TSK Exercise Adaptations and Synopses
Below is an exercise I wrote, based directly on instructions in TSK exercises 1-17. This exercise can be done while engaged in various activities. It could be tape recorded with appropriate pauses to use as a guided meditation.
You might want to sit with your back straight but not stiff, so that your breathing is free. Or you can do this exercise while engaged in other activities, e.g., walking around or working. You can close your eyes or keep your eyes open, or do both at different times in this exercise. In the following, an ellipsis (. . . ) indicates a silent pause.
[TSK, exercises 1-5]
Pick some part of the body, and be aware of sensations and feelings in that part of the body . . . . Just be aware of the sensations and feelings . . . . Let the breath be gentle and relaxed . . . . Take a tour of the body, starting from wherever you are .... Be aware of different parts ... different sensations ... interconnections ... and how those different parts occupy space ... .
Imagine that you are a tiny speck of awareness ... and travel around the body, being aware of what's there ... different sensations, different feelings, different senses of space ... or possibly sensations of pain or tension, or numbness .... Maybe there's a sense that energy is blocked somewhere, or obstructed somehow .... Just keep traveling around, exploring, feeling what's going on .... If you feel any dense spots, you can try opening those up in different ways .... You could simply breathe into those more obstructed spaces ... or you could imagine that those areas expand a little bit .... If they expand, perhaps that density or obstruction can open up ... or maybe it doesn't .... You can try slowly zooming in and zooming out several times and see what happens . . . . You can let dense or obstructed areas expand and condense, again and again, with the movement going at its own rate.
You can just explore and see what happens at any level—the general inner structure; or internal organs, veins, tissues, fluids; or cells, molecules, bacteria; or particular atoms and molecules.… Let the breath be very relaxed, free, and spacious .… Awareness is open to whatever is happening .… Let awareness be drawn to wherever it goes ... whatever energies or feelings it is drawn to ... whatever levels and parts of the body .… If awareness finds any dense spots, you can open those, letting them expand ... exploring the different feelings in what might be a larger space .... Continue exploring until all the surfaces and structures become completely open . . . the surfaces are no longer obstacles to awareness. The precision of the surfaces remains, but as shining outlines, translucent boundaries and surfaces.
Now let awareness be drawn to the edges of the body, where the body meets outside space .... Explore the edges and the boundaries ... . See how space outside is related to space inside .... Is there any difference in the quality of the space outside and the space inside? .... Allow awareness to be drawn to different surfaces and different boundaries ... exploring the space inside, outside, and even within boundaries ....
[TSK, exercises 4, 9]
Now become aware of any position that has been adopted during this awareness and observing .... Perhaps while traveling around, the observer had a subtle positioning .... As the exploration continues within the boundaries and different spaces inside and outside, see if there is an observer that has a particular kind of positioning ... see whether there is a feeling of being positioned in certain moments .… The exploration of inside, outside, spaces, and boundaries continues ... either with or without an observer ....
. . . See whether this vision of the body is possible without being limited to a single angle or point of view. Can the body been seen from all directions simultaneously? . . . Can the body been seen from all directions simultaneously?
[TSK, exercise 11]
Now let awareness attend to any thinking that is happening .... Where does thinking comes from ? .... Does thinking come from someplace? .… Do thoughts pop up from nowhere, from space? ... ... ... Where do thoughts go? .… They are there for a time, and then what happens to them? ... Do they go someplace? ... or into space? ... Do they simply disappear? ...
[TSK, exercise 12]
Watch sensitively for the moment when one thought fades and another arises .... See if there is some kind of space in between thoughts .... Allow thinking to go on .... Let the breath be smooth ... free ... open ... and see if there is some kind of space between thoughts .... If there is such a space, see if it can gently be expanded somehow ... perhaps by closely marrying it with the breath ....
[TSK, exercise 13]
Now see whether thoughts might actually be space itself .... See if each thought is also some kind of space .... Is there something about thoughts themselves that is spacious? ... In the ordinary activity of thinking is there also space? ...
