here, it happens to land for me at an opportune moment because I'm in the middle of writing a chapter about my attempts. Such as they are to look at and reckon with my own biases, you didn't use the word bias, but I think it's another synonym for the views and beliefs that you're talking about here.
Well, I would say bias may be a view that's not quite seen. It's a similar word, but often with biases are often hidden. Yes, when we see a bias, it becomes more of a view. But that's just language. Yeah. Yeah, it's very similar.
I take your point. I think that's a really useful clarification because the bias can live a level beneath the conscious view.
Nonetheless, what I heard and what you said, there is something that has been a really important realization for me, which is that you can look at your own views and the biases that may lurk beneath them and notice. Oh, yeah, this is horrible. I think some. Pretty uncool things about other people based on skin color or chromosomal structure or whatever, and the natural temptation, at least for me, has been to kind of recoil like a vampire confronted with garlic and get into sort of a denial or a defensive crouch.
But instead, if you see and I heard this kind of openness in your in your comments there, just to see that this is just natural.
This is it's useful we evolved to have biases and then, of course, views and beliefs because we need to sort the world so that we can navigate through it without figuring everything out afresh every five minutes.
Of course, things can go haywire when you don't look forthrightly and frankly at your biases and then beliefs and views and act them out blindly to the detriment of other human beings. And by the way, also to the detriment of yourself. Absolutely.
Yeah. So I think that's an important piece. You touched on a couple pieces, the kind of shame we often have when we see these views and hidden biases, especially when they kind of run counter in a way to what are kind of conscious perception of self is. And yet when we're not aware of them, I think one important piece is that being aware that it's happening is way better than not being aware that it's happening. When we're not aware that it's happening.
We are just going to be acting based on those views, those biases.
We're just going to act out of them. Things will pop out of our mouths. And we're like, where did that come from? You know, it's like we'll just act out of those. But as we become aware more clearly of, oh, this is a viewer, this is a bias that's kind of hidden there, then there's a little more opportunity for choice. And we can also begin to see that this bias is operating, that this view is operating and affects how we see the world.
Views are not just views. They come with a lot of baggage. So seeing that there's a difference between people discriminating, discerning that there's a difference between people, that's just part of how our minds work. But what is more where the view becomes a bias? Perhaps you know, where the sense of all these people are different from each other becomes a bias, is when there's views and ideas about what certain people are capable of or what their lives are like.
We often don't do the work because it's just so painful to look at this, it's like an indictment. We go right to the story of I'm a horrible person and that shut us down. We're paralyzed by it.
Yeah, absolutely. And seeing that it's conditioned, you know, that it's a natural process. The conditioning process somebody actually asked me the other day is is conditioning nature or nurture. And what I responded with is that the process of conditioning is nature. Now that we are conditioned beings is nature. What we are conditioned by is nurture, so the field we find ourselves in, the soup we find ourselves in that way absorb these flavors that nurture. But the fact that we absorb flavors, that's nature.
And so it's human. It's natural that we absorb the flavor that we're in.
And for me, that's an important wisdom, understanding that helps me to navigate. The whole mess that we find ourselves in helps me to recognize, oh, you know, of course, the mind has this flavor in it. It's been stewing in that for so long. So I can not take it personally that I have that flavor. It's not our fault that we have that flavor, but it's our responsibility that we have the flavor. And so to see that it is a flavor, to see that it's not just truth, I mean, we're in that super absorbing those flavors and we just take that to be the way things are.
Views and ideas about, you know, where all the isms come from, racism, sexism, gender ism, ageism, because we've absorbed particular views around what particular genders or races are capable of and who they are. So we've absorbed those. It's not our fault that we've absorbed them. Because we've been in that stew, but it's now our responsibility to see that it is a stew, that it is that flavor, that there's different soups out there, there's different possibilities out there that other people and other cultures, other conditions have absorbed completely different flavors.
So when we don't see that, we've been conditioned that it's a view. Then we're just acting as if it's truth, we're just acting as if this is the way the world is, often these views don't create suffering in and of themselves.
You know, the views when we're in the stew that we're in. You know, it's not a problem when we're in that particular flavor. It doesn't feel like suffering. But when those views are challenged, when we come across somebody who has a different perspective, that's often when we feel the suffering of it. And so that can be a time to get curious. It's like rather than kind of retrenching to say, oh, this is wrong, this is bad, this shouldn't be this way.
Is it my fault? Is it their fault? Rather than exploring it from that perspective, like, oh, we've met a different flavor. Let's see what's there.
If we can recognize that our flavor is not the only flavor that can create conditions where we're more interested in getting to know what other flavors might be out there. It's a kind of a. And encouragement, I think, when I recognize so first of all, you know, not only that, I have views. And it's useful to recognize that we have used and that's actually something I encourage people, you know, when you find yourself suffering and you find some kind of struggle or stress happening in your lives, there is a view operating that's not clearly seen.
