Applying TSK to Emotional Intelligence (EI)
This application to emotional intelligence contains writings from TSK as well as a number of other books written by Tarthang Tulku in the early 1970s, especially Kum Nye Relaxation.
To appreciate how various emotionally transformative methods operate, it is useful to be somewhat familiar with the spectrum of human consciousness. For this the following three articles should be helpful: "Ocean of Knowledge," "The Spectrum of Consciousness," "What's the Zone of Peak Performance?" All of these articles are based on the TSK vision, which describes how our experience changes as we become more (emotionally) mature.
Emotional Intelligence Best Practices Group
I'm planning, in the next year or so, on posting articles on some of the best emotional intelligence methods. For this I've created a new LinkedIn group, "Emotional Intelligence Best Practices." Feel free to join us. The following topics will probably be addressed:
To appreciate how various emotionally transformative methods operate, it is useful to be somewhat familiar with the spectrum of human consciousness. For this the following three articles should be helpful:
The Spectrum of Consciousness
So far, the only candidate I’ve seen for a clear English description of the full range of human development, with its incredibly varied views and focal settings, is Tarthang Tulku’s series of books on the Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK) vision. Focusing on time, space, and knowledge--rather than the self--affords a new approach. Conventional knowledge today focuses on the self: what the self needs, what it understands, what it is capable of. Suppose that we shift this focus, looking in a more neutral way at how our being functions." (p. xiv, SDTS) "When we place these three factors—space, time, and knowledge—at the center of our being, something quite remarkable happens. Knowledge comes into its own, informing experience and existence in a very powerful way." (p. xv, SDTS)
The following six books are included in the TSK series: Time, Space, and Knowledge (1977), Love of Knowledge (1987), Knowledge of Time and Space (1990), Visions of Knowledge (1993), Dynamics of Time and Space (1994), and Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space (1997).
The TSK vision describes three main levels of personal development. “The first level starts from our common, everyday views of how these facets of our being operate.” (p. xxix, SDTS) The third level is an enlightened state that we might compare to the zone (of peak performance). A second level, an intermediate level that occurs during our development from the first to the third level, is also described in the books.
Level 1 is our 'normal' Western perspective or mindset, the 'normal' way we are and operate after our ordinary Western conditioning is complete. This level is sometimes also called the ordinary level:
Time is divided into moments and seems to flow linearly and out of our control, from past to future, at a constant rate. Within this flow we are limited to occupying a kind of ‘moving spot’ that we call ‘the present’. We seem to ‘have’ time, yet sometimes feel like we’re running out of time, and can’t stop the relentless flow that causes us anxiety, friction, overwhelm, and pressure.
Space is seen as an indefinitely extended 'nothing', with distance felt between things within space. We and things feel substantial, independent, and persistent, ‘occupy’ different locations in space, have size, volume, edges, and an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. We have a kind of private mental, or personal space, but this seems less ‘real’ than physical space. Personal space seems independent of others and other things, and yet seems to change somewhat, depending on our feelings and connections with others. Our experience of space can feel restrictive, confining, and pressured, rather than open and free.
Our knowing or 'seeing' is limited to a particular ‘thinker’ position or 'point of view', with a felt separation or 'distance' from what is known. Knowing and knowledge usually seem to be located primarily inside our heads and minds. An act of knowing takes some (clock) time, and involves directing knowing from its source 'here' toward distant objects and events. We collect experience and information by these acts of knowing, and build up models, systems, and theories. Very often our knowing and perceiving is inaccurate and biased, depending on our unresolved emotional difficulties (conditioning) and current desires and fears.
We believe we are the independently capable selves felt at the center of our lives, the selves that apparently are responsible, do the thinking, make the decisions, and sometimes have problematic conditions. We believe and feel we are the central character in the ongoing story of our lives unfolding against a backdrop of time and space.
Level 2 is an intermediate level of human development.
‘Timing' occurs as a succession of experiences in the same 'spot' or ‘field’, rather than establishing an extended `world out there' (as in level one). Things, places, and processes become appreciated as being very fluid. Subject and object alike are seen as projections of the underlying energy of second-level time.
The 'quantity' of second-level 'space' is indeterminate. While objects and the observer are distinct and independent, they are also known as interdependent and co-referring. There’s an increase in personal freedom, less psychological pressure, and greater physical relaxation. All going from place to place which validates the picture of a spread out world, actually occurs as a succession of 'timed out' experiences in the same 'spot'.
Knowing is not so much a possession, but a luminous, transparent `attribute' of experience and mental activity through which 'existence' and 'non-existence' jointly emerge together with dichotomies such as 'subject' and 'object', 'observer' and 'observed'.
Level 3 is a highly developed or enlightened level of development.
