Class Four, Spirituality in Daily Life - November 28, 2007

Key topics: Good and evil/ conscience/ sin/ habit energy/ impulse energy

Aaron: A simple question: are you a good person? (pause; class mostly nodding yes) Do you sometimes have bad thoughts, thoughts that are angry or selfish? Anybody here never have bad thoughts? Negative thoughts, let's call them. None of you? You all have negative thoughts? I'm not surprised. Does that make you a bad person?

Chapter 5 in the book is about good and evil. I understand what he's driving at, but I don't see good and evil in such a duality. Every being has the immense capacity for doing good from a loving heart, and every being has the capacity for acting in self-interest, even if it will harm another, for acting out anger and greed and fear.

I find it too simplistic to talk about good people or bad people. When we think of the archetype of a bad person, we think of Hitler. And yet Hitler, perhaps he had a dog to whom he was very kind. Was there a small streak of kindness in him? What if that kindness had been cultivated from birth? What if he had been raised in a different way to encourage that kindness and bring it forth? What if he had been taught when he had self-centered impulses, prejudicial impulses, fear-based impulses, to recognize the nature of such impulse and not act it out? Might another side of him have developed?

Let's look at a person like Gandhi, who we think of as a good person. What if he had grown up in a very prejudiced, angry home where he was constantly told he was not good, constantly set upon to be competitive with others and be better than others, so that his only protection for himself was to attack others. Would he have grown to be capable of the great good he did in the world?

I'm not suggesting it's entirely conditioned, you do come into the incarnation with inherent tendencies, and with the human trait of fear, but you also come into the world with the core possibility of kindness. So I don't believe that the human is only kind because he is taught to be kind. My experience is that the human in whom kindness is allowed and encouraged will learn to bring forth that kindness because the seed is there.

Let's say there was a beautiful apple tree that gave ripe, delicious, fragrant fruit. Somebody gave me seeds from that tree. I brought it to another place and planted the seeds. I planted them in good, fertile soil, but I never watered them, only the sparsest of watering. And they didn't receive much sunshine. What would happen to those trees? Suppose one grew for 5 or 6 years into a spindly kind of tree; maybe in 6 or 7 years it had 1 or 2 blossoms but there was not sufficient energy to bring forth the apples. The soil is good, remember, and the seed is a replica of its parent, filled with potential.

Then, one year I began to water it regularly and removed the tall weed-trees that had shaded it so it received abundant sunlight. Every day I watered it and I spent time just visiting it, offering it loving energy. Do you suppose that spindly sprout my suddenly blossom? It has the potential which can be brought forth or may not be brought forth.

The human is the same way. There is the potential to do enormous harm, to do what you may call evil. I don't like the word evil, I'd rather say to express strong negativity in the world that does great harm. The human has that potential, and the human has the potential to blossom, expressing radiance and love. This is what you are. You have free will. You are that beautiful seed, that as a child, other people nurture and as an adult, you nurture. Even if the seed was not well-nurtured for the child, you as the adult now may begin to nurture it, knowing, 'This radiance is within me and it's my intention to bring it forth.'

If your habit energy is to withhold the water and the sunshine, put yourself into a dark place, you have the ability to remind yourself, 'I choose radiance. I choose light. I choose love. What do I need to offer myself to bring forth the fruit that is my birthright, the fruit of lovingkindness?' It takes careful attention, because the habit energies to reactivity to fear can be very strong.

He offers a quote. 'The Talmud warns us, first the evil impulse is like a passerby, then he is called a guest, and finally he becomes the master of the house.' You have to be deeply aware of that, let's call it negative impulse, fear-based impulse.

The Buddhist teachings state it in a very similar way. First comes the thought and the following of the thought, the action. The action follows the thought. The action hardens into habit, and the habit, into character. So watch the thought with care and let each thought be based in love for all beings. If a thought is not based in love for all beings, be aware that it's not. Note it as fear, as grasping, as anger.

