June 8, 2005

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. We have a small group tonight. We can better spend our time with no formal talk. I'd like to ask you to move into a smaller circle. What I'd like to do is simply go around. Let us start with the sharing of the garden¹, but I want to make it clear that I'm very open to your more personal questions tonight. Let me hear your questions pertaining to anything we have spoken of this year.

[ ¹  In past classes, Aaron has asked the students to draw a garden at home. Let it represent their experience. What is strong (such as fear, or generosity)? What is developing? What is still hidden?]

(reading a question) "We have talked a lot about anger and the elements. Where does fear fit with the elements? I find myself being afraid much more often than angry."

I think you've hit on something important, which is that fear usually is an underlayment to anger. Anger is an expression of fear. It's a particularly fire-heavy expression of fear. We often move into the expression of anger and even the experience of anger because it feels safer to be angry than to be afraid. When people get past their anger, they often find fear. Not always, but often. Fear is a stuck energy. It lacks any real movement, though it may sometimes simulate movement in erratic jerking.

Let us look at the elements side by side: air, earth, fire, water. They are all interconnected. Consider fire energy; there must be adequate air to keep it moving but not so much air to extinguish it. There must be enough earth energy that the fire energy doesn't just explode out, and adequate water and moisture in the air to keep it from taking over everything. Then we have a balanced fire energy.

This is literally Energy, with a capitol E. Without such fire energy, nothing can happen. So here we're seeing balanced fire energy as Energy. There is no contraction to it. It's fully in balance. When it moves into an imbalance, then it may move more into anger. With anger we either have too much fire or too little earth, too little water.

Unbalanced energy tends to swing back and forth like a pendulum. It's too heavy and things drop off or add, and then it shifts to the other side. So it's one extreme or another extreme rather than balanced (demonstrating with a pendulum).

In fear, often the fire energy is very strong, but because of the strength of the fire energy, too much earth has been brought in. There's not enough air. It's stuck fire energy. Think here of the volcano before it erupts: heavy lava, but it's not even lava yet, it's just heating, hot. Hot earth. Very little water. No fluidity or movement. Even in lava there's water, but very little air. One of the useful things to remember is, in fear there is very little air. You can feel that in your body and in the smallness of the breath. As soon as you open up and breathe into it, it opens up the fear, it balances it. This is one kind of anger. You all know how it feels.

So there is an imbalance where there's too little air. Because there's too little air, the water is heavy, earth-like, mud more than flowing water. There is fire but it's under the surface, suffocated by the heavy earth, unmoving. It's stuck. One may move into that kind of fear. It feels so uncomfortable that one of the things people do when they're in that kind of elemental fear state is to (big gasp) bring in so much air that it not only shakes loose the heavy earth, but the fire, it's like blowing on fire. And the anger comes out. This is anger that is ungrounded, very volatile, with a lot of water and forceful air. This is the anger that spews itself outward. You all know the feel of this one too.

Anger is just another imbalance. Now, when we talk about any of these states--fear, anger, desire, confusion--when we talk about any of them, there is a specific quality of lack. It's useful to ask yourself when you're intensely feeling some kind of energy, not so much what's out of balance but what's lacking, then to bring it in mindfully, not grasping at it. So when there's that heavy fear state, instead of trying to use the energy of the fire to break through, which brings up anger, one can simply be aware, "Here is heaviness, fear, stagnation." Breathe into it, right here in the belly. Feel the fire just slowly building up, not an explosion of fire, just slowly building up, so that the fire is usable energy. Then pause before the fire gets out of hand and feel whether there's flow. Is it jerky or is it flowing? If it's not flowing, bring in water either through the visualization or just go and put your hand under running water. This helps to open the fear energy, bring in the energy aspect of fire without anger, bring everything into balance. Does that sufficiently answer your question?

Q: Yes, thank you.

Aaron: Try an exercise to experiment with this. Let's all of you close your eyes and think about something that brings up fear. It might be some object that you're afraid of, like a snake. It might be something that's happening in a relationship. It might be the world news.

First, simply reflect that this exists, this difficult relationship, this difficult creature, this difficult world circumstance. And that because this exists, you experience a sense of danger. Because of this, you could be hurt and your loved ones could be hurt. Whatever image you have drawn, feel it coming toward you: an irate person, the snake or rat or tiger, or feel yourself in the situation where you're juggling too many balls, lots of people booing each time you drop one. Feel the tension there. As you imagine this, see if you can feel your energy closing down, becoming heavy.

