David Le, Finding Compassionate Awareness

Episode 19 March 02, 2021 00:34:43
David Le, Finding Compassionate Awareness
More Happiness Less Suffering
David Le, Finding Compassionate Awareness

Mar 02 2021 | 00:34:43


Show Notes

David Le is a long time meditator, engineer and former Police officer. David spent 25 years on the police force as a patrol officer, detective and undercover officer. David is currently teaching meditation and mindful movement classes at the John Henry Foundation and Phoenix House. He is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s Mindful Yoga and Meditation Teacher Training, which emphasizes the cultivation of mindful movements and the capacity to meet life from moment to moment with awareness. It weaves together into one seamless practice yoga asana and pranayama, Insight Meditation, the wisdom teachings of the Buddha, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. David has done extensive meditation retreat practice at Spirit Rock from 2003 until present.

For more resources, visit www.mhlspodcast.com
Cayce Howe: www.caycehowe.com
Monisha Vasa M.D. www.monishavasa.com

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Welcome to the more happiness, less suffering podcast. I'm Casey Howe, senior meditation and Dharma teacher for insight. Speaker 1 00:00:07 And I'm Dr. Monisha Basa psychiatrist in our little podcasting studio in orange County, California. We bring wisdom from the couch and the cushion to your real life questions and struggles. So grab a cup of tea and join us. We're so glad you're here. Welcome back to the more happiness, less suffering podcast as always. We are so glad to have you with us. Thank you for sharing your time with us. And today we are really excited to welcome a guest, uh, David Lee to our podcast. Um, so thank you, David, for being here with us and taking your time. We're really excited to, to chat with you about your journey and your work as a meditation teacher. Um, so I'm going to hand it over to Casey to, to share a little bit more about David. Speaker 0 00:00:59 Yeah. Welcome David. Um, I think I was thinking of David coming in today and, uh, it makes me want to have like my favorite people, my favorite people in the world kind of podcast. Yeah. Um, yeah. David's is one of my favorite people. He's so cool. And, uh, yeah, his energy is, is wonderful and an amazing, amazing practitioner. Um, how he teaches is just, it's really brilliant and it's always fun to sit with him, learn from him. Uh, you know, co-teach with him. It's just wonderful. So yeah. Stoked to have you on here. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Um, yeah, so maybe you could just kind of tell us a little bit more about yourself. Um, maybe your, your background, you, you have some your, your other life, your spiritual life, your other life has some, some cool elements and how you blend that into your spiritual life. So maybe we'll just start off with your, a worldly life, your careers, cause, uh, those have been interesting too. Speaker 2 00:02:01 Thank you, Dr. Vasha and Casey, for having me here, I really appreciate giving an opportunity to share the practice with you. And, uh, in term of your question, uh, your, um, question about my spiritual and worldly life, I think they are intertwined. They go together, um, because meditation is to have to learn how to interact with others and how selves. So, um, since high school I noticed I liked to work with people. I, every summer, uh, I work a job. I work at McDonald's flipping hamburgers. I work at, uh, for the police department as a clerk. Uh, uh, so every summer I work, uh, so in, so I went to college, UCLA, I got my degree in electrical engineering and I started working for McDonnell Douglas, uh, as an electrical engineer. And, uh, wow. And then I went to work, uh, to study at night. Speaker 2 00:03:11 They pay for my master's. Um, and I, uh, when I feel something missing, I feel like the aspect of working with people is missing because I usually do the design in this, uh, cubicle area, eight hours a day, five days a week. So, uh, and I remember of my experience working as a clerk for the police department. And so I try it out, uh, for the police. I said, I promise my parents, I try it out for a year, year and a half. It doesn't work out, come back. And it has worked really well. So I worked for the police department, LAPD and Santa Santa Ana PD for 25 years. Um, I, uh, so that was as an officer though, both officer and detective. Yes. Uh, I work, uh, officer work in patrol. I worked directly unit. I worked undercover and I also worked detective and the child abuse and, uh, um, financial crimes. Speaker 2 00:04:10 And I worked for 25 years and retired. And I, uh, um, I love working with people. I love what, uh, working with, uh, solving problems as an engineer. I, you know, problem involve in machines involved. And so, uh, whereas in, uh, police work, the problem is in, uh, dealing with the human. But the technique of solving is putting in a similar that, you know, how, no matter how big of a problems I break it down into its component, or if it's still big, break it down into sub components, solve each one of them and then put them back together. That's the same, whether it's in police work or engineering work. But to me, the police is exciting because it's problem change. Uh, according to human, it's not consistent like in engineering, it changed, but, uh, here is it dealing with the mental