November 30, 2005

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. I know you are all still discovering who you are and I know that remembering will go on for a long time, through the whole incarnation.

I asked last class… (reading from the transcript), "Can you see that it's consciousness that picks up the sword? Who puts down the sword?"

An answer given was, "Spaciousness, the awareness of anger."

I asked, "Can awareness put down the sword if it never picked it up?"

The questioner said, "Just as if anger doesn't exist, if there's awareness of anger then the sword can cease to exist or be put back."

"Yes, it's gone, it evaporates. From the view of awareness, the sword both was and was not real, just as the danger in the haunted house is and is not real. Consciousness says, 'Ooo! Monsters!' And awareness says, 'Ah, what a great show they made here!' Consciousness picks up the sword. Awareness cuts through the whole myth of self and the need for the sword and all the stories. Awareness rests in spaciousness. But still it's only consciousness that can then put down the sword. From the perspective of awareness, there is nothing to put down.

Let us go deeper. I had asked you to consider the etheric and astral templates. Within the etheric template, the relative experience, consciousness and old conditioning picks up the sword. It might be a sword of aggression or a sword of helplessness. It might be a sword of weakness or a sword of strength. A sword of being the one who knows and is powerful, the one who is helpless. It picks up the habit energy. Thinking I am the best, thinking I am unworthy. Consciousness picks up that sword. That's on the etheric level.

Awareness functions on the astral level. It watches this whole show. "Ah, here consciousness goes picking up the sword again, believing in unworthiness. There it goes again." Of course you're talking about yourself, "There I go again." But awareness is speaking so there is no I in the awareness.

Awareness cannot put down what it never picked up. From the perspective of awareness, nothing is happening. There's just the movement of conditioned objects flowing, each creating new objects. This gives rise to that. Awareness knows nobody was ever unworthy. It can't put down the sword of unworthiness in terms of a belief in unworthiness because it never held that belief. But one can also not simply go to the place of awareness that says, "This was just a myth in the first place. There is no such thing as unworthiness," in denial of that immediate human experience of shame or unworthiness. If that's happening on the etheric level, you can't hide in awareness and say it doesn't exist.

Using a different example, awareness can not be angry, yet anger does exist. Awareness watches the arising of anger, but you can't just rest in awareness and say there never was any anger, that it's just a myth, because this mind and body are reverberating with anger.

You cannot just work with it from the mundane level, doing one practice after another to fix your anger or to fix your unworthiness. I think you really understand this now, that to try to do that just energizes the idea there is an ultimate reality to this anger or this unworthiness. And you also can't just step back and hide from it and hide in that, ahhh, peaceful spacious place that stays out of the physical, and out of the emotional body and denies what's happening there.

So there's a balance to be found. We have talked about the three kayas, and I asked those of you who were not familiar with this to please read about them in prior talks. Is there anybody who is not familiar at this point with the teaching of the three kayas? [Yes, one.] We will talk about it privately.

Negative thoughts and heavy emotions will continue to arise in the human. They will become less, less frequent, less strong, but at some times when a certain trigger is activated, these will arise. You step beyond thinking of them as bad and judging yourselves because they arise, and yet you must also find ways not only of transcending them, but of balancing and releasing them on the etheric level at the same time as you know them to be myth on the astral level.

The practice of the Seven Branch Prayer is a wonderful way of working with habit energies, the habit energy that keeps bringing up the idea of unworthiness, the idea of jealousy or pride, or whatever the habit energy is, simple or complex. As we do this practice it's very important to know that you are not doing it to fix something on any ultimate level. On the ultimate level, there's nothing to be fixed. You must both rest in that spaciousness that knows there's nothing to be fixed and see the constant arising of this particular distortion, and hold in your heart the intention to balance that distortion.

The Seven Branch Prayera similar practice is found in most of the world's great spiritual traditions, east and west. I teach it to you with the Buddhist articulation because that's the one with which I am most familiar. But it's not a Buddhist practice, it's a practice of love, of the open heart.

