Living Our Practice, March 5, 2008 - Class One

Key concepts: freedom, habit energy, non-duality of relative and ultimate, vipassana

Aaron: It is good to be here with you. I want to start with a question. What brings you here? Some of you already answered that. For example, L said 'community.' D said, 'To see what Barbara is thinking these days.' But there's more than that.

There is this noble truth of dukkha, of suffering, and the further truth that there is an end to it. All of you deeply aspire to live your lives with love, and all of you have times when that intention seems to fall flat, when anger comes up at another person, at a situation or at your own mind and body.

We work with a meditation practice that helps you to see how objects arise and pass away; all are impermanent and are simply arising out of a vast multitude of conditions, are not solid. Many of you, through your practice, have gained deep insight into this truth. But the insight hasn't gone deep enough, so that at the last moment, when you're pushed hard, the old habit energies come up.

We've spent many years working at relating with more kindness to such habit energy, being mindful of it, restraining the self from enacting that habit energy. But with all the work you have done, the habit energies still arise. I'm not faulting you for that, I'm just pointing out the dilemma with which many of you feel stuck.

Here is the important thing. Right there with that angry or otherwise difficult emotion or impulse is that which is calm, centered and loving. Where do you give your attention? If it is always given to fix or control the afflictive emotion, or painful body state, then that which is clear is not getting attention. I'm going to tell a bit of Barbara's story. I'm sorry not to let her tell it but I don't want to give her the strain of coming back and forth.

For 35 years, Barbara has had relatively poor balance, since she lost the nerves in the middle ear. Then, losing the vision in one eye, the balance became much worse because she had developed a visual sense of balance. In the dark or with her eyes closed, she could not stand. Last fall she was tumbling a lot, losing the balance and going over. She began to walk, especially out of doors and on rough ground, with 2 walking sticks, and she found she felt more comfortable with them. And it's true, it did support her. But it also removed any need to use her own innate balance, so she became increasingly dependent on these supports, looking outside the self for support.

When she came to Brazil this year, to the Casa, she spoke to the Entity—when I say the Casa entities, these are entities much like me who incorporate into Joao's body. They call him affectionately 'John of God.' The entities incorporate into his body, one at a time, of course.

So she came up to speak to the entity to ask, 'What next?' He looked at her with the walking stick and he said, 'Put that aside. No walking sticks.' The next day she was trying to walk without them and thought she would fall. He said, 'We will support you. Just walk.' She began to walk outdoors with little mincing steps, the way you walk on ice, and of course her back tightened up because her whole body was held contracted. So she was trying to walk and feeling pain in her back and the entity said to her, in her meditation, 'Just walk. We will support you.' And she said, 'I don't think I can.' He said, 'That's the problem!' The problem is not lack of balance but lack of belief or holding on to a belief, rather than moving beyond these limits.

She put down the walking stick, she started to walk, and those who were there with her will tell you within the week she was taking long strides, walking quite comfortably. Then he said to her, 'Why not ride a bicycle?' Now it's been decades since she had ridden a bicycle. So she rented one. She attempted to swing her leg over the seat and she promptly fell over on the ground. And she lay there on the ground and said, 'See? I knew I couldn't do it.' And I said to her, 'Cannot do it or will not do it? What belief is there that's holding you back? If you can walk, you can ride.'

I nudged her a bit. She swung her leg back over and off she went. And 5 of you in class who were there will attest to seeing her zipping up and down the streets with a big smile on her face, on the bicycle. For 2 weeks she was on the bicycle.

When you find yourself caught in some habit energy that's prevalent for you, the habit of doubt of the self, the habit of feelings of unworthiness, the habit of impatience, or the judging mind, or fear, you all have a tendency, I say 'you all have' because every human has the tendency, to get locked into that habit and start to believe, 'This is how it is. There's no way to change it.' Is it? Or is it simply habit?

Now, there are certain situations where I would not say you can do anything; of course you can step out of a 5th floor window and fly, there's some reality here in this heavy earth plane with gravity. Your body is not constructed to fly. I'm not saying you could not fly, I'm simply saying it's unlikely. So I'm not urging you out of any 5th story windows. But cannot stop becoming angry at certain provocations? Is that so? Driving in traffic, for example. It's one thing to work with metta to try to make more space for the anger, but the anger is still coming up. What if right there with the anger is that which is not angry? And because you finally recognize that it's there, you begin to access it?

