Insight Meditation Class, Fall 2007, Consciousness and Its Objects, Class 3: October 16, 2007

Barbara: We've worked for several weeks with access concentration and we will talk more about that today. We have the retreat in 11 days. I want to work with pure awareness practice today so that you have at least some understanding of the distinction between access concentration and pure awareness, and some stability with resting in awareness, so that these are practices you can bring into the retreat. Certainly John, Aaron, and I will be giving instruction at the retreat, but mostly we're going to be silent and meet with you in small groups. You'll have the opportunity to go deeper. So I want to make sure the tools are there for you to use.

We've talked about mundane and supramundane consciousness. Every citta, or consciousness, has an object. Mundane consciousness has a mundane object. Supramundane consciousness has a supramundane object.

I like to think of the supramundane consciousness as the window to which ones back has been turned. It's always been there but you can't see the view because your back is to it. When you look in the right direction, 'Oh, there it is. There's the view out the window.' It's always been there.

So we're not creating anything special. The state of supramundane consciousness is right here and accessible when we know how to look. It's something all of you probably experienced as children, lying on your backs, looking at the clouds floating by. I don't want to make it seem like something special. It's just a shift in perspective as the sense of a self disappears.

For the most part there really is no aversion or grasping. There can be a pleasant or unpleasant experience, but there's no self experiencing it. We call this level of awareness 'non-dual awareness.' We learn this practice from the dzogchen tradition. The word dzogchen in Tibetan means 'not two.' So it's really the practice of 'not two,' resting in awareness, in the non-dual nature of mind.

The word awareness is used in many traditions. I want to read you from last year's class notes. Tom Brown uses the word awareness a lot in his Native tradition books. He talks about grandmother or grandfather awareness.

'This wide open awareness...' He calls it grandfather awareness. It's not awareness of the grandmother or grandfather, it's just grandparent awareness. Deep, open. Reading from his book; he's on a vision quest. 'I eventually arrived at a quiet pond, quite close to the camp area, swim area, and there sat down to think. I gazed into the quiet waters of the pond, still thinking 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 was 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 these 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, once these come, the image of the 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,' here he says, 'possess that pure mind.' I would rather have him say it as, 'open to that pure mind.' I'm not sure we possess it so much as we invite and allow and rest in it.

Continuing, from him: 'All distractions of the logical thinking mind would only produce an obscurity or destroy that pure image altogether...'

I'd like to offer an example of the windows here. Look at our large windows. If they became streaked with mud and rainwater, salt-would we have to tear out these windows and put in new glass? No. Is the nature of the glass harmed in any way by the dirt that accumulates on it? The nature of the glass is clarity, it doesn't change. No matter how much dirt is on the glass, the nature of the glass doesn't change, only the accumulations on the surface.

The nature of our mind, in the same way, is clarity and presence. And no matter how many obscurations accumulate in the mind, how many thoughts, opinions, judgments, and likes and dislikes and so forth, the nature of the mind is never stained, never changed.

This practice, then, is to first, discover that pure mind, and second, learn to rest stably in it. The resting stably in it, it's not access concentration. We still need to come back to access concentration. What it does is to help us see the difference between the mind's nature and the mind's content so that we don't get sucked in by the content.

When we are in access concentration, we are, at some level, resting in awareness, resting in the pure mind. When we are resting in awareness, we are not necessarily resting in access concentration. So then, why bother? Why bother resting in awareness? Why bother practicing this? Because it teaches us to experience directly that space of just resting in the pure mind. A thought may come, we don't get captured by it. A sensation may come. We see it but there's no separation.

I've experienced this, especially for example, watching a sunset. All sense of an observer or observed as separate disappears, there's just sunset happening. There's no 'me' in the picture. Then a thought might come up; maybe a big airplane zooms across the sunset spewing black smoke, and I can feel myself moving into a space of separation, with aversion to the plane. It's easy to experience unity with the sunset but it's harder to experience unity with the airplane. There's some contraction, 'I don't want that.'

The power of this practice, for me, then, is when these objects arise, a thought or a physical sensation that pulls me out of resting in awareness, I note that something has pulled me out. It reminds me, I have a choice here. What's pulled me out is just another object, arising out of conditions and passing away. I have no choice about whether it comes; I do have a choice about how I'm going to relate to it. Am I going to move back into this illusion of self and relate to it as 'me' to 'that', or am I going to note how that boundaried self arises as illusory object, that is, that there is not really a limited self, and not get caught up in self-identification with those boundaries, just note the arising and come back to the spaciousness?