Can you feel the predominance of an airless and waterless earth energy, holding your energy field down as you move into the remembrance of fear? Can you feel that? Some yes, some no. Take it deeper. It can't be conceptual, you've really got to give yourselves something that brings up fear.

Imagine a dear loved one becoming terribly injured. The doctors don't know if he or she will live. Feel your energy field close at that news. He or she has been in an accident. You are waiting in the outer room and the doctor comes out shaking his head. "I don't know, it's touch and go. She might not live. If she does live, she may have lost her brain function. We don't know." Feel the fear coming up, and the energy system shutting down.

Now several hours have passed. Finally you're allowed in to see your loved one. She is hooked to many instruments, breathing apparatus. There are bandages all over the body. And the doctor says to you, "Maybe there is hope. If we can keep him or her somewhat present here, you're going to have to do it. We'll need you to sing and talk to him. Let him feel your presence."

It's going to take energy to do that. From the shut-down space of fear it's very hard. Feel what may give you the energy to come forth and be present in that way, to touch, to talk, to sing. Feel that fire energy coming up. But if you don't balance it, it's going to come forth as anger. "This isn't fair! Why did this have to happen to my loved one? The accident was the other driver's fault, an innocent victim. It's not fair!" Feel the fire energy coming up. From that voice that you can not talk to the loved one.

If you go back to fear, it's too heavy. You can't talk from fear, you can't talk from anger. Breathe in to the whole complex balance of elements. Find within you that which balances and yet provides enough energy. You're going to have to sit here for 12 hours talking, keeping in contact, keeping your heart open. What's going to allow that?

May we hear from you here, sharing your insight. At that critical stage, what allows you to stay present, to do what is needed? It cannot come from either fear or outrage.

Q: Compassion.

Aaron: Compassion, and what helps to open the heart of compassion? The breath? Water? Flow, yes. Others?

Q: Letting go.

Aaron: Letting go, and what allows letting go?

Q: Breathing.

Aaron: Breathing. The heavy earth can't let go. Fire just burns everything. Where does letting go come from? Intuitively you can feel what's needed, I really think you can. The obstacle is not lack of insight into what's needed, the obstacle is the opposite of letting go, the wanting to hold on to the rage, the feeling that the rage will give power, or the wanting to hold on to the fear, which is a way of sheltering yourself, cutting yourself off in separation. Can you see the ways it's easier to either stay buried in fear and separated, or to move into the outrage, feeling the fire and power of it as an outlet for your frustration and grief?

But when you acknowledge, "Neither of those is really suitable to my purpose here, which is to help save the life of my loved one," then you're willing to make that sacrifice, to release the barricade of fear and not to go into the outlet of rage, but to keep it balanced. It's only in that balance that you can attend.

Please share more of your experiences with me… We will go at whatever pace of discussion we go. There's no rush.

Q: Is each element balanced by itself?

Aaron: We cannot talk about it that way. There may be a little bit of fire or a lot of fire, there is however much fire there is. The question is, are the elements together in balance? What would balanced earth or balanced fire look like separate from any other element? It's like having colors and saying, "Is the blue blue? Is the green green?" They only have meaning in relationship to each other. If the painting is too heavy with cool colors, it may feel out of balance. If it's too heavy with hot colors it may feel out of balance. But it's only when you bring the colors together that you get a sense of whether there's balance.

Q: Is that the purpose of living, to learn how to balance? Is that what Buddhism teaches?

Aaron: In a sense, we could say that. It's not how I would put it, but… yes. (Q: Sounds dry!) Aaron: At the sangha meeting here recently, I said that I felt that the core of Deep Spring was love. And that the reason all of you are here in your incarnation and what has attracted you to the work of Deep Spring is the intention to learn how to live your lives with love. It's not a matter of Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Hindu. These are just approaches to learning love. The question is how do we really learn to live our lives in love? Whatever path is helpful, we use. If there's a practice that comes out of one religion or another, that's fine. We're not doing it to enter that religion, we're doing it because it's a useful tool.

If a man is an electrician and he needs to get into a cabinet somewhere in order to adjust the wire, and somebody says, "Well you need a wrench for that. Here's a plumber's wrench," he won't say, "I can't use that, I'm an electrician." He uses the tool at hand.

