[Thomas McConkie, Mindfulness Teacher]
- Hello and welcome to the final episode of season five here at Mindfulness+. I'm your host, Thomas McConkie. Thank you so much for listening today. Thank you so much for listening today. I'm sad, this has been my favorite run at it. I don't know, not necessarily because season five is the best season, but my favorite because I'm still alive in this moment, and I deeply love this practice and I love this practice of mindfulness, because it opens my heart up more and more and more to just what an awesome gift this life is. And I get to share with you and you still listen and you come back. Thank you, Skylight, for making season five not only possible, but pleasurable, enjoyable, creative. You've been a pleasure to work with. My listeners, I love you and I just love you. It's really intimate for me to get to share this practice, and here now and again from a listener, how the practice is growing in them and changing their lives. So it's special. Thank you. Good news, we're back with season six before too long, so keep us on your feet and continue to share us. I hope you will. I'll keep bringing my A game as long as there is strength in my bones. Okay, that's the intro. This episode, special not just because it's the final episode of the season, but because it's an occasion, it's a hollowed moment. Let me offer a bit of a preface to it that since the day I started practicing dharma, since the day I started practicing meditation, I've been really struck at just how available the teachings are. In this day and age with our technology, our capacity to travel around the world, if we knock, we shall, the door will be open. Oh man, my Bible, gotta tighten that up. If we ask, we shall receive is what I wanted to say. That, you know, if there's anything in our heart yearning for something deeper and freer and truer, these teachings, they're so widely available. And I'm amazed. I have met so many profound teachers in my own short life in this practice, and it feels really important to mark a moment when a great dharma master passes. And recently, just in this month, a great dharma master by the name of Daniel Brown passed away. Dan Brown's history, his curriculum vitae is so extensive. I would spend half the episode kind of describing what kind of career he had and what an amazing impact he had on so many people. I didn't get to study with him much, but the last few years of my life, I've been following his work and learning more about the Tibetan tradition, which was a big gaping hole in my own Buddhist formation. So I felt a heart call a few years ago to start to get closer to some Tibetan studies, and I've been really influenced and changed by his work. What I want to say about Dan Brown, here's how this is going to go. I'm going to say a little something about his life and legacy, and then I'm going to take you through a practice that is so unique to Dan, so unique to his talents and his genius, and hope to steer you towards him. Although he has left his form body, his subtle bodies and dharmakayas, the body of the absolute is still alive and well with him I sense. So still opportunities to learn from Dan Brown in other forms, and I hope to steer you towards his work. Something I love about dharma practice, meditation practice in this day and age is that we have some incredible examples of practitioners who are bringing East and West together in remarkable ways. And again, East and West, it's a bit of an artificial divide, but let's work with it. The meditative traditions have been extensively developed in the East. In the Western tradition, we have the tradition of science, which has been its own marvel and its own path of wisdom. I love it when a teacher spends significant time in the East, they take the time to master the practices of the East and they bring their own western scientific flare to the whole occasion. And Dan Brown did this in many ways, but one way I wanted to share with you today, it's not easy to become an expert in anything. If you're an expert at anything, you know how long it takes to become an expert in something. Dan Brown is a true expert in meditation, but he's also among other modes of expertise, he's renowned worldwide as an expert in attachment theory, and that's the very sensitive, critical stage of human development in the earliest years of life. When we're forming a basic working model of like how trustworthy the world is, how safe I am to be here and live a life, we start to create that working model of attachment from the moment we're born. I think even earlier than that, too bad Dan's not here to ask about that. He would be, he would have an encyclopedic response. But Dan Brown's an expert in attachment theory, and he realized as a meditation teacher in the West, that the practice was difficult for some students more than others. And because of his broad knowledge in human psychology, he connected attachment theory with meditative practice, and realized that if we have any kind of attachment injury, if we have any kind of attachment disorder, we would lack the necessary sense of safety and trust and confidence to go deep into the mind as we do in meditation. He