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Agape Arsenal Techniques
Agape is the Greek word meaning unconditional love. The agape arsenal is a collection of techniques to aid you during times of distress. These techniques help you respond to delusion with loving intentions, and allows you to transform delusion into truth, wisdom, and love.
Your loving intentions power these techniques. Loving intentions can be thought of as your commitment to liberate yourself and all life from suffering. This strong resolve gives you the courage, energy, and skill necessary to wield these techniques correctly.
Delusion has had thousands of years to work its way into human consciousness. It is wily, tricky, and often subtle. Because falsehood has colonized our minds so thoroughly, there are dozens of techniques to help you.
Some will work better for you than others. Try each technique for a month before evaluating its effectiveness for you.
It is best to work with one to three agape arsenal techniques at a time. This allows you to implement them, better understand them, and learn them fully. Once they become second nature to you, you can move on to try others.
Where to begin? Reflect on which delusion or emotional and mental states cause the most suffering in your life, then use the techniques that help address them.
TECHNIQUES GOOD IN ALL SITUATIONS
Seeing Like a Smart Phone Camera
Hold up your smart phone camera and look at the world through its eyes. Notice as you do this what it sees. Notice how it cannot see the falshoods that exist in your mind, such as: futuring, pasting, self-view, fixed-view, judgement, or the many kinds of greed or aversion. When trying to determine what is true and what is of the mind, ask, "Can I cell phone see this?" This will help you better identify the thoughts and stories you are adding to the situation. Once you see these stories, notice the delusion in them, remember how they are false, so you stop believing them, and move back into a position of kind, patient, mindful awareness.
You only need to actually look through a cell phone once or twice to understand what a cell phone sees. When using this technique in daily life, you simply remember to see like a cell phone, without actually holding one up. Best wishes!
A third approach is using the balancing compassion meditation, which I learned from Dr. Kristin Neff who researches compassion and wrote the book Self-Compassion. This approach is particularly helpful if you are with others or engaged in an activity.
First, you think of a skillful quality that you or those you are with need in the moment such as patience, courage, peace, energy, kindness, clarity, strength, creativity, wisdom, and so on. On the inbreath you silently say the word as a loving blessing and intention for yourself. On the outbreath you silently say the word as a loving blessing for those you are with, or for all beings if no one is present.
It's like we are saying, "Patience for me. Patience for them." This meditation helps us manifest the qualities we need. It also connects us to those around us. Furthermore, we often discover that both of us need of this quality, when originally we may have though that only one of us needed it.
This balancing compassion technique also helps us refrain from acting from ego. To do the meditation requires our focus and concentration. To others it may look like we are taking a short pause and contemplating what to do next. But actually we are coming out of ego, and into mindfulness where we can tap your inner spaciousness, creativity, and skillfulness.
To learn this skill, use the balancing compassion meditations found on our website as your daily meditation, and work with the slogan "Compassion for All" to rehearse it and set the intentions to do these mini-balancing compassion meditations in your daily life.
Placing your awareness in your senses, you investigate part of your inner reality directly. In this case, we investigated inner reality of your memories. As a result you got to experience what it is like to remember something without mistaking those thoughts to be more real than the present moment. Or you got to experience what it is like to fall prey to past-ing. Either way, you learned something.
Use this Sense-Based Investigation technique on any interesting, confusing, or unpleasant aspects of your inner reality.
Loving Intentions Technique
We can counter this version of futuring by the agape arsenal technique of loving intentions. The loving intentions technique requires us to remember the value, worth, and benefit of what we are doing and recognize how it is an act of love.
One way to summon our loving intentions is by asking ourselves, who or what am I serving through this action? When I ask this about washing the dishes, I realize that washing them is an act of love for my family. We all prefer to have a clean kitchen. A clean kitchen keep us happy, peaceful, and living in harmony with each other.
Mindful of your loving intentions, you see the value, worth, and importance of the present moment, and what you are doing. The stress, impatience, and dissatisfaction that the delusion of futuring caused, disappear. You may even have a sense of patience, peace, ease, and joy arise.