I'll lead a detailed guided meditation, but basically you find support through thinking of a being, either real human or simply the spirit of love, All That Is. You think of that and literally turn to it for support, or the support may be whatever experience you may have resting in awareness, feeling the immensity and clarity of that space. Then you bring forth a reflection, looking at what has arisen, such as a habitual reaction of judging the self, or of judging another, and allow compassion to regret to arise. That is, you see this arises and it's unskillful. It keeps arising and it's unskillful. It's simply habit energy, it's not bad. You don't judge it, but know it is unskillful.

One turns again to the support, and see that there are beings who have grown beyond this habit energy. Turning to such a Being you ask to be taught. This asking is so important. It's the stating of your intention to release the habit energy, asking to be taught, asking for support, and asking for the inspiration of those great masters, and for whatever guidance may be available to you. So you hold the intention not to destroy the habit energy, simply to transcend it, to let it go.

Then we bring in whatever balance will be. It's sometimes labeled "antidote"; I like the word "balance" better. For example, where there's a lot of judgment or anger, the practice of metta would be a balance. Where there's a lot of fear, you look deeply into that within the self that is fearless, truly find that fearlessness, acknowledge it and get to know it. Where there is a pride that puts the self above others, you may wish to serve others as a balance. And where there is judgment and self-diminishment, you might wish to work on asking for what you need, being more forthright about your needs. I can't give you a specific chart that says this balances that and that balances this. You need to be intuitive about it. I think all of you are capable of doing it.

We do this balancing, and again we give thanks for all the guides and teachers, past and present, including your sangha, all of those who walk the path with you. And we dedicate whatever good may come of this practice to the benefit of all beings. Letting it go rather than hoarding it for ourselves. So this is the basic practice.

It sounds very long and complex. When I first taught this, I believe in January of 1996, people said to me in the first week or two of that practice, "Aaron, this is going to take me forever. I can't do this practice over and over through the day." And I said, "It will come fast." And sure enough, within a few weeks, people were telling me, "Yes, I can do it in ten seconds."

In the beginning you'll need to take time with it to learn the practice. But then it flows. A driver cuts you off. Rage comes up. You note, "This is habit energy. It's not suitable now. I'm driving this car at 60 mph. I could kill myself or others." You envision whatever support there may be very quickly, the compassionate regret that this has arisen. Asking for whatever help there may be to release it. And then just breathing as balance, centering yourself. That which is aware of anger is not angry; centering in that non-anger. In fifteen seconds you've come from murderous road rage to a centeredness. Rage may arise again in 5 minutes when somebody else cuts you off. You do it again.

You just keep doing it. But you are not doing it to fix something. You are doing it to release the habit energy on the conditioned level, on the mundane level, while acknowledging that on the supramundane level that habit energy doesn't exist. What really transpires is that you move into the place that knows it doesn't exist, and from that place of wisdom, spaciousness, and compassion, you watch the human struggling with it. And suddenly you see, "I've been doing this for perhaps 50 years in this lifetime but 5000 years, 50,000 yearsenough! Let's stop."

It can be a very powerful practice in literally shattering some of these old habit energies. When I speak of habit energies here, of course I'm referring to that putting down of the sword, because the picking up the sword is the habit energy, whatever sword each of you has found you're predominantly carrying. I'm going to lead you in a guided meditation with this. Are there any questions before we start? There will be a chance for questions after, of course. (No questions.) Okay, then.

Seven Branch Prayer Guided Meditation

Begin by closing your eyes, finding the body relaxed and at ease. Breathing in, breathing out. Resting in the body but also resting in awareness, touching that spaciousness and ease of being. If that ease feels inaccessible, move there through joy or gratitude. And thus we start with touching the ground.

I'm going to read you excerpts of the meditation as I taught it back in 1996 so that you may work directly from the book also with very similar wording, making some small changes as I go.

Bring to your heart and mind the image of one who you regard as teacher, a human teacher or a great Master such as the Buddha or Jesus. If there's no specific being that fills this function for you, simply bring in the thought of all beings that have preceded you who have done this hard work that you do now, have moved beyond the third density, have clarified their energy that way. All of these are your teachers. Or simply bring in the image of light itself, the Ever-Perfect, the Divine, in whatever form you experience it. You may experience through your little child, your pet, through your friend or lover, whatever connects you to this Ground of Being.

Open from your own heart to your desire to honor this energy, be it a specific entity living or passed or a collection of energies, that which we call the Ever-Perfect or All That Is. I'm going to be quiet for a moment and ask you to offer this love, this devotion to the principle which this entity stands for, and if applicable, to the entity itself, from your heart.