This is a kind of like a foundational teaching of the Buddha that from the teaching, I'll drop this in. For those of your listeners who kind of know the Buddhist teachings a little more, the teaching of dependent origination, which is a description of how our minds kind of create struggle, stress, suffering, it begins with ignorance. It's not ignorance of the not knowing. It's an ignorance of not understanding, of holding a view or a perspective. So the ignorance is really about holding a view about the world that's not in alignment with the way, you know, the world is in particular with respect to the impermanent, unreliable, not self uncontrollable nature of the world, that we tend to hold views that overlay permanence, reliability, controllability on the world.
And so the ignorance that shapes the suffering that happens, that's the basic condition in the Buddhist teachings for suffering. And so when we're suffering, there's some kind of view that's operating. And so when we meet suffering, when we find suffering, it's useful to check into that. And I I know that there have been podcasts that you've had around looking at particular things in this time around, anger and difficulty of navigating the frustration and the the anxiety of of what's happening in the world.
So can we be with that? Can we know the anxiety? Can we know the anger? This is the kind of a basic mindfulness practice. Can we be with what's happening that's really useful? It's really, really useful. And yet another piece of this puzzle of how those emotions emerge is that they're kind of underneath them. They are grounded in beliefs, some views, some beliefs, some ideas, some attitude there, a question that can be useful when we experience suffering, when we know and suffering is a big word.
It might just be stress, it might be unease. It might be a kind of a dissatisfaction or a feeling of softness. And when we experience that to not only feel that like, oh, yeah, it feels kind of pure, feels kind of off, it feels kind of left to not only know that, but then maybe be curious. And I find a question.
Actually, questions are not. Often talked about in terms of pure mindfulness practice, but one of my teachers, Burmese teacher Ciotat Eternia, talks about using questions a lot. We have to be careful when we use questions because we can go off and thinking about things. But he encourages us to ask questions kind of to just drop a question in and then just continue being aware, being present for what's here and often having dropped a question and it will orient.
The mind to kind of see something from that perspective, you know, so it's using a view essentially it's kind of using a perspective, using a view to kind of dove underneath. So asking the question, when there is suffering, what's being believed right now, that can be a really useful tool to see where the emotions are coming from.
We may or may not get an answer.
Let's say sometimes I find when I drop questions in like that, yeah, it's like, gee, you know, there's nothing coming. And I just continue being mindful, just being aware at that point. But sometimes that question will kind of burst the bubble. It's like, oh yeah, this is what I'm believing right now. And then that view that's kind of been hidden can begin to be seen. It can be revealed and we can start to learn about it, start to see that it's there, and then maybe even be curious about, wow, that's believed.
Sometimes we'll see that it's like, well, I don't believe that. But at some level in our system, you know, some deeply conditioned place that belief is believed. It is kind of taken to be something that's the way things should be anyway, and so when we see that that's a place to then begin to notice, what is our response to that? So shame, confusion, anxiety. So again, working with the emotional field there in terms of our practice, in terms of our our meditation practice.
But another question then might be a deeper dove. It's like, oh, there's this belief. How did this belief come to be? What was this do that created this belief, you know, for myself, I had a lot of self negativity, you know, thinking I should be better, I often felt like I was failing the same time I had the belief that I was pretty good at things. And at some point I kind of saw that one was a set up for the other.
You know, it's like, oh, I'm pretty good at things. Oh, I'm not good at it right now. That must mean I'm failing seeing these contrasting beliefs and then kind of curious about, well, where did this come from?
And then seeing how often I in my life based my whole identity basically around succeeding.
And of course, I can't always succeed. You know, this is nature to the uncontrollable aspect of experience. Of course, I can't always succeed seeing, OK, this is the belief and then what was it coming from? And even just simply recognizing this is a belief that's conditioned.
That really helps the mind to kind of step back and go, oh, OK. Helps it recognize it's not my fault, and yet it's my responsibility because this is what's arising and I have to live with this, I have to navigate the world with this belief or view.
Another thing about seeing beliefs, often when I'm talking to people, I will point them to kind of be curious about what beliefs are happening underlying their emotional stress or suffering.
When you look at that, you may see I kind of said earlier that you might not consciously believe it. And so there might be a kind of like, well, I don't really believe that, but.
You know, there's something in us that does believe it, and so I often encourage people not to try to disbelieve their beliefs, but to acknowledge this is what's being believed because that's kind of bursting the bubble of delusion somewhat. I said that the delusion really is when we don't see the view or belief as a belief, when we see a belief happening, when we see that it is a belief that's kind of bursting the bubble of delusion, we may not at that point then disbelieve it.
