4 Oct 1999 –13 Nov 2003 Victoria, BC –
from Transcript of Audio Recording of Cynthia Bourgeault’s Commentaries on:
Living Presence by Kabir Edmund Helminski

inner teaching puts this in a slightly but crucially different ballpark.  It says, “Yes, get conscious of it.”  And we spend a lot of time doing that, trying to pull up and see.  Because like Charlotte Joko Beck said – this wonderful Zen master in San Diego – what you’re not aware of you can be sure you’re acting out of.  So you’ve got to get conscious.  You’ve got to see the roots of it.  And Thomas Keating is exactly right that our anger, our negativity, is useful up to a point on the spiritual path because negativity usually comes from the frustration of our false self programs.  And so the easiest way to get to see our false self programs is when they are frustrated.  And when you find yourself really, really mad because they passed over you, you find out that you were probably attached to… but what the inner work then does is to say having become conscious of them, then don’t identify with them.

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Urgency is always the telltale sign that your ego has gotten bound up in it somehow, through some sort of conditioning or cultural program.  If you have to do this now – “Sell everything you have – give it to the poor!” you know. Sit tight; get the old observer out and watch.  Because when you have those things on your plate you are really going to learn something.  Intuition is a distant reflection of something that is very, very real and you can have the real one, but the price you pay is surrender.

Okay, anyway, back to Daily Practice.  The old “Open Mind, Open Heart” practice or Welcome practice.  That’s what we’re talking about in this first one.  And you took it off in a wonderful direction by talking about how you were able to say no thank-you to thinking a thought, which is great.  It doesn’t happen that often.  The more typical thing is that you go over your own waterfall and you get caught in an afflictive emotion.

This is essentially what Thomas Keating and Mary Mrozowski (1925-1993) are teaching you to do.  I mean, all of a sudden let’s say you’re in the midst of some negative emotion.  Let’s take a typical example.  Your husband has been stupid again and you’re angry – and you’re feeling superior and you’re feeling angry and you’re feeling judgemental and you’re feeling hurt.  And now you have a choice.  If you follow the normal pattern of life at the psychological level you will be angry and hurt and miffed, and your busy little mind will work at building a case for why he was so stupid and why this always happens to you – all the inner talking will go on.  That’s the usual thing that happens.

Or you can decide, “Aha!  Now is the time to do this practice.”  And you can take this state and you can move right into it and release it using that Open Mind Open Heart practice, that welcoming practice.  Remember how it works?

  1. Focus in, that is to become completely present to how this emotion lives as sensation in your body.  Super important!  This is not commentaries, this is not rationalizations, this is not analysis.  If you’re angry, be present to your anger.  Where is it in you?  If you are so depressed that you feel like you are the cloud that’s outside, live in it, sense the heaviness, be one with the heaviness, experience it.  Okay, that’s the first step.  Crucially important.
  2. Second step. Very, very quietly welcome anger.  Welcome depression.  Welcome heaviness.  It’s so you, from your observer place – which is where you have to go to be able to do that – create that atmosphere of inner hospitality.  You can be completely okay in whatever it is.  You can be completely okay in depression or in anger or in physical pain.  Nothing has to change.  You don’t have to go screeching around to fix your mood so you can be your merry, cheerful, usual self again.  It’s a way of finding your Self, even in the midst of what seems like negativity.
  3. And then, remember, the third step is, insofar as possible, you let it go.  You say, “I let go of my anger.” or “I give my anger to God.”  Or you do that wonderful step, “I let go of my desire for power and control.  I let go of my desire for security and survival.  I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.  I let go of my desire to change the situation.”  That’s the important one – “I let go of my desire to change the situation.”  Nothing has to change, okay?

And remember when you do this practice, this is not a self-improvement practice at the level of the ego.  You’re not saying you are never going to be angry again.  Okay?  It’s only in this moment I’m working so that I can be here in what’s happening.  I’m saying, essentially, that the level of conscious presence can – like a big, loving circle – contain the littler circle of the psychological.

So that will release, that’s a way of sacrificing, the negativity.  What does the word “sacrifice” mean in Latin?  What’s it come from?  Sacerficere  – to make holy.  And so when you use your emotion this way – when instead of just going over your own waterfall in your negativity and making an air tight case for yourself, where you can’t breathe – when you instead say, “I’m going to take this negativity and put it within consciousness using the Open Mind Open Heart practice.” you sacrifice your negativity – you make it holy, by being willing to make it holocaust – burning it – for the sake of consciousness.