In this episode, taken from the Buddhist Geeks Conference in 2012, Martine Batchelor explores the process of grasping and its amplifying/exaggerating effects. She also goes into how meditation can help us to de-grasp/release our holding thus allowing for a more creative engagement and creative response.
Martine: So I want to talk about big things because in a way what interest me is how can we be free and at what place can we be free.
So where is freedom? And how can meditation help us with freedom. And I would say freedom is at the point of contact. So meditation helps us to see the point of contact. We come into contact through the senses with things around us and within us. And what do we do. Generally, there is a feeling to and generally we go very fast. I don’t know what you think of my little shirt. I’m quite happy with my little shirt. But you might say “hmm. How come she’s wearing this shirt? A Buddhist meditation teacher should not wear this kind of shirt. She should wear a Chinese shirt.” Or, you might think “wow where did she get it or maybe I want one like this. I want one for me.”
And so in a way you see something what do you do with it. Do you creatively engage with it or do you grasp at it? So first I like to talk about the process of grasping to show the difference cause I’m not saying we should always creatively engage and never grasp. I think grasping is part of being human. But we do grasp 98% or do we grasp 50%. This is as to be a question, is a freedom we have. And so grasping, how does it work.
Let’s say this is very precious to me. Its gold or diamond or it’s the greatest truth in the universe. And because it’s precious, I hold onto it like this. And if I do this for any length of time what happens. Two things happen. The first thing I get a cramp in the arm. And this is a sign of grasping is tension. And so that’s what I want to talk this morning is about signal. How can we be more aware of the signal of how does it feel to be creatively engaged? How does it feel to grasp? And what’s the problem with grasping. So that’s the first thing tension. The second thing which we have with this is that when I grasp like this like that, I cannot use my hand for anything else. So I’m actually stuck to what I’m grasping at.
So then what is the solution? First solution, Buddhist long ago cut their hand. Ascetic practices. Then I mean you don’t grasp. Personally I think this is a little drastic. Second solution, get rid of the object.
And this is something that advertising industry has really understood, the process of gasping and how it works. So you see a shop and you think hmm. It’s like the thing is saying come, come. You really want me. You have to have me yesterday. You know the latest iPhone 46, or the latest iPad 25, or whatever it is, Instagram. There is a new one I recently heard about. But the thing is not there. The grasping is not in the object.
The object just arises upon condition so the problem is not the object. And so I would say that the meditation process is a process of releasing, of opening our hand so the object is still there but we can move it. There is freedom. Because the process of grasping works in this way. You come into contact. You have the feeling to. We don’t have the time to talk about this. It’s very interesting. You have the feeling to and you identify. It’s very important to see that….
It’s not moving. This is a film. We’re still total grasping here. This is a film of 10 mins. Ahhh…we’re moving here. I hope we won’t stay there. Great! We’re moving…he’s moving too. So, uh, you have the grasping?
You identify. You have very much to see that the grasping and identification come together. You identify. You limit yourself to what you grasp at, and then the big problem with grasping is you magnify. Let’s say you have a problem at the office. Somebody said something or does something and you’re really upset.
That guy always does this and he’s really terrible. I can’t stand him. But you don’t do anything about it. But you think about it. You go home. You think about it. You eat it. You think about it. You go to bed. You think about it. But the guy did not ask to be in your head. You are grasping negatively at the person. It’s very important to see that we grasp positively. I want. We grasp so negatively. I don’t want. And there are these two side effects of grasping: proliferation and exaggeration. We have this beautiful bouquet there. So you’re sitting here and you can see this bouquet. Oooo! Nice boutique. And you can come be aware of this bouquet. I love this ikebana. I love this flower arrangement.
If only I could have this flower in my garden. But to have this flower in my garden I need a green house. How am I going to have a greenhouse? Should I rob a bank? So you’re not with the beauty of the flower anymore. You are in the proliferation of the thing itself. Or, you see the flower arrangement, it’s so beautiful. I am such a lousy flower arranger. I really can’t do this. Why can’t I do this? Other people can do it. I’m a hopeless person. I never do anything in my life. So just from seeing you know contact, feeling [inaudible] with the flower arrangement, you go into this huge thing. And I think this is important to see. A signal of grasping is proliferation. And another signal of grasping is exaggeration.