The work that I want to do with you in these weeks is based on this truth. Right there with impatience is that which is not impatient. Right there with doubt is that which knows. Right there with feelings of unworthiness is that which truly knows the divinity and radiance of the self and of all beings. Here is where you have a choice. What I ask you to do in these weeks, starting tonight and tomorrow, is to choose one predominant habitual energy with which you'd like to work. Yes, you could work with a half dozen, but I think you'd be frustrated. I don't think you're ready to be that mindful. So it's fine if you pick 2, but don't overwhelm yourself. Rather, succeed with one and learn the principle and then carry it forth with other habit energies.

Choose one area. This is not a self-fix-it process. Immediately when we say 'self-fix-it,' we're into the belief there's something broken that needs to be fixed. Rather, it's a re-education process, learning that right there with that which you have believed for so long to be broken, is that which is whole. You depend upon that wholeness to come forth immediately when the destructive habit energy comes forth, if you are willing to look for it. The question is not whether it's there but whether you are willing to look for it.

This is going to challenge you, because for most of you these habit energies have served some function. What function could lack of balance have served for Barbara? I think it was simply feeling the imbalance and not wanting to trust the balance but to be secure. It hurts to fall down. But it went further than that, because when she could hold on to the idea, 'This ear mechanism does not work. I have no innate balance,' she could also hold on to the idea, 'This ear mechanism does not work. I cannot hear.'

Now one might ask, why would she not want to hear, and of course over the years she has done a lot of work with that and has released that old idea of not wanting to hear, being fully eager to hear everything, all of the joys and all of the sorrows. This was strenuous work; who among you truly are willing, much less eager, to hear the screams of torment of the world?

Some of you, when you ask, 'What does this habit energy mean for me,' or, 'What does it protect me from?' you will find something that remains, that needs to be investigated. For others, at times you will see, it's old, just old habit repeating itself mechanically. Many years ago, when I asked Barbara, 'Why do you not wish to hear?,' she noted how the deafness protected her from hearing painful things. She could turn her back to it more easily. She had to do a lot of work with that to release that pattern, to know that she was not only willing but eager to hear everything. She understood that she must hear it all for the compassion to be as full as it can be, not to cut anything off. But some years ago, there was a reason for it. Now there's no more reason, just habit energy to cut off that which is unpleasant.

What do you gain by having feelings of unworthiness? What do you gain by judgment, patterns of judgment of others or the self? What does the judging mind protect you from? What about those of you who are very much in charge, controlling, you might say, who feel safe only when you're running the show. What does it protect you from? What might you experience if you were not running the show? What does impatience protect you from? What might you feel in that moment if you were not feeling impatient? It could be anger or fear, even something from your childhood, so that the feeling of impatience became a protective mechanism.

You've got to do this work. What does it protect me from? What might I be feeling if I were not feeling this way? You can't just dismiss it and go where it's not. In other words, when I say, 'Right there with impatience is that which is not impatient,' you can't just dismiss the impatience and go to that which is patient, you've got to do that work with the impatience. But at a certain point when you've done the work and the impatience still comes up, and when you ask the question, you get an answer, 'Nothing, it doesn't protect me from anything anymore, it's just an old belief that I need it,'

Then move on; right there with impatience is that which is not impatient. Right there with judgment is that which does not judge. Be there with those beautiful, spacious states of mind and body.

Right there with any experience is the emptiness of that experience. You have free will. Helplessness, that's an important one for some of you. Right there with the one who is feeling helpless is the one who knows her capability and strength. Right there with the one who wants to disappear is the one who is willing to be present. Right there with the one who feels inadequate is one who knows his ability to handle whatever has come.

This is the area where I wish you to focus. What beliefs do you have that coincide with whatever strong habit energy you're observing. What are your beliefs about that habit energy? Are you willing to look into those beliefs and to truly see the other side of it? I've said it in this way sometimes, 'That which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of fear is not afraid.' Are you willing to be present and find that awareness?

When we say, 'That which is aware of fear is not afraid,' if you're going to be deeply present with the one that is aware of fear, it means you're going to need to look at the fear, because although the one who is aware of fear is not afraid, the fear is still there. How will you relate to it? What are the old beliefs and habits with it? Where are you trapped? Do you wish to be trapped or is it time for freedom?

I want to speak a bit about space because space will be an important part of your observation. We look at this bowl. There's a solid form, we call it a bowl. But there's one other element that's vital to the bowl. What is it? Space. If it were filled in solid, we couldn't call it a bowl, could we? It would just be a heavy object, a paperweight, not a bowl.