Different times are not linked, in a way that irrevocably separates them, by their respective positions in an infinitely extended temporal series. The 'series' is a fiction. There is no 'going' and no separate places. It is as though all the friction in the world were removed.
While all familiar things are separate and distributed over ordinary space, delineated partly by differences in position, they are all intimately connected insofar as their Great Space dimension is considered. Space is not contrasted to objects, and `distance between' becomes meaningless. All existence and experience is like an apparition.
We develop a mode of 'seeing' which is not limited to a particular position or 'point of view' at all, dissolves the 'distance' between knower and known, is not a meaning but is unlearned or nonlearned learnedness, and which is beyond the concern for 'getting', approaching, or defining.
It's worth noting that here also we find no complexes, personality, or identity, much less conditions like emotional upset, doubt, and separation that are common with level one.
Sitting to Balance and Transform Emotion
Energy flows smoothly in this position. Effectiveness of this posture alone in resolving or 'working out' an emotion has been proven over two millennia. With sufficient practice, you will probably discover that the sitting posture and the soft, smooth breathing it facilitates can relieve both mental and emotional agitation and physical tension.
"Find a place where you can sit on a mat or cushion, or a straight chair. The traditional position for sitting facilitates relaxation of both body and mind. Energy flows smoothly in this position, and with enough time, all mental and physical energy become transformed into positive healing sensation. This position consists of 7 'gestures'.
The first gesture is to sit with the legs crossed. (For these exercises, however, if it is too difficult for you to sit cross-legged, sit in a straight chair with the legs uncrossed. Sit forward on the seat so you do not lean against the back of the chair, separate your legs a comfortable distance, and place your feet flat on the floor. This allows the weight of the body to be distributed on a firm triangular base. When you sit cross-legged, arrange the mat or cushion so your pelvis is higher than your legs. Sitting in the half or full Lotus with one or both ankles resting on top of the thigh is helpful but not essential.
The remaining six gestures are as follows:
The hands are on the knees, palms down. Release tension in your arms and shoulders, and relax your hands so they rest comfortably on your knees. The spine is balanced without being rigid. This allows energy to flow naturally from the lower to the upper body.
The neck is drawn back a tiny bit so that the chin is tucked in. Your head will move forward very slightly. The chin is drawn in so the back of the neck and the spine are aligned.
The eyes are half-open and are loosely focused on the ground, following a line downward along the ridge of the nose. Let your eyes be very soft and compassionate. . . .
The mouth is slightly open, with the jaw relaxed.
The tip-of-the-tongue is lightly touching the palate ridge, just back of the teeth. The tongue will curve back a little.
The sternum may be lifted slightly.
As you sit in this way, try to minimize blinking. You can do this by relaxing the area around the eyes and moving your awareness inward.
If you are not used to sitting cross-legged, you may feel some discomfort at first, until you learn to relax unnecessary tension. If you have pain in your knees, cross your legs very loosely and put a higher pillow under your pelvis. The difficulty maybe in the knees, but most likely your thigh joints are stiff."
Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga, Tarthang Tulku, 2007 edition, pp. 29-31
As we'll see in my later posts, the method of breathing used here is also used in other Kum Nye exercises.
This is the first article posted on the Emotional Intelligence Best Practices LinkedIn group, which you're welcome to join.
Levels of Participation in the "Ocean of Knowledge"
Here's a metaphor for three main levels of human consciousness, from an article in Dimensions of Thought: Current Explorations in Time, Space, and Knowledge. 2 vols. Ralph H. Moon and Stephen Randall, eds. (Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 1980).
Imagine that you live within the depths of an ‘ocean’; you are completely permeated by it. It gives to you, and you take what it offers, acting in ways that are expressive of the purity and power of the water. The results of your actions remain within that same sphere, flowing freely back into the water. But the ‘ocean’ is vast, unbridled power, not limited or constrained by anything, and constrains nothing. It permits everything, even ways of relating to it that are very limited and ‘stand-offish’.
Let’s suppose that you become identified with one of these narrow, aloof ways of interacting with the ocean. It’s as though you have drawn above it, ignoring the qualities and depth of its waters. You don’t even “acknowledge” that depth; you don’t knowingly interact with it. But you can never completely sever your connection, so you can never avoid depending on it and interacting with it in some way. The result is that the ocean leaps up and slaps you in the face with the peaks of its high, jagged waves. This is the only form of contact your aloof stance will permit.
Perhaps you come to live on the very peaks of these waves and look across to the peaks of other waves around you. You pretend that reality is comprised only of what floats there on the peaks, that there is no ‘underneath’, not even any supporting water, except perhaps in some abstract sense. Even so, part of your new existence is the constant, shocking sensation of being struck by ocean sprays.