It is suitable that there be joy and gratitude as you work with this. Don't force the joy and gratitude but open to that which is already there.


The second stage is one of offering. You offer all of yourself to this energy. This that is all good, all beautiful, what do you offer it? You can offer it the white snow and clear mountain streams, moonlight and sunlight, flowers and the laughter of children. No, these do not belong to you but you are a part of these and they are a part of you because you are interconnected to everything. And so you can offer sunlight and laughter. Offer also that which is immediate expression of the self, your body, your mind, your energy. There needs to be a fervent wish here, "Whatever I have that can be used by the forces of light for the alleviation of suffering, I freely offer it. Use me. Let me be a channel for love and for light."

Before Barbara opens to channel, she always makes the statement, "This body and all its voices, all its expressions, is consecrated to the Light, to the service of all beings." This is the kind of offering that you may make, phrased in whatever way feels suitable to you. It is a statement of your highest intention. Again, I'll be quiet.


And the third phase. Bring attention to whatever difficult habit energy has arisen and that you wish to address. Let there be awareness, "This arises out of my conditioning. I attempt to be responsible for its arising, that it not harm others, but nevertheless it continues to arise and it causes pain for me and others." Allow the heart to feel compassionate regret that this arises. This is not a condemnation but more a sadness grounded in compassion. Seeing that such habit energies arise in every being, and seeing the suffering they cause.

So you are holding on the one hand the highest intention to offer this body and all its voices in service to all beings, to the Light, and on the other hand the awareness that despite that intention, negative thought, speech or action does arise. Let the aspiration to resolve this habit for the good of all beings be the power that leads you into the steps of balancing, not a negativity toward the habit. Hold here the specific habit energy that you wish to address and find that compassionate regret. I'll pause.


The fourth step is to move out of yourself. When you look around you see that there are other beings who have done harm, other beings who have experienced this difficult emotion that you now experience. But there are also vast numbers of beings who have transcended this kind of habit energy. The fourth phase is a nurturing of sympathetic joy, mudita, giving thanks for those beings who have gone before you and clarified their negative habit energies in this way. This fourth step is really a step of gratitude for those who lead the way and show that this can be done.

So you hold the habit energy and compassionate regret for it. And then the open to gratitude, which will carry you into step five. If possible, let there also be gratitude even for this habit energy and the opportunity it gives you to learn. There's a relaxation here into the opening heart. I'll be quiet.


Feeling the gratitude, offering thanks, asking to be taught. The culmination of the 6th step is the willingness to bring forth a balance, the antidote to this energy. What you are doing is holding all the possibilities in your heart, truly reminding yourself that right there with the heavy anger is that which is not angry. Seeing it in others, thanking them for modeling this for you, this ability to hold non-anger right there with anger. Thanking them for that and asking to be taught through their model, to be taught through the inherent clarity of your own heart. And then the resolve to bring forth whatever balance seems appropriate. Bring forth that balance.


So there's a combination, here: gratitude, resolve, and bringing the antidote or balance. You may work with that balance in the moment of the practice, or resolve to work with it in a formal way at another time if that is more appropriate, such as when anger comes while talking to others. Then you may need to practice just to the point of resolve, letting go of the need to be right, and will practice metta after the dialogue is finished.


And finally, the dedication of merit. Whatever good comes from this practice, I offer it out to all beings, that all beings may find freedom from suffering, find happiness, ease, and well-being.


I don't have the bell here so we will close by the voice. You may open your eyes.

Can you feel the spaciousness of possibility in this practice? It's a very gentle practice, not harsh, not taking the sword to cut down the habit energy, which is just picking up a different sword. But it is shifting into the open heart and the immense possibility of the heart. It's the place where the etheric and astral come together, where this human conscious being can touch on the deepest spaciousness of the heart, the most beautiful qualities of joy, gratitude, commitment to non-harm, and so forth. And within the practice there's a knowing of your capability to carry it forth.

I'd like to hear what you experienced, whatever you'd like to share of that, and any questions you might have.

Can you feel the possibility I speak of? Let me ask you, have you found out who you are yet? This is the coming into the fullness of who you are, awakening to your true self which is not caught in these habit energies.