physical, and I can relate to it because it's, I like to learn about myself, how my mental, physical change with respect to time. Speaker 2 00:05:17 Um, so, and I find it, uh, the more I deal with people, the more I want to learn about meditation, about how do I deal with difficult emotion when it arrives, because if I can learn it to see in myself, then I can help others because I can't give what I don't have. And that's what I do in a police work is I help people when they have problems, but how can I help if I don't know how to do it in myself? So the thing is to see it in myself first, because whatever people have they feel difficult, did they have, if I can reflect the within, I can see it in myself. Maybe the outer forms may be different, but the, in the form is putting them a similar, the body sensation, the reactivity to pleasant, clinging to the pleasant, pushing away unpleasant. Speaker 2 00:06:12 It's pretty much the same. Yeah. The other forms, you know, the circumstance may be different, but, uh, by seeing it in myself, my reactivity, my conditioning to myself now I can help other people to see it in themselves. Only when they see it, will they be able to have a choice of whether to choose to follow that emotion, that thoughts, that sensation or an act, and that choice is their freedom. And I can tell you more about the, uh, how I apply it in, um, my, uh, when I teach meditation. Yeah. Is that okay? Okay. Speaker 2 00:07:00 Okay. So in, um, I have taught at the, uh, Phoenix house, uh, the recovery center in Santa Ana and, uh, at the John Henry foundation is a group home for people suffering with schizophrenia. So, um, most is especially at, uh, Phoenix house. People come there with trauma, uh, with, um, difficult emotion and they use alcohol or drugs as they met is medicine to help them relieve the pain and suffering. So you, it's hard to take away the alcohol and drugs if, if they use it as medicine, because you need another medicine to deal with the trauma, with the pain. So I use meditation as a, uh, medicine, but meditation has no side effect, whereas the others have side effect. So only when, uh, you have the medicine to address the trauma, the difficult emotion. Now you can drop all this stuff, the alcohol with the side effect. Speaker 2 00:08:16 So, um, uh, I mostly do, uh, um, dealing with the body sensation, uh, like yoga, mindful yoga. Oh, I just wanted to, uh, talk about that. I got the certification for teaching mindfulness at insight LA and at spirit rock, um, was certified as a yoga and meditation teacher training to the spirit rock. I've been practicing meditation for 21 years. Uh, usually itchy. I take, uh, either a 10 day or two, 10 days a retreat at spirit rock. So that's before COVID. So you usually go there for 10 days retreat and yeah. Uh, so, so I, uh, practice regularly and sitting at home. So going back to the, uh, sharing meditation at, uh, Phoenix house, um, usually they come up with, uh, they have trauma or have difficult emotion that arise and they have a problem and that keep coming up in the body. So what I want when I'm showing them is there's a refuge within each and every one of us. Speaker 2 00:09:35 And that refuge can go hand in hand with whatever difficult, um, emotion that's arising, so that refuge can be the breath, the sensation, the neutral sensation in the body, or, uh, um, a mantra or, uh, anything that you can come back to. And to me, I use the breath and the sensation of the breath, because it's always there. Um, and, but I give out the alternatives yes. In case if people find it more useful for other stuff. So it's like I'm, uh, sharing different tools and they can have different tools in the toolbox sometime one to work sometime another to work better. So, uh, for example, so I'm just giving an example of the breath, the breath, and the sensation of the breath. Let's say the in breath, the feeling, the sensation that the rim of the nostril, the left rim, our breath, the right rim, or the sensation above the upper lips. Speaker 2 00:10:43 So I use that. So when difficult emotions arise, they can grasp the breath. That's the first step, because our mind can only do one thing at a time. It can, if it rests in the breath, then it doesn't have space to think about the problem. So that's the first step. Second step is can't I rest. And in the background, the breath and in the foreground is the difficult emotion. So now, um, the first time is either one or the other, the first step, the second step is simultaneously embracing the difficult emotion, for example, a depressant. And then I have them feel, feeling it, the depression, feeling, the, the, uh, uh, shift from the thoughts about the circumstance, about other people, about your mistake, about artists, that the thoughts about the outer form sift to the end of one. Okay. Where do you feel in your body sensation? Speaker 2 00:11:48 For example, a throbbing in the belly, a sinking in the belly, the depression. Okay. So can you feel it, can you embrace it so that you can rest in the breath as the background? The one who embraced and in the foreground is a throbbing in the belly, the one who's to be pressed. So can you rest in the background and embrace the foreground? And that's what helped them to feel that there, that the present is like their inner child. And when you open up and embrace the inner child, then you feel, wait a minute. I'm more than that in that child, because that in a chow is confined within