March 25, 2010 Thursday Morning, Venture Fourth #3

This transcript has only been lightly reviewed, filling in any blanks.

Keywords: precepts, dzogchen, trekchod, luminosity, chain of dependent origination, pure awareness practice, elements

Aaron: We're at the opening of Venture Fourth. We're taking the Refuges.

You have such a precious opportunity here to practice dhamma, to practice as a sangha, to find the inner Buddha and bring it forth. All of you have the ability to awaken. All of you indeed are awakening. You do it at different paces, some of you moving through something quite quickly and then slow down, others going slow and then (gesture, sound)...

There's no right way to practice, no right way to grow. Your results will be a reflection of your commitment but I remind you to bring forth that commitment without grasping and fear. Let the commitment rise from a place of love in your heart.

Let us take the precepts together because it is in part out of these precepts and your commitment to them that your learning comes. When you are deeply committed to living the precepts, you'll find that that serves as a deep aspiration for your practice.

Repeat after me:

I offer the intention to do no harm to any sentient being.

I offer the intention not to take that, which is not freely given.

I offer the intention to use my vocal speech only in ways that are supportive to all beings.

I offer the intention to be (let me phrase this in a very specific way) to be aware of the energies of my body and use these voices only for the highest good.

So we have the voice, mindfulness of speech, and the precept of Right Speech. But you also have body language and that must be included. That includes the sexuality and any other energies of the body.

I offer the intention not to take into this body any substance that is harmful to this body and the activities of body and clarity of mind.


We're going to sit in silence for perhaps 20 minutes; then I'm going to speak a bit into the silence as a guided meditation with this 5-step practice.

My intention is to bring a number of elements of your practice together. There is the basic vipassana practice. There is what we might call pure awareness practice. This looks a lot like what is taught as dzogchen. As Barbara said yesterday, we are not teaching it as dzogchen. I am a, shall we call it, retired--not quite retired, I'm still teaching--vipassana master, but I have never been a Tibetan master, not in a human lifetime. Of course I have learned many of these things beyond the lifetimes. But I am not authorized to teach dzogchen from within the traditional Tibetan tradition and I do not wish to disrespect that tradition; we will call our practice 'pure awareness."

What I'm trying to teach you here is a path that incorporates a number of different methods, a path to liberation and a path to service from a place of emptiness. I apologize for having planted the seeds of terminology such as dzogchen. I think it's helpful to understand the practice we are simulating, but be aware that it will not be identical to that practice.

Those of you who have deep experience with Tibetan teachers, with dzogchen, be aware that at times I may give instructions that are somewhat different, and that's okay. Try to stay open and just see how the whole comes together. Whatever experiences you have had in the past, use them as some of the building blocks that are supportive, don't abandon them. But don't try to make a round peg fit into a square hole.


May I add, don't make the square peg fit into the round hole? (laughter)

We'll review this 5-step practice so you're clear on it. We'll review basic pure awareness practice instruction, sitting with eyes open, a different practice than vipassana. Dzogchen teaches two levels of practice. One is, in the Tibetan terminology, trekchod. It's a cutting through. It's not so different than what we do with vipassana. When you see that everything has arisen from conditions and is empty, it cuts through that object and the seeming solidity of the self encountering the object.

Then – and those of you who have been to Emerald Isle with me have done a lot of this practice where we sat on the beach and held the object and allowed it to dissolve into the elements – seeing the nature of the elements, first the heavier elements of earth, air, fire, and water, and then of light and space, seeing all the aggregates dissolve into the elements.

The higher level of pure awareness practice invites the experience of everything as luminosity. It is the fullest expression of the clear empty mind. When you open into that clear and empty mind the result is luminosity in the same way that when you sit in vipassana practice, just sitting, you may hear nada. The sound, nada, and luminosity are two of the direct expressions of the Unconditioned. Space is also a direct expression of the Unconditioned. When you rest in that spaciousness, empty of self, a clear mind liberates itself from the (bounds), bonds in which it has dwelled.

I'm aware that without Barbara's vocabulary I sometimes use incorrect English phrasing. I'm just looking at the sentence I just gave: "Free of the bonds in which it has dwelled."