Is there anything you wish to share? Perhaps not yet. I see some tears. It is a moving practice.

(long pause)

Are there any questions about the practice?


Apply this, then, through your daily life. Whatever the primary sword you pick up, the primary habit energy, watch it when it comes up and offer the intention to attend to it in a skillful way. And then consider the possibility each time this one particular habit energy arises, try this practice with it. If it feels too time-consuming and difficult to do it in an ongoing way through the day, then when you meditate in the evening, reflect back on when that habit energy came up during the day and work with the practice with it. Begin to see what the balances are and work with those balances during the day.

If the concept of "unworthy" comes up strongly and frequently during the day and leads you to hold yourself in limitation, to minimize yourself, watch yourself doing that. On the one level, rest in the awareness that knows this is just a myth. But simultaneously know this still is arising, this is what the human is experiencing. And in this moment offer metta to yourself. Put yourself up on a pedestal, honoring the self. Look at the deepest beauty and radiance of the self, and acknowledge there is this concept of unworthy but this that is seen is the true selfhow could this being be unworthy?

Most people who experience unworthiness also experience judgment of others. So it can be a wonderful way of balancing to watch the way you judged another, limiting them. Try to see that judged being's beauty. Go through the entire Seven Branch Prayer: finding the support, asking for help, offering gratitude for the support that's offered, stating your highest commitment, then come to this place of asking what will bring balance here.

I remember working with this practice with a friend whose neighbor was very aggressive, really abusive. Our friend was very angry, very upset. He thought, "I'm going to have to move out of my home. I don't know what to do with this neighbor."

He had gone through the idea, "I shouldn't be angry," condemning himself and seeing that condemning himself and condemning his neighbor were the same thing. He had gone through a phase of trying to ignore it, and truly was able to rest in a spaciousness and equanimity, but could only do that with some denial of the tension that his neighbor's actions brought forth.

So he decided to work with the Seven Branch Prayer with it, watching when his neighbor acted badly, the anger that it brought up in him. His neighbor was encroaching on his property in improper ways and causing him harm, and it brought up anger. When he tried to confront his neighbor with this, his neighbor just laughed at him, cursed him, or ignored him. He didn't want to pursue legal channels because he felt, "If I'm going to live with this neighbor, it's not going to be because the law has stepped in."

So he watched each time the anger came up, did this entire practice and found himself developing an immense compassion for his neighbor's fear, greed, weakness, seeing the real humanness in his neighbor and how much his neighbor was suffering. And as he moved through that experience, he was able to smile at the neighbor, a genuine smile, to ask him, "How are you today?" I believe one day he brought over some coffee cake or muffins of some sort.

Q: A plant, I think. Flowers.

Aaron: He brought him something. And the neighbor had sons and he began to play with the neighbor's sons, to enjoy the neighbor's sons and get to know them. The whole thing softened, and the neighbor stopped his encroachment. We can't say how it happened. He didn't talk to his neighbor about it, the whole thing just softened. Because he opened his heart and was more relaxed, the habit energy stopped coming up in him. And when it stopped, the neighbor didn't have the trigger. The neighbor who wanted to be powerful and get something no longer found any satisfaction in getting something from somebody who was not regarding it as losing something any more. Nothing was being taken. It wasn't a problem. So the neighbor looked elsewhere for his someone to trouble. The whole thing resolved itself. It's a very powerful practice.

We have half an hour of class time left. There is a question from several weeks ago. What supports the laying down of the sword, within the mundane and the supramundane level? Let's take a break, come back, and hear from you some real techniques that you're finding are working in your lives that you can share with each other. Thank you.


Barbara: This is Barbara here. Aaron will come in if needed. What works? What has helped you to identify these habit energies? What has helped you to release them? Share that with each other.

Q: I'm still back on the question that I asked after the meditation. It took me some time to be able to put in words, to express the experience. It was a profound experience, one of deep gratitude for the teaching, and also with that a sense of deep responsibility. If you get the gift, it must be given, and that is scary.

Barbara: Thank you. I do understand that. Others? Things you'd like to say about the meditation?

Q: After the meditation I felt so calm and serene, kind of floating. I really like it and look forward to doing it.