my belly, but I exist from feet, the sensation from feet to head, head the feet. So sometime I practice using the body scan feet, the head head the feet. So I'm more than the child, uh, and the child throbbing has a beginning and ending, and it, um, we practice we're willing to practice. Then the, we realize I'm more than I'm always the embracing capacity exists before the beginning, during and after. So I'm more than, uh, this difficult emotion, both in the space they mentioned, and in the time dimension. So by doing so, I'm expanding my consciousness. They becoming the one who embrace versus the object of embrace. Speaker 2 00:13:25 So I have more space to work with. And from the, that space, I have a clear scene and that clear scene helped me to guide it in the child. So the depression is still there, but now is in me, instead of I'm in it, if I'm in the depressant, then it tell me what to do. It control me, I'm panic. But if it's in me, meaning I'm bigger than it. I include it yet more than it is in me. Now I have space to work with, and that's the space of the, uh, third-party that parent, the parental figure who embraced the, in the child and from this space, there's a clear scene from yes, clear scene. Speaker 2 00:14:13 There's a choice whether, if I can help to choose with the response, the, uh, skillful response, instead of being con being controlled by unskillful conditioning. So in that space is the freedom because now I have the freedom to choose. Um, so it has worked well for, uh, for the, my, uh, for the people that I share with. And if it, if sometime the trauma is too great, then I go shift back to step number one. So to me, I'm not teaching according to me, but, um, I'm sharing according to the needs of the individuals. So I'm not giving them the answer, but rather I help them to formulate their own answer because the only their answer can help them, even though my answer may be exactly the same as theirs, but if it's coming from them, then they can use it. If it's coming from me, it's harder to use. Speaker 2 00:15:16 So to me, I put myself in their shoes and trying to find how to solve it based on their needs, based on where they're at and help them to formulate their own answer. So, uh, if the second step doesn't work, they can go back to the first step. So one or the other, and then, but I still raise the seed to go through the second step, because ultimately you get to be willing to embrace the difficult emotion, because that's the only way to get out is to go into it. But it's not, they're not ready then stay in the first step. Speaker 0 00:15:55 Yeah. Uh, well, wonderful. And, you know, listening to that, that process, that, that kind of a transformational process of perspective, you know, moving from that change of perspective, what do you find, um, come that, what do you find are common obstacles to that shift in perspective, you know, like, so as you describe it, and, and of course you're seeing it from, from that place of already making those steps yourself and seeing the clarity of those steps, and then there might be obstacles to even seeing that that view can be, can, can exist in and whatnot. So what do you, what do you see as obstacles to that view and, and antidotes for those obstacles? Speaker 2 00:16:45 Um, one obstacle may be the shifting from the outer form to, in the form as long, because we're conditioned to think it's hard for us to feel into our body. So the practice is the feeling through the body, because if I think about the person that, about the circumstance, which, uh, uh, affect my depression, then I get stuck in that loop of thoughts. Only when I shift from that thought from the person from the second stance to the body sensation that throbbing and the belly. Now I can work with it. So the practice is to change, uh, uh, uh, uh, provide a new habit to shift from the thoughts to the feeling, to the body sensation. Speaker 0 00:17:40 So like the attentional value. So like, so, so the first step would be changing that, that shift of attention from the thinking mind to the body, to the body that'd step number one. So the obstacle would be like grasping like habitual pattern to be stuck in that thinking mind. Speaker 2 00:17:58 And, uh, because we react at the body level. So it, for example, if, uh, an, uh, person, uh, insult me the insult only cause a unpleasant sensation as a tightness in the chest and, um, react by aversion, uh, pushing away that tightness in the chest. So that reaction is not to the insult, but actually to the tightness in the chest. So I got to shift from the thought about what that person said to the tightness of the chest, because that's the short, the, uh, the answer is only a symptom, so we've shifted the short. Okay. That's the first part, second part is to realize, um, cause we have to see ourselves with awareness. We embrace, whatever's arising this in the chow in me, has a tendency to, uh, uh, see negativity bias and that negativity bias. It always see something wrong with others and with myself and that negative DV bias reinforces ego identity. Speaker 2 00:19:17 So w uh, is, are we reinforced the ego? And the way to reinforce the ego is negativity bias is to see something wrong. So if I can see that, then, uh, I can say, okay, I can change this habit. They see something positive in it. So, um, uh, if I see something positive, for example, a depressant, now I can see that as a feedback mechanism, is this telling me what I need to do, what I may be missing in my life where I'm may forget. So, so you, I can, instead of seeing that something wrong with myself, I'm seen as yes. A reminder for me that I missed something. