November 19 Which of the Six Realms do you hang out in?


This Monday night, Mary will facilitate.  She shares:  

I have wanted to share for some time my notes from a retreat given by Pema Chodron and her long-time assistant, Tim Olmstead. They brought to everyday life the ancient Tibetan Buddhist teachings on the Six Realms. Rather than a traditional description of the six possible places of reincarnation after death, they focus on how these teachings can help us to be free now.

We often hear that the ground of our being, our basic nature is basic goodness. I wonder why I don't feel like that every day, every moment. The Six Realms are a paradigm that describes when we lose contact with this natural state of being. And when we get disconnected with our true nature, we get stuck in a realm.

"The Six Realms are our styles of being stuck-and when we become interested with open curiosity, when we turn the lights on our lives, we understand the realm(s) in which we habitually operate. Most people favor one or two realms as their 'go-to' realms. The 'carrot' is our imagination of what life could be like to be free from the prison of these realms --- that's why we have heros like Buddha, Christ and so many others. They provide us the evidence that it is possible.

  1. Hell realm: "you're against me" in opposition to everything; heat; fight; angry, enraged mind; hatred; can't distinguish if it's really happening or if it's your state of mind.

  2. Hungry Ghost realm: "there is never enough" or "I am never enough"; insatiability; deficiency; impoverished mind; even when there is enough, it's never satisfying.

  3. Animal realm: "just trying to get by"; head down; determined; survival mode; a fear of being eaten.

  4. Human realm: "if only I had"; if only, if only I had ... more friends, more time, more money, better looks, better spouse, better job, better house.

  5. Jealous realm: "I am the best" or "that's just how it is and I'm right"; competitiveness; jealousy; one-up-man.

  6. God realm: "luxury of obliviousness"; accompanied by a certain amount of wealth as have everything you need; bliss meditation; when things go wrong, check into a spa.

We bring intentionality to our awareness anytime we knowingly and intentionally bring our awareness to something. There are 3 types of awareness: Normal awareness; intentionally bringing our awareness/attention to something; and pure awareness/calm abiding/shamata when the knowingness no longer needs to have an object.

There is a difference between being lost in emotions versus being present to them; being used by our emotions versus using them. The skill we work to develop in this practice is the ability to hold and embrace our circumstance with awareness. Like all skills, this takes time to develop. Run in, run away, pull out, jump back in-do it in short, small bites. In order to open it out, to empty the realm, we need to open up the doors of the prison of that realm. This gesture of being willing to embrace our experience with that curiosity-just like a mother embraces her child-that is what heals, what empties the realm. Along the way, we learn how far we can go, in small bites; it's a process of coming closer. In order to empty the realm, we have to know it completely and intimately.

"The beauty of a relationship to things is that a relationship crafts intimacy and intimacy creates understanding and understanding creates love."

From Anais Nin

This attitude of warmth, understanding and love is healing. Awareness is the panacea. We learn to talk to ourselves like we'd want a friend to talk to us-with warmth, with empathy.

When we really understand ourselves, we automatically become interested in others' selves. Through this doorway, we connect to other people, to the world-- it develops our empathy, curiosity and warmth that melt the realm. Without meditation, we don't become familiar with this quality of awareness.

Space is the metaphor for our basic nature. Nothing can harm space.

It's because we are who we are and realize that we have all this stuff that we are even motivated to work to become enlightened-to be free from what imprisons us. You benefit people through what you thought was your weakest, most broken, part. It cuts through your denial, your pride, your ignorance-it opens us up and connects us to others-it's our humanness. It becomes your skill, your way to help others. These become doorways to our freedom.

What ultimately starts to soften things is accepting yourself the way you are. Brain science tells us that our emotions last only 90 seconds if we don't feed and reinforce them with the narrative. Meditation is a method to let the story line go. Feel what you feel without the narrative. "

Tonight after walking meditation, we will practice the process of emptying realms together during the second sitting period.

I look forward to seeing and sharing with you on Monday night!

Bowing to the light within you,