July 30, 2010 Friday Evening, Venture Fourth

Keywords: karma, ahimsa/satyagraha/service, vibration, elements

Barbara: Aaron has asked me to talk about something before he incorporates. It relates to a question earlier today about the akashic field, karma, more about karma and balancing, releasing and balancing it. He's asked me to tell this myself before he comes in.

About 25 years ago at Friends Meeting House, I was asked to participate in a demonstration, picketing at the tax office or at the post office on the night that tax returns were due. They did not have permission to hold a demonstration so there was a good chance we would be arrested.

Normally that would not worry me. It had been over 20 years since I had taken part in any non-violent civil disobedience demonstration. The last non-violent demonstration in which I participated was a Freedom Ride in which the bus we were in was forced off the road. It didn't topple over; it rested against a utility pole at enough of a slope that people from the high side of the bus slid down to the bottom side of the bus. It was gentle, gradual. Nobody was badly hurt; we were just lying on the side of the bus.

The people that forced us off the road climbed onto the top side of the bus and broke out windows and started throwing things through the windows. Then the National Guard came and started shooting over their heads, not at them but over their heads, to get them to get off and go, to get them to stop throwing things.

I lay there on the bottom of the bus, a little bruised, a couple of scratches but not really hurt, but asking very deeply, "What is my responsibility here?" I set out here on this Freedom Ride to make a statement that all of my brothers and sisters of any race should be able to ride together on a bus, and magnifying that, should be able to eat together, walk together, be together in any way they wished. So this seemed to me to be an honest and positive intention.

And yet here I was in the middle of this chaos, and some pain and damage to people. What if some people had been shot, instead of just shooting over their heads? How am I responsible?

I basically put it aside. I made the decision that I could not participate in that kind of action again. I had done it a lot before but at that point I made the decision that until I understood this I could not participate again.

So when I was asked to participate in this demonstration 25 years ago, I said no. Then, finally, I had to answer the question for myself, how am I responsible for what happened back then? What is this about?

Now when it first happened to me I had no inkling of past lives. I didn't deny the possibility of past lives; I just never really considered it. This is back in 1962 or 1963, so I never considered it at that point.

In meditation I began to see a past life that I had seen a number of times before, now 25 years after the Freedom Ride incident. The man was a Native American. He was very much beloved as a leader working toward creating peace between the whites and the Native Americans, and between the various Native American tribes. There was a lot of killing. He was asked to draw together a peace conference of sorts.

He did this and people came because they trusted him. He was known for his bringing forth the Great Spirit, which was Aaron. He moved into a trance and Aaron spoke through. It's one lifetime before this one in which I channeled Aaron.

So the conference came together. People were meeting and talking, both a number of different native tribes and the white people. Soldiers were up on hillsides. Weapons were not permitted down where they were meeting. The white people came with their soldiers but left them up on the hillside. People gathered to talk, and men and women and children camped there, a big encampment of people.

The tribe who had offered to host this session had been known for their violence to other tribes and to the whites. It was the tribe into which the Shaman I now was had been born, and had left because of their violence, so he was delighted at their invitation. Some of the young men in that tribe were not in agreement with this meeting. They came through and started killing people.

The soldiers up on the hillside, seeing people shooting with bows and arrows, and guns I suppose, didn't distinguish who was shooting; they made one grouping of all the Native Americans and started shooting randomly at everybody. Many people were wounded and killed.

The man I was, was not wounded. The clearest picture I have of him is sitting up on a hillside and asking, "What did I do wrong? My intention was to create peace. I invited people to come together in the hope of creating peace. What did I do wrong?" He is actually sitting with his father of that lifetime, who is also my father in this lifetime, who was also not hurt. His father was the chief of the tribe whose young men started the violence. They are into the same discussion I often had with my present dad, "We must use force." "No. There has to be a better way."

It took me several weeks of fairly intense sitting with this, and with Aaron's help, to begin to understand that he was inviting people to this conference not knowing if they were ready or not, but he had an agenda that they were going to be ready and it was going to resolve itself by creating some kind of a treaty and peace all around. That was his agenda. That was his image of the way it should work out, and if it didn't work out that way, he was doing something wrong, he felt. He didn't hold that image from an ego who wanted to be the one who fixed things, wanted renown, but from a heartfelt place that sought an end to violence for the highest good. But he was unable to see he was pushing his agenda.

What he didn't account for was that we cannot control other people's choices; we can only open doors. He was asking people to be some place where some of them were not ready to be, pushing them, almost shaming them into attending because of who he was and the stature that he had. They said, "Well, because you're asking, we'll come," but they weren't ready.

