October 1, 2003

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Last week I gave you some homework: to watch an arising contraction in the mind and the body, then to watch how you related to that contraction. For example, you might stub your toe, feel that contact and a moment of pain. With the hit and the pain, the body energy contracts. The energy thus contracted is another experience, so the sequence is contact as object/ pain as secondary object/ unpleasant feeling/ contraction, then contraction itself as object/ unpleasant feeling/ and a habitual response to the experience of contraction. Either fear will come forth and enhance the contraction, or kindness will come forth.

Of course, no matter how firm the habit for kindness, there will inevitably be situations when the catalyst is so strong that there is fear. One example Barbara likes to use: a number of years ago she was snorkeling from a boat off the Florida Keys with her children, on a tour that took people out to the coral reef. She is a good swimmer and an experienced snorkeler so she did not ask her children to sign the instructions to her. The captain of the boat said, "You may see sharks." She didn't know that. "If you see sharks, just swim away very quietly. The sharks in this area have never attacked a person." She didn't know that.

She was snorkeling quite a distance from other people, came around a large piece of coral jutting up from the sea, and there was a large shark. All that was happening was seeing, eyes touching object, seeing. With the perception of seeing a shark came all of the stories of the viciousness of sharks. Images came about the shark tearing her apart. Mind did not dwell on the images; there was a brief image, then fear. She began to do exactly the wrong thing. She swam and kicked as fast as she could to get away, splashing.

Here was contraction, fear. So there was seeing/ unpleasant/ fear and contraction, then racing away in fear. She was swimming away as much from her own fear as from the shark. She passed several teenagers in the water. She says with a smile that the thought that arose as she passed them is, "Good! Now they're between me and the shark!" As she heard herself say that, she knew she had to stop. She had to go back and tell them there's a shark back there. The body energy and mind were contracted. There was fear. There was also the clarity of need to warn these young people.

She did it but not happily, and then judgment arose. There was no kindness for herself. The mind further hardened with judgment rather than appreciating the intention to go back. Here, again, is habit energy deepening negative thought and further holding contraction. So she told the young women, who immediately said, "Oh, wow!" and went off looking for the shark. Barbara swam to the boat and told the captain. He just nodded and said, "Yes, there are many sharks."

I tell this story because it illustrates the sequence. First some catalyst giving rise to contraction in the body, mind, or both. Such a contraction has this effect: if you have a hose with water flowing through it and you bend the hose, the water can't flow. When the mind and body contract in relationship to a catalyst, temporarily the energy can't flow. Further bending of the hose certainly will not restore the flow.

Picture the man watering his garden, pulling his hose behind him. He's unaware that there's a kink in the hose, so that as he pulls he tightens the kink and cuts off the water. He pulls; the water force drops. He's trying to reach the plants at the far side of the garden, but suddenly there's no water pressure. He pulls again. The harder he pulls, the more he tightens the kink, and the less water. Because of his particular tendency here, the less water comes out, the harder he pulls.

As soon as he stops and says, "There must be a kink in the hose," simply rests the hose on the ground and goes back along its length, finds the kink and untwists it, the water can flow out again.

When there is a difficult catalyst and the body naturally contracts as it will if there is sharp physical, emotional or mental pain, the habitual tendency many of you have developed around the experience of contraction is to further tighten, trying to fix it. You lose any sense of spaciousness. In the last class, we spoke of the importance of keeping both the ultimate and the relative experience together in any moment, not to focus on one or the other but on both.

On the relative plane, the toe has encountered a rock. Sharp pain results and the body's natural reaction to pain is to contract. Like our hose with low water pressure when the tightening kink allows less and lees flow, the more you contract, the more you separate yourself from the ultimate, from "source." The mind that judges the contraction, or attacks the self in some way, or attacks the rock for that matter, moves further into the relative plane, losing touch with the ultimate.

The opposite extreme, although it would be quite rare, is the person who so totally separates their self from the physical experience that they refuse to acknowledge or even feel that pain, then they think they are resting in the ultimate. From my perspective they are resting in denial.