[TSK, exercise 14]
Now see if there is a bystander during thinking .... Is there a thinker or an observer doing the thinking? . . . a bystander that might be subtly positioned separate from the thinking? .... If there is, there is no need to change anything, ... just be aware of any such positioning during knowing of the thoughts .... During thinking is there a subject? ... or a witness, or an observer, or a thinker, or a bystander of any kind? .... The mind might be another bystander .... See if there is a mind separate from the thinking and the sensing and knowing .... Is there a mind positioning separate from what's happening? ...
[TSK, exercise 15]
Now attend to the presence of space outside the body ... and breathe in the essence of that space ... the pure openness of that space ... very relaxed breathing ... gentle ... through both nose and mouth ... allowing the essential openness to open up the body .... Breathing-in this space, the essential openness, allowing it to pervade every level of physical and mental organization .... Allow it to pervade the organization and open it up, .... until it's completely open and translucent, itself having the quality of the space .... Breathing in the essential, open quality of space, allowing it to open up any densities or pains, rigidities, anything that seems fixed in any way ... either within the body or the mind ... or within a bystander like a sense of self .... During the exhalation, let the breath merge with space outside, ... so that the interaction, the interpenetration between the inside and outside is unobstructed, free, and transparent .... Also let the space enter and pervade thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, memories ... and the sense of time that might be passing, .... so there's a complete commingling of space inside and outside, in and out ....
[TSK, exercise 16]
Now as we sit, or walk around with eyes open, we can be aware of positions, forms, and surfaces, and see those as space .... It's possible that all positions, forms, and surfaces might also be space ... and might be felt as very open ... as somehow transparent ... without fixed boundaries, or inaccessible insides .... By relaxing any ordinary sense of bystander that might show up as mind, self, observer, or witness, by relaxing those bystanders, knowing can be freed up to appreciate whatever is present without seeing it as other .... There can be a simple and immediate knowing and appreciation as experience arises ... without necessarily seeing from a position . . . . Perhaps objects can be known without subjects having to use acts of knowing to appreciate them .... Let all units, quantities, meanings, delineations, motions, actions be given as time .... These can be seen as time, flickering and flashing ... units, qualities, meanings , delineations, movements, actions can be seen as time .... Dynamics ... energy ... playfully presenting, without freezing anything in place ....
[TSK, exercise 17]
As we sit, or as we walk around, noticing objects that might first seem distant and separate from us, we might also explore the possibility that in a sense there might not be any such distance .... Perhaps space can also be seen to unite, rather than just separate objects .... What makes up the distance that we normally perceive? .... Is it fixed? ... Does it always feel the same or does this feeling of distance change? ... Awareness can explore the space in which subject, object, and distance appear .... Is there a sense in which from time to time, we feel more or less close, or distant, from people and things? ... Might there be a sense in which the subject or the bystander is like a glow of an object? ... inseparable from the object? ... without any ordinary sense of distance? ... where space might be said to unite subject and object? .... Might there actually be a field of space from which subject and object tend to polarize, and emerge as separate and distant? ... a polarization that never leads to complete independence? .... Are subject and object just two poles of a process that tends to present them as being separate and distant, but which also presents them together? ...
In the following adaptation of TSK exercises, " . . . " signifies a pause, time taken to do the preceding instruction.
Suppose that you are emotionally upset in some relationship. You can explore the physical and emotional tension in your body. Imagine yourself as a tiny point of awareness. As that tiny point of awareness, travel through your body exploring particularly the areas in which there is tension and a feeling of heaviness. . . . Move through the space of the body, and when you encounter some heaviness or density, travel through it and allow it to open up. . . . You can also allow the size of the body to change. It might expand and become more spacious, allowing you to more freely travel through the densities and heavy feelings. . . . Continue, and allow the space and awareness to become lighter and more open.
When emotionally upset, we are usually maintaining some kind of position or point of view. See if you are aware of a position that is being maintained. Allow yourself to feel the firmness or rigidity of any such position. This position will usually be opposed to another position represented by the other person. Allow yourself to become aware of that other position. . . . Then become aware of the boundary or energy between the two positions. Notice how the two positions divide up the space. . . .
Let the opposed positions and their associated thoughts and stories do battle with each other, while you simply listen to the stories and observe the conflict. . . . At first the thoughts and positions may alternate in prominence or weight as you observe, but as you continue, they might both be present at the same time, carrying equal weight or significance. . . . Focus on the feeling of disagreement or conflict, and see whether you can find some kind of balance within the feeling of disagreement.