Ahimsa, dynamic compassion, asks us to act. It's not enough to do no harm by withholding action; we also have to act. But we have to act sometimes knowing that what we do may have painful results because we are not in control of other people's choices. Satyagraha comes in, in that once one makes the decision to act and invite something to be orchestrated, to be co-created, one recognizes that the people involved may not be ready. One forgives them ahead of time for any negative reaction on their part.

This is what Gandhi did; he led people in different marches. If the soldiers obstructed him, he didn't say, "My view is better than your view," but, "Hearing your view, I deeply hear your pain, your fear, your attachment to your view. I don't see it that way but I hear it." If my truth, my inner truth is so strong that I feel I must do this, for example, to go on a Freedom Ride, I feel I must do this, then I must state my truth and know your truth may be so against my truth that you're going to react violently. And I don't hold that against you, even if you hurt me or kill me. I acknowledge this is a real possibility. I accept that I'm part of the creation of that karma. It's not your fault. If I put this in front of you and you're not ready to do it, we share the responsibility for it, and I acknowledge that I share responsibility.

To share the responsibility is not the same as creating karma. If I have an open heart that can respond in a loving way to you even as you're pushing or hitting me or theoretically even killing me, if I can do that then I'm not creating any unwholesome karma for myself or for you. You're creating the karma. You're perpetuating the habitual pattern of holding onto your view and attacking people who disagree with your view. That was your karma before and it's still your karma. But I'm outside that karmic field. I'm holding a place of loving kindness for you, giving you the opportunity to experience your actions and the results of your actions, and to learn.

So that Native American wasn't there yet. He believed his view was right. So at first he could not forgive those who were assaulting the others. And then he felt, "It's my fault. I should have known better than to invite this." But that's not real either. He needed to invite it, but he needed to invite it knowing it might not work. It might work. It might not work. Hostility could break out, as it did, if people were not ready. Could they be forgiven ahead of time?

As I looked at that with the Freedom Ride, I saw that it was exactly the same situation. It was very powerful to be able to see this karmic ancestor's experience, to bring it into my present experience and understand why I had been on that Freedom Ride and experienced that, what the karma was of attachment to views, and it's coming from a bit of an ego place, "it's got to be this way, it can't be that way." It was a very powerful learning experience.

Then I began to see that releasing the karma meant releasing, investigating, and releasing attachment to views. Seeing where I was caught up in views that said I'm right, you're wrong, really learning how to hear other people. That was the releasing of the karma. And the balancing of the karma is teaching other people to do that. So please learn it! (laughter) I'm not attached to your learning it, though! You can learn it at your own pace.

Okay, Aaron's going to come into the body and answer questions. Let me start in the body so you can ask questions to me or Aaron, and as you ask one of Aaron he will come in.

Q: Barbara, what happens if you don't balance the karma but just release it?

Barbara: If you don't balance the karma, eventually it will catch up to you. Once it's balanced it doesn't come back again. You don't need to keep releasing it because you don't get caught in it again. Before it's balanced, one can still backslide. So after releasing it, I still have to be responsible to it. Balancing is part of what grounds the release, otherwise it's very easy to slide back.

Q: You talked about the silken thread that goes from chakra to chakra, and you only need to do it once or you make a rope.

Barbara: Let me clarify that. Each time I see you I can send a new silver thread from my heart to your heart. I'm not trying to push anything or force some kind of situation. I create the rope if I send a silver thread and say, "Am I getting one back? Does she love me? I better send another silver thread and another to make sure she's really getting it." Then that fear and contraction creates the rope.

But if I see each of you now and send out these loving silver threads, and when I see you again in the fall I send them out again, that doesn't create a rope, that just is part of the web.

Did that answer your question? (Q: Yes)

Q: How do you know when your karma is balanced?

Barbara: Experience doesn't get a rise out of you anymore. The same situation is just, "Oh, here's this again. Okay, let's just take care of it." There's no more fear or contraction or mind rushing around in circles trying to figure out how to fix it. It's released and it's balanced.

Q: So how do you know it's released?

Barbara: Same thing. You know it's released because the same situation doesn't grab at you anymore. You know it's balanced because...there's just a sense there's nothing more that needs to be done here. But then there's a third step after it's released and balanced.

For example, much of this old karma is released and balanced for me. That doesn't mean I'm just going to move off to the tropics somewhere and live on a tropical island for the rest of my life. The dharma still needs to be shared. But I'm no longer doing it from a place of karma and to balance karma, I'm simply doing it because it's what needs to be done.

It's the way Aaron teaches. Aaron is not here because of karma, Aaron is simply here because of love. Well, I'm still partly here because of karma. I'm not where he is.

Q: I'm kind of confused about your talk, the part where you accept responsibility for inviting even those who are not ready and may <have> results-- is that the solution, you just accept responsibility for what happens?

