Don’t Try. Just Expand Outward.

meditation blog post

Lying in bed, scrolling through this morning’s Facebook feed, I stumbled upon a Ram Dass article in which he describes an encounter with Trungpa Rinpoche. Trungpa asked Ram Dass if he would like to practice a meditation in which they both expand outward. ‘Sure!’ So they sat across from each other, closed their eyes, and practiced earnestly. After a few minutes, Trungpa asked Ram Dass is he was trying.

 

‘Yes, of course!

 

‘Don’t try. Just expand outward.’

 

And in the words of Ram Dass, ‘It absolutely blew my mind…’

 

… Just expand outward….

 

On page 36 of Journey Without Goal, Chogyam Trungpa writes “The tantric tradition is fundamentally an intentional approach to life in terms of how we handle our body. How we speak, how we look, how we touch our cup, our fork or knife, how we life things and carry them about – all those things are very deliberate. But such deliberateness is not presented in a manual or book on how to act according to the tantric tradition. The point is that there is no such thing as a real tantric diet or proper tantric behavior. Instead, we develop a basic attitude, so that when we begin to extend our arm, we simply do it. When we begin to touch, we touch; and when we lift, we lift in a very confident way. We just do it. We have a real experience of confidence.”

 

So just expand outward…

 

If we try to do this with our heads, which is presumably what Ram Dass was trying, then it’s easy for a ‘should’ to be happening. It ‘should’ look like this, feel like this, result in this. There can be a forceful action of pushing one’s self outward to get to a certain state by using one’s imagination. Once the heart and the body are aligned though, then it’s a different story.

 

The more I feel embodied, the more I attune to a way-of-being that feels natural, that syncs with the energy fields around me, that allows for spontaneous laughter and humor to arise, that grants space for emotions and expressions to authentically show themselves, that flows with the tides of inner and outer awareness. Embodied presence is a full, balanced awareness where the body, heart and head all sit at the table, informing us how to act from a place of intuitive wisdom and love.

 

Once embodied presence is accessed through integrated awareness, expanding outward is natural. It is inherent in our consciousness if we allow the lid of our ego to twist open.

 

This week I listened to a few Reggie Ray talks (episodes #55, 56 and 57) at DharmaOcean.org. One take-away that has stayed with me is the distinction between training from inside-out (Mahamudra) vs from the outside-in (Theravada). The former seems close to what I fell in love with during my very first meditation ever, in which I imagined a lit candle inside my belly. It was my job to concentrate on the flame. Feeling the warm heat inside my stomach, I became fascinated at how the flame would flicker according to the intensity of my intruding thoughts. I was relieved to be out of my head and out of my story; I found a refuge, a new way of being, a training exercise for my consciousness, and a larger, more connected reality than I ever knew.

 

Train from the inside out….

 

One day several months ago I was having lunch with an aikido master and a local retreat center director. The three of us were discussing the value of teaching embodiment exercises to yogi’s at events and retreats. There is a relatively small emphasis on these teachings at insight retreat centers, and yet so many yogi’s (especially those living with trauma) have such a difficult time relating to their bodies, accessing their feet during walking meditation, feeling their hearts during metta practice, or simply getting out of their heads. The three of us agreed that there needs to be more teachings on how to be in the body, otherwise practices like noting vedana (feeling tones) become too theoretical and not experiential enough to yield great insight.

 

Training solely from the outside in has become a bit dry for me. Looking at what is obscuring my inner light through the five hindrances is feeling a little rote, mostly because I feel like I’ve lost beginners mind with it. I’ve read, heard and practiced these teachings so many times. Isn’t there more than always coming back to the breath at the nostrils, focusing on the elements, noting feeling tones, witnessing the impermanence of thoughts, or sorting through the lists of ‘the Dhammas’? Working at a retreat center and unfolding from Theravada monasticism, there are elements of feeling like I ‘should’ stay solely within tradition by focusing on the classical practices of working with kilesas, conditioned experience, and breath.

 

Ram Dass went on to write “Mainly I was doing it to myself. You know, “You should do this, you really should.” I almost distrusted that I had a true yearning for God. And that’s where the ‘shoulds’ were coming from, that lack of faith. The more I trusted myself and said, “Well, okay, I’ll just be what I am” the more I began to feel this deep pull towards God. And these methods which could help me, such as meditation started to be a joy rather than a mountain to be climbed.”

 

And this is so true for me. Since bringing added awareness to my body, just being what I already am, and having bodywork done, I am quicker to perceive tense muscles, slouching posture, a full stomach, triggers for sense cravings, how I stand to go pee, when there is shallow breath, etc. I can ‘feel my field’ of energy, sense gravity, and operate with a stronger sense of what (and who, in a relative sense) I am, which has nothing to do with beliefs or ‘shoulds’ or what other people expect from me.

 

It’s been so fun to notice that the more I become embodied = the less I compare myself to others = the less I care what others think = the more I feel free to share authentically about what I want and feel = the more people are excited about me and my path = the more creative and free I feel = the easier it is to be myself = the easier it is to “just expand outward”.

Creative forces are awakening from the inside out, bringing me to life in a magical way – all without trying. 🙂



Author: Sean Fargo
About Sean Fargo At the peak of his career as Director of Asian Operations for AsiaEXP, Sean Fargo traded in his worldly aspirations to explore the inner life by ordaining as a Buddhist monk for two years in the Thai Theravada tradition. Since disrobing in 2010, he has supported thousands of meditation practitioners at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, facilitated mindfulness classes in San Quentin and Solano State Prisons, and has lead several workshops at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education teen retreats. A dedicated student of spirituality and mindfulness, he has studied with Jack Kornfield, Analayo Bhikkhu, Phillip Moffitt, and many other teachers in the US and Asia. His teaching path is guided by Guy Armstrong, Senior Teachers Council member for both Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Insight Meditation Society. Founder of MindfulnessExercises.com, he offers secular mindfulness e-courses with certifications available for personal and professional skill sets. Enrolled in New Ventures West's Coaching Certification Program, Sean expects to certify as an Integral Life Coach in November 2014. He graduated with honors from University of California at Santa Barbara’s Global Studies Department in 2000. Sean offers private instruction to adults, teens, companies, and organizations. Contact Sean Fargo for more info.

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