Barbara: A key word in this practice is bodhichitta, the awakened heart. Citta is "consciousness", bodhi is "awakened consciousness," "awakened heart." It's basically an acknowledgment that this level of our being does exist, and if we deny that it exists, we can continue to be irresponsible and say, "Well I can't help it, I'm just a human. I just fall into these traps and I keep acting out this habit energy. I'm sorry." We can even really feel bad about it or we can judge ourselves and say, "I'm no good. I can't get past it."

With bodhicitta, when we acknowledge the reality of this awakened heart, we acknowledge this higher aspect of ourselves and that we ARE responsible and that we're willing to be responsible.

Another word that figures in here is bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is one who is committed to acting in an awakened way for the good of all beings. Sometimes the word bodhisattva is used to describe a being who has no karmic need to come back into the earth plane and comes back just to serve other beings. But short of that purity as describing a bodhisattva, all of us who attempt to live our lives less from a self-centered place than from a place of service to all being, really caring for all beings, are bodhisattvas.

There's a shift that we go through. We live through so many lifetimes from a self-centered place. I have visions of past lifetimes, have seen clearly into past lifetimes in which the being I've been has been very self-centered. A strong vision I had of myself was on a horse, killing peoplenot even killing them, just cutting off their scalps. This was somewhere in Asia long, long ago. Seeing I've done that. And there comes a point where we really make a commitment to non-harm.

All of these teachings fit together. We take the primary precept to do no harm, and we bring it seriously into our lives, watching, "What does it mean to do no harm?" We look at all the places where we excuse ourselves and say, "Well, I'll try better tomorrow. Today I'm tired. So I'm just going to cut in line here. Or I'm just going to do whatever I'm doing that's not really a clear, loving movement.

At a certain point, many people wish to take what we call the bodhisattva vow. When I say a vow, it's more a commitment to yourself, although it can be made in a public way so that others hear your commitment. Your primary commitment is to yourself, to live my life in service to beings, not in an oppositional way to beings, not just trying to get what I can. Taking that commitment really challenges us because the same things come up in our lives that inspire greed or grasping or taking, and we've got to look at them.

I remember this many, many years ago just after I had taken the bodhisattva vow. It was just before Christmas and I was trying to get just one more gift for my mom. I was in, I don't remember what department store, somewhere in Briarwood, and I saw the sale table with nightgowns. And, "Oh, that nightgown is perfect. Her size, it's perfect." I had my hand on it and somebody reached over and snatched it away. I could feel my hand about to grab her and say, "No, I had it first." What about this vow? It was clear that I had my hand on it and was holding it, it was clear she was snatching it away from me. On the one hand one could say it's not kind to let somebody snatch something away from you. One should speak up. But I could see the anger coming up. If I had been able to speak from a place of real kindness and clarity, that probably would have been the most appropriate thing to do. But in that moment, all that was coming up was anger, and it was clear I needed to let go of the anger. That meant just giving the gown to her. "You want this, fine." Releasing, coming back into that space that really cares for the good of all beings. My mom can do without that nightgown. Not a big deal. Letting go.

I have found that this bodhisattva vow really has supported me through many years. I feel myself often as if in a circle of great beings, like I am the very junior member of that circle, and I recognize that I'm the junior member. And yet I'm still in the circle. I've stepped from being one of the milling throng in the middle saying, "Help me! Help me!" to one who is just standing there calmly trying to offer support, holding the commitment to do that. That means each time I get into that "Help me! Help me!" mode, I need to stop and say, "I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to be one of the people screaming for help because I don't need that help. It's just an illusion. The part of me that thinks I'm drowning, or being consumed by chaos, that's all an illusion." Just step back into the spaciousness and clarity that's able to support others in their passage through chaos and delusion and so forth.

It's very precious. It connects me very much with the Seven Branch Prayer. They're all different processes: the bodhisattva vow, getting to know this awakened heart, resting in awakened consciousness. We gradually move into this true knowing of ourselves, trusting beside the bewildered, mixed up, frightened, angry human that's here, "I am This." Remembering who we are. It's not one moment of awakening and everything changes thereafter, it's more a gradual progression where each time I sink into the self-identity of being the confused, stuck human consumed by chaos, I notice this isn't real, this is just part of the myth. Come back into this greater truth and hold this human who's experiencing chaos compassionately in my heart, holding myself in my heart instead of condemning myself. So it all fits together and I find it a very powerful process of transformation.