In the dzogchen tradition, they say the more thoughts that come, the more sensations that are unpleasant an pull us out, the more judgments, the more any of these 'distractions,' the more opportunity for practice. Because each time one of these arises we look at it and say, 'Ah, it's just another object, not separate.' Finally we start to know this, and not get caught so much.

Q: Is that different from ignoring it?

Barbara: It's different than ignoring it, yes. We're being very present with it. When this object arises, we note it. For example, awareness is seeing the jet streaming across the sky and spouting black smoke, feeling the contraction, noting, 'Seeing,' and feeling the experience of separating. We ask, 'Anything separate here?' In some ways, I'm part of that jet. I also exhale black smoke, figuratively. I leave a trail of particles behind me. Just coming back, recognizing this true nature, not separate from anything.

So I'm not ignoring it, I'm very present with it. But it's different from vipassana practice and the noting that we do in vipassana. When we note it from that place of mindful noting on the path to access concentration, it's wisdom that makes the note. Here is a sound, unpleasant sound. Here is contraction around the sound. The wisdom mind knows each of these as an object arising from conditions, but still, until that point when we're fully open in access concentration, there's a me observing that, an observer.

With pure awareness practice, the observer dissolves completely. We start the practice not trying to note the objects that come and pull us out but simply noting the space and connection, the experience of no boundary. This boundarylessness is primary. So this is how we begin the practice, and only later do we go into this analytic phase that says, 'Is there anything separate here?'

Let me tell you about the dog that peed on my lap while I was meditating. A friend lent me a cabin on a lake, many years ago. There were a lot of lake front cabins but they were almost all deserted there in March/early April. It was very quiet. I sat meditating on the shore and I was in a very deep place, sitting on the grass in half-lotus position, meditating, doing this pure awareness practice, feeling totally connected, open to everything. A dog walked up to me, sniffing. I had no reaction at all, I was just sitting there. He nosed me a couple of times and there was just an awareness of touch, touch. But no separation about it. I didn't move. But he lifted up his leg and he peed on me! (laughter) Watching the self come back!

Q: He thought you were a tree.

Barbara: I was immobile, whatever I was. So then feeling urine touching, touching. It took a moment, maybe 20 seconds, for me to understand what it was. First it was just heat, wet, touch. Noting all of this still from this place of non-separation. And then suddenly the intellectual mind kicked in and said, 'He just peed on me!' Anger! Separation.

What I'd like to do here is turn the lights down now and we'll do a guided meditation of this practice…

(pauses are there, but not noted)

Barbara: We're going to sit eyes open. Most of you have done this practice with me before. Eyes open, gaze very soft. Not trying to pick out objects, just open. Let the mouth also be a bit open. Not forced, not wide open, just softly open, and feel the tongue hanging loose, not touching the roof of the mouth or the teeth. So the breath can flow softly in and out, a very open doorway.

Breathing in, breathing out. In the beginning, breathing in, use your arms, bring your arms high, opening the arms, the body, inhale, drawing the arms in with the breath.. Breathing in everything, no boundaries. Then exhale, releasing. Release from the very depth of your being. Open the arms. Exhale an audible ahhhh. Ahhh. Ahhh.

You can use the arms for awhile if it's helpful. You can use the audible sound if it's helpful. You don't have to be in unison. Separate ahhs, non-duality. Body relaxed. Feel the whole body and energy field open.

As you breathe in, are you just breathing in the air in front of your face? We're all breathing in what each other have exhaled. You're breathing in the air out on the road, the exhaust of the cars, the energy from the trees. Is it just local, what we're breathing in? Way out, beyond the clouds. Breathing it all in. No boundaries. Keep the eyes open, soft. If you have glasses on, you may want to take them off so you see more softly. No need for details, here. It might be a little blurry.

Breathing out, giving that breath to the whole universe. Everything inside you opening outward. Everything out there coming in until inside and outside dissolve.

Often when we do this practice, it's outdoors with a pretty vista. That may be easier in some ways, to do it that way. But it's also fine to do it in a room like this.

All boundaries dissolving, no separation. Thoughts may arise. Just notice it as a thought and let it go. Sensations may arise. Just notice each one, noting tingling or pressure or whatever it may be, and let it go. All these vast array of experiences, coming and going into this boundaryless self, through it and back out again. You are the universe. Containing everything. Empty of any separate self.

Make sure you keep your eyes a bit open. Some of you are tending to close your eyes, a vipassana habit. If there's a strong desire to close the eyes, watch that as an object temporarily, just the flow of conditions.