And in fact, some of these views we can see, oh, there's some use to some of that view, you know. So, OK, I know at least it's a view right now. So when we know that it's a view, then we can kind of recognize that we are being shaped by that, that we're taking information from that perspective, that we're acting out of that perspective. And so that can mitigate the impact of the view or belief.
And sometimes we can see a view or belief operating, OK, this one's useful right now. I'll I'll use this one right now. So the the seeing of the belief itself is really helpful. The recognizing that it is conditioned or what has shaped it to me that really helps speak to that point of. The shame that we feel when we see views and beliefs that are not really in line with what we wish were in our hearts, you know, the recognition that they are conditioned, the nature of that.
And for me, that's the next practice point that I often explore when I see. Some particular view shaping my experience and recognize, OK, this is conditioned is this is nature, of course, this is happening right now. Look at the statue I've been in all of my life. Of course, this is happening. So that, of course, sometimes it's just the, of course, recognition. Sometimes I use the language that my teacher, Saitoti Jania, uses.
This is nature. And to me, that speaks to kind of like the natural processes of our system. It's just like trees growing. You know, this tree grows because that seed was planted and it got the conditions. It was watered and it grew. It had the conditions to grow.
That's why this view or belief is there. And that brings in a lot of compassion for me. That's a great avenue to compassion, to recognize the wisdom teaching that this is conditioned. So in many ways, the wisdom and compassion of our practice kind of feed each other there.
You know that seeing there is the the shaping of our minds helps our minds to step back and and not own it, not take it as my fault or I did this and yet having to recognize. Yes. And I am living with this. So is there something different that can be done here? And the very seeing of it, in my experience, the very seeing of the views, the very seeing of the conditioning begins to shape something different. And often we think we should know how to go in and change our minds.
That we should somehow replace this view with some other view, but in my experience, when I have tried to disbelieve a view, it has a rebound effect. You know, it's kind of like that view kind of goes underground and it resists that. It's like, no, no, I there's a reason why I'm believed here. And so being seen and being acknowledged is, oh, this is what's being believed. It kind of was willing to come out from behind the curtain and be seen and be seen for what it is that it is a view if we're trying to disbelieve it, it kind of drives it back behind the curtain so that it's kind of then operating.
It acts for us, essentially. So that's why I often ask people or tell people not to try to disbelieve the view, but to just see that it is a view that it's happening. And maybe because we do have different levels of belief, you know, sometimes when we see.
The view, a view is a thought, and there's the thought that happens and it kind of comes with the believing process and that believing process of picking up the thought and going, yep, I believe that. Yep, I believe that it kind of circles and it reinforces itself essentially by telling ourselves that we believe it over and over again. Sometimes when we see a view, we're well into that believing process and we're really on board for it.
It's like, yep, I 100 percent believe that view. That's something that is useful to note as to how strong is the belief. Sometimes the belief is not that strong. And even if the deeper levels it's not that strong, it's more of a habit.
And then when it's seen, it can just kind of go, oh yeah, yeah, OK. I can set myself aside right now. I don't need that view right now. It's kind of habitat that's working. So seeing the level of the belief or how strongly we believe it is another useful exploration. And then sometimes in that exploration, we might find that there's kind of a cognitive dissonance, a kind of a difference between the emotional belief and the cognitive side.
And that may be partly what you were speaking to earlier. You know, the kind of the mind telling us, you know, gee, I'm not a person who thinks that people of different races are less worthy, but there's something deep in there that there's a kind of belief there is a difference. You know, that's hard to see. That's hard to hold.
And so the cognitive dissonance between what we would like our hearts and minds to be and what's in there that can create a lot of stress of dissonance. And if we just kind of like you said, like I don't want to look at that, we set it aside.
That's going to drive the belief underground so we won't really get a chance to see it.
And having it be in the light of day is way more helpful.
That's another piece that helps me, too. It's like, oh yeah, this is painful to see, but I'd rather see it than not see it.
And also to recognize that there are times when the reactivity, the dissonance is so strong that it may make it difficult to actually be present with it.
It's like the capacity that we have to be with struggle, with stress, with dissonance. It varies. At times it's stronger, sometimes it's weaker sometimes. And so the capacity that we have to be with that may be weaker than the reactivity. And it may feel like we're being swamped by the reactivity. And and at that point, it's useful often to not to repress what's happening, not to repress the dissonance, not to repress the view, but to kind of take a break and say, OK, I'll come back to you later.
I need to kind of let my mind settle for a little while. So there are times where we shouldn't, like, just bare ourselves into the stress or suffering of the dissonance that we feel or of any suffering, that there are times when we should turn our attention to something else.