In that moment of contraction, feeling the loss of energy, the loss of connection, we can bring immediate attention to the experience, "loss of connection". It is most helpful when you can do so without a lot of stories. By that, I mean without the story, "Will this get better? Am I doing it right? Can I fix it?" - these are stories. Simply be present with the experience "cut off". What is "loss of connection" before the stories start? What is the direct experience of contraction, and can it be seen separately from all the stories of "bad" or "danger" that have been generated for countless lifetimes in accompaniment to contraction?

If a memory comes up of the way you were not invited to play a game on the playground when you were 7, and how much anger and sadness there was, just note "remembering" and let it go. Notice it and acknowledge the plan to come back to it with reflection at another time. But for now, don't be with the 7-year-old, be here in this immediate moment of the experience of separation. Then, you felt powerless and experienced rage or shame. Can you note, "Remembering" and not bring it into this moment's anger?

What I want you to notice is that the more kindness and awareness you're able to bring to the immediate experience, the more connected you will be with the ultimate. The more you move into the habit energy of judgment, opinions, and the mind eager to fix, the more you stay cut off.

You have developed that habit energy for many reasons. I cannot begin to enumerate them all. Suffice it to say that since ancient times, this self experiencing pain, grief, fear, and attack on the self, was taught, and reacted almost instinctively, to defend by contracting itself. Contraction is not only a learned response but is truly a response of the physical organism. Contraction is the cellular response to pain.

But the small microorganism that contracts does not have a brain nor a compassionate heart to understand its situation. You are human. You have a choice. And so much of this is about taking that choice with the understanding, "If I take the right hand fork I end up here, and if I take the left hand fork I end up here. Where do I wish to go?"

When you can see the whole process of moving into contraction and understand that the contracted state was a defense and allowed the self to feel more powerful, you also can know, "I don't need to do that again."

When you move into that contracted space and train yourself to note, "contracting," you see clearly what is happening, that the situation arose from conditions, and that the contraction is a result. You see the habit energy of further shutting down that has followed such contraction. Here is where the moment of choice comes. In the Buddhist teachings this is called the "active moment." There is unpleasantness. The body contracts with the unpleasantness, and in that active moment, the mind either builds a self around the whole situation and closes in further, as per old habit, or opens up, understanding it does not need to separate further, and that such separation creates further harm.

An ideal place to practice this is in the dentist's chair. You go to the dentist because you want a healthy mouth. The teeth need to be cleaned, cavities need to be filled. Some of the work is painful. But often the work is not painful. Yet, as you sit there, you tense. The fingers begin to clench, the shoulders tighten, the jaw tightens, the belly tightens, and there's not even pain, there's only the expectation of pain. Here is a place where you can remind yourself again and again. "Breathe. Open."

I spoke further last week of seeing both the contracted and the uncontracted in the same moment. We talked about the natural flow of kyo and jitsu energy, opening and closing, relaxation and then tension. This balance is right there in the breath; it's constant in the body. Balanced, relaxed, and tensed energy, moving back and forth.

When you feel that flow in your experience, if there is a contraction, a loud noise, the stubbed toe, body contracts and mind notes, "contracting." Yet you rest in that broad awareness that is not contracted. That means there's no self-identity with the contraction.

I spoke last week of the 3 kayas. The first two are dharmakaya, which we can consider for now as ultimate reality, the Ever-Perfect, and nirmanakaya, the form body. Form is not necessarily a material form. A thought object is also nirmanakaya. Nirmanakaya is really a conditioned object, whether it's a material object, an energetic object, an emotion or a thought. I said I would return to the third kaya, sambhogakaya, the transition body.

I like the example of a deep underground spring as symbol of dharmakaya. It's so far underground it cannot be touched by this world directly. It's as if there is a film over it. If you break through the film, you're on the other side, no longer able to reach into the conditioned world. There is the underground spring, (demonstrating with hands) there is the river, and right here is the place where the water pulses out from underground.

You can try this with your breath, although the metaphor is not perfect. Draw in a breath. Feel that air. Inside you, in theory. Now as you exhale, blow. Blow on your hand. (Blows out 3 times.) Here is a thing. nirmanakaya, the breath. Breathe in again, and feel that moment just as the breath begins to release. It's still connected to the breath within. It has not yet turned into a wind. Can you feel that moment? The potential of that blowing, but it's just at the start of it. It's a bridge between the source and outer manifestation.