Whatever arises, don't fixate on it. Like sitting by a river and watching little bits of twigs and leaves floating by. Given enough time, everything will come up. Notice it but let it go, nothing separate. I'm going to be quiet for about 5 minutes.

(pause, 5 minutes of quiet tape)

Some of you may be firmly, stably into this space by now and some not so much. As we did with the access concentration practice, I'm going to clap my hands. So hearing will pick up a clap sound. It may pull you out of this spaciousness. If it does, simply note, hearing, or contracting, or whatever the primary experience is.

Observe, nothing here but the outflow of conditions. Two hands touched each other firmly. The ear organ picked up the sound. Contact, consciousness, hearing. Perception of hands clapping. May be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. But there's no separate self, it's simply hearing consciousness picking this up. And then we release it. If there's some reverberation in the body, startled by the sound, just releasing, breathing it out. Don't fixate on it, don't create a self on it, just resting in spaciousness. As the mind opens up again, just coming back into spaciousness.


As one relaxes and opens in this way and the sound of nada may become very strong. Hear that cosmic om, an inner sound. Or there could be a lot of light, a very strong sense of light, of luminosity. Don't make a separate thing out of it. That sound, that luminosity, are just part of this whole expression of the universe. But they can be a resting place, can be supportive, helping you to stay stable in this space. If you don't hear or see these, no problem, but if you do, it can be helpful.


Barbara: We're going to talk some. Later this evening we'll do a second sitting like this if time permits and then we'll move into vipassana from this spaciousness. Many of you have done this with me before, so it's not new to you. For some of you, it is new and it will take some time to get to know the practice and feel comfortable with it.

Resting in awareness, there's such a strong experience of the absence of a separate self, so much spaciousness. And then something comes in and pulls us out. Resting in awareness is like having your back to the window so there's no view; you think the view is gone and you turn around and ah, there it is.

So when something pulls you out, a strong physical sensation or a thought, it's like turning your back to the window again. The most important thing at that point is to know that you're figuratively turning your back to the window and to know it's right there. That space of non-dual awareness is no further than the next breath.

We still have to deal with what pulled us out. I gave just one hand-clap which probably didn't startle you too much; you were expecting it. But if I had taken this stick and started rapping on the lamp, like I did the last class, that might have created a lot of startled energy, a lot of reverberations.

So then we come back to the everyday mind that simply knows, 'Shaking, tense'. As we're with that, whatever the experience is, with an open heart, making space for it, eventually the wisdom mind does kick in and say, 'Okay, this is just the outflow of conditions. Let it be.'

When I say, 'let it be,' imagine I had a big full bowl of water, full right to the top. Somebody got up and started to jump so the floor shook a little and the water started sloshing over. Would you put your hand on the top to try to stop the water from sloshing over? No! It just upsets the water more.

So there's the impulse energy, 'Oh, it's making a mess! Stop it!' Can't stop it that way. Just let it be. The ripples will die down. So when the body energy contracts in that way, we notice that it's happened. Let it be, the ripples will die down. The spaciousness will open up.

What I'd like to do is go around here. Let's confine ourselves in the circle for now to pure awareness. If it's new to you, just whatever you experienced. If you've been doing it for years, still whatever you experienced. What was the experience in this short meditation. Did you feel some sense of the dropping of the separate ego identity, some sense of space? If so, what was the sense of space like? If not, then what seemed to keep the ego and separate self going? Was there something that it was riding on that was keeping it going? Do you understand my question? (Yes)

So I would like to go around and hear this from you.

Q: When we first began, I thought there is no way I can do this. Just a thought. But I have had trouble with dzogchen and know that. So the mind was very busy, lots of thoughts. And I started to note those thoughts and pay attention to seeing, seeing. Opening to seeing as you instructed, to see the thoughts, to breathe in the universe and to let it all go. There started to be some sense of spaciousness and then again of contraction, lots of thinking again. A sense of wanting to control, then letting go.

As we sat for a longer period, the view that I was looking at got fuzzier and fuzzier, no lines anymore. But not what I think it should be.

Barbara: The vision does seem to blur. This practice plays havoc with the controlling mind! Thank you. I'm glad that you experienced… just that little bit of space.

Q: I have always really liked doing dzogchen but I have always done it outdoors. And the sense of spaciousness is very easy to attain outdoors, especially at the lake. This was a very different experience. When I took my glasses off—I can't see much of anything without my glasses. So forms began to merge. I was particularly interested in the fact that J had two heads. Probably very significant! But I could still see K and J2 on either side, I was very aware of them. Eventually that all just melded into a kind of a black haze.

