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Now, if we return to our dinner party, we can see how the party-goers exhibit the various wisdom energies. Michael, who displayed such strong opinions about the women in his life, manifests vajra clarity in his thinking, which sometimes gets fixated into rigid views about things. He also shows some ratna qualities in loving to hang out with family and friends sharing a big meal and life stories.


Andrea is all fun and engagement. People contact is very important to her. She has lots of friends and makes connections with people easily. She is dominantly padma but also loves the richness, expansiveness and caring for others that is her ratna side.

Bill, who rarely spoke during the party, is more inwardly directed. He radiates a spacious warmth and easy-going manner, and buddha qualities are quite strong in him. There is also a tinge of padma in his coloring.

Joan, who loves to cook for her husband but finds his physical affection a bit much at times, displays several qualities in equal measure. Fending off her husband is a vajra quality, which is also reflected in a general sense of propriety about what should and should not happen. Though she does not talk much in the group, her padma qualities come out in private conversations: talking about how she feels and always longing to connect more closely with others and situations. Wanting to keep busy is her karma side.

It is interesting to identify energies in others as we observe their behavior, but the wisdom energies are much more than a classification scheme. They can help us to work with our emotions creatively and openly, appreciating the basic energies and seeing the various ways they manifest in our everyday actions. When I first learned of the energies, they began to color my perspective in many aspects of my life. Why was it that one man brought out my intellectual curiosity and another my desire? Why did I feel at ease with one person and anxious with another? Why would I feel powerful in one situation but inhibited and frustrated in another? What was the energetic relationship between myself, these people and these situations?

Eventually I came to understand that we are a mix of colors. We are born with certain energies; others we learn as an enhancement to who we are; still others arise as we adapt to life. Some energy patterns are more dominant, others more background. When we become aware of our mix of colors, we no longer identify with just one energy. Defining ourselves as one or the other solidifies and centralizes our sense of who we are. By boxing ourselves in, we miss the play of totality. Rather than seeing ourselves as red or blue or green energy, we can perceive our experience more as a rainbow or kaleidoscope.

Working with the energies, we always bring our understanding of who we are back to immediate experience, rather than to our conceptualization of who we are. Through our thoughts and emotions, we experience the energy of our inner being; through our sense perceptions, we experience the energies of the outer world. All of these energies—inner and outer—are accessible to us at any time. They are an experience of a subtle level of being and communication with our world.

To work with energy, we first need to cultivate awareness, attending to the present moment by observing what is happening. We can train ourselves to do this. Mindfulness and awareness are the basic components of sitting meditation practice, which plays a key role. Through this practice we can stabilize our minds, which, in turn, brings clarity and an inherent mental strength. As well, sitting meditation acts like a lightning rod. It grounds overly volatile energy in the simplicity of just being there.

We all have moments when we feel synchronized with ourselves and our world. We experience a quality of openness, relaxation and inner strength. At these times our concepts drop away and we ride the energy of the moment. If we feel the sharpness and directness of vajra as we encounter our daughter's wild defiance, we can just let it be there. If we find ourselves filled with the wind of karmic accomplishment, we can just let it get down to business. Suddenly flirtatious, we can let the padma energy bubble and spark. Reveling in the earthy richness of possibilities, we can enjoy the ratna feast without gluttony. Simple and calm, we can let buddha reign. These are times when we shine and are the best of who we are. At other times we can't get out of our own way. We solidify and fixate, rather than ride the energy. We feel awkward at best or stuck in strong emotions at worst.

Usually we flip-flop between extremes of feeling good or bad about ourselves, and never find any real bridge or connection between these two states. The power of the teachings on the five wisdom energies is that they show us how we can find our wisdom within the very darkness of our confusion. Energy itself is neutral; it is our attitude towards it that determines whether we are open (sane) or closed (confused). When we are open to our own energy, we experience ourselves as warm and clear. When we are closed to our energy, we feel confused and stuck. Being open or closed determines how we view ourselves and consequently the world. In fact, it is when we experience intense emotion that wisdom is closest at hand. Fully embracing the emotions that bind us can liberate us.

When energy becomes heightened we need a very powerful tool—the tool of unconditional loving-kindness, or maitri—to allow us to be who we are unreservedly. Accepting ourselves as we are, in both our sanity and our confusion, is the key that unlocks our heart. It allows us to be in the present moment just as it is, without trying to cling or push away. Accepting ourselves fully is what stops our struggle, and only when we love ourselves in this unconditional way can we also love others. Only when we love ourselves can we be lovable. Maitri has a soft quality that is open, kind, relaxed, warm and inclusive. It allows us to be who we are and let all our colors shine. We breathe easily.

Maitri is not one-dimensional, but has various facets, each of which sharpens our understanding of how it works. First off, maitri has an element of familiarity. We know our habitual patterns like old friends, so they don't throw us off so much. Since maitri is accommodating, when we see the intensity of our closed energy we no longer try to avoid what's happening. We allow it to be and so expand our palette of acceptable energy states. Maitri also relaxes us and allows us to be gentle and kind toward ourselves. Our pain is still there, but instead of avoiding it, we care for it as we would care for an open wound. Working with maitri enables us to develop bravery, which means that we can touch our vulnerable, raw spots and still stay open. Maitri also allows us to see our life experiences are workable. When we encounter an unwanted circumstance, we don't contract and close but rather open ourselves to the situation. We see it not as a crisis but as an opportunity. Finally, the quality of friendliness toward ourselves is unconditional. We are friendly toward all aspects of our experience, especially the facets of ourselves that we like the least. We can love ourselves without reserve, with zero stipulations.



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