August 29, 2009
Venture Fourth Fall Intensive

Saturday PM, August 29, 2009

(This tape not yet corrected by Barbara and Aaron)

Keywords: guidance/higher self, third eye opening, Venture Fourth program

Barbara: We have sunshine, more or less... (some sun is breaking through the clouds)We're going to do 3 things this afternoon. First, just about 20 minutes, a brief discussion of your experiences with Aaron's guided meditation. Then Aaron is going to come in and talk about the program, about the retreat part of the program. Then we're going to break into small groups to discuss the four weeks of program you've done so far, what you've experienced with these qualities of humility, respect, muditta, and responsibility.

So let's start with just whatever feedback you want to give, whatever you want to talk about, maximum 20 minutes, let's not digress.

(sometimes hard to hear group)

Q: I know life is impermanent but I miss seeing Heather. (Heather has left mid-morning, for the airport) The seat empty took me awhile to adjust to that. I missed her presence in the room. And then the meditation was good. However I think a little bit of the loss of energy for some reason affected me, or maybe I was just tired.

Barbara: My guess is that everybody felt the loss of Heather's energy, the empty seat. Heather has a strong energy and was a strong presence in the room. So I think we all missed her.

Q: I know Aaron can't tell the future but I've heard him say that we might be called to do things and we needed courage. Is there something he has in mind?

Barbara: The first time I went to Brazil back in '04, and before the trip I was in Seattle and teaching with my friend Judy, who channels Jeshua, and I had the opportunity privately to ask Jeshua for guidance for the trip. I asked him what do I need to take with me, how do I need to prepare. He said, "You need courage."

I completely misunderstood and thought there was going to be some arduous ritual, some arduous circumstance that came my way. I realized afterward that what I really needed courage for was simply to be present with the fact of going down there and being disappointed that I didn't hear. There was no, "Snap! Hearing!"

So when he says courage, it can mean many different things. Don't try to read anything into it, just strengthen the attribute of courage. Look at that which blocks courage. Then when you need it, it will be accessible. Don't try to figure it out. Okay?

Q: The march experience was in synch with and then out of synch with Aaron's pacing of the process. It seemed my guide was available to merge early on. It's somewhat hard for me to tell me from the guide(s).

Barbara: Because there was a sense of merging?

Q: Yea, it seems natural and easy, and as if this has been a long-term companion.

Barbara: Did you experience the sense of loving presence merged with the self and supporting the journey? Aaron says, I'm paraphrasing him, he says because of the work you've done, fairly deep work you've done in the past 2 days, and because of the work that many of you have done for years in the past, you're at different places.

Some of you find the guide not only accessible as guide but with that experience of no duality. Some of you are still trying to understand what the experience is of meeting the guide. So his meditation was more directed at helping support that experience of meeting the guide for those who have not yet fully opened to the energy of the guide. He says with 20 or so different people, everybody will be in a different place.

So that when he speaks in this way, if he says, "Meet your guide," and you're already there, just let the words go by and be present with your guide. Don't try to do what he's saying if you've already done it. Let his words go and just be where you are.

Q: I found this journey very soothing in comparison to the other journey that we had with Heather. No judgment, just noticing. I picked up a new guide, so I had the bear, the benevolent bear, the ancient one, the Wise Woman, and the owl, all guiding me across this wooden plank over the creek. It was very soothing, very soft, in a way. Nice.

Barbara: Aaron is saying that of course he's following a very traditional mythical path of coming to the obstacle, seeking help, finding the help, merging with the help. He's just bringing that into your, let your imagination play with it so you can open more easily to whatever guidance there is. So he says the aspect that he brought in that Heather did not was the arising of the obstacle and the intention to reach out for help.

Q: I found it helpful when Aaron kind of invited us, if our guide did not appear to us, to use our imagination. That to me seemed different than what Heather had done. But perhaps I just didn't pick up on Heather inviting us to do that.

Barbara: Were you in that way able to imagine the presence of something? (Q: Yes.)

And did it feel comforting? (Q: Yes, very much so.) Good, good.

