Living Our Practice
March 19, 2008
Class Two

Possible keywords & topics: Habit energy, vipassana, presence/mindfulness, meditation [Casa, Four Empowerments], non-duality/oneness

Aaron: Good evening; my blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. I ask you first to bring to your mind and to your heart the emotion, emotional situation, habit energy, or such, that challenges you and with which you have been working.

Spend a minute or two recollecting the feeling of this energy, not caught in the story it presents, but just remembering how it feels to have anger, impatience, jealousy, fear, judgment, or whatever it may be. Recall the unpleasantness of that energy and the ways you have fought against it, the heat of it, the pain of it.


Having recollected that, lay it aside for the moment. We will come back to it.

I want to speak to you for a few minutes about boundaries. Some of you have had to work to learn skillful setting of boundaries, not to allow others to encroach upon you. The boundary is a relative plane tool. On the ultimate level, you are all one, there is no boundary nor need for such. But on the relative plane, you certainly seem to be distinct human beings, and you want to make sure that the person standing next to you doesn't stomp on you. You do this not out of fear but out of love; it is not loving to permit somebody to harm you.

So the boundary serves a useful purpose, but we must also remember the ultimate level, and practice the releasing of boundaries. You release the idea of the boundary more than the boundary itself, and rest in the infinite.

To help you understand this release of boundary, we're going to do 3 exercises. The first exercise will require you to open your eyes and move a bit. I want each of you to find a partner. I'm going to turn the lights up here, and what I want you to do is simply to sit and gaze into your partner's eyes. Rest there in that boundarylessness. You can hold hands if you wish, and touch. Gaze into and rest in each others' eyes until the sense of self and other at least begins to dissolve. So find a partner now…

(long pause)

Gently withdraw back into yourself but without closing the door to that openness. You may take a minute here to talk with your partner; then please return to your original seat.


Closing the eyes now, I would like you to bring into your heart and mind some great being for whom you feel much love. It might be Jesus or the Buddha, Mother Mary, Kwan Yin, or a being who has served as a personal teacher or guru to you, one in whom you deeply feel the sense of divinity. Just as you have looked into your partner's eyes, I want you, with your eyes closed, to feel the connection with this being, and allow yourself to merge with him or her and move beyond the limits of the small self.

(pause for practice)

This is called guru yoga. For those who find that challenging, as an option, simply be with the breath-- breathing in, space, breathing out, space. Rest in the space at the end of the inhale and the end of the exhale. Then choose one, the end of the inhale or the end of the exhale. Do not exaggerate that space, just note it and rest in it, so that you begin to experience the inhale and exhale coming in and going out over an infinite field of light and peace. So choose one or the other of these practices and we will work in silence for 5 minutes.

(pause for practice)

There are many ways to open into this true unlimitedness of your being. The object is not to deny the physical and mental relative plane experience, but really to see them as lying upon the background of the infinite, of the divine infinite.

Here is a very simple practice that I gave Barbara almost 20 years ago, when she was meditating and there were many thoughts, and restless body energy, I asked her to imagine these thoughts and body energy movement as wild horses in a big corral, running, bucking, fighting, rolling on their backs in the grass. See them rearing on hind legs and screaming out into the wind, then running in circles again. So much pent up energy. They're all running around looking for a way out of this corral with high walls. I asked her then to open numerous, wide gates and in her imagination to see all the wild horses running through the openings and disappearing over the horizon. They are gone. Rest in that spacious stillness. If they return in a minute, let them run around again, and then open the gates again. Let them go far, over the horizon. They are free to depart. Try it for a minute.

(pause for practice)

There are many ways to open to the spaciousness. Some of you have done dzogchen practice with me. This is too complex a practice to teach in just a few minutes here, but it's a very powerful practice for resting in awareness and moving into infinite space, dropping away boundaries. The personality self is merely an idea. Each time that thought comes of the self, just let it go. What's there, beyond that thought? When the thought ceases, what remains.

Let's begin now to work with this Four Empowerment practice.

Q: I had a question about the guru. What were we doing with the high being? Were we looking at him or…?

Aaron: You are simply merging with the guru. Do you remember hearing Ramana Maharshi's quote, "God, guru, and self are one"? The power of the guru is that the guru is not other than. If you grovel at her feet and look up at her, separating yourself, then you are simply enslaving yourself. There's devotion, there's respect, but also separation imposed upon the meeting. With guru yoga, you do not respect and feel devotion towards something separate from yourself but toward the divine energy that you see so radiantly in the guru and which is also then recognized in the self. It's really no different than the practice that you just did with your partner. When you looked into the partner's eyes, the person was there but God was there too. You did not merge with the personality self but with the divinity shining out. The boundaries dissolve because of that divine connection; this is where the separate self dissolves.