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Speaker 0 00:20:04 Yeah. It's interesting that you're talking about that about this reinforcement, you know, this negativity bias, there's reinforcement of, um, kind of this egoic attachment to self, um, Speaker 2 00:20:19 Because without Speaker 0 00:20:20 That, without this kind of more selfish, uh, view, uh, we don't have those attachments cause nobody's getting hurt. You know, if there's anger, a rising, um, delusion, a rising, you know, attachment craving, there has to be an I that that's happening too. Yes. Right. Um, and so the other opposite of that when we speak of more heart practices and opening up to heart and, uh, more of this it's, it's othering, you know, it's a service oriented heart. It moves us away from that self grasping. And we have more freedom to choose. Like the ones that your perspective says, you're talking about, you know, more perspective of, of openness, non clinging, um, more nurturing. Um, Speaker 2 00:21:11 May I, may I go back on that? Yeah. There's nothing wrong with the negativity bias. We, because as if we see something wrong, then we push it away. But actually there's always a reason why things occur. Um, for example, if I go hiking and, uh, I see a mountain line, negative biases, I'm scared, I'm afraid. And, uh, either I fight back or run away. So there's nothing wrong with predicting a confrontation and doing that. But once it's over the body and mind still follow that negativity bias. So the practice of meditation to expand our consciousness, the know that is in me instead of I'm in it. So now I'm bigger than that negativity bias, then that fear. So now from the vantage point of something bigger, now I can say, Oh, it's over the mountain lion is over. I don't need to brag about it. And to say how much, how much I hate the mountain lion much. And I keep telling other people, I was so scared. Speaker 2 00:22:25 I proliferate, uh, negatively biased from size of one to size of 10. So negativity, negativity bias. It's no, it's not a problem. It's become a good feedback mechanism. If I'm, if my consciousness it's bigger so I can step in and step out of it, it's up to me. But if I forget this consciousness, this awareness, then I got stuck inside that negative DV bias. And by Yanis that there, now I keep proliferating it more and more and more. So that practice is not to eliminate the negativity bias, but to find the consciousness that is bigger than it. And from that vantage point, now I'm using the negativity bias instead of is using me. So that's the difference. Speaker 1 00:23:16 Yeah, it's a psychiatrist, you know, it's really wonderful to hear about how you're using meditation with, you know, people who are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction. And, um, I think the word that comes to mind as I hear you share about this is empowerment. You know, because I think that this perspective and this tool is one of empowerment. You know, when I think of my patients who struggle with, you know, one of the biggest challenges is becoming lost in the depression, you know, not seeing a way forward, feeling hopeless, feeling helpless. Um, and, and also starting to lose that sense of choice. You know, you said with choice comes freedom, you know, and so I think that's where so much of the struggle with something like depression comes in, you know, and so to have a tool that helps you to see, okay, I am bigger than this depression, or I can connect with the part of myself that is aware of the depression without merging with the depression or without losing myself in the depression, I think is so, um, so empowering for, for patients to be able to realize that, um, is that in and of itself, you know, you start to feel like, okay, there is a way forward, you know, I can hold this and I can be more than this, you know, I can, um, you know, choose how I'm going to navigate this. Speaker 1 00:24:45 Uh, now that I realized that myself and my depression were not one in the same, you know, and so I think, um, there's so much freedom and empowerment and these tools that you're sharing with with patients. Um, and, uh, and I really value that. I really appreciate that. Thank you. Speaker 2 00:25:04 Thank you. Thank you so much. Speaker 1 00:25:06 So I, I'm curious, you know, Casey, you brought up, um, a few minutes ago, kind of the, the aspect of compassion, you know, I'm curious how compassion comes into play when you're working with, um, patients, for example, who are, who are struggling with a variety of mental health issues, um, how does that come into the equation? Speaker 2 00:25:27 Mm. In fact, bill, thank you for bringing that up. In fact, the compassion is one of the main technique that I use to expand my consciousness. They become in bigger than whatever I'm facing bigger than whatever difficult emotion arising. Um, usually when a difficult emotion arise, I get stuck inside that difficult emotion by either liking it, clinging onto it or disliking it, pushing it away. So liking or disliking, I get stuck in that difficult emotion, compassion, compassion allow me to bring loving kindness, understanding, uh, uh, empathy to the difficult emotion and then empathy to the liking and empathy to that disliking. And yet I realize there are three