When you were giving instructions, I was pulled out of the spaciousness entirely. I think that's because I had to understand the instructions.

Barbara: Discriminating mind coming back.

Q: Yes… I feel like I get into pure awareness much more effectively in vipassana meditation. Outdoors I can really use the dzogchen. I will have to make more effort to use it in a setting like this.

Barbara: I remember at Howell we have these vast windows and decks and a lot of outdoor space to look into. It may be easier outdoors.

Q: My eyes get very burning and it's very uncomfortable.

Barbara: And that pulls you into a self, out of control, can't see. It's easier when the eyes are not straining to see, when it's just sky.

Q: It has more to do with the physical aspects of my eyes.

Barbara: Okay. Relax the eyes. Blink them if necessary.

Q: When I first started, I immediately felt a softness, not necessarily related to the eyes but sort of in the heart. Things relaxed. When I started breathing larger spaces in, it felt like the breathing was coming from 10 feet behind me, and I was breathing out from 10 feet behind me. Also, as M said, when I listened to the instructions, I was pulled out of the space that I was in.

Q: I got very calm, very relaxed, very comfortable. As we got into it, there was a bit of sense of spaciousness but it did not stabilize. No loss of sense of self. No nada, no luminosity. Toward the end a little bit of light borders around objects which I think are some retinal effect.

Q: I had trouble keeping my eyes open.

Barbara: I noticed there were several of you who were having a hard time keeping eyes open.

Q: Habit. And also, I kept wondering why my mouth needed to be open. That was hard.

Barbara: The open mouth allows the breath, and the universe , to flow. Is this the first time you've done this?

Q: (No.) I think I have experienced pure awareness outside with beauty but I was pretty distracted.

Barbara: We all experience pure awareness, but we don't recognize it for what it is. In the Tibetan teachings of dzogchen, they break the practice into 3 parts. View, just ah, this is it, seeing the view. Ahh. That moment of boundaries falling away and recognition, this is it. The (mind) that says, 'This is it,' is no longer resting in awareness but you note the thought and you come back to that no thinking and you're just there. View.

Then the meditation practice starts with the unstable view that flickers in and out. We do a practice that consists of two parts, the resting in spaciousness, and when something pulls us out of spaciousness, the analysis phase of practice. So resting in and then the analysis. In the analysis phase, we ask the question, 'Anything other than the Unconditioned here?' Just conditions expressing themselves. Body awareness, thought, senses. Ahh.

It's like, I'll use a personal example. Once on a retreat, I was meditating and felt something tickling on my leg. I opened my eyes and there was quite a big spider. I'm not comfortable around spiders so I got up immediately and it scurried away. I sat back down. Closed my eyes. Two minutes later, something tickling me. I open my eyes again, spider. This time I had a container ready and I caught it, carried it outside. Sat down again and two or three minutes later, spider! Lots of spiders! So I put the second one outside. I was meditating again and I could feel tickling again. I contracted, moving into this place of separation. Then I opened my eyes and there was a little ladybug on my leg. Ah! Just opening back into that spaciousness again. Ladybug! So for me the spider brings separation, the ladybug does not bring separation.

The practice gets like this, where whether it's the spider or the ladybug or it's feeling pulsation in the body or tingling or a jet roaring through or a child crying across the way or whatever, we just hear or other physical sense, or think or feel. If the separation comes up, with the analysis phase we ask this question: is there anything here separate from the arising of conditions? Is there any separate self in this, or is it just this mind and body, these skandas, experiencing this conditioned flow of experience? Nothing separate.

At first it's a little conceptual, but as you get into it, you really start to feel that 'nothing separate.' Sometimes I meditate at the dock at the lake on rough, windy days. There's a low raft right by the shore that's only 6 inches off the water, not high up. So waves lap over it. So when I'm sitting I suddenly feel a wave lapping over my feet. Of course it pulls me out of that non-dual space for a moment, 'Touching, touching.' My eyes are open but I've not seen it coming toward me as a wave. Awareness knows the flow of water touching this body, mind perceiving it. Just touching. Back and open out again.

Pretty much each time the wave comes, it pulls me out, and then there's that brief analysis phase, anything separate? Any object that has a solid self? Any 'me' here with a solid self? No, it's just the old conditioning. Nothing has a solid self. Come back into the spaciousness. So we do this as the meditation practice for many years until the experience of awareness becomes very stable.