Everything arises out of conditions and is impermanent, is not self. Certain conditions are present and that thought expresses itself. In just such a way, a person who grew up in a very prejudiced home where there was racial, religious, or cultural prejudice may grow into an adult who, when he sees a person of a different race or religion or culture, has a negative thought, 'That person is not as good as I am.' Or, 'That person simply is not good. That person is to be feared.' Such a thought may arise.

But if the training is there, one notes the thought and says, 'Is that so?' Here's a thought and I'm believing it. 'Is that so? That person of a different skin color, he's not good, he's not trustworthy. Is that so?'

Through this kind of work, we begin to see the habit energies that are predominant. When you say, 'Is that so?' and wisdom says, 'No, it's just a thought that comes up because my grandmother and grandfather and my mother and father and my aunts and uncles always said it was so. It arose from those conditions. But I am free, I don't have to believe that thought; it's just a thought. Then you begin to explore; you befriend people of that other race or culture, and you find out how loving, trustworthy and goodhearted they really are. Finally the thought ceases to arise.

It's not a matter of good or evil, it's a matter of training. It starts with the intention to live one's life with kindness, with non-harm to all beings, to be aware of negative thought, to understand the conditioned nature of negative thought and not react to it. To hold space for it. As you hold the space for it, to literally watch it dissolve into the spaciousness of the open heart.

There's much that is valuable in these chapters. I'm certainly not in total disagreement with him. I'm just presenting a slightly different perspective on good and evil. And also on conscience. What is conscience? I'd like to hear from you. What is conscience?

Q: Absence of agitation.

Aaron: That's an interesting one. Absence of agitation. Loving action. Loving action can come with agitation but with subdued agitation. I see what you're driving at. I'm not sure if it needs to be refined a bit, but I think you're on to something. Others?

Q: Conditioned response that allows us, just so we know good from evil…

Aaron: Could we say, …that allows us to know that which will do harm to beings vs. that which will promote the well-being of beings?

Q: It could be that the idea of conscience arises out of the idea of good and evil. It's part of that way of thinking about things.

Q: I smiled when you first asked that because my first response was, conscience is my mother's voice. And then I thought, conscience is something that grows and matures throughout your life, because of course it begins with your mother's voice and then grows to be that voice within that can hopefully, with maturity, speak from the center, from the well of knowing within.

Aaron: This whole issue of good, evil and conscience is complex. He speaks in the next chapter of the fear of God. He does shift his speech into 'not trembling in fear of retribution' so much as awe. I like the statement that he makes of that man with a beloved spouse who does not want to hurt his spouse, not because she will refuse to cook his meals or throw pots and pans at him, but because he loves her and doesn't want to hurt her. It's not quite awe, it's respect and love.

If we assume that there is no goodness or badness inherent in the human, that the human is born as a blank slate who can just as easily learn 'evil' as good, then conscience is simply learned. It's a learned behavior. But if we find that the human has some kind of inherent radiance, godliness, divinity, within, that there is this seed, then might conscience simply be the sometimes softly-whispered, sometimes loudly shouted, voice of this seed? It's not something you learn; perhaps it's something you already know, that's coming forth in a situation, speaking a deeper truth above the fear, the fear that wants to take something away from another. And a voice of kindness, the voice of deeper truth that says, 'It's okay. Let it be.'

You call it conscience but I would rather call it the voice of deepest truth. This acknowledges that it's not something implanted by cultural or societal rules, but it comes from within.

Let me ask you a simple question, perhaps not a simple question: is murder wrong because it's against the law or is it against the law because it's wrong?

Q: Because it's wrong.

Q: It is usually wrong, whether it's against the law or not.

Aaron: What makes it wrong?

Q: Because it is a truth that life should be revered.

Aaron: Is it a truth? What about a fish in the ocean that grew up and ate other fish?

Q: Yes. They do that. And I eat other animals.

Aaron: Yes. And yet there's something within you that says murder is wrong.

