Class 2: October 3, 2006

Barbara: Good evening. Usually we will meditate at the beginning of class, but I want to talk a little tonight before we meditate. You've all done dzogchen practice. I want to talk a little bit about the relationship of dzogchen and vipassana.

Last class, we talked about consciousness in terms of mundane consciousness that holds mundane objects, and that we also, through our vipassana practice, may shift into supramundane consciousness. Every level of consciousness takes an object. Mundane consciousness takes a mundane object, an everyday object. The mundane consciousness of seeing sees mundane objects: feet, bowls, people.

Supramundane consciousness, which is part of the continuum of consciousness, also takes an object. Mundane consciousness cannot take the supramundane or unconditioned as an object. Here I'm using the words supramundane and unconditioned as synonymous. They're not quite synonymous but almost so. The unconditioned is a supramundane object. By supramundane in this context, I mean, basically, unconditioned. Circular definition!

In vipassana, we often have a mistaken sense of going somewhere, that we're developing a practice. (pause for new arrivals)

Okay… I was talking about the distinction between vipassana practice and pure awareness practice and that they're kind of doors at opposite ends of the same building. With vipassana practice, we start off with everyday mundane consciousness, watching everyday objects: the breath, sensations in the body, thoughts and feelings. Mundane consciousness observes the arising and passing away of these objects into and out of consciousness.

The way that vipassana is sometimes taught can lead to a misunderstanding that we're working with mundane everyday consciousness and the mundane everyday objects that arise with everyday consciousness, until suddenly we have this—pow!—breakthrough experience and shift into supramundane consciousness and nibbana/nirvana, however you want to say it, Pali or Sanskrit.

In our vipassana practice we may cease to attend to the fact that the unconditioned is always there, and that the supramundane consciousness or pure awareness is always present. It's very important that we avoid the sense of a linear progression and belief that we have to do this and this and this and this, and then finally we're going to come to some higher level of consciousness which is capable of perceiving the Unconditioned. It's right here, it's right here in this moment.

Let's look at Pure Awareness practice, specifically the practice of dzogchen but we don't have to call it dzogchen. The word dzogchen in Tibetan simply means 'not two.' So what we're talking about here is simply non-dual awareness, the awareness that's capable of presence in a non-dual universe. Seeing that everything is non-dual, which means no separate me and that, nothing to attain, it's all right here in this moment.

So dzogchen comes in the other door. It starts with pure awareness, just being right here in this moment, fully present and awake, without any separation of me and that, subject and object. Just present. You've all done dzogchen practice. You understand the different phases of practice. The first phase, seeing the view. Just knowing, this is resting in this pure, wide-awake, luminous, non-dual awareness, or rigpa in the Tibetan terminology. And then the meditation practice where we stabilize our practice, resting in that awareness, and then the analysis phase where when objects arise that pull us out of rigpa, we ask, 'What is it? Anything here that's not an expression of the Unconditioned? ' No, there is not!

For me, an imperfect metaphor for this, imperfect because the ground outside is mundane, but take good rich soil, bright sunshine, and fresh water—the ground. We put seeds into it. Sprouts come up, and then get 2 little leaves. They grow, 4 leaves, 6 leaves, and flowers appear. Is there anything there that's not an expression of the earth and sun and water? So we don't look at it and say, 'Where did that come from?' You could say, 'Well, the seed isn't such an expression. You brought the seed in from outside.' But the seed of course came from a prior plant that was an expression of all of that. It's all just the ground expressing itself.

So with pure awareness practice we simply rest in the space of awareness and literally see the conditioned world exploding out. And when something explodes out like a skunk walking past, letting loose its odor, unpleasant, and the scent pulls us back into subject/object and separation, then we're able to ask, 'Anything here that's not an expression of the Unconditioned?' An unpleasant expression, but it's just an expression of the Unconditioned.