Sometimes I would just say, OK, yeah, whatever pattern habit in mind is going on, you can take a walk with me, but I'm going to pay attention to my feet walking, you know, so to just redirect. Much more of my conversation with Andrea Feller coming up right after this break. In 2021, it's finally OK to talk about our mental health, but what is therapy? It's whatever you want it to be. Maybe you're feeling insecure in relationships or at work or not very motivated right now.
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I want to pick up on something that I think is a theme that is kind of threaded throughout your comments, but I want to make it a little bit more explicit. The theme being sort of compassion or warmth, which is a really important ingredient when you're looking at your own biases and views and beliefs. I think, you know, it showed up in your comments just in that last little bit there about how, yeah, sometimes looking at this stuff can be really hard.
And maybe part of the art is just knowing when to to focus on something else because you're overwhelmed. Another area in which you talked about and I think he explicitly talked about compassion is when you're seeing the tension between what you consciously think. You believe that everybody's equal when you see the tension between that and what some lizzard part of your brain is telling you about how somebody who looks different than you do or acts differently than you do is somehow inferior to you.
When you see the conflict there, it can be really helpful and compassionate just to drop back in to see. I didn't ask for this. It's nature. It's part of how the mind reacts when it's put in a particular soup.
So you've invoked compassion here at a within the context, as I understand it, of a traditional insight or mindfulness practice where you're watching your thoughts come up and and trying to not fight them or feed them or numb out in the face of them. What about an explicit love and kindness or compassion? Practice that. Can I suspect? He talked about not trying to fight your beliefs, not trying to create new ones, just let them play themselves out and fizzle.
But I wonder whether lovingkindness, meditation, compassion, meditation is a kind of creation of new biases and of new beliefs and new views, a counterprogramming.
It's worked that way for me. Absolutely.
And for a lot of people, that can be a doorway in for helping to have a little more ease around all of the stuff that we see in our minds. It really varies person to person. For myself. My own doorway to compassion came through the mindfulness practice early on in my practice when I was exploring and trying to consciously aim towards the lovingkindness practice, towards a compassion practice. Essentially, it's like you're putting different thoughts in your mind, like may you be happy, may you be healthy, you know, may you be free from suffering in the case of compassion.
So you're putting different thoughts in your mind for myself? What my mind told me, it was like trying to disbelieve what I was experiencing, you know, so it created so much tension in my mind to do it early on that I realized that that was not a practice. That was a good one for me to start with. And often when I talk to people about meditation practices, I encourage people from my own experience, you know, go in the door, that's easiest.
Where is it most natural for you to cultivate being present and what supports you to have ease of heart and mind? And so for some people, compassion, practice, loving, kindness, practice is that doorway is a place where it feels supportive. It helps to balance the mind out when it's looking at all the stuff that it sees coming up. You know, we will see a lot of stuff that we don't want to see when we look at our minds.
And so for some people, many people, roughly a third of the people have a relatively easier time with the compassion practice maybe and better practice. Maybe a third of the people really struggle with it. And then a third of the people are kind of more in the middle, you know, just where it's they're both kind of equally hard or easy. And so, yes, absolutely. For a lot of people, that direct cultivation of compassion through putting different thoughts in your mind, it is a a retraining.
It's putting yourself in a different soup for that time, essentially, and part of the compassion practice where for me it actually began working.
I was trying to just put the thoughts in my mind and like somehow believed that that would be moving me in the direction of feeling compassion or loving kindness. And at some point I got the instruction from one of my teachers got Armstrong is the one who gave me this instruction, you know, to really settle back each time you make that wish offer that wish of kindness or express that phrase of compassion, may you be happy.
Bringing somebody into your mind and explicitly wishing for a particular person, may you have eased in your life to not just focus on the wish and the other person, but then come back and look at how did that land in the soup that I have? How did that land what is it kind of bumping up against? You know, because the Metta practice, the compassion practice puts us in a different soup and we'll experience some dissonance of being in a different soup.
And if we're not aware that that's actually part of the process, you know, to kind of feel like we're aiming your mind towards compassion or kindness and you're bumping up against what feels like not compassion or kindness, that's a natural part of how that practice works. And so when I understood that, again, to to see the compassion practice and the loving kindness practice as a conditioning, you know that it is a conditioning and that it's going to bump up against other conditioning.
And of course, there's going to be essentially the opposite. One of the things that guy Armstrong also told me, he said, you know, the Metta practice is like running a meta magnet over your heart. And what does a magnet do? It pulls out its opposite. So when you see the opposite of Menta arising, when you're doing the metta practice, the lovingkindness practice, you'll see the opposite. And when that gets pulled out, that is how it begins to be seen.
So essentially, you know, the lovingkindness practice, the compassion practice is another way, I think, to begin to see some hidden views, some hidden biases when we're in that field and stepping back to.