What comes is luminosity and spaciousness, emptiness, clarity, absolute clarity. It's not an "I am clear" kind of clarity, there's no self in it. It's simply the clarity of the awakened mind. You are finally, then, coming into direct contact with the awakened mind, which has always been there. Just, "Ah, there it is. How did I misplace it for so long?"

Our practice today will combine these various tools, vipassana practice, pure awareness practice, work with the elements, the support of this 5-step practice. These are all supportive tools. The end is not to become a proficient meditator in each of these practices. The end is simply to see and know the nature of mind and rest there. The nature of mind is clarity and light.

As in learning anything, mastery of the tools is helpful so we'll work at understanding the tools. My intention is that we'll review all the tools today, then enter silence, and tomorrow will be a day of silent practice where each of you will work in the ways that feel most clear and useful to you.

While some of you may have some profound experiences of "Ah, that's it! That is the nature of mind," for most of you if that comes it will be a glimpse. We will work with that for the next 4 months. You will continue to work with this, and when we come here next time you will be able to do more of this practice floating on objects on the lake, out with the elements, with a lot of natural light. I want you all out there in July floating on a float or a noodle or whatever supports you, watching the radiance of the sun hitting the water. Sun! Fire! Water! Space! Air! Earth around you. And literally dissolving into that.

So we're not going to do this just today and let it go, we're going to work on it in July. Consider this intensive to be more of an introduction.

What does it mean when I say that everything dissolves into light? The 5-step practice says it in some ways. We see the emptiness of mind. But what is the experience of light? I can best phrase it in this way: when you see that emptiness and there are no thoughts about anything including the emptiness, just resting in the emptiness, most of you will eventually have a literal experience of luminosity.

I've been asked, what do I mean by luminosity? It's not necessarily going to be some startling bright light that overwhelms and knocks you out. It may be experienced more just as a glow, a radiance. Each of you is unique. Each will experience it in a different way. It is a direct expression of the Unconditioned. Some of you have worked with nada-- how many of you have worked with nada? How many of you have worked at all with luminosity? Some of you have, okay.

We're taking it one step further. The luminosity that you've worked with is still a thing. Let me rephrase that. It is still experienced by you as a thing. The luminosity of which I speak is totally empty. There is no "thing" quality to it. It's empty. Beyond that words will not take me right now. We'll see what's experienced; we'll talk about it. I think most of you will start to understand within yourself when I say it's there and yet it's empty. We have some exercises we will do that will help support understanding.

Let us sit now for about 15 minutes and then I'll bring in just a small amount of words, some guidance, to direct your practice in a specific direction. Then sit again, then a few more words of guidance, and so forth.

(taping pauses for sitting)


Stay quiet in your meditation and let me speak into the meditation.

I see a few of you are not here. I wonder if people are working in the kitchen? I prefer people to hear this but that's up to them.

Tell them I'm going to give instructions, I'd appreciate that. We'll just sit quietly for a minute...

(pause for others to arrive)

What is the meditative mind?

With those brief words from me and the sound of the bell, many of you just noted "hearing" and stayed with the practice and others of you thought, "Ah, we're done," began to squirm a little bit, changed your body posture. There was anticipation or expectation, subtle tension, waiting for something. Note that tension as tension. Be present with it. See how it arose out of certain conditions and watch it pass away.

Whatever arises, be present with it and as it dissolves, rest in the spaciousness into which it dissolved. Don't be in a hurry to fill that space with something else, just rest there until something becomes predominant. If a strong object arises and pulls you out of the spaciousness, note it.

Increasingly, spaciousness itself becomes the primary object. For those of you who have worked with nada as a primary object, the shift into spaciousness as a primary object will be very simple. For those of you who have worked with the breath as a primary object it will take a bit more transition.

Feeling the inhale and exhale and also the spaciousness in the breath, that the breath is not solid...

Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, space, the aperture in the breath, stop. Breathing out, stop. Breathing in, stop. Breathing out...


When I speak, ear organ touches my voice and hearing consciousness results. Whenever there is contact of the sense organ to the sense object, consciousness arises: body consciousness, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, which are all rupa, or mind consciousness, nama. That consciousness will be accompanied with a feeling of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Perception will arise, "Ah, that's a voice." Sometimes perception will seem to arise before feeling or with feeling, sometimes after. It is not necessary to know which came first. Feeling and perception are also nama.