When you ask this, and I'm repeating something that most of you have done in your practice, when we ask this question, the energetic sense of separate, me and that, just breaks up, and you shift back into the spaciousness of awareness again. Then people ask me, 'What do I do next?' Nothing! Just sit there. Enjoy it. Rest there. When the neighbor starts his lawnmower—rrrr! Unpleasant!—hearing, pulled out into subject/object again. Whatever is predominant, the sound or the tension about the sound, anything here that's not an expression of the Unconditioned?

The teachings in Flight of the Garuda—is there anybody here who is not familiar with Flight of the Garuda? Somewhere in there he's got a beautiful statement the gist of which is, the more times we practice this, the more certain we get everything is an expression of the Unconditioned. So we're not trying to stop ourselves from moving into that place of separation. Each time we do it's just a wonderful opportunity to practice. It gives us more assurance, it's just all exploding out of the Unconditioned. Simply rest there.

But if what's exploding out is the candle that's tipped over, by all means pick it up, don't let it burn the house down. There's nobody picking it up, no self. Love picks the candle up. Kindness wipes up the spill when water spills. There's nobody there.

When we practice in this way and then take this back into our vipassana practice, it helps us when we're sitting and there's an object that arises and we start to move into a tension around that object, and a strong sense of separation with the object, grasping or aversion. The pure awareness practice bleeds through. And for me, I find myself very able at that point to just say, 'What's going on? What is this? What is this contraction? What is this grasping? Ahh, just the Unconditioned expressing itself in this way.' And there's a relaxation about it so we don't move into so many stories.

So I find increasingly I do not call it vipassana or dzogchen practice, simply two different aspects of meditation practice; one in which I'm more aware of the breath and various conditioned objects that arise and dissolve, and increasingly moving into the space that's there when they dissolve, the space between the breaths. The breath may no longer be the primary object and nada becomes the primary object. Resting in spaciousness. It's really no different than the pure awareness practice. So the practices start to blend and they support each other.

I'm going to talk more about this, this was just a very brief preliminary statement. And now we're going to meditate with some very specific instructions for the meditation. Last class we talked a lot about access concentration. Then we broke into small groups to discuss, 'What is my direct experience of access concentration?' Each of you will experience it a bit differently. So trying to get to know, 'What is this experience?' through sharing it.

In this sitting I want you to start with pure awareness practice. I want you to sit, eyes open, perhaps we can light some candles up there on the altar, and the people who are sitting here may want to turn around so you're looking at the altar, also. I would like you to sit this way for at least the first 15 minutes of the sitting. I'll sound the bell once very softly in 15 minutes. 15 minutes with pure awareness practice, eyes open, and then close your eyes and shift into vipassana practice.

See if there's any real difference for you. Be aware of the experience of resting in pure awareness, resting in rigpa. In what ways does this differ from access concentration? What is the direct experience of resting in awareness? And how is it different from the experience of access concentration? I don't want to give you any more hints or ideas about how it may be different or even whether it IS different. But I want you just to see what it is you experience and we'll talk about it.

Some of you may be feeling, 'I'm still not sure exactly what access concentration is and I'm not sure what pure awareness is.' It's okay. Part of what we're doing here is trying to clarify this. So meditating and trying to talk about your experiences together will help you to clarify, 'This is what we call this; this is what we call that.'

Somebody asked me, why do we need the labels? If you're all just going to meditate, you really don't need the labels. But since you're teaching, it's helpful to have the labels so you have some way of communicating about this with your students. You don't have to use the formal terminology, you can create your own very simple English terminology. Just getting to know this is this and that is that. This is sweet and this is sour; this is an apple and that is a pear. How do they taste? So if your student says it tastes like this, you have an idea, 'Oh, she was eating a pear. How does it taste?'

So this is what we'll do. Are there any questions?

Q: Can we bring the candles into this center space?

Barbara: Sure. They're in a glass container, do they get hot on the bottom? Probably not… (moving Buddha and candles)

So, 15 minutes of dzogchen, pure awareness practice and then when I ring the bell, close your eyes and move into vipassana. At that point, if nada is very strong, allow it to be the primary object as you close your eyes. If luminosity is very strong, allow that to be the primary object.