In the same way that you did with your body, allow a tiny point of awareness to travel through the two spaces and open up the separation and the boundary between the spaces. . . . See whether the sense of distance between the two positions or points of view diminishes. . . . Notice whether the positions are any less definite from what they were originally. See whether the boundary between the two spaces has changed in any way. Is there any kind of space that includes the two positions now?
Notice how the mind, the body, and emotional feeling interact. Notice how they change from moment to moment. . . . You may also notice tendencies for the self to intervene and maintain the intensity of feeling as well as the positioning of mind. . . . There may also be a tendency for the self to remain outside the feelings and to simply observe what is happening from a distance. . . . to comment on and think about the situation but not be totally involved in it. . . . Notice the complex interrelating among selves, sensations, mind, thoughts, emotions, body, and other, which constitutes the two people in this situation. . . . Notice the tendency to own or disown different aspects of the scenario, to draw them towards, or push them away from the self.
Now observe how thoughts arise and then disappear. In the movement from one thought to another, a kind of force or energy accompanies specific thoughts, creating a momentum that pulls or draws thought forward. . . . Some thoughts seem very large and heavy, while others are smaller and lighter. Each thought may have a different weight or gravitational pull. Observe this gravity of thinking in operation.
Where do the thoughts come from?. . . Where do the thoughts go?. . . What happens in the interval between one thought and the next? . . . Watch very sensitively for the moment when one thoughts fades and another arises. There may be a space available there which you can contact and even expand.
Now, as thoughts arise and disappear, see whether each thought has some kind of space within it, or with it. Is there some sense in which each thought is also space?. . . See whether there is any difference between space and thought.
An Adaptation of the Giant Body Series
I found it useful for my own practice to write a summary and variant of the Giant Body exercises in the first book, which I've included below.
While breathing through both mouth and nose gently, smoothly, and continuously, allow awareness to be drawn to any sensation, density, pain, heaviness, emotion, or other feeling in or on the body. Let awareness and feeling merge , or let awareness arise from any feeling that is not completely open and spacious. Just abide in the interaction. There's no need to try to change anything--most likely the quality or location of feeling will change on its own, eventually becoming more open and spacious. As things change, awareness can be drawn to other feelings. There's a natural movement of awareness, possibly taking various positions, locations, points of view, or simultaneous viewpoints, or no apparent viewpoint, location, or direction at all. Awareness can operate and interact with feeling at different levels of magnification or size, possibly at the level of organs, tissues, cells, molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.
As the interaction of awareness and feeling proceeds, see whether there are any persistent feelings or apparently persistent structures or regions or surfaces or boundaries--such as 'body', 'kidney', 'blood cell', 'belly', or 'skin'. Do these continue to persist, or do they become more open? Do they have some kind of feeling of reality, existence, or a substantial quality? Is awareness hindered or obstructed somehow from interacting or merging with such structures, regions, or surfaces?
Is there any awareness of size or shape related to various structures or regions or surfaces? Does the sense of size or shape come and go, depending on the related viewpoint, or lack of a located viewpoint? Is there any sense of extension of any aspects of 'the body' in space, or a subtle feeling of it being located in an infinite, yet empty 'container'? Let awareness merge with any such feelings.
In the movement and interaction of awareness with forms and surfaces, is it ever limited to subtle positions or perspectives or directions? Is it ever obstructed in any way? Does it focus on distinct regions or fields? Does its breadth, range, or scope vary? Does it ever seem to lose all sense of definite scope and direction?
Is there any distinction whatsoever between awareness and the structures, regions, or surfaces? If so, precisely what makes the difference? How do the forms or outlines seem to exist, to feel 'real'? Do the forms or outlines seem to somehow be imaginary or 'unreal'?
In the following adaptation of TSK and DTS exercises, " . . . " signifies a pause.