This is why we do this in different ways. What Julie will do with the Breathwork is not specifically directed to meeting guides but to taking us into a deeper level of consciousness in yet another way. So that people will find different pathways to opening to various levels of consciousness and various levels of spirit. What works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Q: I'd like to add a part about my experience. When we walked up into the deep, going up into the very narrow path, I had some difficulty making a decision whether my guide would be in front of me or behind me because of fear. I finally just merged. I really wanted him to hold my hand and walk beside me.

Barbara: I remember this meditation when Aaron was leading it, reading the transcript and the discussion afterwards, way back in the living room days, when somebody expressed that–"Should he (the guide) go in front of me? Should he go behind me?" And the guide said, "I'm inside you so why is this an issue?" (laughter)

Q: It came to me during this morning's meditation, the 6:30am one, what came to me was that my guide, my primary guide who has always been there and whom I know has been there, that what I had been doing was to deny that guide's presence. And I realized that I was doing that almost unconsciously out of a feeling of not being worthy of that guide. And then it also came to me to simply relax and let it be without making a judgment about it. So this afternoon when we did that, I just let it come in and sensed it in the way I usually sense things, and it was very different this time because I was different in my perception and in my allowance, I let it be.

Barbara: That's a big step for you, good.

Q: Since I've begun interacting with the guide, I've been wanting to be able to communicate more verbally. And I've been asking for help with that and also with this crystal. And what I'm experiencing is, it's as if there's energetic transformation happening inside my brain. And sometimes it's a little uncomfortable but it feels like it's right, and I wanted to check on that.

Barbara: When you say there's an energetic transformation happening in the brain, I'm not sure I understand that.

Q: It's a little hard to describe, but primarily, like in the middle behind the third eye, and sometimes more on the right side or more on the left side, and beneath the crown, there's a sensation sometimes like flashes of light and energy, sometimes of less dramatic but energetic movement.

Barbara: And when you experience the merging with the guide, as opposed to you trying to communicate with the guide, is it more in the third eye, more in the center? When there's an experience of merging with a guide rather than a J trying to communicate with a guide, is the energy more in the third eye area in the center, and more stable?

Q: No. The merging experience, it's as if my whole body, it's very somatic, and it's... gentle, soft, smooth, expansive, nurturing, nourishing.

Barbara: I don't know if this is answering your question but I think when the self relaxes and you move into a space of more emptiness, no ego trying to push anything one way or another, then everything dissolves and all separation dissolves.

When there's even the smallest level of anybody trying to do something then it gets up into being more mental. Energy seems to jump back and forth. I'm asking Aaron if he agrees with what I've said. He says, yes, basically. He's saying, just relax. If you see that kind of energy movement, note it as tension. There's a subtle tension to it. Just note it with an open heart without trying to fix it, to allow yourself to slip back into the place of emptiness again.

He says, what I was asking you at first, that confused both him and me because we wanted to be sure what you were expressing, was that there's another experience that people can have where as they merge with the guide, the third eye opens more and more fully. And there's a sense of energy pulsation in the third eye. There's no self in whom it's happening but there's a strong sense of energy pulsation which is part of what holds that merging with the guide.

Then sometimes there's a subtle resistance to that, that doesn't feel fully comfortable with it. If the resistance is noted, it just breaks down and goes. But if it's not noted, if there's not mindfulness of that subtle tension, then the energy, instead of opening the third eye, starts to bounce back and forth. Okay?

Q: On my journey, at the edge of that cavern, I saw my crystal, my power animal, which is a butterfly, and a beautiful radiant light, very loving. And I also saw a glimpse of a wrathful energy, not angry but like the Divine Feminine... wrathful energy. I ignored the wrathful energy and merged with the loving energy, which was very loving and supportive.

A handlebar, a railing, appeared beside the walkway and I walked across the board. But just before reaching the other side, the board and the railing disappeared and I fell. And I was grasping onto the cliff in great fear. And then this hand came up from below me and set me up on the other side. And I heard, "You are never alone."