Perception may be a very bare perception, hearing a voice without any layers of old experience added or it may be very conditioned by old experience. If there is – in terms of the practice you've been doing, if you hear that "famous person's"1 voice – you don't just hear the voice, usually, but immediately it's unpleasant and tension comes up because the perception is, "Ah, this is so-and-so's voice," or "Uh-oh, it's so-and-so's voice." There's immediate armoring of the self and tension.

There's nothing necessarily unpleasant in the voice but because of the perception, of the ownership of the voice, it's experienced as unpleasant. The body tenses. Often that tension is not noted but this is the next predominant object. The voice is no longer predominant or even the feeling of unpleasantness of the voice, but rather, the tension in the body is predominant. Noting the tension, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Perception of body tension.

Given the opportunity, mental formations will arise upon these feelings and perceptions. So if it's the difficult person, hearing that voice, mind may immediately run into old stories about that person. "This person always shows up just at the wrong time. This person always wants something from me. This person is always critical of me." Thinking, thinking.

So if the body has not tensed but stayed present with hearing and unpleasant and perception of whose voice it is, those kinds of mental formations, aversion, may come. The thought may be predominant or the tension in the body may be predominant as expression of the aversion.

It is all arising from conditions. We say it's empty of any separate self. It's just the interplay of conditions.

Years ago Barbara and I taught the basics of this pure awareness practice to a very senior Theravada monk. We talked about sitting with eyes open, spacious. Not creating any separate thing but if something seemed to solidify to ask, "What is it? Is there anything separate here?" And he said, "Ah, then one has had to have had some kinds of enlightenment experience to understand that nothing is separate."

I understood what Ajahn was asking but no, I don't think it's necessary to have had some previous enlightenment experience so much as that the experience comes in that moment. When awareness is totally present with the object that has arisen and sees deeply into its emptiness, that it simply arose and passed away, nothing solid, one observes that there's nothing you can point to and say, "That's separate from anything else."

So yes, if you've had that past experience that's certainly helpful. On the other hand one can slip into, how shall we say it, remembering emptiness rather than the present experience of emptiness. If you've tasted this once it can help you to understand it in the present moment but you can use that understanding, that memory, as a crutch, and not be fully present.

So objects arise, are present in our experience, are pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, and then there may be some perception of what the object is but no story about it. If one is fully present, one sees the impulse to move into a story, a thought, a memory about the object, or whatever, sees that moment of remembering, "Ah, this memory is a new object. This impulse to remember or to hold something of the past, or the memory itself, it's another object that also fades away."

One of the reasons I don't want to distinguish between dzogchen practice and vipassana practice is that there's nothing really separate there. There's a different meditation practice that we'll do together, eyes open, pure awareness practice. But here in this moment there is either spaciousness or an object. If there is an object and one brings attention to the object, one knows there's nothing solid within that object. It is arisen out of conditions, it's empty of any self, and it passes away. Knowing this emptiness is a fruit of Awareness.

One challenge for some people is that in your practice you are often used to bringing attention back to the primary object. When an object has passed away, as we just did with the breath, then there is space. The inhale arises and stops. Feel that space. The exhale. Space. The inhale. Space. Rest in that space.

The second challenge is you then make a something, a thing, out of that space. The space is not a thing. One of the benefits of practicing with eyes open is that one can let go better of that sense of thingness, just looking out into space. No thing, nothing, empty.

We're going to try a small exercise here with this warning ahead of time: in the next minute or so I'm going to shout. Ear touching sound, the organ touching the object, hearing consciousness. It may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Even though you have been warned, there will probably be a startle reflex because it's different from the tempo and volume of my present voice.

One of two things may happen for you with that startle. There may be the experience of startle and a vast space for a moment. Just empty, mind empty, and then mind will pick up again. But try to recognize that emptiness if it comes, that space.

Or that sense of space may not come. The startle may be so strong that the body contracts and there's tension. Immediately note that as the next object. As the tension dissolves, what's left? Where does the tension go? As the tension dissolves, does anything remain?