Perhaps you take this unpleasant experience as meaningless, just a ‘background phenomenon’. But it won’t go away. Always churned about by the waves, out of phase with the rise and fall of other peaks, it is hard to relate satisfactorily to others. The structures you build seem unstable, subject to some relentless, destabilizing power, and you are always struck in the face by the surging water.
If, eventually, you relax your obsession with scanning across the peaks, and become willing to give more attention to the water itself, to acknowledge it in a participatory sense, you can delve deeply into the ocean. Then, much to your vast amazement, the annoying stinging sprays and the undermining influence of the waves ceases. Your awareness is not restricted to maintaining contact with tiny, erratically jumping objects separated from you by unbridgeable distances.
‘Beauty’, ‘peace’, ‘security’, ‘fulfillment’, ‘intimacy’, ‘knowledge’, ‘communication’, ‘coexistence’ all come to acquire meanings very different from what they had for you on the surface. This ‘ocean’ and its ‘waves’ are only rough metaphors for the range of space and time as they are seen by different types of knowledge, different degrees of participation. Frustration, loss, and separation may have been typical themes for the knowledge of the surface, which was subject to the waves. But nothing can be lost or exhausted for that knowledge which remains attuned to the depths of space and time. Everything that fulfills and delights, and everything that stimulates knowledge to become more sensitive and encompassing, is perfectly preserved there. You can see why it’s so important that we be totally ‘in’ or ‘within’ time, space, and knowledge. (p. xxx-xxxiii, Dimensions of Thought, Vol. I)
It's not what happens to you . . . .
Our lives are a continuous flow of one kind of experience after another, with moments of
great love and joy often being quickly followed by experiences of anger, frustration, and pain. As this occurs, we tend to categorize our experiences as good or bad, positive or negative. We do not see that by splitting our experience in this way, by treating some experiences as friends and others as enemies, we separate ourselves from the richness of experience as a `whole'. We become alienated from ourselves, and in the resulting conflict we stimulate energies which create new problems even while we are attempting to solve old ones.
This division of experience creates endless negativities. The more we base our actions on this either-or thinking, the more it becomes our master, making it very difficult for us to find the middle path between the extremes of positive and negative.
The more our energy goes into trying to repress our problems and trying to be happy, the more we reinforce our unhappiness. We thus tend to dwell in a self-perpetuating negativity, a real swamp of confusion. Like a mother dreaming that her child is dying, we experience our suffering almost as if it were more than real. But we can wake up. When we realize that our ideas of good or had, black or white, are only labels - that existence itself is neutral and only our viewpoint colors it positive or negative - then we know that the real answer lies in ourselves. We have to change our patterns of reacting to experience. For our problems do not lie in what we experience, but in the attitude we have towards it.
When we see how we condition our experience, life itself is both the teaching and the path away from our frustrations. We do not need to change, give up, or lose anything. When we are centered, emotional ups and downs are like the waves on the surface of the ocean which is calm and peaceful in its depths. Simply by accepting all our emotions as natural, we understand that all experiences have a natural quality, right for the time and place.
We can be grateful for our emotions, for our frustrations, fears, and sorrows; they help us to wake up. We have no clearer messages about what is happening in our lives. Our emotions show us where to direct our attention; rather than obscuring the path, they can clarify and sharpen it. As we penetrate the powerful energies of our emotions, we understand that our obstacles and our spiritual path are one.
When we accept our emotions as they come, we develop an attitude of openness - we can make friends with our emotions and allow them to travel their natural course. Once we adopt this attitude of openness and receptivity, we see everything, in a sense, as perfect.
Any experience is fresh and valuable when we let go of our expectations and resistances, our judgments and conceptualizations. With an attitude of acceptance, even our negative emotions have the potential to increase our energy and strength. We usually see only the negative side of the energy that goes into experiences like anxiety, frustration, anger, and pain, but we can turn these experiences into understanding.
Most of our suffering is psychological, nourished by fear and our identification with the pain. It is important to break down the idea that this is our suffering, our fear. Concentrate on the feeling, not on thoughts about it. Concentrate on the center of the feeling; penetrate into that space. There is a density of energy in that center that is clear and distinct. This energy has great [nonpersonal] power, and can transmit great clarity.
Our consciousness can go into the emotion, contacting this pure energy so that our tension breaks. With gentleness and self-understanding we control this energy. Force does not work. So prepare slowly, being careful not to jump suddenly into the midst of negativity. Be calm and sensitive and watch each situation as it arises. With such sensitive meditation, any emotion can be transformed, for emotion is this energy . . . we can shape it in different ways. To transform our negativities, we need only learn to touch them skillfully and gently. (pp. 50-53, Openness Mind, Tarthang Tulku)