So it was very profound for me, very moving. At the same time, I felt like in non-ordinary reality I was peaceful with my guides, but I felt that my body still held the fear. So I continued up to the top of the mountain carrying both, being so blown away by the beauty of our group and our guides but also carrying the fear in the body.

I'm wondering of you or Aaron have anything to say.

Barbara: Aaron would like to respond to this directly. Short break while Aaron incorporates.

Aaron: I come and I go and I come and I go, but I never really go anywhere! (laughter)

My blessings and love to you all. Where would I go? In response to your question, part of any journey is simply psychological, relates to one's inner psychology, emotions, and the issues which one is resolving at that time in one's life. The presence of a wrathful deity is an expression of the, I don't want to say the negatively polarized but the angry, contracted side of the self, which is not necessarily negative, it's just energy, but it's a contracted energy. And that it appears as a wrathful deity is more an expression of your sense of it as negative, otherwise it would simply appear as an imp of some sort, a little being that was wriggling around and unsure of itself.

The wrathful deity is not bad. The wrathful deity is one of the sources of our power. This is something that we'll get into several intensives from now, not yet, how we all harness the energy of that kind of contracted energy.

Whatever happens, of course, is happening in different realities and at some level you are creating it just as you're creating it in your dream. Some part of you needed to test and so the board disappeared, the railing disappeared. What you needed to explore was, is love always there, is it truly always there? You needed to put it to the test.

So you learned something. It's always there. Another way of putting that would be not so much that you learned that it's always there but you learned that you can trust that it's always there.

Did you have a question, Q?

Q: It had to do with your entry remarks. They're somewhat flippant, which is not particularly your style.

Aaron: I did not mean it to be flippant... only to make acknowledgement of some feelings that I am not present when not incorporated.

(additional brief remarks inaudible)

Q: In light of what Barbara was saying about the dialogue she has with you before you incorporate, and the amount of mindfulness that is exercised in that, how do you maintain, how can you do it so many times so mindfully, and how can she do it so mindfully?

Aaron: Let me speak to 2 things here. First, when I said, "Sometimes I'm here, sometimes I'm not here, and yet I'm always here," it was not meant to be flippant, it was meant simply as a reminder that when I'm out of hearing and don't seem to be incorporated in Barbara's body, I'm still here with you. I'm never gone. Sometimes I'm more apparent than at other times. Sometimes Barbara's energy is more in the body, sometimes mine is. But I was responding to the feeling some of you had as I came in, "Oh, now it's Aaron! There went Barbara, now it's Aaron!" Seesaw.

We do this through 2 decades of practice. If you practice anything long enough it becomes smooth.

Q: Every morning when I meditate I say, kind of paraphrase Barbara's prayer, particularly with regard to gratitude, I need to have something fresh almost every time to experience real gratitude, for it to be sincere. And I have exhausted a lot of things. (laughter)

Aaron: We are grateful for the same thing each time we meet: I am grateful for her and she is grateful for me. And we embrace one another. So I simply feel her loving energy and her willingness to be of service and I'm deeply grateful for it. And she feels my loving presence and is truly, deeply grateful for this opportunity to serve. So genuine gratitude arises for both of us.

Q: But she says she has to check you out each time.

Aaron: She does, but it's a quick check, at this point. We use a short hand–she says "3 times, Aaron..." and I reply "3 times". And she feels through my energy that it's me. She has gotten to a point where she'd sense any discrepancy of energy or know that I would warn her. But after 20 years she's come deeply to trust her discernment. In the beginning she checked it out very carefully.

But then, once she's checked me out, we move into that gratitude stage, so that is not in the beginning. It's not until she's checked me out that we move into the offering of the body, my asking for the body, and then the expression of gratitude. So it's already asked and confirmed for herself that it is me, at that point.

(Aaron is handed a crystal)

Here's another crystal you can pass around. You'll find it a very soft energy. This is a Casa crystal, one to wear around the neck. And because it's cut in such a way and more refined it doesn't have a strong energy. It's a soft, gentle, pure energy.

Venture Fourth...