Q: We have this thing called war.

Aaron: … That tries to justify murder. Yes, unfortunately you do. Others? Is murder wrong because it's against the law or against the law because it's wrong?

Q: I'm not directly answering that. When we have the tendency to feel nothing when we kill animals, and ingest this dead matter, it leads us towards disease, famine, early death, and killing one another.

Aaron: I lived a lifetime long ago in a part of the world you would today call Australia amongst people that you would consider very primitive. We were largely meat-eaters. We grew some kinds of food, more picked food that grew naturally on trees as opposed to planting gardens because we wandered. Every time that an animal was killed, either the people who were participating in the hunt or if the whole clan was there, the people who would eat of that food also, came and offered thanks to that animal, experiencing deep gratitude and expressing the intention that this animal's beauty and divinity would live on through them. They consecrated themselves to be a reflection of the grace, strength or beauty or other highest qualities of this animal. So there was a deep reverence for that which was killed.

Those people of the tribe, of whom I was a part, were not a warlike people. They traveled lightly, and if people tried to attack them, they just disappeared. But if it was necessary to defend themselves, they would defend themselves. So they never attacked others. They never gained something from another loss. But if pushed into a corner with no place to go, they would defend themselves. When they defended themselves, they were fierce fighters and would kill with no qualm, because they had not picked the fight, but if somebody was going to fight with them, they would defend their children and their elderly.

And in the same way, once they had conquered an enemy, they offered that enemy the same spiritual final rites that they offered to their own people. They treated the enemy with complete respect. They sang praise to the enemy for whatever they could find praiseworthy, about that being or group of beings.

In short, they saw what I might call the sacredness of all life. Even picking berries from trees, they thanked the trees. They thanked the trees for nuts. They thanked the ground for roots. They saw the sacredness of all life. They didn't take anything for granted. They knew themselves to be divine beings and everything to be part of that divinity, expression of that divinity. What I would call conscience for those beings was that awareness they had of the sacred, which guided them in terms of how to act in the world so as never to disrespect the sacredness of all life. Even if they had to kill.

That may sound contradictory to you. Can one kill with love? I saw and participated in killing in that lifetime, and I never saw nor myself experienced killing with hatred. Think of what that would mean. One only kills as a last resource, to say no to being killed, and then only the minimum force that is needed to convince the other to stop. One only kills when one is really hungry and uses all of the animal: the hide, the hoofs, implements from bones, everything is used and everything is treated as sacred. And when a bone as a tool was no longer a useful tool because it was broken, it was not tossed off but gratefully returned to the earth in an appropriate way and with gratitude.

Think how it would mean to live your life that connected to the earth and to all other beings, and then ask yourself, what is conscience? Is it imposed from without or is it something that could possibly come from deep within?

If it could come in that way from deep within, then all the attempts to condition conscience by punishment and praise and so forth might serve to corrupt conscience.

Last summer at the lake, there was a 4-year-old child. She was playing in the water, splashing near the shore when suddenly she looked down and saw a spider floating on the water. She shouted, 'Mom! There's a spider!' This was not a cry of fear but of reverence. She picked it up and carried it very carefully to shore. She said, 'I wanted to make sure it would not drown.'

Barbara asked the parents, 'Did you teach her this?' And the mother said, 'No, she's been like that all her life. From her very earliest childhood she was so careful to all living creatures. We simply honored that she was like that and appreciated it.' But I'm sure the parents never said, 'Eek! A spider!' The parents must have been respectful to living creatures, so the child saw it modeled. But she saw it modeled and she also knew it in her own heart as truth.

Do you model this truth in your heart for others? When you don't model it, can you feel the tension from not modeling it? When you don't follow, I want to differentiate here between conditioned conscience and heart-directed conscience. When you don't follow heart-directed conscience, can you feel the tension? How often do you brush that tension away? What if you paid closer attention?