One of the most powerful retreats that I ever did was a retreat I did for several weeks with John, the two of us up in the mountains in upstate New York at a small private retreat center. I sat outside every day doing dzogchen on a hillside with a beautiful view of valleys and woods and hills in the distance, just sitting out there for hours during the day. And then somewhere in the mid-afternoon I went into the meditation hall. I closed my eyes. And luminosity was so strong from those hours of sitting outside that the luminosity and the breath arose together. And there was just a strong sense of radiance, the breath very present, radiance very present. Access concentration was there immediately. It was a powerful experience that took me into some very deep places.

(sitting) (bell)

We'll move into groups for about 40 minutes, which will give you time for group discussion and also to stretch a bit and get some tea or whatever. Then come back into the circle. At the end of class last time, I asked you to practice at home, looking deeper at what is access concentration. And for those of you who had some experience with pure awareness, to look at the relationship.

Tonight, in your group I want you to continue the conversation you had last class. What is your experience of access concentration? We're not trying to create a definitive statement, this is access concentration, so much as what is your experience of it, how do you experience it. Hear each other and compare notes. Then what is pure awareness? And how are they different? How are they the same? Are they the same in any way or are they completely different? Are they different in any way or are they completely the same? What is it? So talk about this in your groups.

There was some difference of opinion last time whether we move into the same groups or different groups. (Show of hands on staying in same group, different groups) Most have no preference… (Decision on size of groups) 4 groups of 5 or 6, okay. Count off by 4's… (counting off) (stating where groups will meet)

Groups meet for 40 minutes

(after group discussion)

Barbara: What I'd like to do is go around and hear from a spokesperson from each group a summary of what your group talked about. Group 3, will you start?

Q: Intrinsically this awareness is such a non-verbal space, this is difficult. In fact we ended up expressing more through body language, in some ways, than words. But I think in various ways, we talked about the pure awareness space being that expansion, that sense of expansion into that vibrational, alive vastness where the boundaries dissolve. C talked about where her head just disappears and she's headless, for example, just everything splits apart, splits open. 
We all described the different signs we have going into access concentration. My own experience was, the access concentration simply opens you more fully and more profoundly to that vast, vibrational, joyful, everything and nothing, ever-changingness. So the access concentration is the door that opens into the awareness which is the space that it opens us into, which is never gone anywhere but we're then open to it.

Barbara: Another group?

Q: Our group didn't talk about any open space. One of us talked about a vibrational field that's pretty much constant, whether in access concentration or outside of it. A sense of kind of pulsing, radiant energy that's there all the time. The rest of us, we all seemed to experience different degrees of confusion about what the difference is between access and pure awareness. Some people said that maybe access concentration was a little more contained. Some people said that they've never experienced either one. There's a little discouragement. There was a lot of silence, a lot of looking into each others' eyes. That's about all I have to say.

Q: (next group) We talked about some of the signs of what these different terms mean, access concentration or whatever, and one is joy. Some of us felt a real joy when it happens. Some, a cessation of time, time stands still. We kind of agreed that the vocabulary is quite confusing, it's really hard to find what you agree to in this sense, because the words are very slippery and the concepts are slippery.

We also talked about stories and agreed that people's experiences can tend to best bring about the illustrations of what we're talking about, rather than trying to deal with the abstract definitions.

Who else in our group would like to add something to that? We had a good time, we had some silence, and we talked about a few other things in addition to the particular subject. We were finished a bit early, before the 5 minute warning was finished. So the groups are kind of alike in some ways. None of us had the vibrational energy, as I recall, which the first two groups talked about.

Q: (next group) One thing that we all agreed on was that our past practices in pure awareness have been in other environments such as outside where there is a beautiful or broad view. And the practice inside here was quite different and for some of us it was kind of challenging to find that spacious(ness) in this environment.