developed a brilliant intervention to help repair attachment, not only for meditators, of course, for any human being who suffers from any kind of attachment disorder. Dan Brown helped develop the gold standard of intervention of how to heal and repair, how to heal from and repair an attachment injury. So over his career, among other things, he did a meta-analysis of all the data, everything that had been written, researched on attachment theory. He read it and he studied it deeply. He poured over it, and he and a team, he didn't do it alone, but he had, what they did, they came up with a list of factors that are present in parents, a list of factors that need to be present in order for a child to develop healthy secure attachment. And healthy secure attachment, this will become more vivid as we do an exercise here, but it means the child learns a sense of safety early on. They learn a sense of trust from the caregiver, and that sense of trust extends out into the world. And when we have healthy attachment, we're not afraid to go out and explore, and we're not afraid to come home and rest and relax, take a break from it all, then go out and explore again, right? The way you think of a toddler, when they're really healthy and secure, they'll run out into the world. They're exploring everything, they're tasting things, touching things, seeing things, smelling, feeling. And when they feel like, "I need to go back to home base," they go and hug their mama's legs or the daddy's legs, whatever it happens to be, it's that rhythm of, "I can go out and explore, I can come back home. I have a home to come home to. Now I can go out and explore again now that I've rested and restored myself." It's a beautiful thing, and it turns out to be instrumental to have healthy attachment to function at all in human life, but to go deep on the path of meditation. Okay, so I just said a lot. I'm going to move on here. I can talk and talk. I love this research that Dan Brown has done. So what I'm going to do now, I'm going to talk about these five qualities that parents have whose children develop healthy attachment as a result. The first is that these parents provide a great sense of safety for the child. The child feels safe. That element has to be there early in life, or we run the risk of attachment disorder, attachment injury. The next quality according to this analysis of everything ever written on attachment theory is we need a sense of feeling felt and known, like the parent is attuning to us, they care deeply about what's going on with us, and we feel that care from them. This is a really big deal. The third, a sense of being soothed. When we're upset, which we will get in this life from day one, we have this sense that there's a caregiver present who can soothe us, comfort us in a timely way. So we don't spend all this time despairing and thinking the world's cruel and I can't ever trust it again. We feel disturbed and before we know it, this grace in the form of a caregiver comes and says, "It's okay. It's going to be okay." And we're soothed, and we can get back at the difficult business of living a human life again. The next quality that's present for we very privileged and fortunate humans who have healthy attachment, the caregiver is a champion of our self-development. They have a sense of the best person we can possibly become. Not a fixed idea, 'cause they don't know either, but they have an openness about I see the potential here, and I can help shape it. The opposite of this is agenda-driven parenting. "I need you to take over the family business, son." Not that that's inherently a bad thing, I don't mean to offend any listeners out there. But agenda-driven parenting where you will be the kind of child I say you will be. It's the opposite. It's like I sense into who you uniquely are, and my job is to support your process of becoming that. It's a champion of self-development. That's what the best parents do to form healthy attachment with their children. These are so good. Just saying them warms my heart, and I feel gratitude for the gifts I got from my parents. The final one is express delight. And Dan, I heard him say this a number of times. "It's not good enough to be involved in the task of parenting, we need to be involved in the joy of parenting." So as parents, when we express delight for everything the child does, not in a permissive way, not in an indulgent way, not to spoil the child, but to acknowledge this basic fact that human beings are precious, and that each child is precious and that they're very being irrespective of what they do is cause for joy. If we're afraid to express delight, if we're afraid to tell our children just how much they mean to us and how much we delight in their existence, that can lead to troubles down the road too. So we're going to practice with this. We're going to do the season finale meditation where this is actually part of, you know, Dan Brown's intervention for healing and rewriting unhealthy or need improvement attachment scripts. And if, you know, disclaimers, I'm not trained as a psychologist or let alone an expert in attachment theory, but I've benefited profoundly from this meditation