So we don't get caught in from what faith is this practice or that practice derived. Rather, what is useful here to help open the heart, to bring forth the deepest expression of love? What's helpful to bring it forth, no matter how difficult the situation? It's easy to love somebody who's very lovable. How do you love somebody who's not so lovable? How do you love those difficult people in your lives?

Balancing is one tool. It's not the purpose of life, but a tool toward that purpose, of Love. There are many tools. For me, vipassana is the core tool because it's a practice that gives us a way to look directly at our experience rather than the stories about our experience. As long as you're looking at stories and concepts, you're a step away. The only way to approach this is to be fully present, and so we teach vipassana. We don't teach vipassana to be a Buddhist center, we teach vipassana because it's a vital tool. But vipassana can become sterile. It can be devoid of any heart-centeredness. It can become mechanical and be misused as a way of manipulating experience. So we teach the practices of lovingkindness, compassion and so forth.

We work with energy. We talked about kyo and jitsu energy, balancing energy. We use the elements. We use chanting or prayer, various forms of devotion. We use wisdom, deepening your wisdom. That's part of vipassana. They're all tools. You're building a house, a house of love.

Let us use this metaphor for a moment. Let's say that you've always lived in a rented apartment and you've dreamed of having your own house, but you don't have the money to buy a house. Then one day somebody knocks on your door and says, "That site down the street, I don't need that any more. It's yours." Fine, you can put a tent on it but you don't know how to do anything else, and you don't have the money to build a house.

But somebody then comes along and says, "Here is a huge truckload of materials: wood, roofing, windows and doors, concrete blocks for the foundation, plumbing and electric materials. It's all yours, a gift. Here." Now what are you going to do? You've got all the elements for your house. You don't know which end of the hammer to hold. You've got to start somewhere. You begin to refine your knowledge of tools. First you just have to take a piece of wood and a nail and a hammer and you practice until you can drive a nail in straight. Then you look at the building materials. You find a big shovel. You start to dig out the space for the foundation. You hammer some stakes in for the corners. You dig and you dig until you've got a deep hole. You take your hammer and nails and you start to build, but you realize, "This isn't going to work for the foundation. I'm going to have to learn how to lay cinderblock, to do masonry work." So you develop another tool.

The house starts to go up. It's not quite right, the corners aren't accurate. It's wobbly. Then somebody hands you a T-square. "How do I use this?" A level. You develop skill with the tools. As the house goes up, you discover what you do not yet know, what is needed in order to bring forth this finished house. You've mastered the masonry and carpentry. Everything is square and level and the house is going up, and you think to yourself, "It's dark. I have no windows in it." So you need to cut some holes in the walls and put in windows. That's another skill you have to learn, how to set in the windows. How to hang a door. And it goes up, and at the end of the day you're hot and sweaty and you think, "It would be good to take a shower. Ah, there's no water in here. I don't yet know how to work with plumbing." The house is out of balance, it's lacking water. It's lacking electricity, no fire. What's needed?

Finally you end up with a house that's in balance. It's finished, it's livable. To me, a livable house is a house grounded in love. The house of your own human body and personality. How to express this love out into the world in a wholesome way, in a compassionate way, not a maudlin sentimental way. Not in a way that invites abuse. A strong love. How do you invite this? How do you live this?

Now, to take this a step further, your purpose is not only to express that love in the world; that's only one step. You are learning to express that love in the world because there is the intention to express that love not only to your family, your neighbors, your workmates and so forth, but to learn how to express that love in the whole universe. Not just to human beings but to all beings.

Do you know the metta sutra? Let me quote a bit of it to you.

Wishing in gladness and in safety,
may all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease.

So you're learning this not just to relate to humans, you're learning it at a soul level. The human experience gives you a wonderful place to practice. You don't train a five-year-old musician by putting him or her in the middle of a symphony orchestra. It might help that child to listen to the orchestra, but she's not ready to work with the music at that advanced level yet. First she must learn to play scales, to learn the simple techniques.

I don't mean to minimize your earth experience, but it is a controlled environment wherein you can learn the basic techniques. You don't have to think about the whole galaxy here, all you have to think about is how to deal with the person who is angry at you, and with whom you have to resolve a conflict tomorrow morning. It's limited. So you can practice with it and you can try it if it works. Good. If it doesn't work, then back to the drawing board. What will help?

