Time: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Teacher: Susan Pembroke
In the West, we tend to equate the word emptiness with a hollow, desolate feeling or at best a neutral state devoid of anything. A wasteland. True emptiness is actually the opposite of either. When penetrated fully, the unconditioned is a vital, dynamic, cognizant, clear, buoyant, exuberant, and free state, utterly devoid of tension, stress, and suffering.
In addition to this phenomenological experience of lived freedom, emptiness in Buddhism also refers to the inherent absence of permanence and solidity in anything in the world, including ourselves. Impermanence and emptiness are actually referring to the same thing but are emphasizing a different aspect. Suffering happens when we resist incessant and inescapable change by generating the epiphenomena called a “self.” Ironically, when we stop shielding ourselves and plunge into each moment without the cumbersome addition of a self, each moment has a carefree, perfect feel.
Stopping the mind from its knee-jerk habit of sticking and clinging to what is already departing is the primary practice in achieving a lived emptiness. Breaking the habit of trying to make everything stand still demands effort, and persistence. Before we can fully commit to the work of ceasing the “selving” reflex, the act of generating a subjective experience of me, mine, myself, we need to understand why we must abandon the very things which seem ensure happiness and safety.
In the course of the day, we will examine how the self, when put under the microscope, naturally leads to feelings of disenchantment, estrangement, and weariness, the emotions which allow us to let go. Through instruction, discussion, and guided meditations, emptiness will be explained and, if all goes well, experienced and known.
NOTE: I prefer everyone sit in a chair if possible unless they can convince me they don't have a twenty-minute leg, one which falls asleep after twenty minutes and leads the meditator to focus on it rather than the meditation instruction. We'll need to develop and maintain good concentration. Pain is often tiring and distracting. I recognize pain is an insight practice in and of itself, but that isn't how I wish to spend the day. Finding moments of "no one there," of simply seeing one condition opening to another condition, and another, requires alertness and good attention. Screaming body parts can exhaust the mind and hijack a meditation. (If the subject was dukkha, I would feel differently about this.)
Susan Pembroke is the guiding teacher of Insight Meditation of Ventura. She has studied diverse meditation strategies within the Buddhist Theravada tradition since 1986. She was drawn to the jhanas, states of concentration, and studied these meditative absorptions with Ayya Khema. Susan emphasizes body scanning, the four foundations of mindfulness, the jhanas, and the development of insight. She works as a psychotherapist and is under the tutelage of Rocky Mountain Insight’s Lucinda Green, Ph.D. who authorized her to teach. Dr. Green received dharma transmission from Ruth Denison.