Barbara: You look to see if you have an agenda that's coming from the ego, that wants it to be a certain way and holds a certain view, wants people to pick up your view, and if you're pushing them. And if you are pushing them but the deepest truth in you says, "This is my deepest truth," then you're willing to present that truth but not say, "You must believe this," only, "This is my truth and I'm willing to risk my life to bring forth this truth. If you don't agree with it then you have to act according to your deepest truth and I realize we may conflict. And I accept my share of the responsibility for that conflict."

If you then shoot at me or punch me, I'm not responsible for your shooting me or punching me, you are. I'm responsible for creating the situation that brings up this conflict and anger in you, and that may be exactly what's needed. I become the foil against whom you react, and experience repercussions of that action until you are ready to examine your choices. .

I could see with this Native American, that when I was able to look back historically and see what happened after this, that because of the mass slaughter and so many people died, it brought these people to a readiness to create peace that was not there before. I'm thinking of the words of Bob Dylan's song, "How many deaths does it take 'til he knows too many people have died?" At what point do we finally say, "That's enough"? And maybe, just maybe, people needed to kill each other for awhile until they're ready to say, "That's enough."

But we never start out saying, "Let's create a conflict so people will kill each other so they're ready to say that's enough." That's just ego. We start out holding a vision of an Earth where people are treated with loving kindness and non-harm. We confront those who put their view first, their needs first, and say, "I'll kill."That confrontation is offered with compassion saying no, so that the movement, whatever it is, the Freedom Ride, just somebody's angry at you-- "No, you can't abuse me," comes from a place of compassion.

You're saying no but it's not a self saying no, just kindness saying no. But we accept responsibility, if I say no in that way and he punches me in the nose and breaks my nose. Well, I forgive him. I know that's where he is, and I didn't back down because I knew that's where he was, I was not willing to relinquish my truth and step back, so I accepted the possibility of violence. He's responsible for the violence he lays on me but I'm co-creator of that because I inspired it, catalyzed it in some way, knowing he was not ready to hear me.

At that point I'm not creating any unwholesome karma for myself. I still can get killed, but I'm not creating any negative karma for myself. So such action can be part of the release or part of the balancing of the karma, often the balancing of old karma.

Q: So would it have been more skillful for the chief to have refrained from setting up that peace meeting?

Barbara: He was not a chief; he was a shaman. He was simply called upon to draw these people together and help them try to communicate at this conference.

I've asked that many times. I don't think so. It had to be done, and there was no way of knowing what the results were going to be. In trusting people and inviting it, he was opening a door for people with the hope, maybe they can do it. The problem was that he was attached to them doing it so he blamed them when they couldn't do it. But it still had to be done.

Q: So if he did create karma, it was because of being attached to views? That was the karma that he created or perpetuated, is that right?

Barbara: That's correct. It was because he did not yet have full compassion for those who opposed him and was not yet fully able to really see it through their eyes.

Q: So what lesson did you learn when you studied that?

Barbara: From seeing this Native American ancestor or from seeing my own Freedom Ride experience, or both?

Q: You were at the bottom of the bus and you came home and thought about 20 years later. When you reviewed that experience, what did you learn about it, what did you learn from it?

Barbara: From the bottom of the bus I learned that there was still something I did not understand, and that I could not take this kind of action until I understood it because I was just creating more karma for myself and others.

Q: What did you learn?

Barbara: That's what I learned at the bottom of the bus. I simply backed away from it. I got busy, I got married, I lost my hearing, I had 3 children, I was raising children. So it was 20 years later before I came back to it again, being asked to participate in this tax demonstration, my self-honesty came forward and said, I can't just say it's not convenient, I've got 3 kids, I can't get thrown in jail. I knew that there was a question that had been lying there unanswered for 20 years, so I had to take it into meditation. Taking it into meditation I saw this karmic ancestor, and from him I learned about the habitual pattern to be attached to my own views and not fully to hear other people. I was able to attend to that pattern, I can't say 100% heal it, but I've done a reasonably good job of learning to hear others' views without attachment to being right, so that when I took part in further actions after I understood that, I was able to do it in a much more centered way, just hearing people, just talking with people who disagree with me.

Q: But you thought your idea was correct while you were laying in the bus.

Barbara: When I was on that Freedom Ride, I knew that this was my truth and that I needed to speak this truth, but a different truth was non-harm to others and if I was creating harm for others then I had to understand what that was about before I acted upon this truth of equality of people.

Q: Where does this truth come from? It's your truth. Can you speak a little bit about that?