So your earth experiences are literally the child's learning of the playing of the instrument and hearing of harmony. You learn through observation and participation, and come to know harmony and discord, the manifestation and results of each. Barbara's children participated in a Suzuki music program when they were young. They were playing a cello. The fundamental process of learning was listening and mimicry. The teacher would play a line of a song. The children were not to watch the fingers on the instrument so much as to hear and to begin to listen to their own instrument and hear what fingering and what bowing creates that sound.

So they would listen until they found they could recreate the sound. It was only years later that they learned the names of the notes. How do I hear just one note and play it beautifully? I think that's a very perfect metaphor for the human experience: how do you hear one note and play it beautifully? You don't need a name for the note, you don't need a lot of intellectual information about it. What is the direct experience of the open heart? What is the direct experience of presence? What is the direct experience of patience, generosity, joy, or compassion? And, as with the note, if you play it and it squeaks, what do you need to do to make it sound clearer, the way it sounds from the teacher? Put a little more resin on the bow or more pressure with the bow or more pressure with the finger. Suddenly it comes out clear. And then you play another note.

Your human experience through many lifetimes gives you the opportunity to learn it in this way, not just to be dumped into the middle of an orchestra and be told, "You should be able to play." You've got to learn it piece by piece, whether it's the building of the house or the playing of an instrument up to orchestra level, or the living of the life with wisdom and compassion. Once you've mastered that, then wherever you are in a human or non-human form, at any level of your being, when there is fear, aggression, misunderstand, the heart is open and you know how to work with it.

As part of the vipassana practice, we see the move to build stories with what comes, and that this tendency doesn't help. So that when something comes at you and brings up fear or anger or confusion, instead of building self-identity"This happened to me, how am I going to fix it?" rather you begin simply to know the bare experience of fear or anger or confusion. No stories. What is the experience of fear before the stories come? What is the experience of anger before the stories come, the bare experience? Not, how do "you" relate to it but how does love relate to it? How does this emptiness of self, this place of non-dual love, relate to whatever catalyst has come to you?

As you learn how to do that, you become a model of such loving expression in the world, in service to all beings. When you offer love, you invite love. When you offer fear, you invite fear. It's very simple. Would you rather live in a universe where most beings are offering love and returning love, or a universe where most beings are offering fear and returning fear? We don't have to ask which one is better, it's very clear which one you'd choose.

Please share your thoughts with me.

Discussion not recorded.

(reading a question) "One of the most useful concepts for me is habit energies. Sometimes these have been so strong, I am frozen. I have had to walk away. As my awareness/observation of my emotions has increased, I can come back and correct this. I am optimistic of being able to do this in the moment. Breathing seems the best way to create the space to do this. What other ways?"

Aaron: First let us speak of breathing. There's a beautiful Buddhist sutra teaching called "Anapanasati". Sati means awareness. Ana is the in-breath, pana is the out-breath. Awareness of the in-breath and the out-breath, anapanasati. The sutra has 16 parts and begins quite simply. Would one of you look on the bookstore shelf. See if there is a copy of "The Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing" by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Someone brings, Breathe You're Alive: the Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing.

The sutra itself is very simple. I am reciting here, some excerpts, and also reading.

"Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out." Presence.

Two. "Breathing in a long breath or a short breath, I know whether it is a long breath or a short breath. Breathing out a long breath or a short breath, I know whether it is a long breath or a short breath." So discernment deepens, not just the awareness of breathing in or breathing out, but knowing that it's a long breath or a short breath. It takes more presence. One also begins to see the tendency to control the breath, should that arise, and to just let the breath breathe itself, not to control it. So here one begins to learn to practice, let us say, letting go. Allowing the breathing to happen.

Three. "Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body." The breath comes in and it energizes the whole body. We watch the breath here in vipassana, but when we are with that whole breath body, we feel it come all the way into the belly and all the way out. There's a different experience when the breath comes in and energizes the body. If you breathe (pants), the body feels different than when you breath (long deep breath). Here we're not controlling the breath, we're watching the breath and aware of the influence of the breath on the whole body.

Four. "Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body." I'm not happy with this translation. We're not enforcing calmness on the body like a traffic officer saying, "Now everybody go slow." Rather, you are observing how the breath has the ability to calm the body. When you breathe in, it's really that bringing air into the fear. The body is rigid. The breath calms the body. So it's a matter of becoming aware of the breath in the body, and how when we bring in the air element, the body calms, the body opens.