Labeling is another agape arsenal technique that helps us be mindful. Labeling delusions as delusions is particularly helpful.
For example, right now, what would you do if I started shouting, “Fire! Fire! Run for your lives!”? Apparently, based on your responses, you would not do much. Haha! Why didn’t you panic and run out of the room? Because you used your senses and saw no fire, smelled no fire, and heard no fire. Your experience showed you that there was no truth in what I was saying, so my delusional warning didn’t affect you.
This same principle applies nicely to our inner life. When we see the lie in our own thoughts, we don’t believe them, and they don’t affect us.
Labeling is mentally naming what is arising in our inner life. For example, if stress arises in me, I silently note to myself, “stress is arising.” Feeling stress, I know a delusion is operational, so I mindfully pay attention to what I’m thinking and I notice the thought, “I’ll never get this done!” Ahh! Well that is just a made up story in my mind about the future, so I label it “futuring!” Because I am familiar with how futuring is a delusional lie, I don’t believe it. When I don’t believe the lie, the stress and anxiety go away.
In order to label the delusions that arise, we need to be mindful. Thus, labeling helps us remember to be mindful.
TECHNIQUES TO ADDRESS THE FALSEHOOD OF SELF-VIEW
Step Back Technique
Whenever there is a heavy sense of “I” as arises with guilt, shame, envy, jealousy, self-hatred, self-judgment, overwhelm, responsibility, fear, etc. take a backwards step.
Take a back seat and let the body do its thing. You lovingly tell the body what to do: clean my room, write my paper, give my parents a backrub. Then get out of the way. Become the Watcher and simply see what the body in all of its miraculous, creative goodness does.
Rather than conceptualizing yourself as the person doing the action, you are the awareness that observes what the life, creativity, and love of the body, heart, and mind do. In essence, you let the ego get out of the way of the body, and allow the life to do what it wants to do. You are the awareness simply along for the ride. However, you are also in control. You direct the body by telling it something skillful to do, then let the body go ahead and do it. This is the way to effortlessly accomplish anything.
No longer are you the do-er. You are simply the observer watching what flows out of you. There is a tremendous peace, clam, ease, and effortlessness with what is happening. You are very present, curious, and interested. You are also free of judgment, fear, self-view and other delusions.
TECHNIQUES TO ADDRESS THE FALSEHOOD OF FIXED-VIEW
That’s just a thought
If any thought you think causes you to feel upset, disturbed, or agitated, remember it is just a thought. Thoughts are never the truth. Consider all thoughts guilty until proven innocent. If they cause negative emotions or moods to arise, they are delusional. Thoughts are guilty until proven innocent.
Thus we come to the That’s Just a Thought Technique whereby all thoughts are considered delusional until mindfully decided that they are loving, helpful, and skillful. This begs the question how do determine which thoughts are delusional and which are not? One way we have been exploring is mindful investigation. We notice the thoughts, and then try to see if it contains any futuring? pasting? clinging? or aversion?
Another way to determine if the thoughts contains delusion is to notice how the thought feels in the body when taken to be true. If it causes emotions to arise, a tightness in the mind, a desire to do something unskillful, then you know delusion is present. This is how we can use the body as a compass needle to point us home to truth and love.
TECHNIQUES TO ADDRESS AVERSION
Imagine the Innocent Infant Inside
The nonviolent civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s needed its activists to remain calm, peaceful, and kind despite receiving insults and violent attacks from segregationists and police officers. Civil rights leaders trained activists in a technique to help them develop compassion for their abusive opponents. We call this agape arsenal technique Imagine the Innocent Infant Inside.
It works like this: Imagine the unskillful person as they were when they were a pure, innocent, newborn baby. All people, no matter how violent or deluded they behave now, were once innocent newborn babies. No one is born hating, despising, and wanting to harm or kill others. Now imagine what abuse, fear, and terror this baby must have experienced growing up to become so distorted and confused? Who were the adults in their life, and how must those adults have treated them for them to think such harmful behavior is appropriate? Imagine how much they must be suffering from fear, arrogance, and hatred, to think that their violent actions make sense? People filled with such hatred and cruelty are suffering immensely and in need of our love and compassion.