There was talk about taking pure awareness out into life, because by gosh, we're doing it with our eyes open, which is certainly a nice advantage. In the course of the day, that there can be opportunities for taking a few moments to find that spaciousness. And that there is a shifting between, we didn't necessarily explain it as an object cropping up, but objects coming into focus and maybe temporarily having a narrow view focused on one thing. And then we had some great examples of taking it into daily life, encountering situations and asking the question, 'Is this other than?' when there might be something unfamiliar or we might ordinarily have aversion to. Like S's ER, she gets to see some grotesque things… and there was the question, if one doesn't have certain senses, the qualities of experiencing the Unconditioned through that sense, is that possible. So if one does not have ears or never had hearing, what is nada? Or if one does not have a mouth, what would the taste of the Unconditioned be? I guess that's more than enough…

It's understood that in springtime you can take out your stethoscope and put it up to the maple tree and hear the sap flowing, the pulse of the maple tree. So my hypothesis is the hum is really the pulse of the maple trees.

Barbara: I was looking through a chapter that I had not read yet in Tom Brown Jr.'s Awakening Spirits during the half hour while you were talking, in which he talks about a practice that he calls 'inner vision,' through which we see and hear with an inner vision. We don't need a stethoscope. We need to be able to connect with our very clear inner stethoscope, our inner knowing.

For me, access concentration tends to take one object at a time. There's no contraction around the object. There's a very clear experience of it arising and passing away. It may be pleasant or neutral or unpleasant. If it's pleasant, there's no contracted, grasping energy. If it's unpleasant, there's no contraction pushing it away, it's simply arising and passing away. But there's a sense for me of having blinders on so I'm focused on this object and the next object and the next and the next, a very clear succession of objects arising and passing away. I'm not seeing a big picture, I'm seeing just this and then just this. Energy is flowing very smoothly, and there's very strong attention, strong presence with each object.

Sometimes even when the object feels unpleasant, there's a sense of joy just because of the power of presence. So it stops feeling unpleasant even if it IS unpleasant. For example, I keep using the smell of the skunk as unpleasant because it's something I think we normally agree is not a pleasant smell and can feel burning and harsh. But with access concentration… I seem to get a lot of skunks around my house, maybe because we have a lot of land, and often when I'm sitting and meditating in the morning suddenly I smell a skunk. If I'm in access concentration, often it doesn't register as unpleasant. There's a very clear smell, acrid, strong, but there's a very joyful energy, no contraction.

Someone pointed out in an email this week that the hindrances are absent with access concentration, and this is one of the hallmarks of access concentration. This is true. But I don't experience, 'Ah, there are no hindrances here!' I only experience that on reflection after. So I can't use that as a guide as to whether this is access concentration until I review it afterward. What's happening in the moment is just that mind is very present with each object, strong energy usually, often very joyful energy. Focused. Object, object, arising and passing away, and the whole process of arising and passing away takes on a sense of awe for me. It's just all arising and passing away.

Sometimes then the access concentration takes me on to the next phase of deep joy and equanimity with arising and dissolution. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it takes me even beyond that because access concentration is the base. So it's important to distinguish between access concentration and what grows out of access concentration, which will be something we'll talk about in the next class.

I have a handout for you that I'll give you in a few minutes. I don't want to go there tonight, into the handout material, but just to access concentration. But for many of you, access concentration does take you to a deeper place, so I want you to look at the handout and reflect on, are you remaining just with access concentration or is it opening a doorway? Reflect on it after the sitting, not during the sitting.

Pure awareness for me has no blinders. It's similar for me to access concentration in that I see objects arising and passing away and there's no contraction at all around it. But nothing is separate. The sense of separate objects, this one and this one, is gone. There's just a broad space. There's no observer, there's no separate observed. So in this situation, the smell of the skunk, there's no thought that says, 'Oh that's a skunk.' While in access concentration there's not either. But with pure awareness, there's just smelling. There's sometimes, working with the dzogchen practice, if the smell is very sharp and pulls me out with a 'What's that?,' aversion arising, which doesn't happen in access concentration but does sometimes happen in pure awareness practice. The 'Anything other than?' usually opens it right back up, but not always. In access concentration, something very unpleasant can also pull me out of access concentration, and then I just move back into the noting level of vipassana practice. Noting aversion if aversion comes up, noting the grasping. As the aversion or grasping also are seen clearly just as an object, I'm back into access concentration.