things that involve the object, the difficult emotion, which is the throbbing in the belly, the, uh, which can be a sensation in the chest that disliking can be the constriction in the throat. Yet there's a infinite container of compassion holding all three of them together. Speaker 2 00:26:59 So compassion helped me to realize this consciousness that includes are these three contents yet more than the content. So compassion helped me to step out, uh, to step out of them, to include them yet become more than them. So compassion is like, uh, if I can use a metaphor like you have a mom or dad, a parental figure, and you have the first child who is depressed, the second child who is, who likes, who likes it. And the third child who dislike get the, this parent embrace are three of them. So th three, three children who are different, but the same parental figure who, who, uh, uh, embrace are these three. So the way to step out to become more is to become like a third party. And the way to become a third party is to embrace them only when you embrace them. Can I become something bigger than them? Speaker 2 00:28:06 Because if I like it, I get stuck in the first party. If I disliked, I get back in the second party, only the third party has the freedom to be more than that. And the way to get to the third party is the compassion. So I'm not, I'm compassionate, not just to the depression, but I'm compassionate towards my judgment of the depression. I don't, I don't judge it and say drawing. I'm not supposed to have adjustment, but I'm, uh, I'm compassionate to the judgment. And sometime I come compassionate to the judge, it, you might not have the judgment because my habit goes so deep that I have to be big enough to include everything, every habit condition that is arising. And in that compassionate quality, it, I can re I can taste the freedom because now I'm yes, yes. Infinite container skylight, container of awareness, where the cloud, uh, of difficult emotion arise in the cloud, liking judgment around it. A and yet this guy can embrace are the clouds of emotion and judgment, and still feel that something Speaker 3 00:29:29 Undisturbed, Speaker 2 00:29:31 Wholeness, still debt in the midst of the imperfection. So the practice of meditation, it's different than our usual way of, uh, changing this usually I'll have our usual way is they change the imperfect to the perfect, but that takes time. And that may or may not get the result that we want. So we don't change from the perfect to the emperor from the imperfect to the perfect that's how normal way, but the practice is to find this wholeness via compassion. And from this wholeness, now we can find the wholeness in the midst of imperfection and it's okay, and we can reach it here. And now we don't have to wait. Whereas we, we changed from the imperfect perfect. We may need to wait time and space here is here and now is automatic is already here. This wholeness in the midst of impersonal imperfection and from the vantage point of years, wholeness and how we can deal with whatever difficult emotion this arises. Yeah. Wonderful. Beautiful. Speaker 0 00:30:44 So, uh, we, we usually end with, um, a little meditation. Um, do you mind leading us in, in a short meditation? Speaker 2 00:30:53 I would love to. Thank you. Cool. Speaker 0 00:30:55 Yeah. And whatever you're feeling. Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us. This was tremendous and we'd love to have you back. And I think absolutely. We'd probably have so many more questions we could, we could ask you, but yeah. Thank you so much. <inaudible> yes. Wisdom and compassion. Speaker 2 00:31:15 I think that's in every one of us, we're just here to share and to help each other awaken that. And when we share, we like, for me, it helped me to awaken this parental figure in myself. So let's come to a comfortable position wherever you are sitting, lying, standing, wherever you are just fine and tuning into your breath, notice your in breath and notice the sensation of in-breath out-breath sensation of the out-breath notice it can be in the nostril, the sensation in the chest belly or wherever you are. So bring loving, kindness, understanding patient quality through yes. Breath. So when you, when we bring loving kindness, compassion, understanding to the breath, we notice space arrive around us. Space of compassion, which include is arising. Not just the breath, but whatever tightness in the body horizon. Yet we make enough to include them. It more than that Speaker 3 00:32:54 <inaudible> Speaker 2 00:32:59 Rest. And this spaces, compassionate quality. Speaker 3 00:33:03 <inaudible>. Speaker 2 00:33:14 If you can do it here, you can do it wherever you are at work at home in the marketplace. Yes. Compassionate spaces, quality that include whatever contents of thoughts, emotion, feelings, arising. Speaker 3 00:33:31 <inaudible> Speaker 2 00:33:35 The container is the whole, the contents are the parts, the wholeness, including all the parts, whether they are perfect or imperfect Speaker 3 00:33:48 <inaudible> Speaker 2 00:34:07 The parts may change. They may come and go with this wholeness. Compassionate quality of compassion is always here. Speaker 3 00:34:15 <inaudible> Speaker 2 00:34:24 Thank you for having me. Thank you, Dr. Pascha and Casey, thank you so much. Really, really appreciate it. Thank you. I come back. Yes. For sure. I will let you go. Thank you.

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