This technique helps transforms our perspective. It shifts us from an egoic view where our ego judges them to be mean and cruel; into a wise view, where we see them as victims of circumstances that were outside of their control. We see that they suffered circumstances that warped, injured, and harmed them. We see that they are also in need healing, and the only power strong enough to heal them is love.
This is why Jesus, after being tortured and nailed to the cross, looked out at his persecutors and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He had no hatred or ill will towards his persecutors, only compassion. He realized they were all victims of circumstances; victims of their conditioned delusions. Knowing how delusions cause us all to suffer, he offered them his loving compassion.
If Not for My Good Fortune, I Would Be Them
Another way to let go of judgment is with the slogan, “If not for my good fortune, I would be them.” This basically means, if I had had their parents, their upbringing, their experiences, and their conditioning, I would be behaving just as unskillfully as they are.
This slogan encapsulates the conditioned, lawful, cause-and-effect nature of our delusions, as well as the impersonal nature of our conditioning. Recognizing the lawful, conditioned, impersonal nature of our ego helps us avoid self-righteousness, keeps us humble, and aids us in letting go of our judgment towards others.
Blame flipping turns thoughts of blame into thoughts of compassion. Blame flipping is another form of mental jiu-jitsu.
Blaming thoughts sound like this: “You abused me. You harmed me. You betrayed me. You are mean, bad, and evil. You are going to pay for what you did.” These kinds of blaming, judgmental thoughts lead to anger, hostility, ill will, cruelty, and unskillfulness.
Mindfully notice when such judgmental thoughts arise. Notice the emotions and feelings that arise in the body in response to these thoughts. Notice the feeling tone of these emotions. Label these thoughts as the delusion of judgment. Don’t engage, nor act out, nor suppress these delusional thoughts.
Instead, mentally jiu-jitsu these judgmental thoughts about the unskillful person into compassionate thoughts and blessings for them: “You are hurting. You are lost in delusion. Only a deluded person would act or speak so unskillfully. Controlled by delusion, you are suffering. May you come out of your suffering. May you find clarity, wisdom, peace, and love. May all my words and actions show you how to live with love, peace, wisdom, and clarity. May our interactions help you come out of your misery, and help you live from your deepest essence of unconditional love.”
Mindfully notice how these truthful and loving thoughts allow you to remain peaceful, calm, compassionate, and skillful during challenging times. Do your best to feel the meaning behind the compassionate words you use. Also, feel free to use whatever compassionate words feel genuine and authentic for you.
If blame flipping feels too difficult for you, start with some thoughts of loving-kindness for yourself: “May I have the power to be compassionate in the face of other people’s unskillfulness. May my love be stronger than their hatred. May my compassion be stronger than their cruelty. May my peace be stronger than their greed.” Or use whatever words resonate for you. Once you feel some kindness towards yourself, you may find more strength to offer your compassion to those who are unskillful.
Blame flipping takes aversive thoughts of blame and judgment and transforms them into thoughts of compassion, kindness, and care. The skill of Blame Flipping will not feel natural at first. Fake it till you make it. Forgiveness, compassion, and other love-based meditations help you to practice, learn, and make genuine this vital skill of Blame Flipping.
Our ego will also try to justify our own judgment, saying, “That person (or group of people) is so bad, that they deserve my judgment.” Really? That is precisely what the perpetrators of the Holocaust thought of those they tortured and murdered. Justifying judgment in this way allows judgment to thrive in people of good will, and plants the seeds of the next Holocaust, genocide, school shooting, world war, and terrorist attack.
To create a world where all life thrives; where all beings live in peace, safety, and harmony; it requires us to be wise and discerning, loving and compassionate. It also requires us to abandon all judgment, delusion, and falsehood.