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  • YOUNG: This is going to be both a practice and a theory presentation, so we're actually

  • going to do some meditation and we're going to talk about your experiences and then we'll

  • do some more and then we'll talk some more as Ming mentioned. So, you don't need to have

  • any previous background; I'm going to start you out with a few minutes of guided meditation

  • practice and then we'll build from there. Now, the simple way to understand a meditative

  • state is to compare what people's normal experiences to what a meditative experience would be.

  • So, what's people's normal experience? Well, in the day, we're very alert but have you

  • noticed we tend to be a little frenetic; there could be a driven quality? So the good news

  • is we're quite alert, but we're not necessarily in a deep, restful state while that alertness

  • is there. At night, the good news is we're in a deep, restful state but we don't have

  • alertness; we sacrifice that for the deep rest. What meditation is simply the best of

  • both worlds simultaneously. You're very alert like you are when you had a bunch of coffee

  • and you're doing something exciting in your background world. But at the same time--at

  • the very same time, there's a kind of reposed restfulness, so it brings together the best

  • of those worlds. Now, why we might want to do that, well, we'll talk about that in a

  • little while. So, I'm going to guide you [INDISTINCT] process that will, in time, elevate your levels

  • of alertness but also your levels of repose. So, it's important while we do this exercise,

  • particularly for those of you that have never meditated before, that you do attempt not

  • to fall asleep. There will be some tendency for that to happen, so try to bring yourself

  • back to the practice I'm going to guide you with. One of the ways that you can control

  • of your level of alertness is through your posture. There are direct links between the

  • posture centers in the spine and what's called the reticular activating system in the central

  • nervous system that basically as you posture wilts like this, your reticular activating

  • system turns off and the brain stops processing and at the extreme level, you become drowsy.

  • Conversely, though, if you keep your spine straight, that will physiologically wake up

  • your brain. Now, it takes a little while to learn how to have your body deeply relaxed

  • while at the same time your spine is straight; that is a body learning, a motor learning

  • that just takes practice. But they have found, for example, with Zen monks in Japan for whom

  • they did electromyographic studies--that is monitoring the real-time electrical activity

  • in the muscles, in their posture muscles--they found that those monks could maintain a bolt

  • upright posture for hours on end and their muscles were more relaxed than if they were

  • horizontal and asleep. But that's a long training, that's many years of training. Many of you

  • will be beginning so that's going to seem strange to you; well, how can I keep my spine

  • straight and at the same time, allow my body to be completely relaxed? Well, that comes

  • with time. I would say, basically, the trick is balance. You learn how to align your spine

  • and then just let the whole body just hang from that. So, I'm going to give you an initial

  • concentration exercise where you're going to be straightening your spine, letting your

  • whole body settle, then I'm going to have you focus on the physical relaxation in your

  • body, and you're going to mentally note that as feel rest. We'll use the word feel to refer

  • to anything in the body and well, when you're feeling that you are physically and/or emotionally

  • reposed, we'll say that you're experiencing feel rest; your body is--you're having a body

  • experience of restfulness. And the particular flavor of feel rest that I'm going to help

  • you explore is muscle relaxation. And you can create muscle relaxation by dropping your

  • jaw a little bit and then your face looks smooth, you can let your arms hang limply

  • and loosely. Every out-breath physiologically, your intercostal muscles and your diaphragm

  • muscle automatically slightly relax on each out-breath; it's part of the intrinsic physiology

  • of breathing. On the in-breath, those muscles contract to pull open the thoracic cavity.

  • On the out-breath, it's the stored potential energy in the tissue elasticity plus gravity

  • that does the out-breath for you, so the out breath, all muscles have to do essentially

  • for an out-breath is relax. So, if you tune in to your core of your body, you'll find

  • that the relaxation flavor is present automatically on each out-breath. So, I'm going to take

  • you through a sequence of focusing and your objective is going to be physical relaxation.