Suppose that you have some pain. To relax, you can first explore the physical and emotional tension in your body. Imagine yourself as a tiny point of awareness. As that tiny point of awareness, travel through your body exploring particularly the areas in which there is tension, pain, or a feeling of heaviness. . . . Move through the space of the body, and when you encounter some heaviness, pain, or density, travel through it and allow it to open up. . . . You can also allow the size of the visualized body to change. It might expand and become more spacious, allowing you to more freely travel through the densities and feelings. . . . Continue, and allow the space and awareness to become lighter and more open.
Now you can relax the mind. Observe how thoughts arise and then disappear. In the movement from one thought to another, a kind of force or energy accompanies specific thoughts, creating a momentum that pulls or draws thought forward. . . . Some thoughts seem very large and heavy, while others are smaller and lighter. Each thought may have a different weight or gravitational pull. Observe this gravity of thinking in operation. . . .
Where do the thoughts come from?. . . Where do the thoughts go?. . . What happens in the interval between one thought and the next? . . . Watch very sensitively for the moment when one thought fades and another arises. There may be a space available which you can contact and even expand. . . . In this space does the ordinary flow of time occur? . . .
Notice how the mind, the body, and pain and emotional feeling interact. Notice how they change from moment to moment. . . . You may also notice tendencies for the self to intervene and ignore or push away the intensity of feeling. . . . There may be a tendency for the self to remain outside the feelings and to simply observe what is happening from a distance. . . . to comment on and think about the situation but not be totally involved in it. . . . Notice the complex interrelating among selves, sensations, mind, thoughts, emotions, body, and other, which constitutes this situation. . . . Notice the tendency to control, or own or disown different aspects of the scenario, to draw them towards, or push them away from the self.
When there is pain, we often maintain some kind of position or point of view that is separate from the place where the pain is located. See if you are aware of an observing position, a sense of self, or a sense of identity, that is being maintained apart from the pain. . . . Allow yourself to feel the firmness or rigidity of any such position. This position will usually be distant from another place where the pain is located. There may be a tendency to ignore, control, or push away pain by keeping it at a distance. . . . Allow yourself to become aware of any other painful position. . . . Then become aware of the boundary or energy between the two positions. Notice how the two positions divide up the space. . . .
Let the contrasted positions of the observer and observed pain, and their associated thoughts and stories communicate with each other, while you simply listen to the stories and observe what’s happening in a neutral way. . . . At first the thoughts and positions may alternate in prominence or weight as you observe, but as you continue, they might both be present at the same time, carrying equal weight or significance. . . . Watch how the prominence of the positions changes over time.
In the same way that you did with your body, allow a tiny point of awareness to travel through the two spaces of observer and observed sensation, and open up the separation and the boundary between the spaces. . . . See whether the sense of distance between the two positions or points of view diminishes. . . . Notice whether the positions are any less definite from what they were originally. See whether the boundary between the two spaces has changed in any way. Is there any kind of space that includes the two positions now?
Continue the exploration, attending to pain in all its surface and secret forms. . . . Cultivate the intention of healing the pain. . . . Let pain contact awareness directly, allowing its staccato throbbing to be fully present. . . . Let pain and awareness fully commingle, so that neither is at all apart from, or separate from the other. . . . If the pain is still ‘sharp’, or if time still occupies sharply defined ‘points’ or moments, bring more awareness to the breath, and gradually let the breathing slow down. . . . Eventually there may be no ordinary sense of moments, or time passing. . . . There may be no sense of identity that is distant from, or apart from, the sensation. . . . By relaxing into pain, you may find there is only sensation, without a sense of ‘I’ that is a target for, or victim of, the sensation. . . . Awareness and sensation can be in direct touch without confrontation, effort, or control. . . Without a doer or thinker, and without the labelling and distancing of what’s happening, there is only sensation, not pain. . . . There may be a way of relating directly and immediately to the sensation that is no longer sharply painful. . . . an immediate way of relating that occurs ‘within’ or ‘beneath’ the ordinary flow of time. As long as there is no rejecting and identifying with sensation, there will be no getting stuck in it. Sensation can appear as movement and energy, yet not have the character of pain. . . . Contacting this energy of time directly, ‘beneath’ the ordinary flow of time, the entire situation can be opened up; the energy of pain can be turned toward release. Nothing is established or identified, nothing grasped or rejected or taken hold of in any way.