Q: I have a question. I'm kind of confused about this type of situation. My sister has acted a lot like that grabby woman. There are times when I feel really sorry for her and I don't do anything, but sometimes I fantasize about taking that sword and whacking her head off. But by not telling her or doing something to prevent her from all the stuff she's been stealing, I'm reinforcing that behavior. And then I get mad at myself for not saying anything.

Barbara: We have to say something. The saying has to come from a place of compassion. The place of confusion can be there right with the place of compassion. It's not that we finally have to arrive at some space that's entirely free of anger before we speak so much as that awareness sees the anger present, doesn't build a self-identity on it and on the stories that say, "What am I going to do? How will I fix it? How will I fix her? How will I fix me?" It just sees these are all the stories, steps back into the spacious awareness. Right there with the anger, the spacious awareness is able to step forth and say, "No, you can't do that." And you may watch the reverberations of anger and fear running through at the same time.

But there's a certain point at which you know you're ready to speak clearly and compassionately and say no. The anger is still there but it's not the anger that's saying no, it's kindness that's saying no. And kindness also that's watching your own anger. Does that make sense to you?

Q: Yeah, but I'd still like to hit her and whack her head off!

Barbara: Watch that desire. Who wants to hit her? When I say who…

Q: Only part of me.

Barbara: So this is the angry part? The frightened part? You have to acknowledge those parts are real, they exist. There's no shame about the fact that they exist, they're real. This warrior I saw on a horse taking people's scalps, that's a real part of me, the part of me that's really capable of doing such destructive things to people out of my own greed.

Q: I know I would never do it, but…

Barbara: … you would never do it but the point is, you're still judging the part of you that wants to do it instead of embracing it compassionately. So you're setting up a separationthe loving part of you and the bad part of you, and the bad part of you has to be conquered in order for the loving part of you to come forth. But that's not how it works because as long as you're trying to conquer it, you're dividing yourself. But when you can open your heart to the wholeness of your being, see that there is this immense lovingkindness and there is also fear and anger, it allows you to see more deeply into and to trust more deeply the force of that lovingkindness. And without trust of it, you can't speak from it.

In my example of the woman who snatched the nightgown out of my hands, in that moment, grasping came up. So the wisest thing in that moment, just a deep wisdom said, "Let it go. It doesn't matter." But if this was a different situation, if I was somewhere with a group of children and somebody came in with a knife and said, "I'm going to kill these children," and anger came up, I couldn't just step back and say, "Well, go ahead." I need to find that within me which is strong and clear and loving, compassionate to this being but very clear, "No, I can't let you do that."

Q: Yeah, I'm good at protecting others, but I don't always speak up.

Barbara: This is a process, and all we've been doing this semester supports the process. It's really the process of growing into that place of trusting the deeper aspect of ourselves, trusting this highest aspect of ourselves, and knowing that we can count on our ability to respond from that deep compassion and wisdom, that deep centeredness and awareness, no matter what tumult is rushing through us. And in the beginning when the tumult is very strong, we can't do it. But we just keep practicing and we get better and better at it until we're able to do it in a very difficult situation.

There's not a self, it's a very different experience. You don't sit down and say, "Gee, what should I say here?" and run through the different possible scenarios, there's just an intuitive, "I know what to do." And we find that we live from that place of knowing what to do. We can't trust our own innate goodness if we have not had, not just glimpses of that goodness, but really looked into it and begun to see this is here, this is a reality of myself. We all take the reality of our greed and anger pretty easily and we're very wary of that, try to be very careful with it because we are committed to non-harm. But so often we don't see this innate goodness in ourselves. And as we learn to acknowledge it and trust it, we find that it comes forth more and more when there is a difficult situation. We just open into that awareness that watches the tension, watches the fear, watches the anger, and also just, I'm not self-identified with all this, all of this negativity. Yeah, here's the thought I just want to kill her. I'm not self-identified with that. Come back into the spaciousness.