Barbara: Where did which truth come from? Where did the sense that this was my truth come from? Basically, if I understand your question, a deep sense within me that we are all one. I once asked Aaron, – this is in the book, – "Am I my brother's keeper?" and he said, "No, you are your brother." We're all intimately connected. That means I cannot act in ways that deny other people what I have. In other words, I cannot tell people, "I can, but you can't, I can ride on this bus but you can't. I'm better because my skin is this color." And I can't allow other people to do that. That was my truth. I can't say that it is THE truth, it's simply my truth. To say it's THE truth is the ego. But it feels to me like it's something important enough to me that I'm willing to die for it. To make this statement, "We are all sisters and brothers completely tied together, and we cannot harm each other." And if I see people acting in ways that do harm, I have to say no. That "no" must also be given in a way that does not harm.

Q: But the specific expression of that truth, riding on the bus or inviting people to a peace conference that turned into a massacre, is something very specific and not a universal truth. Where did the expression of that truth come from?

Barbara: I can't tell you where the truth came from other than to say from my heart. They're not different truths. It's the one truth, we're all part of each other and we cannot harm each other. Then our lives will bring us into certain situations that ask us to honor that truth. We're willing to go so far and maybe no further.

For example, there was talk a few years ago about a grandmother's corps, taking a group of 60-years and up women to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and so forth, to make a strong statement for peace, and that people of different races, nationalities and religions and sexes are all equal. Somebody asked me would I be interested in looking into this. I have no idea what happened to that idea but I knew that at that time in my life it was my truth, but it was not something I was able to do. Because there was the chance that people would get killed, that I would get killed, that the people with me would get killed.

When one participates in this kind of a demonstration, if everybody is not in a centered space, there's much more likelihood of violence. When people are in a centered space, they hold the field that supports non-harm.

You've heard me talk of the story of a sit-in at a southern restaurant. This was after the Freedom Ride. There had been numerous people beaten and badly beaten trying to sit in at this restaurant in this town. I was willing to do that because I knew the other 3 people I would be with, and because I fully trusted them that they all knew how to hold a centered space, that nobody was coming from a place of ego that would be then inviting violence, in saying, "I'm right, you're wrong." We're just going to sit here and hold the space. So we have to examine what we're willing to do and who we're doing it with. In this demonstration, coming from this place of center, there was no violence and there was some deep hearing and learning, I think.

Q: Are there universal truths, like we're all moving into 4th density, or is that something ...

Barbara: Are there? What do you see as universal truths? Is there any truth that everybody in this room can come to an agreement on? Love one another? Is there anybody who has an argument with that? Okay, so there's a universal truth. How about a universal truth that everything changes. Anybody have any argument with that? I wouldn't say we're all moving into 4th density, that may not be some people's truth, but the truth that everything changes, that we can probably agree upon.

So if somebody says, "I hate other people who are making the world change and it's all their fault. And I'm going to kill everybody who's making change in the world," well, this is somebody whose views I don't share. What do we do with such a person? What do we do with such a nation? I would not say a whole nation? I'm sure in the countries who are deep into hatred there are many people who share the truth of love and non-harm and understand change. But what do we do with a nation whose central policy seems to be hate? Hating people who are different and who are creating change that they disagree with? How do we handle that? How do we act toward them?

That answer will have to come from each of your own hearts, but I know it will come from a place of readiness, openhearted clarity, mindfulness, emptiness as much as is possible, and not just a, "They're wrong, I'm right!" kind of view.

Q: As I was thinking about service and non-harming, I realized I started to get overwhelmed by how much suffering there is in the world, how much need. The war in Afghanistan I do not support. The killing is awful.

I heard a radio show with somebody who is a press correspondent in the White House and Obama has to approve these drones, these automatic airplanes going to kill al-Qaeda leaders. And I was so disturbed by that. That everywhere you look there's so much suffering and so much need. So my question is, where does one begin?

Barbara: One begins with the work you're doing right now. Finding how infinite your heart is. Starting to trust that you have the capacity to hold space for that suffering and not be reactive to it but to let your responses, whether local or global, come from a clear, fairly egoless place that's deeply grounded in the determination of the highest good and no harm. That's all we can do. And then to be responsive to each situation as it comes to us.

If there is a foreign policy with which one strongly disagrees, one can write letters, one can join in demonstrations, one can go so far as civil disobedience. One can say, "I refuse to pay my taxes." Perhaps get thrown in jail because you refuse to pay your taxes. How far is one willing to go to say, "This violates my truth"?

And then we still also have to understand that we've co-created a worldwide unwholesome karma and we're part of that/ we live in this country. There are people in parts of the world who hate us immensely and who are filled with such hatred that given a chance they will just come and blow up most of our cities. Like this Native American, does he just step back and say, "Okay, come in and kill everybody"? What do we do?