And how did it affect me to make that wish? We may see some dissonance there. And that's a place maybe where we could also see some views that are hidden underneath the surface. I totally agree.
And I've had that experience myself that I'll be sitting there thinking I'm a failed practitioner of this stuff because I'm trying to wish well to myself or anybody else. And I'm actually having homicidal thoughts. And so I feel like a failure. But actually it's a misunderstanding of what I think the magnet metaphors is quite useful.
But where for me, it kind of got stratospherically useful was as I've done the practice, you know, this practice that I resisted so hard for so long as I've spent the last couple of years really quite seriously exploring it, I've noticed that when it pulls shards of judgment or, you know, ill will or whatever out of my thorax while I'm moving this magnet over it, not only am I able to view the uglier parts of my psyche with some mindfulness, but also because I'm doing this practice more intensely, the mind is flooded with warmth.
So I'm actually viewing all of this stuff like, oh, OK, OK. You know, it's not just this kind of clinical sense of it. This is just natural or, you know, I can view this with some nonjudgmental remove. It's like, yeah, yeah.
On some level, these views were serving me. You're trying to help me try this. The organism trying to protect itself. And can I just kind of hug this stuff rather than recoil?
Absolutely. I mean, so much of our suffering actually comes from our organism trying to protect itself. Essentially, it's kind of based on that movement to take care of ourselves, that we end up with all of this mess. And so, you know, to kind of recognize, oh, yeah, that habit or pattern that's trying it has been trying to, like, take care of me. And you're right, you know, when the mind can be flooded with warmth, you know, that's with the kind of sense of the.
Quality of oh of course. You know, of course this is here that there's a kind of a the tenderness around seeing it rather than like you said, you know, sometimes we might think of pure mindfulness as having that kind of clinical remove. We think of perhaps equanimity or non reactivity as being robotic almost.
But my experience is that with the true equanimity comes compassion and Metuh, the experience in the compassion practice where it kind of brings in that flavor of the warmth that begins to give the mind a little bit of an education about that possibility of holding what's happening no matter what it is with that warmth and that flavor of warmth is a flavor that's connected. It's connected with compassion. But when the mind is in that place of non reactivity, the Buddha often talked about freedom.
Coming with the absence of not the presence of right. I mean, he talked about the absence of greed, the absence of a delusion, the absence of aversion being the place of freedom in the mind. And our minds tell us that the absence means nothing's there. But with the absence of those, when we can really start to look at what's present, when those things are absent, you'll see. Nonreactive, you'll see equanimity, you'll see joy, you'll see compassion, you'll see love, and for me, that was an expanding I needed to for a long time when I was looking at my mind, it was more that clinical kind of just distancing.
And it was kind of interesting because I, I would talk to people and they would say how much compassion they felt coming from me. And internally I was thinking, gee, you know, I'm feeling not reactive, but I'm not really feeling the compassion. You know, I talked to a bunch of people about that, some of my colleagues, some other teachers to kind of be curious about, you know, and many of the teachers said, don't worry about it.
The compassions are there. And I'm like, well, that doesn't help me. But at some point, one teacher encouraged me to when I was in that space where I felt like I was nonreactive to turn towards the relationship, to turn towards the connection. And when I did that. The compassion became clear, the compassion became obvious, and so there are different ways sometimes you can start with the compassion practice and find your way to it through that. And then you get the taste of that and then you can apply that or bring that to bear on your mindfulness practice.
For myself, it came the other direction when I found my way to the compassion and the love from the mindfulness practice. And this like, OK, be curious about the relationship as opposed to the non reactivity side of it. You can kind of lean towards non reactivity, you can lean towards compassion. And I didn't know how to lean towards compassion. But this one teacher was very astute in saying, you know, look at the connection between you and the other person.
And it was an instant that the compassion was there. And so that was my doorway. I often like to offer people many doorways to compassion. You know, the the compassion practice, the mental practice are really useful tools. And for some people, perhaps bringing that that warmth in, it's like that can be remembered as you meet. Something was suffering. You can remember that warmth and allow that to infuse how you're with your experience.
There's an even larger point about practice that's coming to mind, that every mind is different and everybody's different based on, you know, your conditioning. And so some practices work really well for you, but wouldn't work really well for me. And some practices work really well for me right now, but wouldn't have worked really well for me 10 years ago and same for 10 years hence. So it brings it to mind an expression from my teacher, Joseph Goldstein, who likes to say, you know, whatever works.
Exactly. Yeah, I'm a fan of that philosophy to absolutely back to delusion for a second, as you know.
But I'm saying the following for really for listeners in Buddhism, we talk a lot about the three poisons or the defilement, greed, hatred and delusion.