Think of a big oak tree. Very early in the spring. It has no acorns yet, and yet the imprint out of which the acorns will be created has always been there within the tree. Think of a tiny sprout of an oak tree only an inch tall. Certainly this has no acorns. All it is, is an acorn itself, with a tiny sprout. Within that are all the acorns and all the future oaks. So we have the seed of dharmakaya. We have the sprout and then it grows. It becomes a sapling. And one spring it's ready to bear acorns, but they're not there yet. There is a bridge energy, sambhogakaya, that comes forth.

It's not quite intention energy, although that comes closer than many definitions. The oak tree does not have intention to give forth acorns, it simply is its nature. Dharmakaya does not have intention to express in the world; it is its nature. Being dharmakaya, truth body, it can do nothing else but give forth this sambhogakaya, transition energy, which finally bursts forth as the object. The stream rolling down the hill, the new oak tree or the acorn, or in personal terms, the gestures, the movements, the way of being in the world - all of the voices of the body in the world.

Getting to know this, I cannot call it "moment" of sambhogakaya, because of course it's always there, not just a momentary thing, this energetic expression of sambhogakaya, may take awhile, but it is of great value. Great value because it helps to connect you to your deepest truth and to keep you centered in your deepest truth even when the outer experience is difficult. In that difficult moment of pain, fear, and contraction, you may not be able to fully re-enter the uncontracted state, to re-enter the dharmakaya, but when you see and experience this transition movement, you can see the dharmakaya. Truth is experienced coming from that ever-perfect and moving into expression. To rest in this energetic expression is equivalent to unkinking the hose.

I want to take a few minutes to hear your questions here, then we're going to do an exercise with the whole group for a few minutes. Then you will break into your small groups and try this exercise and talk about it. And also talk about the assignment you'll be given, your experiences with all this during the week, and then we'll come back together again. Let me pause here first to see what questions there may be.

Q: Am I understanding you to be saying that this sambhogakaya is the transition between the dharmakaya and the nirmanakaya?

Barbara: Yes. He says, for example we know this space of deepest truth. And then, he says for example, you walk outside. You're feeling very openhearted, very connected and loving. And suddenly for some reason, water that was blocked on the roof all releases and pours down. Splat! Anger comes up in the self. "Who did that? What's going on?" You can go with that outer form, which is in this case a contracted fear-based form,… let Aaron channel this directly.

Aaron: I am Aaron. There would be several options. One may go with that outer form. But the deep intention to non-harm is here too. The intention in itself can simply result in judgment. "I am avowed to non-harm. I should not be angry. I will not be angry." Of course, that's just more anger.

This transition body is our way of coming back into that loving heart, finding the purity of intention, remembering the uncontracted state, so that one can stand there soaked and just note, "Uncomfortable. Soaked. What happened? Unpleasant."

Sambhogakaya is transition body, but I see that I have neglected one piece of this. It is the transition body that leads to the expression of the dharmakaya in the world, not the cutting off of the dharmakaya, so that the form body is wholesome and beautiful, because the bridge is stable. I pause.

Barbara: He says he's emphasizing these terms because some of you know the terms and he wants everybody to start on the same page, so that we understand these terms and can use them easily because they do clearly describe the energetic process.

Q: The example of water falling off the roof, where in that is sambhogakaya?

Aaron: I am Aaron. The sambhogakaya in that example, let us take this step by step. Openhearted, clear, joyful, emerging, splat! Contracted. The sambhogakaya comes with the intention, seeing contraction, not to go off into the stories of the contraction, to stay in touch with that Ever-Perfect, not to lose it, even through this experience of contraction.

Q: Is that moment of choice <can't hear remainder of sentence>?

Barbara: Aaron says he would call it more a moment of clarity. He says it's like looking down at the ground with clean white shoes on and seeing here there's sidewalk and there there's mud. He says it's a moment of choice but there's also clarity because one can clearly see, "If I go that way my feet are going to get filthy. That's not what I choose for the moment because it's not necessary." When the intention, as not to ruin the shoes, is clear, there is no real choice, just the movement consistent with love, with the dharmakaya. He says so it's not just choice, because choice can be based on fear. It's choice based on clarity and compassion. It's choice based on knowing one's innate connection with this ground of being, choosing not to separate. It's more "allowing" oneself to move in harmony with all that is, than consciously choosing. The choice was made earlier, to live in that harmony as much as possible. Now there is only clarity about which way the path lies.