  • All you have to do is follow my guidance. After we do that and we have a little experience

  • of concentrating on that, we're going to begin to talk about why one would want to do an

  • exercise like this and so the theoretical considerations of, well, what would happen

  • if you did something like this for--on a regular basis for 10, 20, 30 years? What sorts of

  • changes would you start to see in your daily life? We'll talk about those conceptual pieces,

  • but I wanted to make sure that we begin with something experiential. So, we often start

  • out meditation by one of these East Asian-styled bells, so that's what we're going to do and

  • just listen in and follow alone. Now, take a moment to stretch up and let your whole

  • body settle and notice how that will tend to produce a kind of a global relaxation throughout

  • your body. Focus in on that and every few seconds, make the mental label feel rest to

  • remind yourself that you're focusing on this restful quality in your body. Feel means it's

  • in the body. Rest in this case means nothing mysterious, it's just muscle relaxation, or

  • settling into your posture. You may experience that relaxation in just one part of your body,

  • that's fine. Or it may move from place to place within your body, that's fine. Or you

  • maybe aware from relaxation simultaneously and uniformly throughout your body, that's

  • fine, too. So, whether it's just one place or whether it moves from place to place or

  • whether it's global throughout your body, moment by moment, contact the pleasant quality

  • of muscles relaxing into a posture and every few seconds, to acknowledge that that's what

  • you're focusing on. Say it yourself mentally, feel rest and keep that sequence of mental

  • labels going. Now, as you do this, non-rest is going to arise in the form of internal

  • visual experience of mental images, internal auditory experience of mental talk, other

  • kinds of body sensations, external sounds. You can do this with your eyes closed so there

  • won't be external sights, but all sorts of things are going to come up in your mind,

  • body and outside world other than relaxation. Perfectly okay, totally give permission for

  • all that to activate. But what you're intentionally focusing in on is the relaxation, locally

  • or globally, intensely or subtly doesn't matter, that's your objective focus, and that's it.

  • Mental talk might arise, fine. As soon as you find yourself caught in it, gently return

  • to body rest. Mental images might arise; images of the past, the future, fantasy, that's fine.

  • As soon as you find yourself caught in mental images, gently return to relaxation in the

  • body. Physical and/or emotional sensations may arise in your mind including discomfort,

  • impatience, sleepiness, that's fine. But as soon as you're caught in those body sensations,

  • gently return to the pleasant sensation of relaxation. So, it's an exercise in selective

  • attention. The relaxation may be very mild relative to the intensities of the inward

  • seeing, hearing or feeling or the outwork: hearing or feeling. But that's okay. Like

  • when you listen for a faint sound, you get very concentrated. If in relaxation it's only

  • subtle, then you have to be very highly focused, but that builds concentration. You can create

  • relaxation locally by smoothing your face or dropping your jaw or dropping your shoulders

  • or lifting your arms. You can find relaxation in the core of your being anytime you want,

  • by focusing on how the rib muscles and the diaphragm muscle relax on each out breath.

  • Furthermore, you can create local relaxation anytime you want by straightening your spine

  • once again as we did in the beginning and then letting the whole body settle, creating

  • an overall relaxation albeit perhaps subtle throughout the body. So through some combination

  • of finding and/or creating, try to focus as continuously as possible on the pleasant sensation

  • of being physically relaxed and let everything also rise, but in the background; selective

  • attention on the relaxation frame. Remember every few minute--every few seconds, rather,

  • make the mental label feel rest to remind yourself that you're focusing in the body,

  • which is what's encoded by the word "feel" in the system, and that the flavor of experience

  • you're focusing on is the restful flavor which, in this case, is muscle relaxation. Now, we're

  • going to up the ante on this exercise. We'll make it a little more challenging. We're going

  • to continue to do exactly what we're doing, focusing on body relaxation, but we're now

  • going to attempt to do it with your eyes open. I'll explain how to do that. You de-focus

  • your eyes. You open your eyes, but you sort of look blankly out and that will help you

  • maintain awareness on your body even though your eyes are open. Now, of course, you'll

  • be somewhat pulled into external sights, but you'll sort of de-focus or soft focus or far-focus