It's hard to talk about differences and similarities. For me the biggest difference is simply what I experience as a one-focusedness of access concentration, vs. a very big spaciousness of pure awareness. We're using these terms because they are traditional terms, and some of you have expressed a preference for use of everyday language, and that's fine, we just need to be consistent and have some term we use to talk about it, to help us share with clarity.

For many years Aaron was very insistent that I learn the original terminology and look at the Buddhist teachings about it because he said to translate it I had to understand the original. That makes some sense to me. But it's okay if you don't want to use the original terminology just as long as we settle on a consistent terminology. And for those of you who are teachers, I think it's important that we have a fairly consistent terminology in terms of what we use in our teaching so that students are not confused when they have classes with different teachers using different terms. I prefer the term 'awareness' to supramundane consciousness. Supramundane consciousness is a traditional term but my experience is that people often get confused and ask, 'What do you mean by supermundane?' But when we just talk about awareness, wide open awareness, it's understood as that awake and present, non-dual consciousness.

Tom Brown uses the word awareness a lot in this and his other books as part of the Native American tradition. He talks about Grandmother or Grandfather Awareness. This wide open awareness, Grandmother Awareness, Grandfather Awareness. It's not awareness of the grandmother or grandfather, it's just Grandparent awareness—deep, open.

I can't remember the terminology but there was a book we read from…in the Jewish tradition that I used to read from called Open Secrets in which the author, Rabbi Shapiro, uses a Hebrew word that means the same thing. I don't remember what the Hebrew word was but after some discussion with knowledgeable Jewish people, it seems to me that it's the same experience. Whatever we name it as, this broad, wide-open awareness.

I want to read you something from this. He's on a vision quest.

'I eventually arrived at a quiet pond quite close to the camp swim area and there sat down to think. I gazed into the quiet waters of the pond, still thinking of what Grandfather had meant by pure mind. The water was so still that there was a crystal clear reflection of the sky and all that surrounded the pond. The reflection was so perfect it looked as if I were looking into a mirror. Then a light breeze stirred the surface of the pond and the once-clear image shattered into a thousand pieces and suddenly was gone. No reflection remained, just the troubled surface of the water. Then suddenly the word ‘thoughts' hammered into my head and I jumped up in utter surprise. I finally understood what Grandfather had meant by pure mind. I was so amazed that tears of joy filled my eyes. The lesson of pure mind was shown to me by the clear waters. The pure mind is like the surface of a quiet pond where all things are reflected purely. Once the logical mind (senses) thoughts, analysis, definitions, qualifiers and distractions, the image of the pond's quiet surface is disrupted and the clear image of nature's reflection is destroyed. I understood then that in order to see into spirit, as Grandfather did, I had to'— he says, 'possess that pure mind.' I would prefer he said open to that pure mind.—'All distractions of the logical thinking mind would only produce an obscurity or destroy that pure image altogether. And then instead of enlightenment, after that instant of enlightenment, I went back to the vision quest area.'

Pure mind, pure awareness mind, however we name it, is the pure glass—no matter how much dirt we sprinkle on the glass, the glass itself is not changed by the dirt. In access concentration, we see the dirt as dirt. We don't always know the pure glass is there, though. Do you follow what I mean by that? We may be focused on the dirt and not really see the glass.

In pure awareness practice, we see the glass, we see the innate purity of the glass and the dirt is an overlay on it. An ongoing question to me is how best to invite that quality of knowing the pure glass, knowing the pure mind, the pure awareness mind, how to bring that back into the vipassana practice so that it anchors the vipassana practice, so that we're not doing the vipassana practice with a sense of trying to get somewhere. Because we're there already, so we can relax more and just let the practice unfold.

Are there questions?

Q: Is there value in spending certain amounts of time, in meditation time, in either vipassana or pure awareness?