We each have to examine this for ourselves. From my perspective, I love the words in the Dhammapada: Hatred never resolves hatred; only love resolves hatred. To teach love takes enormous courage in the face of hatred. How many of us need to do that before we can turn things around in the world? We start one person at a time.

Questions for Aaron are also welcomed and he will come in at any point that there is one.

Q: I believe this question is for Aaron.

Barbara: Okay, let's let Aaron come in. I'll say good-bye...

Aaron is asking me to briefly tell one more story that relates to all we've been talking about. Many of you have heard this story.

It was the sit-in at a lunch counter. We were dragged off into a police wagon and dragged off to jail. I was very indignant. "I'm right! They're wrong! Why won't they let me and my sisters sit there? They're wrong! They're ignorant! They're stupid!"

So it was a cell maybe almost as big as this room with about 10, 12 women in it, smaller than this room but a large cell. I knew that we would be released later that day. I was pacing up and down. I was feeling so angry and I was just pacing. Anger!

There was this beautiful, older woman – older to me in those days. I was only in my early 20s. She was probably younger than I am now but she seemed like an elderly black woman –and she was immaculately dressed. She had a beautiful hat on her head with a hat pin, it was held perfectly in place. And through being dragged into a police wagon and everything, she had not lost her immaculateness.

So she walked up to me and she said, "You are so angry." And I said, "Yes, I'm angry; aren't you angry too?" She said, "Of course I'm angry, sweetheart, but I also love them and they are so afraid." A very powerful answer. It just opened my eyes to the possibility of compassion, to not being attached to my view and damning of others. "Of course I'm angry, sweetheart, but I also love them and they are so afraid." I consider this woman, whose name is unknown to me, one of my primary teachers for giving me that, that day.

Okay, Aaron will come in.

Aaron: My blessings and love to all of you, I am Aaron. I hope you've had a lovely day. I enjoyed seeing many of you swimming and boating and meditating by the lake. Sky yoga, lying on your backs on noodles or rafts and gazing up at the beautiful clouds floating by.

Q: Norma spoke about guidance and support coming in through the back chakras. What's your perspective on that?

Aaron: I am in partial agreement with her. It comes in through the back chakras and through the front chakras. But most people discount the participation of the back chakras. We tend to face whatever it is that's in front of us and to protect our backs. We forget about the energy that we can draw in through our backs when we bring attention to it.

For many of you, when you call on your guides, you expect to hear them or see them rather than just breathing them into you, through the back or through any part of your body.

Q: I spent a fair amount of time today working with the toning and the back to open it up, and I'd like your perspective on how I'm doing with that. I know I've held a lot in my back to protect myself. I had a fairly violent upbringing.

Aaron: And could you feel it opening today?

Q: Yeah. And how am I doing with opening it up? What's your perspective?

Aaron: How do you feel you're doing?

Q: It feels like it's starting to open up.

Aaron: I agree. It's beginning to open. I would love you to be able to have a back massage. You don't have to go to a massage therapist, Q2 can do it or a friend. It doesn't have to be a formal hour-long full body massage, just lying face down with somebody with lotion or oil rubbing the back. It's not so much about supporting specific areas of opening, or releasing muscular tension, it's just allowing yourself to be vulnerable right now when somebody touches and works on your back. I think that would help.

Q: One of the things that was coming up for me as I was releasing was feelings of vulnerability and old pain that's been held.

Aaron: Do you have memories of being beaten on the back?

Q: Oh yeah.

Aaron: So was there any surprise to you that there are feelings of vulnerability and old pain? One holds that child that was thusly beaten, that young person, with love. You become the support and the refuge for that young person and help him to feel safe. And see, that if that younger aspect of you feels safe, will the adult feel more safe.

I'd like you to try the walking meditation I suggested, walking backwards. Find a clear area where there's nothing to stumble over, where you can see that you stay within the limits, you don't accidentally back into a table or off the side of a hill, and simply walk backwards.

Q: Okay.

Aaron: If suitable, try it in the water hip deep and walk backwards in the water first. That way if you fall, you just fall into the water. But normally just walking you should not fall; just walk backwards. But you may feel safer in the water knowing there's just water around you and under you, on which to land. Just keep doing it mindfully.

Remember that you are not trying to fix these old wounds or vulnerability or fears, you simply are offering love, and inviting the release because to maintain this old conditioning is harmful to you and to others. Okay?

J, also find the angry part of you that felt so helpless as a youngster and wanted to hit back, to fight back, and knew how unsafe that would be. You hold that anger in your back. Can you feel that?

Q: Sort of, somewhat.

Aaron: It's part of the tension in the back. Just be aware of it.

Others? What happened as you practiced today?