  • your eyes, making it easier to focus on relaxation with your eyes open but more challenging because

  • they are open. So now open your eyes, sort of soft focus. This will also help you retain

  • alertness as you're physiologically waking up the brain. Now your eyes are open and continue

  • to create and find relaxation in one part of your body or circulating from place to

  • place or maybe over your whole body at once, continue to mentally label, feel rest. And

  • now your eyes are open but your awareness is back and you're fine. Now, we're going

  • to be--in a moment, be moving from formal practice to practice in life. That means we're

  • going to be talking and interacting. But you might see if you can keep some awareness on

  • finding and/or creating relaxation from time to time as we're interacting, so that the

  • momentum of what we've done is somewhat maintained; not unbroken, but there's some carryover as

  • we go about the more ordinary situation of talking and interacting. So see if, from time

  • to time, you can be aware of relaxing in your posture even as we talk and interact. So as

  • Ming mentioned, my name is Shinzen, S-H-I-N-Z-E-N. And I got that name in Asia, although I was

  • not born in Asia. I was privileged to grow up partially in American culture and partially

  • in Japanese culture, so I grew up bilingual and somewhat bicultural. And part of that

  • was a stay of a number of years in Buddhist monasteries in different parts of Asia. And

  • then I came back to the United States with an interest in how I could take what I've

  • learned--which I view as the pinnacle of Asian technology, which is the internal science

  • and internal technology of meditative states--how could I take that and combine it with the

  • best of Western science and technology to perhaps bring about or fertilize a whole new

  • direction in human history? And that has been my main goal and interest. And one of the

  • reasons that people like Ming enjoy having me as a meditation teacher is I'm a fully

  • professional meditation teacher, but I'm a pretty good amateur scientist and I bring

  • a little bit of that perspective into the way that I present things. So my favorite

  • thing in the world is to give presentations at places like this, like Google or other

  • institutions where there are people with a scientific or engineering background, so that

  • I can sort of put on that little bit of that decap myself. So, we just completed an exercise.

  • Now, those of you with a background in math know that one of the things that you always

  • want to do in mathematics, if possible, is generalize and abstract from specific to broader

  • formulations. So I had to do a very specific exercise to with you're focusing on one sensory

  • quality. Now, let's generalize that, let's speak in the most general terms. What did

  • I have you do? Well, I had you pick a sensory event and I partitioned all sensory experience

  • into that event and then everything else. And the instruction was keep your attention

  • as much as you can on event X and when Y, Z and T pull you away, as they inevitably

  • will, come back to X. What were some of the Y, Zs and Ts that pulled you away from relaxation?

  • Tell me what were some of the things that were in the distraction category that you

  • found you were caught in and had to come back from. Tell me.

  • >> Noises from other people. >> YOUNG: External sounds that came from other

  • people. They could also come from cars, but they're more annoying somehow if they come

  • from other people or more gripping in some way; external sounds.

  • >> Just thoughts about other aspects in life. >> YOUNG: Thoughts. Now, some of those thoughts

  • probably have the form of internal conversations, correct? And you know its--most people tend

  • to point to their head, their ears. But did anybody have thoughts that involved mental

  • pictures where you saw people, places; situations? Did anybody notice that sometime a thought

  • could have both a video and an audio component? You can see the scene and hear the dialogue.

  • So we had external auditory events that could pull us away; we could hear out to the world.

  • We had internal audio events that could pull us away; we could hear into our own mental

  • talk. We could see out to the world now that--when I had you do it with your eyes open, did anybody

  • notice you tended to get pulled into external vision? You could be pulled into inner visions

  • that are mental pictures. And then there were various physical--did anybody notice that

  • the body, other than the relaxation, would pull you? Anybody notice that you had sleepy

  • sensations, for example? How many people had that? Okay. That's a physical sensation. Anybody

  • noticed any aches and pains? Okay. Anybody noticed any antsiness, impatience in the body?