and I just offer these qualities for your consideration. What it means to really feel healthy attachment in ourselves, because we can cultivate these qualities. Whatever home we grew up in, the research shows that we can heal whatever needs to be healed in ourselves. And as we do that, we can become the kind of loving, compassionate caregiver, excuse me, hiccup. We can become a compassionate caregiver for all other beings and help them in their own process of healing and expression. So it's as per usual, it's good news in this practice. It's, at least as I experience it in my heart, it's a loving, generous universe. And we're invited to take part in the banquet. I'd invite you to get really settled here. Find a place where you can practice without interruption, without distraction. Sit in a position that's comfortable, where you can be focused for the next 15 minutes or so. And once you've settled in a little bit, I want you to call up an ideal parent figure. Use your imagination with this. It can be an enhanced version of your own parents. And this is no disrespect to any of our parents. As humans, we're all imperfect by definition. So that the meditation is to idealize a parent figure, not to take anything away from those who generously raised us. Perhaps it's an enhanced idealized version of the parents you have. Perhaps it's more than a human being. It's more like a god, a heavenly mother, father, parent, being, angel, archetype, a bodhisattva, a deva, a historical saint or sage whom you never knew, but whose being inspires you. You feel a kinship with them, a sense of parental guidance. Don't worry about your choice. Doesn't have to be perfect, just call in the presence of an idealized parent. Imagine yourself at a young age, a very young age, being in their presence and feeling completely safe. You know this parent is fiercely protective of you, who'd do anything for your physical safety. When they're in the room, when they're near you, you can relax. The body just softens. Let yourself take it in deeply. Feel the body's response to this caregiver's presence. Go ahead and let that go. Notice the effect the visualization had on your mind, your body, your heart. Next, again, imagining yourself as a very young child. However young you want, feeling felt, feeling known. This caregiver is completely attuned to you. They're fascinated by your every movement, where you're toddling around in the house, what you're exploring in nature. They're just totally undistracted and tuned into you. Not only your outward movements, but your inner reality, your emotions, your thoughts. You feel that you're felt. You know that you're known. You feel this deep companionship, the opposite of loneliness. Now go ahead and let that go. Call up another scene from early childhood where you were really upset. Someone said something mean to you. You took a hard fall. Whatever it was, you were totally upset, and this caregiver was right there, right there to pick you up, to soothe you, to reassure you that it was going to be okay. Everything's going to be okay. This world hits hard, but you're strong, you're resilient. You can recover, you can do hard things. Just feel their presence, feel their love, feel the way they soothe you. Go ahead and let go of that visualization, and notice the effect it has on the body, the heart, the mind on awareness. Call up another scene from early in life when you're just starting to explore who you were, getting interested in what you were interested in. Pursue the things that you loved. It was art, it was athletics, it was music, it was acting, it was mathematics, it was whatever it was. You're just starting to explore the world, and you feel how supportive this ideal parent is. This caregiver, they just move with this flow, this momentum. They're excited about what you're exploring. They trust you. They have confidence that you can go out in the world and explore and make mistakes and fall down, and suffer setbacks, but that's all part of it. They have total confidence in you that you can become who you are meant to become. And as they do this, all the while, they're expressing absolute delight in you. Just your being. Not even what you do, but just your very being is a delight to them. You're the best thing that ever happened to them. And you can feel it when you look in their faces, when you look in their eyes. You can feel at the deepest level that you're worthy and loved, cherished through and through. Go ahead and let this scene dissolve, and notice the impact on your body, heart, mind, spirit. Call up another experience from early in life where you needed something, you weren't getting something that you often didn't get, and it brought up a very particular emotion in you, a particular disturbance that's very familiar to you. You grew up feeling this way, like you really needed something that you never got. And now, right now, this idealized parent, this perfect caregiver comes and they give you exactly what you need right in the moment you need it. Now feel what that nourishment is like. Feel what it's like to have everything you need provided for you, given by this perfect caregiver. Feel the relief, feel