The bowl is both the form and the space, the emptiness. Look around the room. Four walls, people, but what is the predominant object in the room? Space.

I'm going to sound the bell. Listen carefully noting the ear touching the sound. Hearing consciousness, hearing, hearing. And as the sound dies away, yes you may hear the traffic or people's breathing, but there will be just a moment, if you're really with the sound of the bell, when as the sound dies away, there's a moment of full presence, space. Try not to move your attention to a new object immediately. Don't go—you've seen children swinging hand over hand on overhand bars. They swing, they don't let go of this one until they've grabbed hold of that one. Well, children cannot fly so they've got to hold on. So you learn early on to hold on to one object until you've got a new object, and a new object, but therein you never realize the joy of flying, of space!

Now imagine that you have the special ability to levitate for a second or two, and can let go of this object and swing in space, then reach the next one. Imagine that feeling of flying. Very joyful. That's what I want you to do. Don't go immediately to a new object. Hear the bell. As it dies away, rest in the space. Okay? Let's do this.

(Bell) (long pause)

And if the feeling of space, the experience of space, goes, it's fine to come back to the breath or some other predominant object.

(Bell) (long pause)

Can you feel that space, even just a quick glimpse of it? In your meditation practice in these 2 weeks, I want you to watch the object, watching it arise, a physical sensation, a thought, emotion, whatever it might be, even the feeling of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, feel it coming and going, changing. And as that strong object dissolves, feel the space. Don't be the child grabbing the next bar before you let go of this one. Be willing to let go and just fly for a moment. Feel the space. If the space becomes very strong, rest in the space. If an itch comes into the space, move attention to it. If a car horn comes into the space, move attention to it.

Begin to see that the arising object and the space are not, how shall we phrase this, linear but simultaneous. It's as if all of these objects of your life are arising on a picture board in front of you, as if they were painted on a glass window, with a vast view beyond the window, infinite space. The objects are no less real because they're painted on the glass, and you need to attend to them, but without losing the sense of spaciousness and ease.

This is perhaps the predominant habit energy that keeps you all going on this wheel of samsara. That is, the belief that there is no space. The whole idea that you're trapped is what's keeping you trapped.

Another experience Barbara had in Brazil… she asked the entity, 'What about my vision?' It was slowly improving for 2 years but then seemed to have plateaued. And he looked deeply into her eye and said, 'Be patient.' And then he said to her, 'Close the good eye and walk around with the bad eye.' Only with one eye. And again she didn't say it to him but she thought, 'I can't do that.'

She did not try to ride the bicycle with the good eye closed; she needs more visual balance than that. But, walking, she closed the better eye. And as she walked, over the course of the last ten days, she found that the vision was improving. Was it really improving or had it already been somewhat improved and she was so dubious about it that she had not given it a chance?

I can't answer that for you, only now there is no blind spot in the eye. This eye can see all your faces. Blurry, not clearly; blurry. Not good vision but usable vision. (counting the group) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. The eye can see the people, can see the blue stripes in the red plaid, the purple. Vision.

Look at where you are limiting yourself with your beliefs. Barbara and Hal watched a movie the other night in which in one scene, 2 parents who are very angry at each other were battling, pointing out the rage pattern of the parents and how it had influenced the children. So he was perhaps about to hit her. They were screaming at each other and she called out to the children, 'Look what your father is doing!' Yet she had been provoking him. And then he called out, 'Look what your mother is making me do!' They were very caught in these patterns.

Nobody makes you do anything. If this old habit energy of unworthy feelings or helplessness or rage, impatience, doubt, fear, if it comes up, nobody is making you do anything with it. You're the one that's making it solid. You're the one who is choosing not to see that it's not solid. What if it truly is not solid? What if? I'm not asking you to believe it's not solid, I want to transcend beliefs. This is not about belief, this is about investigating with an open heart and truly seeing things as they are. Right there with imbalance is balance, when one looks. Right there with blindness is vision. Right there with the mind that believes in unworthiness is that which knows there has never been either worthy or unworthy, and transcends it all. Are you willing to open your heart to it?

Thank you. I would hear your questions...