I'm not suggesting here that you are going to be impeccable in all of your behavior in the world. There will be a moment when you swat the mosquito, the moment when you react verbally in a negative way to somebody else's angry words. But then the heart says, 'What is this anger?' Can you pay attention? Can you pay attention without condemning yourself for the immediate response, simply knowing that was conditioned? But you have free will and you don't have to follow that conditioned impulse just because it's there. Let us do an exercise. Please bring each a cup of water.

First, I want you to bring a mouthful of water into your mouth. Feel the coolness of it in your mouth. Watch the impulse to swallow, and swallow. (pause)

Now, let's refine this. Contact. The water touching the mouth. Consciousness of touching, touching. Then, an impulse energy. The throat constricts a bit. The strong habit energy is when there is water in the mouth, you swallow it. And then, without much thought about it, swallowing. Try it and see if you can watch that whole process. (pause)

And the mouth is empty, or is empty of water. (pause)

Now, I'm going to ask you to take a mouthful of water, a moderate sized mouthful, and hold it in your mouth. Watch the impulse to swallow. And just watch. Is the impulse pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? Know the impulse as an object. There's a kind of tension.

It's as if I had a beautiful object and asked you to hold you hand out. Can you feel the subtle tension—I have something so beautiful and I am about to put it in your hand. Try it with each other. Feel how it feels. Can you feel the subtle tension, if you imagine it's a very beautiful object that you're about to receive into your hand? Can you feel the subtle tension? Now, I'm asking you to imagine so it might not be as strong, but there's a subtle tension of expectation.

The water is in the mouth, the throat begins its impulse energy to swallow. There's a subtle tension in the body. Tension. Expectation. Grasping. Don't swallow, just be there with that whole experience. We'll call it impulse energy. Go ahead now and try it. If you find you must swallow, of course that's okay, I don't want anyone to find themselves choking. Just swallow if you need to and take another mouthful. (pause)

The water may feel pleasant and cool; it may feel unpleasant. The water may feel pleasant and cool and the need to swallow may feel unpleasant. Many possibilities. (pause)

Try it again. (pause)

If you still have the original mouthful in your mouth, swallow it mindfully and then take another mouthful. (pause)

Please swallow and share some of your experiences.

Q: This is a very enlightening experience. The ability to swallow represents the gift we have of life. After my father had a stroke, he couldn't swallow.

Aaron: It is indeed a gift. Others?

Q: While we were doing this, I thought this is great practice as I have a dentist appointment tomorrow. And I usually gag, so I will try and be more mindful and see how that works.

Aaron: Others?

Q: I have been having jaw problems and teeth problems, and having the water in my mouth just filled the entire cavity and kept my mouth where it should be. It kept it open, which was good.

Aaron: Was there a strong impulse to swallow?

Q: Not so much.

Q: I felt the energy involved in holding back the impulse to swallow, I realized I was putting more and more energy into doing nothing. And realized I was forgetting to breathe. I was holding my breath in this suspended state. Very tense. So then, worked at relaxing and breathing and just sitting with the tension of the not-swallowing.

Aaron: Sometimes people at first do not realize they can breathe through the nose with water in the mouth. They feel, 'I won't be able to breathe!' Tension, fear. And then they realize, just breathe.

Q: I noticed when I started breathing through my nose and just relaxing, I could hold it longer.

Aaron: To all of you, could you feel the shift, at least a minimal impulse to swallow and how to make space around that? Relax and not have to act out the impulse.

This is the most important point here, that just because there is an impulse doesn't mean you have to act out that impulse. Sometimes there's an impulse to cough and it's not an appropriate time to make noise. Sometimes it's so strong that you can't control it. Sometimes you can. Sometimes there's an impulse to slap the mosquito. That doesn't mean you have to slap the mosquito. Sometimes there's an impulse to nurture your anger and advance it and use it in reactive ways. One has the choice.

