“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
― Sun Tzu,
Last week I introduced the idea of Emperor Meditation, an idea that’s based around creating a map of your psyche by comparing your body to a country, and your mind to the palace which rules it. It came from an inspiration which was a mix of studying Eastern traditions, as well as from the belief that if these processes were a little more fun, they may be engaged with by more people!
“If you are conscious at the same time that you observe, the line of your attention will resemble two arrows, one showing attention directed on the thing you observe and another on yourself.” – Ouspensky (20th c. Fourth Way teacher)
When taking an audience with citizens like desire or anxiety, sense inside yourself just as much as you listen to what they say (as the arrow with two heads). This way you are not led astray by their words, and will not retreat and let one of them take the throne. [Feel fully the sensations as they come up, and do not fight against them.] Fully listen to the words of your countrymen, but do not judge or add extra meaning to it. This way you remain a compassionate ruler, and not one who fights against his people.
The issue is not to only allow certain citizens into your palace, as trying to toss them out will just make them return over and over, and with a vengeance, but to fully listen to them, and respond effectively. [Focus on the sensations created by an idea or emotion, but don’t add meaning to it. Watch how quickly it dissipates when the sensation is observed instead of avoided.]
An ancient said, “When people are in the midst of the disturbance, this is a good time to apply effort to keep independent.” Stay comprehensively alert in the immediate present, and suddenly an awakening will open up an experience in the midst of it all that is millions of times better than that of quiet sitting. – Huang Yuan-ch’i
Once you realize how simple it can be to keep the peace of your citizens and country, you may also begin to explore the glorious palace of your subconscious. There are so many doors! Behind some you will find beautiful new things you had no idea were there, and behind others, misfortune of the past you had shut away.
Behind the doors of misfortune are simply events from when you gave up your rule. Thankfully, with your new emperor powers of feeling sensations without judgement, you can deal with them with ease. Maybe you gave an embarrassingly bad presentation as a kid and everyone laughed at you, and then you were afraid to run meetings at work or speak to crowds. The embarrassment, the shame, merely citizens who were running your country at the time, who had no idea how to rule. Allow your adult emperor self to return to that time, and feel those sensations fully, without letting embarrassment and shame take control this time, and see how these sensations melt away as well.
As you’ve seen above, it’s possible to rule your palace without giving control up to reactive emotions and ideas. You may allow them an audience, listen to them, perhaps have a cup of tea with them, and then kindly inviting them to keep walking.
Huike said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.” Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.” Huike said, “Having looked for my mind, I realize it cannot be grasped.” “There,” Bodhidharma replied, “I have pacified your mind.”
The real fun starts with the other doors of the palace. The ones which open to beauty you didn’t even know about. Take a second and think about things you would like to do that seemed too anxiety inducing before. Perhaps public speaking, comedy, going to more social events, asking out that cute girl/guy in class/at work. As emperor, these things become easier and easier, as you continuously return to being the master of your palace. You no longer allow your country to be ruled by every passing thought or idea. These are the citizens that will gladly bend a knee when the master returns. None of them want to rule your country anyways, they’ve clearly proven they have no idea how!