The third phase of the practice is action. Once it's stable, we take it out into the world. It's very different to do it sitting on a raft or sitting in a meditation hall, or sitting on a hillside looking at space, and doing it while talking to your boss, talking to your children, talking to your spouse, trying to fix a broken something in your house that won't fix. Then tension that comes up.

So non-dual awareness starts to become stable even in those situations, so that—it's not that my toilet constantly overflows, it's just a good example. It does now and then, like anybody's. There's tension as you see the water start to bubble to the top. Tension. Right there in that moment there's a strong sense of a solid self. But the solid self just is the conditioned thing that arises in consciousness. Me against that. And when you take it into this practice, the water is just being water. The blockage is just being blockage. The various mind and body consciousnesses are just arising and reacting. There's nothing solid, there's no self. Spaciousness can plunge the toilet better than somebody, because it doesn't get upset, it's just spaciousness.

I had an experience a couple of months ago. I was getting into the back seat of a car and put my hand on the side of the car, holding on to get myself into the back seat. The person standing outside didn't realize my hand was there and slammed the door. I realized that self could never have moved as fast as awareness did. There was no process of thought, 'Oh, the door is slamming on my hand,' just seeing it start to slam, feeling the beginning touch, and pulling it out. It still was bruised but nothing was broken. I looked at that afterward, how little self there was, because the practice really does get strong and we start to live from this state of awareness. I began to appreciate how well I had learned to do that.

When somebody tries to pick a fight, self doesn't come in and try to defend, there's just spaciousness that watches this person agitated and wanting to prove he's right. Nothing separate, no solid self here, no solid self there. Holding it all in compassion. And still one has to speak. But it's not a somebody speaking, it's kindness speaking, clarity speaking. Non-attachment to views speaking.

So the practice is very powerful in that way. Let's go on.

Q: I was quiet during the exercise. Noticed heavy lids getting sleepy. Lots of thoughts. Some space. I thought during the exercise that I did not know what it felt like for boundaries to dissolve. I think I must have felt that sometime, but I don't think I experienced that today. I think my experience was more like L's. There were some short periods of time where I felt this moving into, and then it stopped.

Barbara: I have a question for you. When you're acting a part and very deep into that part, in a place where you have to dialogue, where that character's dialoging with another person, and you know the lines perfectly, there's no tension about the lines, is there are self, an E, in the scene?

My guess is that it's coming from a place of pure awareness.

Q: I cannot describe in words what that is like, but I have experienced that. There is no thought of me, just being in the scene.

Barbara: Exactly, that's it. There's no solid self. There's no me. You don't think about how many more minutes is this scene, or…

Q: … What my next line is. Or what I am supposed to be doing or where I am. I don't think that happened today!

Barbara: Okay, but I want to point out that you've experienced it, I'm sure you have, because you couldn't be acting that scene well and still be stuck in a solid self.

How many of you play an instrument? When you play the instrument, do you get out of the solid self? Yes. Anybody who dances? Yoga? Painting? Tennis? You can't play tennis with a solid self in the background saying, 'Now what's he going to do?' You're just there.

Q: The analysis, the questions, are intellectual, they pull us out.

Barbara: I understand. We only use it once we're pulled out. Then it helps you to come back. It's just like a reminder.

Q: It does not help me. It keeps me into thinking.

Barbara: Then don't do it. But then when something pulls you out, what are you going to do?

Q: I don't know!

Barbara: Climb on and ride away into the sunset... How do you open up again.

Q: Notice that object that pulls me out, see it as object, and see space.

Barbara: This is where we get into the practice we've done with vipassana where we see the object dissolve, and become aware of the space. It's the same practice; forget the formal names. So then with dzogchen as we see the object, it's arisen out of a space and it dissolves. And there's the space, and right there in that space, we're back into spaciousness again. We only use the question if mind starts to get caught up in the object and creates a sense of self/ other.

So in the beginning, it's an intellectual kind of questioning, but after awhile, the intellectual question dies away and there's just the noting of it arising. Going back into that space. Like listening to the bell. If it was absolutely silent and then, (bell) hearing, hearing, it seems to be a something. And if it startled us, at first there might be separation and then separation dies away. Sound dies away. Go back into that space into which it went. Where did it go? Go after it. Go with it.

Go with it... (bell) (pause)

No thoughts, just… and back into the space. But if thoughts come, that's just another (sound) thought. Okay, let us go on.