Something you see something. Once I had this experience. That’s why I’ll shift to creative engagement. I was taking care of my grandmother who was very old because my mother had a little time off. And so in the morning I go to see grandma. How are you grandma? And she seems okay, a little confused. So I got to the kitchen to prepare breakfast and then I realize that actually grandma had a little problem with feces and they’re all over the place. And I walked in it and I went to the kitchen with it and back and I sit. Oooo! And then I saw I had a choice. Either I could grasp, get upset at me, at grandma, at the universe, and it will kind of be relatively unpleasant and uncompassionate, or I could creatively engage. Oh this and that what. What do I need to do?
And I was amazed in less than an hour it was cleaned up and I was at peace and I was kind to grandma. That’s what I mean by creative engagement. Creative engagement helps us to be stable and open. And also help us to creatively engage because we are not going to magnify. This is a problem with grasping. Is that we’re going to magnify, we’re going to go in obstruction, and we cannot use our creative potential in obstruction. This is what is tricky. So when meditate, and of course you’re distracted. This is fine. This is a good opportunity to see: how do I grasp, how do I identify, how do I distract myself? It’s good information.
But every time we come back to the breath, to the sound, to loving kindness, to whatever it is, we come back to this experience, the whole of the experience. Instead of grasping at something, going into exaggeration or proliferation of it and not being there. And often we can so frighten ourselves. But let me make a little experiment with sounds. Contact. You’ve got ears and you hear sounds, but also you hear words. What do you do with words? You know sometimes you sit in meditation, the breath, yes. Then suddenly you remember that guy, this lady she said this to me two years. How dare they? And we get so upset.
But words what are words. I mean talk of emptiness. I said a word. It’s gone. It’s gone. But if we grasp at it, we keep it. Shall I make a little experiment? I look at you. I look very nicely at you, very nicely at you. And I say you are enlightened. Each and every single one of you right now enlightened 150%. I am enlightened? She said I am enlightened! So I can go and teach mercy this or whatever you want.
Or, I look at you a little… You are all stupid. She said I’m stupid? She’s stupid to say I’m stupid! etc. etc. etc. It’s just a word. We hear word at a lot. During this whole conference you’re going to hear a lot of words. You’re going to discuss with each other. What are you going to do with these words? Are you going to grasp at them or are you going to creatively engage with them. To me that’s one of the practice. One of the practices is meditative listening, creative listening. When I listen to something, how can I creatively engage with what I listen to? So that to me part of this process is from the meditation, acceptance, and transformation that when I hear a word I consider it is it about me or is it about them.
Do I buy this or not. Do I grasp at the word or do I creatively engage with the word. And I’m going to stop here. Because I want you to do a little exercise. I think we sit too much in conferences. That’s one of my problems with conferences. That’s why I generally don’t come to conferences but I came to this one because it’s Buddhist Geeks. So now I would like all of you to stand up. And we’re going to do a little standing meditation first. One minute. First one minute. So standing meditation and just right here, right now you can stretch a little if you want. In your mind in your body, in your sensation emotional or physical can I creatively engage with them in this moment? Am I grasping at one? And if I’m grasping at one, what am I doing with it?
So just being aware. How does it feel to grasp? How does it feel to be creatively engage with this organism, with this flow of condition in this moment?
Can I creatively engage with my thought? Can I creatively engage with a funny sensation? Can I creatively engage with pleasant or unpleasant feeling to? And now I would like to, if you could turn to each other so two people or four people or three people face each other or five but you are with others. You are with others. You are facing some people and then you can shake hand. You can smile. You can look at them, whatever you want. But seeing, can you look at them. Can you look at the other person? Engaging creatively or grasping. What do you do?
Do you grasp at something? Do you creatively engage with their whole human-beingness?
It looks to me you actually would rather talk to each other than listen to us! So if you can sit down? And just one final thing before I leave you. You did not get the whole film. It stopped in the middle. So what we might do is actually try to find a way to have the film put on somewhere. And then you can really see it as it was planned.