Five. "Breathing in, I experience joy. Breathing out, I experience joy." Here one consciously brings one's attention to the experience of joy and knows joy is present. Here is the possibility of joy. Even in a place where there is tension. When one begins to look for joy, one can see it.

"Breathing in, I experience happiness. Breathing out, I experience happiness." The same thing.

"Breathing in, I am aware of the feeling that is present now. Breathing out, I am aware of the feeling that is present now." You begin to know pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings.

"Breathing in, I calm the feeling that is present now. Breathing out, I calm the feeling that is present now." By "calm the feeling," I bring attention to it and offer the intention to offer balance. So if the feeling that is present is very strong unpleasant feeling, you can feel the aversion energy. Right there with the breath there's the ability to calm that, to bring balance to it.

That's half of it. I'm not going to read the whole thing. It's a book that you might enjoy.

Let me speak a bit in a different direction to this question.

I'm reading the question again.

(reading from question) "One of the most useful concepts for me is habit energies. Sometimes these have been so strong, I am frozen into the patterns. I have had to walk away. As my awareness/observation of my emotions has increased, I can come back and correct this."

Aaron: There is no question here but I wish to comment. Habit energy is very powerful for all of you. Awareness, sati, dissolves the force of habit energy. There's a difference between sati and mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that invites sati. Can you feel the relationship? Mindfulness is something that you can practice: to be mindful. When you are mindful, you open the door of sati, of awareness. Sati is more a way of being, to rest in awareness. Resting in awareness comes when there is mindfulness.

When you are willing to be present with the habit energies, this mindfulness is the first step. Presence does not dissolve the habit energy but brings it into focus. We've talked about Clear Comprehension. Clear comprehension of purpose asks: what is my highest purpose in this moment? Clear Comprehension of Suitability: Is what I'm doing, or intend to do, suitable to that purpose? If my highest purpose is to create harmony with my neighbor who is furious with me, and what I'm doing is shunning him, that's not suitable to the purpose. If what I'm doing is repeating the stories and trying to blame him, that's not suitable to creating harmony. Neither is kowtowing to him and letting him get away with abusing me. That won't create harmony. However, if my purpose is to make myself feel powerful, then I may wish to act in one of those ways.

With mindfulness, we look at the habit energies. In the past when somebody pushed me, I pushed back. Or when somebody pushed me, I ran away. That's not suitable to my highest purpose in creating harmony, in learning to live with love. Therefore, I need to address that habit energy. I address it by asking myself to be more present with it. Back to vipassana. Watching a habit energy come and come and come again.

Here we must distinguish between habit energy and the outflow of that habit energy. Two Pali words: anusaya, habit energy, and asava, outflow. For example, the habit energy may be to judge the self. Whenever somebody looks askance at you, expresses some discomfort with you, immediately the thought, "Oh, I did wrong. Oh, I'm bad," comes. That's a habit energy. When that thought comes up, there will be a specific outflow of it. You might become belligerent, or you might blush with shame and wish to disappear. You might reinforce the story, "I'm just no good."

What happens for most of you is that the outflow, the asava, is very clear. You keep experiencing it and you think of that outflow as the habit energy, but asava is really a result of the habit energy. You end up trying to fix the outflow, saying, "I won't become belligerent," "I won't blush, become ashamed and withdraw," or, "I won't be no-good; I will become better." But what you're doing is trying to change the result without addressing the cause. Shame arose, or the story of hopeless arose because of the conditions. The more you focus on the result, the more you are able to hide from the conditions, which are the anusaya. The habit energy here is the whole belief in a specific personal self that is unworthy in some way, that's inherently bad in some way, flawed. It's an old myth. When you see that the outflow is the result of a condition, and that that habit energy is the condition, then if belligerence comes up, you note it. If withdrawal or feeling of separation comes up, you note it. If feeling of inadequacy arises, you note it. You attend to it, take care of it. But you don't try to fix it, it's a result. There is nothing to fix, since there is certainly no one who is truly inadequate.

There is a direct experience of tension, blushing, an empty feeling of separation perhaps. Be with the direct experience. Don't create a self around it. Do watch the tendency to do so, which is part of the asava.

If you are painting a wall and the paint looks too bright, you don't say, "What's wrong with the paint?", you understand, "the basic colors from which the paint was mixed were not the colors I wanted." Don't keep painting over the wall with the same bucket of paint, thinking, "Maybe the next time it will be better." Go back to the original colors and tone it down a bit. Address the conditions, not the results. When I address the condition, the results will take care of themselves. So we address the conditions of habit energy. We see what's coming up as the outflow, but we know that's a result; the basic condition is the whole idea of a separate self and all the stories we create around that self.