Q: I spent a good amount of time this afternoon on noodles, chanting to chakras, and came in and changed, sat up here on the porch meditating, and I recalled something Barbara said when she was going out on her noodle about an hour and a half before about the oil spill, which was my "famous person" together with the banking industry and the sporting industry and any other corporations that are acting out.

So I tried to sit down and do vipassana, and summoned all these atrocities up before me, trying to work up some anger which I normally could do if I was at home, but today I couldn't get angry. I was thinking <something about tooting a horn>. (laughter)

Aaron: Good, fine. I don't think you're in denial at all but into the more open heart.

First they worry because they are angry and then they worry because they can't get angry! (laughter)

Q: When Norma talked about the monks using the singing bowl for 2 hours, I knew I wanted to work with the singing bowl. So I did it for much shorter time.

Aaron: Do you want to do that, 2 hours?

Q: I did.

Aaron: You did it-- you did it today for 2 hours? A long time?

Q: No; shorter. And it brought shifts in my awareness. And I went out onto the lake afterward and I could still feel the vibration in me and it felt like it was connecting to all vibration. It was very nice.

Aaron: When you work with something like this for an extended period of time, though not necessarily 2 hours, it will raise the vibration in your body, it will open the chakras, tune your body, so to speak. It lifts the whole body into a higher vibration. You can do it for a long period of time or you can do it in different ways. In other words, the singing bowl is one way of raising the vibration. Doing metta is another way of raising vibration. Pure awareness practice will raise the vibration. Simply walking down the street and smiling at people and being kind to people will raise the vibration.

So rather than trying to do it for 2 hours all at once and say, "Now I'm going to overcome some tendency or change something in myself by doing this," just try to keep that vibration as high as possible with all the different tools you have, through all the days and weeks, and trust that it's slowly gone higher.

Barbara works with tuning forks about 3 or 4 mornings a week. When she works with them, she feels as you felt at the end of a half hour session of toning. Her whole body is singing. The energy feels open. Her chakras feel very open. She finds she's much more mindful.

When she was in Santa Barbara, the people there had a crystal bed so around her teaching she was able to get up-- she was there for 5 or 6 days--and she was able to get up early every morning and use the crystal bed and then again to use it at night for perhaps half an hour each time. She found that using it morning and night daily for 5 or 6 days, she could really feel the change in the vibration. She didn't have her tuning forks with her, so she was doing this. There's no one right method of raising the vibration but harmonics is a very powerful one.

Some many months ago you (speaking to one person) were using your piano or some instrument, organ, and toning with it. It's the same process as the singing bowl. It's all opening the chakras, inviting the opening of the chakras and raising the vibration.

Q: In the book, Healing with Form, Energy, and Light, he talks in the beginning about, there's a lot of... sometimes I think of it as theatricality, all this pomp and circumstance that goes on, ritual. And we usually don't talk about ritual, and to me, I haven't connected strongly with ritual in the past. I'm assuming it's another tool, but can you put this in perspective?

Aaron: Rituals, the elaborate visualizations within much of Tibetan Buddhism, these can be of great value to some people. They are not good or bad; they simply are tools. They are not the only way. They don't resonate for me; they never did when I was young even though I did live in several Tibetan lifetimes. My primary vehicle was the Theravada vehicle, simply mindfulness, vipassana, presence, kindness.

I cannot speak for or against any tool. I can only say much of what he presents in this book is beautiful and useful to many people but not to all people, and that if it doesn't resonate for you, put it aside and try to find the essence of the practice, releasing the ritual and releasing the elaborate visualizations.

Sometimes these visualizations, though, and the practices they do where a Rinpoche or lama leads some kind of teaching, and it seems very ornate, visualize all these various dakinis and different beings and colors and lights, sometimes it really triggers something in people. So don't dump it out just saying it's too ornate; play with it. If it's useful, use it; if it's not useful, don't use it.

Q: Today when I was in the lake I felt very balanced with the elements, and it was a really beautiful experience. I'm becoming aware that my primary elements are earth and fire. And I am not sure how to work with these to get especially the water element in balance when I'm feeling really heavy earth energy or fire energy.

Aaron: Climb in the bathtub. If you have an outdoor place to swim, that's wonderful, but otherwise simply climb in the bathtub, in the shower. The bathtub is better because it's a quieter water element. The shower is busier with the spray. Just climb in the bathtub, lean back, and bring the water in. Take a cup and pour some over your head gently.

Q: If this happens during the workday... (laughter)

Aaron: Go in the bathroom and run water in the faucet and bathe your face with it. Take a 5-minute break and just splash water on your face. Put it over your wrists and forearms and breathe it into you. Be aware of the water, just holding your hands under the water.

Q: I just wanted to share something similar to what she just said which is that I really enjoy watching the interplay of balance of elements in nature here. The lake, the reflection of the light in the lake, the trees, the movement of air, the dragonflies, air element which is also <> change, it was very beautiful to be able to sit and look at all that.