Barbara: Do you mean one vs. the other? My own personal practice is that I usually start with anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of pure awareness practice. I sit with my eyes open either looking out the window or looking at the altar, inviting up more energy, luminosity, a sense of spaciousness. It leaves me very centered. I don't go by the clock but there comes a point where mind is very clear and centered and there really is access concentration, but it's not quite access concentration. There's no contraction around anything. There's a sense of spaciousness but also deeply focused. Still some objects and physical sensations coming but nothing separate. At that point I close my eyes and find myself in access concentration. And then I just let the practice go from there. This is for me personally what works. I'm not saying that everybody should do this, just that this works for me.

I think it's useful to balance these practices. We can balance them in many ways. One kind of balance is when the primary object is nada. Then you're really doing a kind of awareness practice right there with the vipassana practice. As you rest present with nada, there is that spaciousness. If the primary object is luminosity, it's the same thing.

When we watch the dissolution of objects and the space when one object dissolves, before the next object arises, and rest in that space, that's a kind of pure awareness practice. As soon as we're resting in that spaciousness, when the spaciousness itself is the object, the terms vipassana and pure awareness practice dissolve. There's no distinction between them.

Q: So how does one come back to the vipassana from the open spaciousness?

Barbara: By noting the spaciousness itself and the pleasant quality of it if it's pleasant: joy or energy or whatever is predominant. To come back to vipassana there's got to be strong mindfulness so that the power of access concentration is there. The mind has to come back in focus again in order to move into this insight path, but it's not focused with any grasping energy, and there's a balance of energy. It's open, it's big.

Again, speaking from personal experience, on a long retreat, at one point I was finding there was strong access concentration, but my energy wasn't balanced, I was just focusing in too hard, trying too hard. So there was some imbalance of energy and effort. Aaron said to do dzogchen. And as soon as I started to do that and moved into that spaciousness, everything opened. Then I took an object within that spaciousness, just the experience, spaciousness, spaciousness, what is that direct experience of spaciousness? Pleasant or unpleasant or neutral? Watching this, starting to focus in. Moving back into access concentration but it was a much more balanced access concentration.

Q: In an analogy, like the difference between a low beam flashlight and a high beam flashlight?

Barbara: Like the difference between a narrow beam flashlight and a broad beam flashlight. You're in the broad beam flashlight but then you need to come back into the narrow beam in order to pick up the insight path. You pick up the very penetrating narrow beam just by moving back into using the factors of vitakka and vicara. Holding whatever is the predominant object, penetrating deeply into that object takes you immediately back into everything arising and dissolving. Either there's going to be aversion to that or there's going to be equanimity with that. If there's equanimity, you're right there with equanimity, with arising and dissolving and the process moves on through the progression of insights. If there's any tension around arising or dissolution, then the tension itself becomes the predominant object. And the tension itself is seen as arising out of conditions and simply passing away.

Whatever it is, it doesn't matter what the object is. We just watch it. All objects arising and passing away, impermanent, not self. But when there's just access concentration, if it becomes too tight, trying too hard, then the spaciousness of awareness practice can open it up. And the spaciousness of awareness practice can take us into that place of that within us that intuitively knows the Unconditioned and which isn't afraid to let self dissolve, because in pure awareness practice there is no self. We've been there.

Sometimes at that point where everything is dissolving, fear comes up. Will I annihilate myself? And then the pure awareness practice can open it up again. Just coming back to a place that's stable. What I am afraid I'll annihilate? There's nothing to annihilate. Coming back to whatever the primary object is, nada or breath or whatever, and going on with the vipassana practice.

So you can move back and forth with this, not constantly but to some degree using pure awareness practice to help bring balance in the vipassana practice. And also to provide the stability of knowing that already awake true nature that is within us. There's no place to go. It's already there. A reminder.