We don't have to go back that far in the beginning, we just have to realize, "here is an habitual outflow." For example, consider somebody with the habit energy to think, life is not safe, I'm not safe, others are not safe, and who, as outflow, always needs to control other people, control situations. The habit energy is based on a feeling of helplessness, a lack of power. If I have that habit energy, then I'm going to have to act controlling in the world.

I don't slap my hand and say, "No, I won't control!" I notice the contraction that accompanies controlling words or actions and I note, "Here is the outflow; what is the base habit energy? The thought of helplessness. Who is helpless? Can I find that person?" No. There's no one there; just conditioning. One does not have to look into childhood and see what created the conditioning, only to note that it arises and brings an immediate outflow. Each time "controlling" arises, one might note, "fear." One notes with kindness, and not to fix, just to observe. But you are bringing in a new element. Instead of bringing more fear to the experience, there is spacious, kind observance. Here, fear may diminish; here there is opportunity to ask, "what if I just hold a space for fear and do not control as reaction?" Then we can see what happens.

The outflow that stutters with shame and withdraws, its base habit energy is often a sense of unworthiness. We don't have to ask so much, "In what past life did I pick up a sense of unworthiness?", or "What psychological, emotional conditions in this life bred this sense of unworthiness?", we just note, "Here is the feeling of unworthiness. It came out of conditions." Then ask the question, "Was there ever a self, as continuous object, who was unworthy?" The parent always said to you, "Oh, shame on you." The idea, "I'm unworthy" came up. It's a myth. We see how the habit energy of thinking of the self as unworthy came, and then the outflow of a certain kind of behavior came because one thinks of oneself as unworthy.

So one doesn't try to fix the behavior. Rather, one uses the behavior to turn back on oneself, see the basic habit energy and inquire about it. What is this habit energy? Not, "How do I fix it?", "What is it?" It's a symptom of one's confusion. It's the place where one does not understand one's true self. If you understand your true self, how can you get lost in the idea, "I'm unworthy"?

When you fully hold the true self, then you see the thought, "unworthy," and you know, "This is just the habit energy. It doesn't have any roots any more but it keeps coming up." Then each time it arises you greet it with kind, mindful attention. Eventually it will lose its power and disappear.

Of course there are times when it is helpful to look deeper at the habit energy, through your meditation or with the help of a counselor. But please don't allow that looking to further solidify the self. There is something there that needs to be understood, some area of pain that was not yet accessible. See it, but don't create stories around it, such as "victim." Don't create more self through this exploration. Just see what needs to be seen and focus on the process of creating the outflow, not the content of the story.

There is much more that could be said here, but I wish to leave time for other questions. I think perhaps if you look in Presence, Kindness, and Freedom, you will find some very specific directions about working with habit energy. And also if you look at some of the other talks on the internet, you'll find this. I hope that's of some help to you.

Q: Thank you very much.


Q: The smaller my perspective, the more fear I have. So for me, air, space, expansion, enlarges my perspective and then I relax.

Aaron: What you're doing here, Q, is creating a reminder or reflection. I think of entering a museum with beautiful art. What work pulls you most? It's usually the work that inspires, that allows you to see in a bigger way. That fine art work reflects back to you your own inherent grandeur. I don't mean grandeur in an inflated ego sense, but your radiance and divinity. It reminds you who you are.

When you bring in air and spaciousness, you're bringing in that reflection of your true being. This is part of the balance. We learn what works, that when there's something tense, to focus further on it just creates more tension. Simply taking a breath opens it up.

A friend was describing to me her care of her aged cat. The cat had lost much of its fur and was quite sick. It needed a lot of medicine. It spit and hissed and bit and clawed when she tried to give it medicine. She was feeling quite overwhelmed with it. She said the more she fought with the cat, the more the cat reacted. But when she would sit down and hold the cat in her lap and remember the beauty of this creature, how much she loved her cat, remember the many years that they shared, waking up with the cat beside her on the pillow purring, and she held the cat in that way, her memory seemed to rekindle the memory for the cat of who he was. Then the cat would accept the medicine.

So she found it really all depended on her. When she related to the cat with the fullness of the cat's being, the cat expressed that. And when she related to it with her own fear and anger, the cat related back that way.