the relaxation. You can let this scene dissolve. Notice the effect this visualization has had on you, your whole being. And now imagine that you yourself have children. If you do have children, let them be present in your heart and your awareness. And if you don't have children, imagine that you do, 'cause really, we all do. And feel the way that you are fiercely protective of this child, these children, do anything to protect them from danger. Feel your natural interest, not just interest, but fascination in them. Everything they do, every expression on their face, every word their new mouths form. Not just their behavior, but their inner life, their feelings, their thoughts, their curiosities, their fears, their anxieties, all of them you're completely attuned to. You're one with this little being. So compassionately embracing of their whole being. And when the child is upset, feel the way you soothe them. You know when they're upset, you know the signs, they're frustrated, they're angry, they're sad, they're confused, and you come to them, and you know right where it hurts. You comfort them and tell them, "It's going to be okay." Feel the uniqueness of this child, of these children. Feel their uniqueness, and feel the wonder of it that your only job is to help them become who they're meant to become, to support them in this mysterious unfolding of their unique lives. You're a champion of their self-development. And they know it and they love it. They love having you in their corner, their advocate. Awe in the delight. They just know by the look on your face, in your eye, a feeling in your heart, just by their being alive, you bring them the deepest joy. They don't have to earn it, they don't have to do something for it. Their existence is just a complete delight to you. Stay with this. Stay with this meditation. Open up your awareness to all of the people you've crossed paths with today as you move about the village, as you move about town, the city, all the people in your field of awareness, and imagine that you are their idealized parent figure. You are the caregiver who cherishes them absolutely. The same love you gave and give to your child, you offer freely to each person passing through your field. Feel this intuition that absolutely every being is worthy of dignity, shares a common humanity with you, that they're becoming who they're meant to become, but they're suffering setbacks and needing soothing along the way. Feel the way at the deepest level, every being is really a being of absolute worth that brings us total delight just to be aware of. Bring these same qualities of boundless compassion to any person you've had significant difficulties with in this lifetime. Anybody who comes to mind, bring this heart of boundless compassion to this relationship and hold them in the same way you hold the child, fiercely protective of them, attuned to them and caring about their behavior and their inner world, soothing when they need to be soothed, champion of their development, who they're capable of becoming, expressing delight all along the way. Direct the power, fierce power of your compassion of this person that you've struggled with, and see clearly that at their core, they are the same innocent child. They too are an innocent child who's been wounded, who's been hurt, who acts out when they don't get what they need. But right now, you can give them that with your love, with your unconditional love. You can be that for them and help them heal. Open up your awareness now to an interconnected humanity, the sea of beings, and feel that your love is not diminished with all of these demands upon you to love. But the more you love, the more you have to love. The more you use this love, the more there is. It's inexhaustible, the sea of humanity completely immersed, soaked through by the sea of compassion. You, the mother of all beings, the mother of all Buddhas, the mother of all Christs, have the power to raise up humanity with the love in your heart, your caring awareness, the light of your being. Feel yourself at once giving this and receiving it. It's one in the same movement. At this level of being, absolute love, big mind, big heart, there is no being who's left behind, no being who could be left behind. It's not in your nature to leave behind a single soul. Feel how radically loving you are in this natural state. Go ahead and let that go. Let the meditation go, the visualization go. And just take a moment to rest in yourself. Thank you. Thank you for your practice. Thank you for being the mother of all beings and for sending your compassion to every aspect of creation. I feel it with you here. Thank you, Dr. Daniel Brown, for your service, for your loving heart and for what you've shared. Thank you to all the masters in form body and those who've left the form body behind. Here we are, my friends, in the sea of dharma, the sea of light and truth and beauty and goodness. And it's what we are and we can realize it together, and I hope we do that more and more here on Mindfulness+ and the venue of your choice, the area of your engagement in life. Signing off here. Thanks for a good season, everybody. We'll be back soon.