You are here incarnate in this human form with free will, with the choice to do good for all beings or to do harm. The choice is yours. As you work to understand and experience the sacredness of all things, increasingly there's a strong intention to do no harm, to act with kindness in the world. Then you find that you have tools to make space for negative emotion and thought and you don't have to react to them in ways that do harm.

When we speak of good and evil, to me what we are speaking of is simply the choice to recognize one's free will choice and responsibility, to choose that which is for the highest good as opposed to choosing that which is simply self-centered, excluding all else, just what I want.

When you act according to negativity, there's always tension. When you act in a loving and openhearted way, there still may be some tension. 'Will my needs be met? Will I be safe?' The tension is not about what you are doing but about the repercussions of what you are doing.

Imagine yourself one of a starving horde of people in a city that has just had a terrible natural disaster. There's no food or water. People are literally dying of hunger and thirst. Trucks come in bearing food and water. You're in a mob of people. The truck driver signals to you and a few other people who look relatively strong and capable and says, 'Please help me to distribute.'

At home you have parents, a spouse, and 4 starving children. Some of them aren't going to live out the day if they don't have food and water. You have a big empty bag strapped over your shoulder. Nobody is watching you, so you start to distribute to people. The driver says, 'Don't worry, I've saved enough for you. At the end, you'll receive yours. Don't worry.' He says that to you right away.

So every 15th or 20th container of food and water that you hand out, you slip one into the bag, just because you're not sure you will get your share. You do lovingly give out all the other food and water. Perhaps you have a gun in your pocket. You could have said to the driver, 'No, I'm taking all of this,' but you didn't. You gave it away. You participated in the giveaway.

And yet there was still this note of fear; can you feel the tension in it? At the end, the goods are all distributed, and there are a dozen people left who look like they're on their last legs. They're very hungry. Some of them are so weak they can't even stand up, begging, 'Please, give me something.' The driver hasn't yet produced what he has for you but you assume it's going to be one box and that's not going to feed your whole family. Are you going to give anything to these people who are pleading with you?

And then eventually they realize there's nothing left and they go away,. Then the driver pulls out a big carton that he had saved for you. He says, 'I know you must have family at home. Here are a dozen rations for your family.' Plus you've got the dozen you've squirreled away in your bag. Now what are you going to do?

What is it within the human that grabs for itself and its own circle of loved ones out of fear, separating us vs. them? And what is it that just keeps giving? Does this give you any hint about the terms ‘conscience' and ‘good and evil', what the real meanings of these words might be?

He uses one more challenging word in the book, the word sin. Is it a sin to have hoarded that food and water for your family? There are no right or wrong answers here. When you live in your heart and follow the deepest dictates of your heart, even though there may be some tension, there's still a relaxed spaciousness that knows, 'I am doing what I need to do. I am not reacting to fear and habit energy. I'm living in and from my heart.'

I'm sure you each have examples of when that has happened. Could you share some? Could you share some brief story of when you responded fully from your heart, even if there was some fear or discomfort present.

I'm going to start you off with a memory of Barbara's, one she would probably share if she were here with you. She was in another country. She had not much money and just a little food, a lunch, a sandwich she had bought, a piece of fruit, bread and cheese perhaps, I'm not sure what.

She sat down in an open area to begin to eat, and suddenly there were a flock of very hungry-looking children around her, perhaps a dozen of them, pleading. She can't hear them but she could tell by their expressions, pleading. None of them looked gaunt with ribs sticking out, but all looked quite poor. Certainly all looked and acted hungry. She had been warned, 'Don't keep giving things away, they'll just hound you more.' But there was no way she could say no. She clearly did not need that sandwich that much. She had a small plastic knife and she cut it in little pieces and held it out on her napkin. Cut up the fruit and passed out pieces of it. By the time she finished, 20 more of these little children had come up pleading. She had no more food. She just had no more.

So her mind at first had asked, 'What should I do? What are the rules, what had I been told. What am I supposed to do here.' And then she just said, 'What does my heart say?' Give the food, no problem. When she gave the food, there was a complete relaxation of tension. She knew that if 50 little beggars came out of the woodwork, they would just come. When she ran out of food, she would run out. She had almost no money with her so there was not an option to give them money. She just had the food and she gave it away, and it felt right.