Q (Not M): Last time, you suggested to M to draw a garden with lots and lots and lots of tomatoes.

Aaron: And did you (to M)? Yes. May we see it?

Aaron: (Looking at M's drawing, clapping) Wonderful! (Group: Bunnies!) They're enjoying it. They're all enjoying it. Do you have any fear that there will not be plenty for you? (no) Please continue, Q…

Q (Not M): So I wondered, what really is abundance? And I thought maybe the natural order of the universe is abundance. So it's less about a personal accounting of balance, what I give out, what I get back, and more a larger order balance, or simply…

Aaron: Yes, it is universal. How can there be anything but abundance? It's very much as the friend with the cat. You bring forth what you need to experience. You're not always certain why you needed to experience it. If you think you need to experience lack, you create it. The thought is the habit; it just keeps itself running.

Barbara loves pansies. She has beautiful large wooden boxes that edge her deck, and every spring she fills them with pansies. This year there is a groundhog living under the deck, and he said, "Oh, joy! A salad garden!" She bought some kind of hot pepper wax spray. She sprayed the flowers to keep the creature from eating them and he said, "Salad dressing!"

She was sad, not terribly upset but sad. "I miss my pansies. I want my pansies." I said to her, "Do you see any way you can get the pansies short of shooting the groundhog?" "No." "Are you willing to just let him have the pansies? You're not growing pansies this year, you're nurturing a groundhog."

She began to enjoy watching him climb onto the boxes. He's big! There's a Buddha statue in the corner between these two boxes, and he would stuff himself with pansies and then lie draped over the Buddha's lap. Spring passed, she watched him enjoy feasting on her pansies, and she began to find real pleasure with him and to let go of the grasping, "My needs aren't being met."

Now he's gone elsewhere. He's still living under the deck but he's found other things to eat. There are thousands of pansies. I am not suggesting that his going was because Barbara was able to let go, only that there are many ways to see ones needs as met, and many ways to understand abundance.

Q: It helps me to think of a greater balance than just mine.

Aaron: These lessons of abundance, from my perspective, are often about learning about fear and co-creation, and that when fear does come up, and it will, you can address it from a place of tightness and enhance the fear or you can take fear itself as the object. I asked before what is the direct experience of fear without any stories. Who is afraid? We start to look for somebody who is afraid and we start to understand this is just an emotion, a result of conditions. You can't pin it on any specific person because the person you are changes from minute to minute and hour to hour. You can't find a "who". You can name yourself and say it's this human being, but what is this human being? It's always changing.

We go into fear in this way. The fear that one's needs will not be met is such a basic fear, so it's very much the teacher of the very basic lessons. My needs won't be met, but right now my needs are being met. Is my need really to have pansies or is my need to learn to let go and appreciate the groundhog? When I let go in that way and stop creating a self and other, with the fear, "Me and the groundhog: only one of us is going to get what we need," I relax and I find that my needs are being met in the enjoyment of the groundhog. And then, wonder of wonders, the plants have developed such big roots because he kept snipping off the tops, that now they're spreading thousands of flowers. They've co-created our magnificent garden of pansies, Barbara and the groundhog. So one begins to touch into that vast well of abundance.

M, can you tell us something about your experience with this tomato garden? Would you share that? What did you learn by drawing it?

Q: I learned that there is more than enough to go around, and we don't need to be possessive and overly protective.

Aaron: How can you apply that to your personal and work life? You are welcome to speak to that but you don't have to speak to that. Simply reflect on it. Think about it with your children. Think about it with your work.

When you hoard, does it ever really come out to be satisfying in the long run? This is not a matter of being careless and squandering. To understand abundance does not mean to throw away. One understands abundance that one's needs will be met, but also to value what one is given. You have thousands of tomatoes, but you really just need one today. You can give away all the others and tomorrow there will be new ones. How does that feel?

With your children, what does it mean to give even more fully of your time and energy and love? What about those conflicted moments when you are thinking, "I want some time for me." You delight in the children, but there's also that tinge of fear, "What about me? I have the bills to pay or the car to wash or things to do. What does it mean to just let go and trust it's all going to come out fine?"

We learn that fear may choose, disregarding the heart, and push aside the children to do the work, or fear may even hold aside the work to be with the children. Love may ask the children to wait a while or to help, so chores may be finished. Love may put the chores aside, recognizing they can wait. But in this latter choice, with love, there is an ease and spaciousness.