You are working on 2 different levels. One is this opening to the deepest place in yourself, both through your vipassana practice and opening further and further, more and more directly the Unconditioned, and in the same direction, toward opening to your guidance. Opening more and more from the relative experience into the ultimate experience whether it's through vipassana practice or through the support of your guidance, through the interconnection with All That Is, opening to the experience of the Unconditioned.

Many of you are subtly resistant or more resistant to such opening because there is a subtle distrust of the self. You are still learning that you don't have to be afraid of or uncomfortable with any negative thought or impulse, it just has arisen. You're not going to act it out.

When Barbara was eating lunch today and a yellow jacket landed on her salad, the first thing that happened when she saw it was she contracted. It was 2 inches from her fingers. She's been stung enough that she's not comfortable with a yellow jacket landing 2 inches from her fingers. So she had to consciously center herself and note, "This is a sentient being. My highest intention is to greet it with love," to find the love that was right there with the contraction. It only took a moment.

Don't think that the contraction doesn't exist, only she's learned how to be skillful with that contraction. She didn't say, "Shame on me, I shouldn't contract anymore," she just noted, "fear, tension." And the strong intention was present, to hold space around her own tension and to offer love to this small being, to offer salad to this small being, to offer whatever it needed to this small being, but not to invite it to sting her. So she was able to hold it in a loving space and then simply to resume eating her salad around the yellow jacket.

This ability has grown in all of you or you would not be part of this group. You are all mature in this aspect of dharma, not yet 100% mature but certainly maturing. Grad school level, far beyond the elementary grades.

The weekly practices that we'll be doing are meant to open out those places where ego still hides, those places where self-judgment still hides, where fear still hides, to help you reveal them.

You've already found much depth in these practices. Our first and vital point was to help you recognize that a quality like humility is not a ego based quality like pride but that it rests right in the middle, egoless. Pride has ego and low self-esteem has ego. When you rest in the middle, it's egoless.

You're coming next week to patience. When you are patient and there's somebody being patient, there's ego. And when you're impatient there's ego. Just like you found true humility, I'm going to ask you to find patience where there's nobody being patient. What does it feel like?

It relates to equanimity. There's a peacefulness, a stillness to it. So there's no tension in patience. There's no tension in humility. There's no tension in respect and so forth.

When you move into your small groups, I want you to review the 4 qualities you've worked with: humility, honor or respect, mudita, and responsibility. Discuss how you were affected by each one and the ways that the 4 qualities held together. So please share with each other the ways that you practiced with it. This will support you as you move on with the work through the next 6 or 8 qualities before we meet again.

You are not trying to become perfect in these qualities, you are trying to learn through the practice with the qualities how to best invite and rest in that place of center. And second, that when you rest in that place of center, you are much more able to own your power and unlimitedness than when you are not resting in that place of center. Does that make sense to you? So this is the way the 2 parts of the present program will merge.

Further along, when we finish working with these qualities, we'll begin to talk about action in the world coming from this place of emptiness which you will have developed through your exploration of the qualities.

For some of you, some of these qualities will be very easy and some will be more of a challenge. After you've gone through all the qualities once, one week at a time, you'll be invited, each of you individually, to choose the 3 to 5 qualities that are most challenging for you and to work with those in an ongoing way, rotating them. Maybe Week 1, Quality 1, Week 2, Quality 2, Week 3, Quality 3, and then back to Quality 1 again, deepening in them.

Again, you're not trying to become the perfectly humble person or the perfectly patient person, you're using the quality as a ground for growth and exploration. You are deepening in the intention to do no harm. We deepen in that through the precepts but we deepen even more through practice. Not just the statement of the precepts but the mindfulness of the daily practice of this quality.

The more you trust your ability to experience impatience without acting it out, to experience anger without acting it out, or judgment, that it simply has arisen and will pass, the more you trust that ability from this place of emptiness, the easier it will be to ask for the support of your guides and to allow yourself to own the wholeness of your power.