So that's the kind of situation I'm talking about where for a moment she felt a constraint, 'What should I do?' Open the rulebook, open the guidebook, what does it say you're supposed to do in this situation? And then she just put that thought away and said, 'What does my heart say to do?' And the tension released.

I would call that conscience.

Q: There is an expression that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This has been sticking in my side like a thorn.

Aaron: The way I interpret that statement is that, it's paved with good intentions that one has not fulfilled. I intend to be kind, next week I'll do it. I have such a strong intention to kindness, and next week I'll do it. And as I keep putting it off, it leads me into a hell realm of grasping and fear.

So, share some of your stories.

(sharing not transcribed, by request; Aaron's general comments transcribed)

Aaron:… What I'm trying to do here is help you define conscience, as that deepest expression of the heart. And it doesn't always turn out perfectly, it's simply the way the heart knows it has to go.


Aaron: The heart spoke, and you listened. And sometimes in these situations you do see a bit of you in there, something that says, 'Will people notice that I'm the one that's organizing this?' That doesn't mean that the whole action is distorted, only yes, there is still some ego that wants some attention. That doesn't become the prime mover of the action.


Aaron: This is like the impulse energy to swallow the water, you notice the discomfort, the intensity, holding this relationship in your mouth, wanting to swallow it, but the tension is uncomfortable and you release it. You know it's good to release it. It still may be scary, it may even be painful, but at some level you know it's good.

Let us come back here to the whole question he raises in the book, the Gate of Good and Evil. I want you to reflect throughout each day, when something turns up that feels very positive or very negative, if it is very negative, ask, 'What is the beauty in this? Right here with the negativity?' If it feels very beautiful, ask, 'Is there anything negative here?', right there with all that is beautiful. Begin to see how they relate as front and back of the same thing.

When there are negative emotions, instead of being afraid of them, condemning them, judging them, trying to force them away, right there with the negativity, find that which is beautiful. It's there, it's always there. Hold the space present with that which is beautiful and allow that which is negative to dissolve. If it doesn't dissolve, just let it sit there. Quoting Milarepa, 'Sit by my fire, have tea'. No need to chase it away, it will help.

Begin to find this deepest voice in yourself. We will not call it conscience, we will call it the voice of love. There is the voice of love and the voice of fear. The voice of love sometimes is drowned out by the voice of fear, but it's always there. And the voice of fear, loud though it may be at times, is not the stronger of the two voices. It shouts so loud because it's afraid it won't be heard. Because it knows how powerful love is underneath.

But when you acknowledge it, 'Hello fear, I see you, I hear you—shhh! Quiet down' it will do so. And then you're connected to this loving aspect of your being, the part of you that truly knows what to do, knows how to respond. When you feel the throat tightening, metaphorically, the impulse energy, needing to swallow, needing to swat, needing to react, needing to force, to scream, just notice. Habits are only conditioning. They are not inherently good or evil, although harm may come from the unattended habit.

I want to read you a poem here. It's called Autobiography in Five Chapters.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost, I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I'm in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in, it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I can get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

What streets are you walking down? What holes are you falling in? At this point I'm going to leave the body, give you a chance to stretch, and have Barbara talk to you about what holes you are falling in and the homework assignments you've been working with. The habit energy you choose to watch, to be with and reflect upon.

Thank you all for your attention. I will give you back to Barbara…

(break; then sharing, with Barbara)

Barbara: For me, when I create a duality of good and bad, 'I should be good,' that kind of getting behind me and kicking myself, kind of, 'Do it', there's a lot of tension around it. I'm not coming from my heart, I'm trying for either other people's approval or in some way for my own ego's approval. There's a difference between my ego's approval and my heart's approval.