Once the separate self begins to dissolve, it's easier and easier to let the boundaries go; just keep going out and out and out. So that's all you're doing. It's a silent practice, not singing praise to the guru, just looking in his or her eyes. Feeling her energy. Holding his hands. Presence.

Any other questions before we go on?

I'm want to give you a taste of letting go of boundaries and moving into spaciousness because it's one of the steps in the Four Empowerment practice. I want you to have some practice with it and understand what you're to do when we come to that step. Okay, let us go on.

(meditation with pauses)

Begin by bringing into your attention that habit energy that you thought of at the beginning of the evening. Try to hold it in your heart without aversion, without revulsion, simply seeing it as the outgrowth of conditioning and yet causing pain for yourself and others. And offer the intention to release it, though transcend is a better word. It's like ice. You don't release ice; when hot sun shines on it, it simply melts.

So the first step is to see that habit energy.

Now express compassionate regret. This is very important: not aversion, but compassionate regret for the harm done by the maintenance of this habit.

Next we note that the practice we are doing is for the highest good of all beings. It is not merely to serve the self; it's for everyone.

While you keep awareness in touch with that habit energy, allow your energy field to open out. You are no longer the person experiencing this habit but simply the physical expression through which this habit sometimes moves…

Letting boundaries fall away, opening outward…

From this spacious place, look again at the habit energy. Let higher awareness look with love and compassion at the relative human and remember the discomfort in emotion or habit energy, seeing it with some distance, some space, holding the human in the compassionate heart.

I have said to you so often, that which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. That which is aware of judgment is not judgmental. That which is aware of impatience is not impatient. Here I want you to recognize the simultaneity, the anger, fear, judgment, impatience. The relative experience will not go instantly any more than the ice cube will melt instantly when the sun comes out from behind a cloud. But the conditions are set for that ice cube to melt. In just the same way, the conditions are being established for this habit energy to begin to dissolve itself. Meanwhile, rest in the fearless, the loving, the patient, the generous.

Just because impatience is still there doesn't mean that patience is not there. Where is it? Let go of boundaries. Let go of identification with impatience. Use the guru meditation if it's helpful, connecting with the guru who certainly is not impatient or angry or fearful. Do not emulate but BE the guru. Find that energy in yourself.

At this point I'm going to be quiet and invite you to sit for about 15 minutes. Continue to work with your habit energy in this way for as long as it feels appropriate. It may be just a minute or two or you may hold to this practice through the whole sitting. When you feel finished with the practice, offer gratitude to Love that supports this release and clarity. Then simply come back to your vipassana practice. Probably as you enter the vipassana practice you will find that it's very spacious, very quiet. Just be there with that space and quiet. I'll be quiet now.

(pause for practice; then break; Aaron leaves the body and Barbara returns)
Student sharing not recorded, only a few of Barbara's replies to some questions:

Barbara: Our meditation takes us to where we clearly see a fear. It's easy to get into a trap of defeating the fear, even in the very subtle way of saying, "I will hold this fear with loving meditation until I make it go away." It's important to see that the fear doesn't have to go away; we simply need to see the fear as one little speck on a big open wall. We see the fear, but also the expanse and power of the empty wall. Then we really know that which is not afraid. It is in that space that the fear begins to dissolve.

Sharing about drifting in meditation and many images coming an going:
Barbara: This kind of experience in practice can be what we call sinking mind. It's a very low energy state. But also, images can come up with a very strong meaning that can be important. We need to understand the difference.

When there's sinking mind, there's not much clarity, just images that go on and on. There might be a strong image but it doesn't retain itself. Energy is low. Mindfulness is not strong.

If an image does persist, the important thing is to note it. Bring mindfulness to it. You will not destroy the image, you will get more information and go deeper into what it's trying to express to you. Note the experience as seeing, seeing, not as the content of the image. You don't have to go into seeing 3 of this or seeing that, just "seeing, seeing." Is the seeing experience pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If it's a pleasant image, note it as pleasant. If it's an unpleasant image, know it's unpleasant.

This process brings up more energy, heightens awareness. If it's an image or thought that's conveying something, the memory will stay with you. After the sitting, you can reflect and ask if there is something there to be understood or that may teach you. Its message will come out more rapidly. It won't be a dream state; it will be a very clear communication.

(Question about letting go of the image and story)

Barbara: If when you note it, it's gone, just come back to whatever is your primary object, the breath, nada, whatever. Make sure that you're not noting the image or thought in any judgmental way. Trust that if it has something to communicate to you, it will not disappear. The noting will help it communicate what it needs to. If it disappears, don't go after it. If it needs to communicate something, it will come back.