  • Okay. If you were irritated by sound that might've been an emotional irritation flavor

  • in the body, there could be fear flavors in the body. In other words, there could be physical,

  • you could feel the physicality of the body, but also parts of the emotional experience

  • involve body sensations. So what we did do? We partitioned the world into one category

  • of experience called "Physical Relaxation" and then all the other experiences. It turns

  • out all the other experiences are external seeing, external hearing, internal seeing,

  • internal hearing, and physical and emotional body sensations. If we consider smell and

  • taste to be forms of sort of body sensation, then that classifies all the experience. So

  • in general, what we did, if we abstract it from the specific, we designated a class of

  • experience, we selectively attended to that, when the attention was pulled into some other

  • class of experience, we came back. That's a very general formulation and we did that

  • as a formal exercise. We were just dedicating a period a time just to doing that. So now

  • I'm going to ask you some--I'm going to ask you to make some conjectures. First conjecture,

  • do you think that if you did an exercise--oh, first question, do you think that we would've

  • developed a similar skill set if we had picked some other object, some other sensory object?

  • Suppose, for example, I said, "Our object is going to be mental talk." Every time you

  • are aware of mental talk, I'd like you to say, "Hear in," indicate your hearing inward

  • experience and we're going to ignore everything else. We're going to ignore and then we'll

  • go through the list and we'll, of course, be ignoring physical relaxation. Suppose I

  • gave you as the object that you're going to concentrate on internal talk instead of physical

  • relaxation? Now, something would be different because we're focusing on a very different

  • sensory problem. However, I would say that if you were to do the exercise based on focusing

  • concentratedly on mental talk or if you were to do the exercise based on focusing concentratively

  • on physical relaxation that in the end, with regards to your base level of concentration

  • skills, the effect would be the same, okay? Now that's maybe a little counter-intuitive

  • if you might think, "Oh, well, you should only be focusing on pleasant, restful things.

  • What if I focus on something agitative and so forth, will that still develop my concentration

  • power?" and the answer is yes. So, we could've picked any one of dozens or dozens of possible

  • objects; a mantra, your breath, an external candle flame, it could've been anything, anything

  • at all. The fact is when the awareness wandered, you came back. When the awareness wanders,

  • you'd come back. Now, how many people here have ever done physical exercise to build

  • up your body? I think most of us have done it from time to time, nothing mystical-shmystical.

  • If you do exercise on a regular basis, will the base level of strength in your muscles

  • increase? Yes or no? It's not trick set of question. The answer is yes. If you designate

  • some aspect of experience to be an object of focus and you, by implication, designate

  • all other experiences for that period of time to be distractions, and you pull yourself

  • back from the distractions to the object of focus--doesn't matter what the object of focus

  • is--do you think that with time, your base level of concentration power would be elevated?

  • What do you think? It's not an unreasonable hypothesis. In fact, it is profoundly true;

  • a fact that was never discovered very clearly by the Western world, but was very clearly

  • discovered by Asia. And I think if there's one thing that Asia can yell out loud and

  • clear and the rest of the world, the entire rest of the world, has to listen and say,

  • "That's unique and that's important," is the discovery that a person's base level of concentration

  • power is trainable by systematic exercise. So, let's attempt a definition albeit perhaps

  • a circular definition. But those of you with a mathematical background know that formal

  • systems always start with circular definitions, so we start with undefined, okay? But let's

  • just accept the fact that there may be a little circularity in this, but let's define concentration

  • power as the ability to focus on what you want whenever you want for as long as you

  • want. Now, you notice that there is nothing in this definition that says that concentration

  • is a narrowing of your attention. That's one of the common misconceptions that concentration

  • is, by definition, a reduced scope of awareness. All I said was the ability to attend to what

  • you want whenever you want for as long as you want, that's the definition of your base

  • level of concentration power. So if you're driving the car and you would like to have

  • a meditative experience of driving the car, are you going to buzz a mantra in your head?

  • Are you going to visualize a flower? Not if you want to drive safely, okay? Are you going

  • to focus on your breath? I don't recommend it. Then what's relevant to driving the car?