Others who have drawings, may we see them?

Q: Those were the weeds (Aaron: The weed patch is fenced in.) and I put them… Those weeds are my sister. There are some smaller weeds that have an occasional flower.

Aaron: No flowers in the sister weeds!

Q: No, no.

(Unable to accurately transcribe what's going on for a couple of sentences.)

Signer: The flowers are her husband.

Q: And actually, there are some small weeds over here, and that's my negative response to what's been happening with my sister. These flowers are joy and most of them are underground because I haven't been very joyful lately.

Aaron: I am going to ask you to do two new drawings. One, I want you to take this area that has some weeds and some flowers. Blow that up onto one piece of paper. Ask yourself how the weeds and flowers interrelate. Do you really have to kill the weeds in order for the flowers to grow?

Q: No, but we can kill these. (Pointing)

Aaron: Up there, they're just weeds! Why kill them? What if you let them be, and nurture the flowers? For the second drawing. I want you to take that fenced in area and blow it up and find the flowers in it.

Q: I want to blow it up, yes!

Aaron: Not explode it, enlarge it! Don't find only ugly weed flowers, find the beautiful flowers. Find the beautiful flowers right there in your sister along with the thorns and spikes. What kind of flower comes out of your sister? And I don't mean an ugly, spiky flower. Maybe there's just the smallest, delicate flowers coming out.

Q: Morning glories (Aaron: Draw it!) because they're parasitic flowers!

Aaron: And yet they have beauty, don't they.

Q: Yea, but you've gotta watch out for them, they kill!

Aaron: Work with it.

Q: These flowers are happiness.

Aaron: You might draw that area big too and see when you look closely at the happiness, are there any weeds in there.

Q: No, I don't have any weeds in there. (Aaron: No weeds?) No, that's the happy area. But some of them are, like, some are up here and some are down here…

Aaron: If there's grasping to keep the happiness free of weeds, can it be true happiness? What happens if you relax and let a few weeds come up? Is there less tension that way?

Q: OK, alright.

Aaron: These drawings are living guides, not stagnant. But if you draw it, look for the changes. Ask what part of the garden needs most attendance right now. And that screened in patch of the sister, the sister weeds, find the flowers in there. I have never seen a patch of weeds devoid of flowers. Find the flowers in there.

Q: Oh, she's poison ivy.

Aaron: Even poison ivy can look lovely. Right there with the poison ivy, what is growing? It's not all poison ivy. What's growing in there with the poison ivy? Certainly you may want to put gloves on, long sleeves, when you spread the poison ivy apart to find the flowers. It's fine to dress appropriately, but don't assume there's no beauty in there.

Q: Oh yea, those weeds think they're beautiful.

Aaron: Try it. That's all I ask. (To new Q) Do you have pictures with you? You did a project with crayon and ink, I believe, to scrape away the black ink on top of the color.

Q: When I finished the preparation, I started scraping without anything in mind. And as I was doing this, I got very clear that this is boldness, and it's too big. It scares me. But it is growing.

Aaron: And it's breaking through the blackness.

Q: This represents sadness. Blue. This ended up being clarity, getting clearer. And this is creativity in bud, in little buds.

Aaron: What was the experience of working with the process and allowing the light to break through?

Q: I was concerned that I wasn't doing it right.

Aaron: Interesting. And at what point did you realize you were doing it just fine?

Q: I'm going to do it again.

Aaron: May I see it up close? Lovely. It's wonderful to see how the strong colors and light burst through no matter how much blackness you put on top, if you're willing to let it come through. I think that is a very important reflection for you. (To new Q) Do you have a picture?

Q: I do but I didn't make any changes to it.

Aaron: No changes, the same picture. Any further reflections on that picture? Yes, with a deep underground part.

Q: Let the air in, and let the sun burst forth from underground. I have a sense that even though all of this blackness comes up, I can just let it be there and in my actions I get more of the sun, guiding my actions.

Aaron: I think this is an important drawing for you, an important reflection also, about moods and going deeper, finding the strength deep down that emerges out into the light. You can't just scratch the surface and expect the plant to have strength. When you look deep into the roots of your lovingkindness, your creativity, open-heartedness. What comes out of the surface may only be that big, but the roots are deep. Get to know those roots. You're basing so much of your self-image on what shows above the surface, and much of beauty does show above the surface.

(taping ends)

Copyright © 2005 by Barbara Brodsky