Greed and hatred are always kind of. Obvious to me, I can see both of them in my mind, at any given nanosecond, delusion has always been the harder one for me.
Like what is that? What does that really get in that?
And as I understand it, the fundamental delusion the Buddha was pointing to was this idea that we're.
Separates solid egos in the world, but not really in it, because we're peering out fretfully behind these eye sockets. Do I have that right?
Well, I would say he pointed to three fundamental delusions. That's one of them. And I said earlier, that's the delusion we tend to take what is not self to be self. We tend to attribute a self to this unfolding process of mind and body. It's human. It's human. I mean, it's the rare human that does not have a sense of self and believe it. That's one aspect of the delusion. The other two are that we tend to take what is impermanent to be permanent, and we tend to take what is unreliable, to be reliable.
They kind of interweave with each other those three aspects of delusion because things are impermanent, you know, and that we tend to attribute or take impermanence attribute. And it's even with the with a very simple reflection, we can see the impermanent nature of experience. You know, there's nothing that we experience that lasts for very long and we can know that we know intellectually that we're going to die, but we don't behave that way. So there's a kind of a belief underlying in our immortality, even though we know consciously that this is that kind of the same thing of that the dissonance essentially between what we believe and what's emotionally true, you know, that belief in our own immortality, essentially, you know, we can't fathom a world without us.
So it wouldn't exist in a way, you know, that's what we think. So there's that the impermanent nature of the world. And because of the impermanent nature of the world, there's nothing reliable in the world that we can have for any length of time that will make us happy. That will be the thing that we can get or have or hold that makes us happy for the rest of time. We can get something for a few moments. The happiness of that lasts for a few moments, but then we're off on a loop of trying to get more things that make us happy.
And then the sense of self is essentially kind of trying to navigate the world to find things that will make us happy. Those three are connected.
The nut self teaching, I think, is a very foundational teaching of the Buddha.
But there's also an understanding that the insights that will lead us to kind of letting go of great diversion and delusion, those insights might come through the recognition of the impermanent nature of experience, might come through the recognition of the unreliable nature of experience, or might come through the recognition of the not self nature of experience.
So, yeah, I think that they're all three really powerful delusion bubbles that we are operating with.
And when you pop one of them, it tends to kind of get to the others as well in a way. So that's the fundamental delusion. What I sometimes call that the level of human delusion that we have. These beliefs, things are permanent, reliable, controllable, that I exist, you know, that that there's something stable or solid. And that's another way that the sense of self has an amputation of permanence. So that loops back to that particular understanding that we attribute a permanence to our sense of self.
That's the level of human delusion that the deepest level you're not going to find pretty much anybody, any human being on the planet is going to share those delusions. And then the level of delusion we've been talking about more today is kind of this intermediate level.
The processes are similar in terms of the way views work. I mean, basically taking what is. Impermanent to be permanent. It's a view, it's a belief taking what is unreliable, to be reliable. That's a view or belief, taking what's not self to be self. That's a view. In fact, it's often called security in the poly identity view. So it's a view that's held. And so it functions in very similar ways to this kind of middle level that we've been talking about mostly today, the kinds of personal conditioning views and beliefs that have been shaped in our lives.
Those personal views and beliefs are kind of informed by some of the deeper habits of mind around taking. What is important is to be permanent, what is not self, to be self. Our sense of self is shaped very personally by our culture, by our conditioning. So I think it's useful to not always drop down to that very deep human level of just looking at things. Well, this is not self. It's useful to look at that middle layer sometimes to see, well, how did this sense of self get shaped?
What is the personal conditioning? What is the soup that shaped this sense of self? Because that can be a kind of a more accessible level or layer of seeing what's going on. And the delusion is, again, taking the view. To be true or not, seeing that it is a view. So when we take what is not self to be self, that's a view that is being held that we're that we're not seeing. We don't see that that's happening.
You touched on this a little bit, but I think as we head toward the homestretch here of the interview, it will be nice to put a really fine point on this. What is the self-interest now, I'm not referring to the not self here, I'm just saying what's in it for us to do this work? Because it is hard.
The Buddha, it's generally tended to go through the pleasure centers of the brain. Why should we do this work?
We are suffering so much, you know, the Buddha at one point had the kind of poignant reflection before he went out. Looking for an answer to his question, I mean, this question really was. Is it possible for human beings to not suffer? Is it possible he looked around and he saw suffering everywhere? I mean, we we age, we get sick, we we die the suffering in our cultures and our communities and our families. It's like there's suffering everywhere.
It's not hard to see that they're suffering.
What our minds tend to do is to kind of take the quick route to, like, putting a Band-Aid over. A limb that's been chopped off. We try to do something that will make us feel better in the moment and, you know, it does make us feel better for a few moments. But then we're back into. Trying to find the next thing that will make us feel better. I'd say most people.