For me the experience of dzogchen practice does not take me as deep into the direct experience of the Unconditioned. I'm not saying that this is a shortcoming of dzogchen practice, it's probably my own shortcoming. I'm sure that Tibetans for whom this is a primary practice have very profound experiences of the Unconditioned through this practice, but for me, vipassana is my primary vehicle, so I use the pure awareness practice as a support. So I can't tell you what the path is like through the dzogchen practice itself, just through the pure awareness practice. But using the pure awareness practices as a support helps everything be much more balanced. The energy and effort be more balanced, the mind be more open. And then I still need to move from access concentration and through.

At this point I want to hand out these… please take 3 pages…(passing around)

Q: I have a quick question. Before the sitting, you spoke about vipassana with the object being a mundane object. If the object is supramundane, what are the supramundane objects? That's one question. Also in working with the supramundane objects, my limited experience is one, they do not come about from cause and effect, therefore they cannot be penetrated. And two… I question whether the Unconditioned can be an object in vipassana.

Barbara: The Unconditioned is an object only of supramundane consciousness. It's an objectless object. It's objectless because it's infinite, the , 'unborn, undying, unchanging, uncreated'. We can't say, 'that's it.' We can't put a fence around it. And yet we know it when we come to it.

Q: Are there more supramundane objects than the Unconditioned?

Barbara: The nature of the Unconditioned is to express itself. It expresses itself in what Aaron calls direct expressions, and indirect expressions. The indirect expressions are what we think of as mundane objects. So everything is basically an expression of the Unconditioned but it gets more and more distant from it.

Q: Direct expressions are the indications of Unconditioned…

Barbara: It's like when I look toward the sun and I see the light coming out, sun rays, that's a direct expression of the sun. If I'm indoors and I see some shadows on the wall because there's light coming in the window and people moving around the room, that's more an indirect expression of the sun. But still, the shadows exist because the sun exists. When I see the shadow, I know the sun! The direct expressions of the Unconditioned are nada, luminosity, the scent of the Unconditioned, the energetic experience of it, taste of it, plus also the brahmavaharas. The brahmavaharas have a conditioned and unconditioned level. For example, on a very mundane level I can experience lovingkindness. But on a supramundane level, the brahmavaharas are also a direct expression of the Unconditioned.

It's 9:30. I will be happy to talk to you about this afterward about it but I need to tell people before they leave what I want them to do these next two weeks.

You can look at the jhana page but don't get too caught up in it. Look at the page labeled B-3, 'Landmarks on the Path of Insight.' See access concentration on the bottom. Just look at the stages coming up. These 2 charts, B2, and B3, come from the book, The Meditative Mind, by Daniel Goldman. B1 is mine. Look at B3 and my sheet. Just read down. Reflect: if you come to access concentration, are you going beyond it? If you are, where might you be? If you're not, no problem, don't try to get yourself somewhere. But if you are going beyond it, be aware, access concentration is a door. If you're going through that door, what might you be coming to beyond it?

I would like you to do daily some pure awareness practice and some vipassana practice. You can do it in one sitting or you can do it in two separate sittings, whatever appeals to you. Do some pure awareness practice outside with the sky and space, and do some inside. You can do it inside. Look at a picture, at a plant, candlelight on your table, a flower. Just, eyes open, letting go of boundaries.

Do some reflection, what do you experience as the difference between access concentration and pure awareness? What are the predominant qualities of each, for you? I'd like you to write them down. I'm not going to force you to share them, but there will be some chance to share in a small group. So I'd like you to write them down. What are the predominant qualities that you experience as access concentration and pure awareness? Don't try to figure out are they the same or different, just what are the predominant qualities of each.

And number two, if you're in access concentration, do you go beyond access concentration? Ever? Very seldom? Often? What's there? If you're going beyond it, what do you experience? Where does the story take you? This is something you'll go into much more in the retreat. It's hard to get far beyond access concentration in a 45 minute sitting. But I want you to do some reflection on this now as preparation for the retreat.

I'm leaving town on Friday and won't be back for a week so I'm not sure I'll get this transcript to you quickly. It depends whether it's transcribed quickly and I get it before Friday, I'll try to get it out to you before I go…

Good night.

(taping ends)

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