Q: Is that the active moment?

Barbara: Yes, that moment is the active moment. He says, of course, one could see the mud, feel anger and say, "I'll just walk through it. I'll show them!" And stomp through and look around for somebody to see how muddy you're getting, and how they should have cleaned up the mud, how they should have put gravel or something on the path. This is anger speaking. Then you're disconnected.

He says what he wants to do here is to get away from the concept and have you get into this experientially. We're going to start it here in the big group simply because I want to supervise it at first and give you some guidance. Then we'll break into small groups. It will work okay in a big group I think, but you'll be able to explore more deeply in the small groups.

Please form a big circle.

(tape turns)

Barbara: ...Coming in from the left, going out from the right, so it's making this circle...

I would like all of the 1's to drop out, while maintaining the handheld circle. You're close enough to reach; take the hands of your 2 neighbors and draw them together. All the 1's drop out. 1's, do you feel the loss of the energy of the group? You could choose to stay energetically connected even though you're not holding hands, but for now, drop that connection. I'd like you energetically to disconnect to see how that feels. Those 3's and 2's crossing hands over a 1, you might feel that energy of the 1 between you. Each person is going to experience something different. If you don't experience anything energetically, there's nothing wrong with you. Some people will feel this more than others depending on how aware we are of the experience of energy.

Pause to do this. Now, take the 1's back into the circle. 1's. Do it mindfully; come back in mindfully... How is that?

Pause to do this.

2's drop out...

Pause to do this.

Everybody may experience the loss of the 2's, but I especially want the 2's to watch how they feel as they drop out of the circle, and then in another minute come back into the circle...

Pause to do this.

The special question here is, can you feel how you can choose to remain an energetic part of the circle even when you're not physically connected? What holds you apart?

Even if there is a contraction, not wanting to let go, feeling left out, contracted, you can reconnect. Some people will feel abandoned.. But in that moment, we also can re-establish the connection by allowing the connection, seeing how the connection is there, has always been there. We come and go from it, in our heads more than anything.

2's come back into the circle...

Pause to do this.

The energy flowing all around, all of us a part of the circle. And then, 3's will drop out...

Pause to do this.

I'm surprised, as a 3 I am experiencing this outside-of-the-circle-ness. I didn't think I would! I'm finding I'm able to feel the part of myself that is outside the circle and the part that is in the circle, both at the same time. The outside the circle is really delusion of the relative plane. The inside the circle is our true being, our true nature of interconnection...

Pause to do this.

3's coming back into the circle...

Pause to do this.

Letting the hands open, mindfully, open your eyes. What I'd like you to do now is to go off into your same groups as last week. I will read the names for you so you remember what group you're in. I'd like you to experiment with this. I'd like you to do 2 things in the group: to talk about the work assignment. That was very specifically the experience of a catalyst, what the habit energy with the catalyst was, and whether you were able to feel both at once: the arising of the catalyst, the pulling into separation. And also stay rooted to some degree in this openness in ultimate reality, to rest in both.

Some of you may have experienced this more clearly than others. There's no right or wrong way to have experienced it. There's no right or wrong answer here. Just share some about your experiences. Each group, I'd like you to spend some time doing the exercise we just did. Explore it further, and talk about it. What kind of experiences came up for you.

Let's break now into groups and we'll come back together probably in about 45 minutes.

(taping break)

Barbara: we've just returned from the small groups. Aaron will speak.

Aaron: I am Aaron. The homework is not really any different from last week's. Just keep watching it ever more deeply. I especially would like you to get the feel of the direct experience - what is dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya? I want you to experience the simultaneity of the three, as opposed to seeing them as linear. And this is something you will have to take into reflection in your daily life, as well as your meditation practice.

May I hear your questions? I pause.