Some of you are experiencing various physical ailments in your body and you've asked me, can I work with the physical ailments? At this point I do not suggest you, we talked about Barbara's toe and the healing of the toe. I think you all need to go deeper into trusting your wholeness and unlimitedness before you use that as a path to healing physical illness. Because when you do use it I want you to be successful. Choose small things, in other words, don't take the broken arm. But if you have a splinter in your finger and you remove, then visualize the skin whole, visualize the perfection of it. If it's a bit infected, visualize it draining out on the skin and closing over with wholeness, and how it's already whole. Practice with these smaller ailments now and then we'll build on it. But our intention here is not to create a training ground for physical healing, although much learning will come in relation to that, but to create a training ground of liberated action in the world.

So keep the process in order, not the cart before the horse, as it's said.

Are there questions?

These intensives are vital, a vital part of our program, but they are really, I would not say secondary but equal to the ongoing work that you'll be doing week after week after week. The intensives on their own would just be playing at an energy game. It's the deepening of your meditation practice, the deepening of mindful intention to sustain wholesome thought and action and intention, and to watch what blocks it, that will allow what you learn in the intensive to blossom and be fully utilizable.

Q: I have been working with the qualities in 2 ways. One is to meditate on the quality and see what arises in the morning, and the other is to keep it in consciousness during the day, to watch when it arises. What's the best way, the most effective way to work with the qualities?

Aaron: Both. Both. At this point, when this intensive ends, there will be several things that you will be doing on a daily basis. One is your silent meditation practice. You are not inviting spirit guides, you're not inviting special experiences, you are simply present with choiceless awareness, watching what arises in the mind and body, resting in spaciousness as much as is possible. So the awareness watches what arises and as it passes away, there's simply resting in awareness.

But when you're caught by something that has arisen, bringing attention to it in a kind way, watching the quality of that attention, is the attention that is given one of trying to fix or change or is it just loving, aware presence. Kindness. And yet the strong intention not to enact any negative thought. So this is one, the vipassana practice.

Second, working mindfully, and you can do these in whatever order you wish, working mindfully with the quality of the week, with some reflection before or after the meditation practice.

I would suggest for most of you the benefit to start with the silent practice, not to get mind too busy thinking about things first, but to start with the choiceless awareness practice. At the end of that period, first to reflect, what arose during the meditation? Use your journaling. You can write out a few shorthand notes to type later. What was the texture of that practice? How was attention, what happened when something pulled you out of that spaciousness. Was there tension or was there openness? If there was tension, what was the relationship to the tension?

I want you to understand that if, for example, a neighbor's lawnmower pulls you out of spaciousness and anger arises, "hearing, hearing," and then anger, "It's only 6am, what's he doing mowing?" anger, or "It's 7am but I'm meditating; what's he doing mowing?" and then there's a point in which the hearing is no longer predominant; the anger is predominant. As awareness is present with the anger there will be a texture of that presence. It might be a tense texture, contracted, or it might be an open and spacious texture that becomes the next predominant object.

The anger is no longer predominant, the relationship with the anger becomes predominant. Watching that relationship. Finally you come back into the spaciousness of awareness that sees this whole progression of objects, each one serving as condition for the next object to arise, just flowing. And you step outside the whole thing and say, "Ah, so. I give it all up, I release it."

... We will find it and read it to you tonight. A beautiful teaching from the 8th century Zen Master Hongzhi. (From Cultivating the Empty Field)

Simply Drop Off Everything

Silently dwell in the self, in true suchness abandon conditioning. Open minded and bright without defilement, simply penetrate and drop off everything. Today is not your first arrival here. Since the ancient home before the empty kalpa, clearly nothing has been obscured. Although you are inherently spirited and splendid, still you must go ahead and enact it. When doing so, immediately display every atom without hiding a speck of dirt. Dry and cool in deep repose, profoundly understand. if your rest is not satisfying and you yearn to go beyond birth and death, there can be no such place. Just burst through and you will discern without thought-dusts, pure without reasons for anxiety. Stepping back with open hands, (giving up everything) is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world. Merge together with all things. Everywhere is just right. Accordingly we are told that from ancient to modern times all dharmas are not concealed, always apparent and exposed.