When I really am listening with my heart, the ego isn't in the picture. Even reward and punishment get in the way, as those deal with the ego, with the personal self. I have to put that aside to really hear my heart and get into that place where I know what to do. I use conscience and spirit t synonymously. For me conscience is the deepest spirit, the deepest sense of truth, Buddha nature, whatever we want to call it. There's no self in it, there's no ego in it. From that aspect, we act with love in the world, not because anyone is holding anything above us or because we have anything to gain or lose, but just because there's no choice in our deepest hearts.

Looking at the homework assignment, I'm skimming last week's notes; four ongoing things to do with mindfulness tasks, something simple like washing the body, brushing the teeth. Second, everyday mindfulness washing the dishes, watering plants, etc. Third, take a clear glass, a window or drinking glass, and wash it daily. You're never going to get it perfectly clean. Find the innate purity of the glass, the radiance and clarity of the glass.

These first 3 exercises were set up to help you connect with that which is sacred. It's really the same thing Aaron talked about tonight, coming from that place of pure love, pure connection. Starting to really feel the sacredness in everything, and letting that be that which guides conscience and choice and what we choose to do in the world and how we react to anger or fear or other uncomfortable emotions.

And a fourth assignment, just pause for a few seconds every time you walk through a doorway. Just for a few seconds. Ask, 'Where am I coming from? Where am I going?' Think of this as a metaphor for all the internal doorways you walk through. Stopping to talk to somebody, that's a kind of doorway. Stopping to pick up something that's spilled on the floor. Just pausing for a few seconds in each doorway.

I'd like to go around and hear from you what happened as you worked with these exercises. We can't cover all of them for everybody, so just some highlights of what was helpful, what was difficult.

(sharing not transcribed, by request)

Barbara: Talking about the homework. You have chosen a trait that you're working with, a habit energy that you see is unwholesome and that causes pain for you and/or other people. Traits you want to pay attention to. Not with fix-it energy, but simply seeing, this arises. Certain conditions are present and it arises.

Regarding it with that sense of sacredness, right here with the filthy glass is that which is innately pure. Right here with this trait of hardheartedness is the open heart. Right here with this trait of impatience is patience. Right here with this trait of greed is generosity and selflessness, joy in giving to others.

So I want you to work with this trait in this coming week in this way, watching when it arises, feeling the tension around its having arisen. I really want you to write down your experiences with this trait this week, when it comes up and how you address it. At night before you go to bed, take a few minutes to write about it. When did it come up during the day? How did you relate to it? What insights have you had? It doesn't have to be a lot, just a few sentences is enough. But begin. Knowing you're going to write about it will help bring your attention to it, so that when it comes up, 'Oh, there's that trait. Yeah.' And when you're getting ready for bed, 'Did it come up at all? Yes, I remember it came up when I was driving my car, or when I was talking to so-and-so.' Write it down.

Our class now meets the next two weeks with no break between. So next week and the week after. Next week, Aaron will not talk and we'll spend more time in discussion. I want you to really look at these traits and be prepared to talk about what you're learning. Okay? Last class, Aaron will give a talk again.

Read the next 2 chapters in the book, 7 and 8.

Q: I'm confused about what fix-it energy is.

Barbara: It's a contracted energy where, let's say the trait one is looking at is impatience, and the impatience comes up and the thought comes with it, 'I shouldn't be impatient. I won't be impatient. Stop that impatience!' There's tension around it, not, 'Ah, here's impatience. Oh, so here it is. It has arisen out of conditions. Can I open my heart to this human in whom it has arisen and, like water in the mouth, not have to swallow it? Just because there's impatience doesn't mean I have to get caught up in the stories it's presenting. It's just a certain kind of tension, like water, impulse to swallow—impatience, impulse to push that impatience in some way. I don't have to fix it, I don't have to make it go away. Just like you don't have to swallow the water to find ease. Just space, here's the water. Okay? (yes)

Any other questions?

I'll see you all next Wednesday.

(recording ends)

Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Brodsky