I have been using element work with my vipassana for several months. The pattern I've seen is I have too much air and fire. And for me the visualization of just bringing in the water and imagining the earth has been very helpful for me. But today I was able to get into the water element and that was quite enlightening.

I found that for me I needed to combine movement <and> the water, and in my visualizations I see water coming to me and moving in through me. I don't have a lot of opportunity to be in water so this has been really wonderful for me today.

Aaron: They sell small desktop fountains. Some of them just have a fountain outlet that tumbles over rocks in a small bowl, some of them look like a miniature waterfall 15 inches high. The water pours down and circulates. For people who need to invite in water element, these are ideal. They are not expensive; you don't need a big fancy one. They can cost several hundred dollars but you can get a $20 one, a small one, or even create your own with a small pump and some rocks. Just to have it going on your desk in the background as you work can be a constant reminder; the sound of the running water, the energy of the water, can be very refreshing.

If you do install such a small fountain or pump be sure that you change the water at least once a week, bringing in fresh water so that the water doesn't feel stagnant but keeps vitalized. I would not suggest you use the crystals that I gave you, which you carry with you, but another crystal can go amidst the rocks of your fountain enough to re-energize the water.

Q: Is there a relationship between what we're studying with using the elements and a person's astrological chart? Such as primary placements and the 12 houses?

Aaron: I'm remarkably ignorant about astrology. I am asking friends who might know. And the answer I'm getting is no.

I am not diminishing astrology; it's not been something that's ever drawn me into its study. That doesn't mean it's not useful. I am not negating the practice of astrology, it simply has never interested me in any lifetime, and that doesn't mean it's not useful.

Q: I've had this condition, itching in the body. It's much less now than it was. When it was very intense, at times it felt like my skin was sizzling. Kind of like bacon... I have several questions. One, is there anything karmic related to it? And two, how do I work with it as far as the practice with the elements?

Aaron: I've noticed that the water element is very low for you. There's a lot of fire and air element. The fire and air elements are out of balance, short on earth and short on water. So they're very strong for you. The earth element is more balanced but still a bit high in air and fire. The water element is very diminished so I think it would be very helpful for you to drink a lot of water.

Barbara gave you the Casa water today and told you how to expand it. When you get home, make that brew and keep it going. You can keep it going for months. Don't drink out of the container, pour it into a glass to drink so the container remains clean. And just keep adding pure spring water and keep drinking it. Drink a lot of water. This I think will help.

You can take some of that Casa water and not only put it on a cloth on your body but also literally put your hands in it in a small bowl. Take your crystal, put your crystal in the bowl and the Casa water, a bowl just big enough to hold your hands, and just while you're meditating let your hands be in the water. You can keep the water in the bowl, put a cover over it and re-use it. Don't use all of the Casa water, you have just a small bowlful. As I said, keep adding fresh spring water to it so you have an unending supply.

So I think that focusing more on the water element will be of help. How did your body feel after swimming? You have been swimming at your lake cabin also. How does your body feel after swimming? Is there less irritation?

Q: Not less so at home but since I've been here.

Aaron: So there's less irritation after swimming here but not so much (at home). I wonder if that's because you're focusing so much on the elements as you're swimming here and bringing it more into balance. There's awareness of the water element.

Q: That's quite possible. The air temperature is a lot cooler too.

Aaron: The heat at home enhances the fire element. That means you need to soak yourself in cool water often. Will you be going back to your cabin? (Q: Yes) Try to spend some time every day doing what you were doing here, just floating in the lake and inviting the water element into the body. Watch for the high air and fire element, that kind of tension, and immediately quiet it with a drink of water, like the Casa water, and consciously invite in more water element. And ground yourself, also. Just spending time sitting by the trees, sitting on the earth, grounding in that way.

Q: I'm experiencing being tired a lot and have been for several years. Is that low fire? And how would I deal with that?

Aaron: I think it's in part low fire. I think you're afraid to bring in too much fire. When I say too much I don't mean excessive fire but what would be balanced fire, because when you become very energized then it can lead to physical problems. You can feel stress in your body and your heart. So the way you have subconsciously tried to protect the body from strain is to lower the fire element, and that means that you're more tired.

Of course the imbalance does not protect the body, it's an illusion that it will. Balance would be better for the body. So inviting in fire element but also taking care of yourself, and just because you're energized, not rushing off on a hike or to climb a mountain. Keeping it more quiet. Being aware, this body is aging, it cannot do what it could do 20 years ago. Can I be kind to this body?

But it is the kindness that limits activity and chooses to sit in a chair in the shade for awhile and not tiredness. So you have the choice. You can feel energized and still relax. Then look at that which feels, "I should be doing more to take care of my family, to take care of my friends. If I have energy, I should be using the energy."