Q: Just checking to see if I understood Aaron's description of sambhogakaya that he gave tonight. It feels like the impulse that follows awareness, meaning when we bring awareness to something, the very next impulse toward re-opening is an experience of sambhogakaya.

Barbara: He says it's very hard to define it, it eludes definition because it's very broad. This is one piece of what it is. He says, probably each of you could say, "I think it's this," and we'd have 30 different definitions, all of which are part of it. He says, the thing is, you don't have to get the whole thing, you only have to get something that lets you know sambhogakaya. So it's okay that it's a different thing for each person.

He says, you can tell if you're on track by, does it take you back home?

Q: Does it have to, or is there still the option to be aware of it but still fall back into old habit?

Aaron: I am Aaron. If the intention is to come home, then touching sambhogakaya will take you there, at least most of the way there.

There is the old story we've told often of Barbara tumbling down the river, into which rapids she had chosen to leap.. She began to panic because the water was flowing so rapidly and tumbling her so fast. I said, "Just put your feet down." One can go into that panic or one can remember, just put your feet down. That is essentially sambhogakaya. Putting her feet down, she's still standing up in a relative river with a fast current. There may still be experiences of fear or discomfort, or even of delight. But there's also grounding.

The metaphor here: putting one's feet down, is remembering sambhogakaya. And remembering the open heart, as one member of the group phrased it. We start to see how we can be very caught up in a difficult experience and simultaneously stable, open, connected. It's not either/or. I pause.

Q: How would I distinguish between feelings of the dharmakaya and the sambhogakaya in normal life?

Aaron: I am Aaron. In normal life you do not rest fully in the dharmakaya. You may enter it for moments, but if you stay there. The experienced practitioner becomes deeply grounded there. This is a highly realized being. Most people touch on it for a moment and if there is attempt to stay there, that only seems to be possible by pushing away the relative. There's still a contracted energy. When you are resting in the dharmakaya, you are resting in a state of non-contraction. Then you see contractions arising or flowing. That which is uncontracted observes the arising and passing of contractions and is not pulled into a self that must wage war with the contractions or do anything with them. They are just contractions. Still, you attend to them skillfully. If the contraction is due to pain, you sit down and attend to the pain. I pause.

Barbara: He says we can only stretch words so far here. What does it mean to rest in the Uncontracted? Many of you have had this experience and you understand it experientially. He says you all know what it means to get lost in the relative: mind tight, body tight. He says what he really wants you to see here is the place where they come together. It's not a place of total bliss and peace, disconnected with the world, and yet there is a deep peace even while there may be tumult or discomfort. Because there is the experience of connection even with the experience of the relative self and the separation that comes with relative self. He pauses.

Q: You are giving me a deeper appreciation for an old word that now has new meaning: abiding.

Barbara: Yes, abiding, that's a perfect word. Abiding in the spaciousness, Aaron says abiding in the spaciousness that does not prefer the ultimate to the relative because it understands the non-duality of ultimate and relative. And yet that appreciates the spaciousness and calmness of the ultimate.

Q: So sambhogakaya equals abiding?

Aaron: I am Aaron. Sambhogakaya does not equal abiding. Sambhogakaya simply is the transition body that serves as bridge from the Unconditioned to the condition. We abide both in the knowledge and the direct experience of sambhogakaya, and in that abiding, duality drops away. I pause.

Barbara: He says, does that make sense to you? He says, you will read it in the transcript.

Q: I'm sensing, seeing, and tasting, about sambhogakaya; that noticing the bridge is in itself sambhogakaya.

Barbara: Awareness notices sambhogakaya...

Q: But that in itself is the dharmakaya coming through.

Aaron: Yes. I am Aaron. You can look directly at the sun, but you will burn your eyes. If you look at a tree and the shadow it casts, right there with the tree and the shadow is the sun. You don't have to look directly at the sun to be certain that the sky is clear and the sun is shining. The sunlight is a direct expression of the sun. And, the shadow of the tree is there because the sun is there.

Sambhogakaya, abiding in sambhogakaya, resting in sambhogakaya. One does not directly touch the dharmakaya but rests in the certainty of the dharmakaya, because without the dharmakaya there cannot be the sambhogakaya. I pause.

Barbara: It's 9:30, we need to stop.

Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Brodsky