(Q omitted, regarding not feeling in the experience but being the observer)

Barbara: Then note "observing, observing." What we're doing here is strengthening mindfulness and then trusting the practice that what needs to reveal itself will reveal itself. The sitting may be spacious and quiet or there may be objects that come up and have something to communicate. But we don't go after them and try to figure them out with our brain. Cultivate mindfulness that's able to use the tool of the practice and just note, "observing, observing." Okay? We need to go on.

(Q2 omitted, about restlessness; she ends sitting when restlessness is strong)

Barbara: Note restlessness - body restlessness, mental restlessness, both. Thoughts, aversion to the thoughts. Grasping. Contraction: Note the unpleasant feelings. If there's a strong need to move, know that something wants to get away from the restlessness. Give yourself permission to get up and do walking meditation and see what happens to that restlessness as you walk with it for a few minutes. Then when you feel ready, go back and sit again. What happens to the restlessness when you walk? What happens to it when you sit again? Does it dissolve? Intensify? Don't be so much self-identified with it as observe it as you would observe some unusual creature that landed on your lap.

Sometimes, D, those times when you're most restless and there's the most agitation are those times when if you really hang in there, you learn the most, because right with restlessness is that which is not restless. It's not a matter of forcing away the restlessness but moving into that, which is right there with the restlessness and has the capacity to hold all this restlessness and agitation. I know you know this so stick with it.

(Q3 omitted, about low energy)

Barbara: What are you doing to bring up energy at the start of the sitting? … When there's a lot of sloth and torpor, stop and walk or do yoga. Do a very slow, mindful walking or yoga, but so that you're moving the body. My sense is that there's something under there, some resistance under that sloth and torpor, and it's just waiting to talk to you when you're ready to hear it.

(Q4 about short sittings on work days)

Barbara: On a weekend or time when you have longer to sit, try to give yourself that time so that when you're in that space, it's not time to get up.

(Q5 about practice and wanting a deep, quiet state)

Be careful not to let your practice become goal-oriented to getting centered in this Casa energy. That energy is very beautiful. It's a very strong and wonderful energy to sit with. But there's a lot else there too. Be careful you're not pushing something away, to center in this Casa energy.

What I usually do in daily practice is first I sit, just silent vipassana practice. I'm not trying to open to the entities, to Casa energy, I'm not doing anything with the current. I'm just sitting with whatever is the predominant object-the breath, or I'm using nada usually, sound, as the primary object. It's a choiceless awareness practice. I sit like that for about 45 minutes and then I get up and stretch. And then if I time it right, it's just about the time the current is starting, 3 days a week. Then I start working with the Casa energy. I try to separate the practices.

The vipassana practice is such a powerful practice and it reveals so much and it helps us so much to move into spaciousness, and the entities will be there in the background and support it. But you may not feel that strong energy. You can work in either direction. I usually do it in that order but sometimes I start working with the Casa energy. I feel strong energy moving through me, and then I get up and walk for a few minutes. And then I sit, not trying to go deeper or do anything with that energy, just vipassana practice.

Try it that way and see what happens, because the vipassana practice in itself will show you the objects that are coming up repeatedly, like body discomfort or certain types of thoughts, judgmental thoughts, fear-based thoughts, confused, whatever, certain kinds of thoughts. And also show that these things are arising and dissolving in a space that is beyond and around them. Slowly awareness shifts from objects only, to the space.

The entities will support your opening into that space but you need to cultivate the vipassana practice that invites the opening into that space. When you do that then the Casa energy will be very strong in that space because it's not separate.

(Q5 omitted, about space)

This is the space that's there when an object dissolves and before another object comes in. The space that's there when the bell sounds and dies away (rings bell, pauses, sound/ silence), and it's gone. But these are just metaphors for that space. You move into a space where the self dissolves, the ego, the body dissolves, thoughts stop, there's just stillness. But it's not a vacuum, it's a stillness that's filled with energy. You begin to find the energy in that stillness and gradually to really be able to ground yourself into that. I do these 2 parts of the sitting but they really come together. Eventually there's just what D was talking about, objects and access concentration. This place where you're able to note whatever is coming and going but there's no self noting it, there's just awareness noting it. The self dissolves; the whole ego structure dissolves. It's truly choiceless awareness, present with that which is unpleasant, with that which is pleasant, but it's not felt so much as pleasant or unpleasant. There's just sensation or thought, it comes up and it dissolves, and then space, and something else may come up and dissolve or nothing may come up for some time. But there's no ego-based mind that says, "Oh, it's gone, now what?" There's just space. The entities will support your resting in that space. Okay?

(recording ends)

Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Brodsky