Who come to this practice? Not all I know people who came to it through intellectual exploration, but most people who come to this practice come to it because of suffering.
And the poignant reflection that the Buddha made as he kind of went into his own journey was, does anybody out there know away or two out of this suffering?
And that was my own question when I. Met this path, I felt like I'd kind of hit bottom. Very painful, very painful time in my life. And it's like everything that I've tried, I've tried everything that I know of to be happy and it's not working. Does anybody out there know a way to navigate this? And at that point, I was fortunate enough that a friend sent me a book about the Buddhist practices, like, well, I don't get how this works.
You know, the first thing that I learned from looking at that book was like, pay attention to your difficult mind states, you know, and anger was ruling me at that point. I was so angry. Particular situation had happened and I was so angry I would find myself just frozen with anger and nonfunctional. I was pretty nonfunctional at times with that anger. And the book that I got, it said something like, well, look at the anger, be with the anger.
You know, it's like, how is that going to work? I had no clue how it would work, but because I'd hit rock bottom, I was like, well, I don't get how this is going to work, but my friend says it's useful. So I'm going to see what happens. And within a very short time, you know, within a couple weeks.
It was very clear to me that this practice was useful, so it can be a big hump to get in, in a way, for me, I had to hit rock bottom. I had met mindfulness 15 years earlier, but it hadn't taken because I wasn't suffering enough, essentially what's in it for us. And I think many people who start the practice pretty quickly will get a little bit of a flavor of a different way. To navigate the world a different way to be with their minds, essentially that shift of.
Can I look at anger? Versus just like following, believing the anger, you know, in a way, you know, even a state of mind like anger at a certain point I understood there were lots of beliefs in there. The fundamental belief was this is going to help me make the other person feel miserable.
And what I missed, what I was missing with that belief was that it was making me miserable and very quickly turning with mindfulness to the experience of, well, what's it like to feel anger? It's like, wow, this is making me miserable. It's not doing anything to that other person.
It just popped that belief, that delusion around this is going to make the other person miserable. And pretty quickly, through being with the experience, there was a shift and it was only a couple weeks before I was no longer nonfunctional with the anger. It was another many years. It was a two or three years before that pattern of anger really dissipated and fell away. But pretty quickly, there was a lot of understanding. And I even remember a moment in my life, you know, I think it was two months into my doing this practice and I wasn't even meditating at that point.
I wasn't even interested in meditating. I was just looking at my mind in daily life and looking at the anger when it came up. And at a certain point, I saw a kind of pattern fall apart in the mind around the anger that had me on board for life. I saw a pattern, the mind heading towards anger before it got angry and the mind let go of the anger. It just let it go. And in that moment, seeing, like, the person who I was angry with had come up in my mind.
And I saw that thought I saw the intention to jump on that thought and think more thoughts to get angry, knew from the experience that. Anger was suffering. Knew from the previous weeks of looking at being with anger that that was not a good direction to go and the mind just let it go.
And that was what was so inspiring to me in that moment, was that I didn't do the letting go of the anger at that point. It just let go.
And so seeing that, you know, seeing that was life changing for me. That moment of seeing, I saw directly that the practice of looking at the anger in the last couple of months had contributed to the mind letting go of it. And so at that point, you know, when you said what's in it for us, you know, why would we do this when we get those tastes, when we get those senses of a different possibility? It's like the mind can't go back from those it understands.
The mind begins to understand that there's a completely different way to move in the direction of happiness than our habitual way of just getting the next thing or getting rid of the things that we don't like. Those little tastes of shift in the mind, little senses of, oh, it's possible not to be caught by anger, but to just be with it. Whatever pattern or habit we're looking at just to see it, we feel a difference. You know, we experience a different quality in our heart and mind.
Even if the anger or whatever it is, reactivity doesn't go away in that moment. It's like there's space around it.
And there's a piece of our system that understands this is a deeper way to wellbeing. So there's plenty of times that it feels really hard to practice, plenty of times that it feels really hard to look at that difficulty.
But the more we practice, the more we get those little hints, those little flavors of. There's a different way, and at a certain point it feels like that different way that the mind has had a taste of that becomes the gravitational pull. And I've talked to students to who say this.
It's like I tried to stop practicing and I couldn't do it.
You know, it's like I didn't want to look at this anymore, but but I didn't have any choice, partly because what happened when they stopped looking at it or, you know, stopped trying to be with it would kind of it's like they felt even worse. And I think it was Joseph actually who used this image. He said, you know, it's like we're in a bowl. You know, I've got this like, you can see this, but nobody else can.