So, choiceless awareness practice. Some reflection on the practice in journaling, then moving attention to that quality that you're working with that week and asking, "What do I need to understand about this quality?" Some of you may find it more helpful to raise that simply as a brief question at the beginning of the choiceless awareness practice and then not try to find an answer but just move into the choiceless awareness practice. And sometimes answers will come, sometimes insights will come.

So you can do that before or after. After, it's more of a reflection. And then some written notes. Some of you have said it felt strange to be writing for somebody else. You are not writing for yourselves. I'm happy to read these, as is Barbara, to offer you feedback, but I'm not asking you to write so that we can read them, I'm asking you to write so that you are required to reflect more deeply and understand a bit more about this quality and how you're relating to it.

The third part, now, will be, and this also can come in whatever order you wish, to spend some time, and it can be at a completely different time of day, it doesn't have to be at the same time as the vipassana practice, to ask for your guide, your higher self, to do some kind of journey in whatever form seems most helpful. For some people, a good time to do that is literally sitting on the bed at night before you go to sleep. If you meditate for a little while and then come into your room and just sit, and ask for whatever guidance there may be to give you insight into questions that arose during the day, and sometimes that information will come during your sleep. So it may come when you're awake, it may come when you're asleep.

The most important thing is I want you simply to hang out with your guides. At this point you don't need to be getting information from them so much as just getting to know their energy, trust their energy, and build a friendship with them. This will deepen through the weeks and more and more you'll start to get more verbal, or visual, or some kind of direct guidance from them, whatever form of guidance it is, whether it's a power animal or a guide or the higher self, your crystal, whatever it is.

During the choiceless awareness practice, the vipassana practice, you might want to hold your crystal in your hands. Just letting it rest loosely in the hands. That's a good time to get to know its energy and you might find it deepens your practice. If it seems to interfere with your practice in some way, then lay it down. In other words if it brings up too high an energy, but I don't think it will.

So these are the 3 predominant areas: vipassana practice, working with the quality of the week both in meditation in mindfulness through the day, and working with your guides in whatever form, and the journaling that comes with the meditation and quality of the week.

The 4th part I will let Barbara talk to you about will be your regular meetings with us. Many of you felt that the email format was helpful and we will continue that, but we want to have at least, I don't want to set a time on it, but once or twice a month we'll have a phone dialogue with you, even if at intervals there are also emails. But as often as is possible, to be available by phone. Barbara is going to work out a schedule and tomorrow to ask people to sign up to let her know what days and times are most accessible to you.

Think about this now so that you can offer something when she asks tomorrow. Because of her teaching schedule she's most available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, because she's more inclined to travel on Friday and not come back until Monday when she's teaching. There will be times in the daytime and times at night on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. For those of you who find that impossible, we'll work something out, but you'll have to know that at times you'll have less frequent phone meetings, because if she's out of town leading retreats she'll not be able to meet with you be telephone. She'll still respond to emails in a deeper way if she doesn't phone. There still will be phone contact; she doesn't teach every weekend. But as much as possible, those 3 days are most accessible for her.

Q: I started doing the vipassana practice and writing notes about it, and it seems to be sort of the same old same old. So I'm wondering, the comments that you made today were helpful as far as having some vocabulary or ways of talking about the practice, or watching subtleties and changes, and I wonder if you can direct us to something or give us some... more direction...

Aaron: What I will have Barbara do is to send out a little bit of her journaling after her sitting. That will be offered not as a format to follow but just as some kind of general suggestion.

What arose during the sitting? What was the texture of the sitting? Was it calm or restless? How did attention relate to what arose? Was there tension or contraction around what arose or was there spaciousness? If there was spaciousness, was there clinging to the spaciousness? If there was tension, was there aversion to the tension?

Q: Would it be useful to create some kind of form with these questions that you just posed so that...

Aaron: I'll consider that. Many of you have been sending in very skillful reports and I don't want to influence those by shifting you into some special format. So perhaps for those who are uncertain how to proceed, and only for those, we'll provide some format.

Okay, I want to stop here and let you move into your groups. A question for you, what you feel will be most helpful. We can have 3 groups of 6 or 6 groups of 3...(forming groups)

(recording ends)