Barbara emailed a talk from perhaps 14 years ago. It's extracted from one of my books, Path of Natural Light, from 1994. And it's a very beautiful practice of working in a heart-centered way with habit energy. There is a brief talk about it, 3 or 4 pages, and then a guided meditation. I would like you all to read this and practice with it in these 2 weeks, in addition to everything I've talked about tonight. I've given you a lot of work to do. Sit regularly, look at old beliefs, look at habit energies. Keep a journal. Find a practice partner in the class and talk with or meet and sit together. And finally, read this talk and practice with it. I think it will support the rest of the work. If the practice doesn't resonate with you, just try it once or twice and put it aside. But I think for many of you, it will feel important.

Barbara is going to take a few minutes to come back into her body while you're doing this and then she will talk to you again for a few minutes. One of the strong suggestions from the entities from Brazil, in terms of Barbara's exhaustion and disorientation after channeling, was that she take a few minutes to transition, that I not simply leave the body and Barbara come right in and talk, as she has always done. She pushed the disorientation and feeling of ungroundedness aside and said, 'Well, I have to teach the class.' But the Casa entity said, 'No, you have to take care of yourself. You have to give yourself time to transition.'

My blessings and love to you all. I am looking forward to our future time together…

Small break

Barbara: This is Barbara speaking.

Q: Tell us about the eyesight.

Barbara: Aaron says he told you some of it. The last week I asked the entity that was incorporated, it was Dr. Valdivino, and I said, 'The vision has plateaued. It's not getting any better for the last year, the year since I was here last. Is this as good as it will get?' And he just looked at me and said, 'Use the eye.' I said, 'I am.' He said, 'Close this eye; use this eye.'

So I started walking around, first just in my room and then when I was walking outside, closing what I think of as the good eye. And I found that I could see things I didn't think I could see. Slowly, the vision was less and less blurry. The places where there was just a gray hole in the middle of the field of vision have gone so there's vision through the whole eye, but it's blurry in the center. I have no idea what will happen to it, but I'm convinced that if I believe I can see, I will see. And I think that both the balance and the eye are about letting go of old belief in limits.

As long as I hold the belief that I can't hear, I can't hear. So they were helping to heal my balance and to heal the eye. That was just a compassionate thing to do. But it was also a stepping stone, because of course I had to take that, 'I CAN balance. I CAN see,' to 'Well, I CAN hear.'

One day the last week in the current room—they call this room the current room because it's just of the high current of energy for the work; it's basically a big room where people are sitting silently and meditating. The room is not silent though, they play loud music. Some of you who hear it well now, tell them what kind of music—many different kinds.

Q: I love the music!
Q: It's all in Portuguese…
(Other simultaneous comments, inaudible)

Barbara: So it's not just one kind of music. So I was sitting, this was after all of this processing of the balance and seeing, and the entity had again said to me, 'You will hear, be patient.' I was just sitting and meditating and I suddenly felt (sound effects), 'What is that in the background? It sounds like thunder.' But this wasn't thunder, it had a beat to it and I could hear tunes in it. I knew it wasn't thunder. I wasn't hearing through my ears, it was like the whole body was hearing it. It went on for about 15 or 20 minutes and then this session ended. I turned to the person next to me and asked them, 'Was there music that was sort of like (hums)?' And the person said, yes. Somehow I was hearing it.

I understand how much our belief in limits, limits us and holds us back. And I'm not saying I was never deaf. Just, right there with the deafness is that which can hear. They said to me, the nerves are gone. They said my whole body is turning into an ear and it will learn to hear.

Q: May I share an observation about you?

Barbara: Of course.

Q: At the Casa, the night that the lady from England came to get Aaron's book, PKF? You were talking to her. She was talking to you. Someone was signing. And also there was a person to her right. Your back was to me. We were all sitting around a table on the veranda. You said something that I found awful funny. I laughed out loud, and I have a hearty laugh when I laugh. And your head instantly turned to the left behind yourself. You looked at me with this great smile like you were tickled because you heard me laugh, and then you turned around and went back to the conversation. The back of you heard me laugh. It was unmistakable. It was no one else, you looked only at me.

Barbara: John pointed out 2 times when he said we were with someone, we were talking in the Casa garden and somebody dropped something and my back was to it, and I turned around. He said, 'Did you hear that?' He said, 'It wasn't that loud.'

Have a good two weeks and please do your vipassana practice and the ongoing practice with whatever habit energy you have chosen with which to work. Please remember to email me this weekend about your current practice, and again next weekend about what you have experienced through the week as you worked with vipassana and the investigation of the chosen mind or body state. Talk at least once a week with your practice partner, or more frequently if possible, and support and encourage each other's practice. Keep a journal of practice. I'll see you all March 19.

Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Brodsky