You know, we've got a bowl and we're kind of in the bottom of the bowl and we're trying to climb up the edges of the bowl. And it's hard it's hard work. You know, we have to work really hard to meet our experience to hang in there when it's really hard. And, you know, we get a little way up the bowl and then it gets really hard and we let go and we just slide back down to the bottom of the bowl, he said.
But at some point in practice, it's like the bowl flips and then it becomes hard to stay at that point in the bowl. It's hard to stay at that point because where you can't stay at that point, you slide down. So at a certain point in our practice, there becomes a kind of a gravitational pull towards the letting go of great diversion and delusion, because the mind so clearly understands that is not the way to happiness. And it feels the suffering of the greed of the inversion, the delusion so much more clearly.
So starting is hard when we start to look at our minds. Oh, my gosh.
Really humbling. Really painful. And I think this is where some of these teachings that the Buddha offers around conditioning can help us hang in there in that time. And the tools of compassion can help us hang in there around that time.
What else is in it for us is that as we do engage with the practices, we either kind of settle our minds and concentration.
We get a taste of feeling like we're just infused with well-being or in the compassion practice. Like you said, with that kind of sense of where it really started to turbocharge was when you got that taste, of that warmth. So we get those tastes and that's what's in it for us to you know, we get those tastes of those qualities that really help our mind to recognize this is a whole different way to. Find ease and peace in our lives because he points out he's a translator of many of the teachings of the Buddha.
He points out that to get on the path of practice, first of all, you have to have an encounter with suffering like the Buddha. You know, where there's a kind of curiosity. Does anybody know a way or two out of the suffering? Does anybody know a way or two out to the suffering?
And then you also have to be in contact with the teaching that points a way out.
It's the rare person who would find their way out on their own, even meeting, suffering, you know, without having some kind of pointing of do this. I mean, like I got that book.
It's like, you know, look at the anger, like, how is that going to work? I didn't get it, but it was pretty quick once I started looking to see, oh, that's how it works. So you get the kind of encounter with suffering combined with the teaching, and then that may spur some interest, too.
And for me, there was faith, too, from my friend, the friend who sent me the book. It's like, well, she said it's useful. So I'm going to try this. So some of what gets us on the path is pure faith, pure kind of.
Somebody said it's going to help. And then once we're on the path, in my experience, once we started, it actually doesn't take that long for us to understand and taste some of those benefits. And then when we've tasted those benefits, that's what can keep us going. People do find times where it's like, I just can't keep going. It's like, well, think about how it was five years ago. Think about how it was two years ago whenever you started.
Think about what it was like then. Have you seen change because of the practice? And they almost always say, oh yeah, I see that if I hadn't been doing this, I would really be struggling right now.
It's like, OK, use that knowledge to help you get through this time.
Well, I've really enjoyed this time with you and and I appreciate you taking the time to come on and answer questions and talk to me before I let you go for folks who want to learn more about you.
Where can we do that? Is there a place on the Internet or their books? Where would we go?
I don't yet have my own website. I'm working on that. But the main place that I teach is the Insight Meditation Center, different from the Insight Meditation Society, although I also teach at IMS. But my home center is the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, and there's a website for that Community WWOR Insight Meditation Center. Again, corresponding with that community. We have the recordings and podcasts of everything that we do or most things that we do found on audio darma audio a you d i o d.h ARMM Audio Dharma Doug.
And so almost all of my talks are found on audio Dharma. That's a good way to get introduced to my teaching in particular. And then I teach retreats. I teach retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. I teach retreats at the Insight Meditation Society, regularly teach the the three month course at the Insight Meditation Society. And then I also teach at a couple of other centers around the country occasionally. Great.
We'll put the links in the show notes so people can just click them. Thank you again for doing this.
You did a great job and was great to for me to sit and talk to you.
It's a pleasure. Big thanks again to Andrea Feller. One more thing before we let you go, we are looking for a podcast marketer, if you love this show, if you love marketing and building relationships, we would love to have you on this team to help us grow the 10 percent happier podcast and the other podcasts that we hope to be launching as soon as this year. So if any of this sounds appetizing to you, please apply at 10 percent dotcom careers, 10 percent dotcom slash careers.
There will, of course, be a link in the show notes. This show is made by Samuel Johns. Jay Cashmere Kim become a Maria Wartell engine plant with audio engineering by ultraviolet audio and background perring from Toby. As always, a hearty salute to my ABC News comrades Brian Kessler and Josh Cohen. We'll see you all on Friday for a bonus meditation from fan favorite Seve Selassie. I wrote at Verlinden about a nine page analysis of what I thought his situation was from best case studios and ABC audio listened to in Plain Sight.
Lady Bird Johnson, a new podcast about the power of a political partnership, one that somehow doesn't show up in the many, many accounts of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, told through ladybirds own audio diaries and available now wherever you listen to podcasts.