But don't let that mean that you have to cut down on the fire and on the energy. Start to understand that whole thinking and say, "That's just a story. I can feel energized and still not have to take care of everybody."

Q: When I think, I concentrate and I realize that there's contraction there. Is that an imbalance of the elements? And how do the elements relate to contraction?

Aaron: I think it's trying too hard to concentrate. Relax and allow the natural concentration to be there. Yes, it's imbalance of the elements because of the intense, "I'm going to focus," because of that you're creating a rigidity. It needs more water, it needs more air, more spaciousness.

Q: So the elements relate to contraction directly.

Aaron: The elements relate to everything but it's not always the first place you go. In other words, the other place to go immediately would be just to note contraction. That which is aware of contraction is not contracted. Can you relax into that space of non-contraction? And it may be as soon as you do that even to a small degree, the elements come into balance.

So one becomes intuitive about when to work with the elements, and when working with the elements is simply another way to try to fix and brings more contraction. Sometimes we have to let it go and just come into, "This is how things are in this moment. Can I just relax and let it be as it is?" If you're unfocused, not concentrated, can it be that way for awhile?

Q: When we checked in, several people mentioned physical problems. Since then I have been intending to send healing. Is that working?

Aaron: I don't know. Is it working? You tell me!

Q: ... Am I actually doing something?

Aaron: What do you think? Bring attention to the fear that says, "Am I deluded?" Bring attention to doubt, the whole story, "Am I deluded?" I'm not saying that it's accurate or not accurate, just, there's a concern there. Bring attention to that concern. Here is the experience of doubt. What happens to this mind and body when it carries doubt? This is a habitual pattern. You are asking me; it's your experience, not mine.

It's nothing to apologize for, and you've heard me answer similar questions from others. But you need to take more responsibility for trusting your own experience, and that's why I'm passing it back to you. In order to do that you need to look more deeply at the experience of doubt and how doubt presents itself as a story and how you get caught in the story. Your heart knows the answers.

You're doing fine, just keep going. You're doing skillful work. Now look at the doubt.

Q: I focused on awareness practice all day and I'm wondering, what is the next step beyond resting in awareness? You discussed this in Berkeley and I can't remember what you said.

Aaron: I would say that the next step after a day of resting in awareness is to go into the kitchen and ask Dottie if you can chop some vegetables, and literally see if you can stay resting in awareness while you do a small physical act like that.

Q: So it doesn't stay moment to moment all day, so is that the next step, to be able to do that?

Aaron: The next step is to take it out of the formal practice and into everyday life so it's moment to moment. You do that at home, in your work, but with some strain, some fear based effort, "Must stay present." Now relax. Do that by doing little things-- wash a window, chop vegetables. Get out of the formal practice for 20 minutes and just do something in the world and see how it feels.

Q: I do that. That has been my practice for some time.

Aaron: Your moment to moment awareness in formal practice is strong. You're able to stay in the moment without a lot of self, open, spacious when you are in a safe and comfortable environment. The next step is to nurture that practice in situations that are less comfortable but not stressful.

I know that you're practicing that. I think you're taking it from the cushion too much out into the world and expecting the awareness to stay just as strong rather than an intermediary place. That's why a suggested something very simple that doesn't involve relationship with other people. In other words, it's a big step to take that stable awareness into your counseling practice. Suddenly you've got to do it with people and talking, and that's hard. Your intention to support and to do no harm is very strong, which is commendable, but adds stress.

Step back one step and just chop vegetables, just wash a window. See what stabilizes awareness in those situations. Take it gradually. Become increasingly mindful of the self-negating thought, "I should be resting in awareness. Oh, I'm out of awareness." That kind of self-judgment. Just note it as judging, come back into awareness. That which is aware of judging is not judging. It doesn't matter where the mind goes as long as it's noted with a smile, with patience. And then, as the awareness opens again, coming back into that field of awareness.

But you're being too hard on yourself and pushing yourself in situations that would be challenging for a master, and you're saying to yourself, "Why can't I stabilize awareness in this situation?" and then judging yourself. Can you see that?

Q: It's true I'm trying to do it at all times and in all situations, which I suppose is over my head.

Aaron: That's wonderful, to aspire to, but realize that you're not going to be able to, probably, and that's okay. And instead of judging yourself and criticizing yourself when you can't, just say, "Ah, this was a hard one." Relax. Ease up on yourself on it.

Don't stop trying to practice awareness in all situations and at all times. Just be gentle to yourself when it does not work completely.

Okay, it's 5 after 9. We will have more opportunity for discussion tomorrow.

(session ends; group will sit ½ hour)