For me, something like the bodhisattva vow has been a very important component of that move because it was a commitment I made. Having made the commitment, I made it intending to honor it. If I'm going to honor it, that means each time I figuratively pick up the sword, I've got to stop and look. I can't let myself get away with just picking up the sword and slicing off a few heads because it's convenient. Including my own head! Others?

Q: In the Seven Branch Prayer, when you asked for a teacher, is that when Aaron came?

Barbara: No. Aaron taught me this practice. I asked for a teacher in the struggle with the deafness, just asking for help. Here in the Seven Branch Prayer you're not so much asking for a teacher, you're finding the already-existent teacher, and everybody in this room has that. For some it will be someone you identify as the teacher, like Jesus or the Buddha. Or it will be the teacher in the form of your sister, an elder or a child. For some it's just faith in the innate goodness of beings beyond all the chaos and negativity. That in itself is the support.

Some of those who haven spoken yet tonight, any thoughts or questions?

Q: Recently I've had the challenge of wanting to release habit energies but not knowing how to release them because it feels like there is force or the wanting to fix it or get rid of it. And tonight it felt much, much more, I felt much more loving towards myself and perhaps that's where I need to start.

Barbara: I'm glad to hear it felt more loving tonight. It sounds like the first habit energy to work with is this judgment. Forget the rest of the habit energies for now and just watch the self-judgment and feeling, "I have to force myself, I have to fix myself". Watch that as the habit energy with kindness. See if you can really see right there with need-to-fix-myself and the sense of force that which is loving and appreciative of the self, which recognizes the divinity of the self.

Q: More and more.

Barbara: Aaron uses an image sometimes of the being walking through knee-deep mud, stumbling along, legs getting splashed with mud, a tall being whose head is up above the clouds. We're both. The physical body, the emotional body, and then at the other end of the spectrum, the spirit body. Really respecting ourselves as spirit. And knowing sometimes we get into mud puddles.

But use that whole tendency to self-judgment as the primary habit energy to work with in the Seven Branch Prayer.

Okay, 9:30, time to stop. I'll see you in two weeks. Please come prepared to talk in two weeks. I'll send you tonight's transcript but I don't think there will be anything in the transcript particularly to focus on so much as continue to work with the Seven Branch Prayer.

Let me say this here. The Four Empowerments are a piece of the Seven Branch Prayer. I printed out two copies of this. Aaron wasn't sure what he was going to use tonight.
Step 1: finding refuge, finding support.
Step 2: compassionate regret.
Step 3: the resolve not to repeat this pattern.
Step 4: the balances.

When Aaron taught this back in 1996, he first taught the Four Empowerments and then he built on it and went into the Seven Branch Prayer. Some of you may find it simpler just to work with these Four Empowerments. I'll be happy to email that out to anybody who would like it…I pulled this out of the book Awakened Heart… (comments on handout not transcribed)

So if the Seven Branch Prayer feels complex, just do this, just finding support, compassionate regret, the resolve for the good of all beings because this is my highest intention, to transcend this habit energy. And the willingness to bring forth these antidotes or balances, to really work with it.

Q: Is this Aaron's teaching or is this a Buddhist teaching?

Barbara: Neither. Both the Four Empowerments and the Seven Branch Prayer exist in many spiritual traditions. They exist in the Buddhist tradition but they exist in other spiritual traditions as well. Aaron says there are very clearly mirrored practices within the Christian tradition with different terminology.

Okay, Aaron is saying here, in 2 weeks please come prepared to tell people what you have learned as you came out of your amnesia. Come prepared to share that. He says, in what ways is remembering who you are helpful to acting more skillfully in your life? Waking up to this deeper truth of who you are. He says, you are all the bodhisattva. Wake up to that. This bodhichitta, this awakened awareness, everybody has access to that. What helps you to live from it? And living from it means the willingness to put down the sword.

He's pointing out that some of you said there was relief to put down the sword but only a few acknowledged there was fear. Talking about the resistance to putting it down and the way acknowledging bodhichitta helps to resolve the resistance. Knowing, you're not just this small self caught up in these emotions and fears and thoughts. You are This, this radiant, divine, loving being. Which way are you going to live my life? From the small self only or are you going to try to live it more from the big self without denial of the small self? We'll talk about that next class.

Good night!

(taping ends)

Copyright © 2005 by Barbara Brodsky