Q: I love this practice. I find it fairly easy… When I'm outdoors alone or when I am with the sangha, or with you or John. But I can find it very frightening because I think that as a child I experienced that kind of spaciousness a lot of the time. And I think it's the vulnerability that ends up separating us from that experience that we had as children in the first place. So it's challenging to stay with the self dissolved and not go back into thinking the self is in danger.

Barbara: Self as a habit. I understand that. And unsafe to let it go.

Q: I was briefly able to start to feel very relaxed and less aware of separation of objects and self. <> when the instructions were given, it pulled me out. I was able to see, like J, objects and people with light glow around them. <> I think it was too short, overall.

Q: During dzogchen a year ago I wouldn't have known I was doing that. I never use that word. However, when I was a kid, all I had to do was to go outside or do experiments in my basement or improvise at the piano. One of my most aggravating distractions was my mother. She was always wanting me to come up for supper. Not a day goes by that I don't sit down at the piano and improvise. When I'm improvising, the piano is playing itself. I'm not there.

Tonight I learned something that I've never really experienced before. How contingent the ability to do that depends on the setting so much. For me, this was not a good setting. As I was sitting here, the space began to expand beyond the window but I ran into exhaust pipes. And then my critical self emerged.

One other thought. For over 36 years I did research as a scientist. There's an intellectual component with that that one can experience as not self, the process of discovery does not necessarily involve the self. And it's an intention, the intention of one's thinking.

Barbara: That's very important, J. Thank you. Because it doesn't have to be self that provides that, I don't want to call it intellectual, but insightful or wise or perceptive voice, as looking at something and seeing it and suddenly really seeing it, and being able to recognize what you've seen, but there's nobody there recognizing it.

Q: I was pleased to have the analogy from childhood experiences. I found that when I was drawn out was when I could note that I could bend away from the spaciousness… When I was a child, as all children, I think, I spent a lot of time out in the spaciousness, seeing the clouds, the flowers, the bugs. The things that drew me back, the ones that made the biggest impression, were very, I guess you could say negative things, where my mother would notice that I had been doing something tremendously dangerous and I had simply enjoyed being alive, in a child's way. Interestingly, when toilets overflow at my house, and I end up with that situation, I really do enter the spaciousness. I'm not there.

Barbara: I'll invite you over! Emergency line, toilet's overflowing…

Q: I'm not there, I can see the whole dynamics…and I don't even see them, I just note/know them. So the session was productive. I could feel the state and not until I lost it, that's how I knew I was in it.

Barbara: Good. And then you just invite yourself back. You've lost it and your back is to the window, where did it go? The Tibetan word for this is rigpa. For years Aaron was always asking me, where did rigpa go? Where did rigpa go? So we need to do that for ourselves, because we don't all have the ability to hear our guides saying 'where did rigpa go?' but we can do that for ourselves.

When you say, 'I'm not there,' I want to point out that this is not a denial of experience. The 'I' is not there, but there is full presence.

Q: I want to say something …I believe very strongly that my late husband helps our toilets.

Barbara: It's interesting for me that when it's something that I can do something about, if I move quickly, like the toilet, I contract into me, that's the habit energy. But 4 or 5 years ago, one morning I came down into my basement and as I reached the bottom step to turn the light on, there was ankle-deep water. Where is it coming from—I'm deaf, I couldn't hear. Where is it coming from? So the hose that comes down into the washing machine had burst above the turnoff valve so it was spraying water with huge force, so much water that the whole basement was flooded.

I took one look at it and self completely dissolved. Very unlike the toilet overflowing, there was just… there's no way I can do anything here, just move out of 'I.' Awareness found the water turnoff valve for the house and turned the water off. There was no logic behind it in terms of me thinking, what am I going to do? There was just knowing, just doing.

Q: I love dzogchen. I do it every morning. Sometimes I lose track of time when I'm in that space of pure awareness. We live in the country. I watch the sunrises and I'm just there. I love the emphasis on the breath in the instructions, the open mouth. It didn't pull me out, it just enhances the spaciousness, for me. I just love this practice. That's all.

Barbara: It's 8:30, we're going to take a 10-minute break… Aaron is going to talk some about the relationship between this and vipassana practice…I know the instructions pulled some of you out, but some of you had not done this practice before, so we needed to give some instructions. Break time…

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. I'm supposed to speak some enlightening words to clarify the confusion that you are experiencing between pure awareness and access concentration. I'm sorry I do not have any magic words, just some general guidance.

Everybody is busy writing—I haven't said anything yet! Put your pencils down!
Are you writing my words,