So there's no special result you should experience but if there's tension, be with the tension. If there's space, know the space. A very simple exercise. Most of you have --aaaeeeeiii!


Some of you experienced a sense of space where everything seemed to stop. Some of you experienced such strong body tension that there was not any sense of that space. But then those that experienced tension mostly watched as the tension dissolved and, following my instruction, went to that place of no tension.


I'd like to do it again, have you watch in the same way. Seeing how all these objects are simply arising and passing away, really empty of any separate self. When we look there is nothing there. When there is nothing there, just rest in that emptiness. But don't try to create space or emptiness because that's artificial; just let things be. Don't fixate on anything; don't try to create anything. Don't try to separate from anything. Just rest.

(BELL BELL BELL! long fadeout)


Most of you felt less tension the second time. Some of you used the fading away from the bell, very different from the shout, to go into the space with the bell.

These are expressions of the "Vision is mind, mind is empty" practice as stated through the vipassana instructions and practice. It's nothing you have not already met in your vipassana practice.

Jim passed me a guided meditation that he did with his sangha and I'd like to read it to you. I found it very valuable. With your permission, Jim. I'm simply reading you Jim's notes.

"Let's close our eyes. Take a deep breath as if you are getting ready to do your normal meditation. Let's pretend that if something is not in your awareness then it doesn't exist. The world only exists because you are aware of it.

"In this moment you hear my voice. It is the primary object. Your awareness is falling on my voice. Your awareness is like a light shining on my voice. People and objects in other places don't exist. My voice is all that exists in this moment.

"If a thought comes up then that thought is the only thing that exists, and it exists only because you are aware it exists.


It's not in Jim's notes but if a thought arises and you note "thinking" and the thought goes, "What remains?", rest there.


"Hearing my voice again, mind touching voice. Imagine your awareness is creating this world. Objects that arise into your awareness and fall out of your awareness are only there because of your awareness. Only objects in your awareness exist.


"Hearing, hearing. The sound of the bell exists only because your awareness touched it.


"This whole world is coming into being because you are aware of it.


"My voice exists only because you are aware of my voice. If you investigate deeply into what is happening in this moment, you can't actually find my voice, you can only find your awareness of my voice. Your awareness is all that is present.


"Awareness of voice. Awareness of light. Awareness of body sensation.


"When awareness touches the object, be deeply present with it. When the object ebbs, don't rush back into any other primary object but rest in what remains. I'm going to sound the bell again, not so loud., but loud enough to be a strong object. Be present with the bell, aware. As the bell fades go into the emptiness that is left."

(bell bell bell)


Please keep your eyes closed. I'm going to walk around and place an object, a small solid, seemingly solid, object in each of your hands. Don't try to figure out what it is, just hold it. After I've given them out I'll come back and give a very few more instructions and then we'll sit in silence for a bit.

(pause while Aaron distributes objects)

This object feels solid but your physics would tell you that it is simply molecules resting in space, floating in space. I want you to envision this object as swelling up big, breaking apart, so there is a vast space into which the molecules float.

Let the object break apart, literally. In the mind, see the spaciousness and not just the solid object. Know the spaciousness.

We'll practice in silence for a bit now. There's one more part to this. Through this week if any object starts to feel solid, like an unpleasant memory or a pain in the back, lift up this small object and hold it and let it serve as a reminder. It is all arising out of conditions and empty of a separate self. Let it bring you back into the emptiness, and let emptiness bring you back into the direct experience of space.

We will move on in the next sitting to space as light. If that comes easily to you now, that's fine, but don't try to force it there. Don't try to force any sense of luminosity. Just awareness of space.

We'll sit now in silence for about 15 minutes.

(sitting; bell)

Barbara: Aaron wants me to share something with you before he incorporates again. Before we go into the emptiness as clear light stage, we're going to spend some time working with the elements. Many of you have done this with me before and I apologize for any repetition. For those who have heard this and worked with it many times before, simply let go of my words, and practice.

My first deep experience working with the elements with Aaron was about 13 or 14 years ago, sitting atop a very high rock on the island of Santorini. Santorini is an island in Greece that had a big volcano in the middle that erupted long ago, leaving a crescent as the main island, water, the still-smoldering volcano, and then a rim of outer islands, very tiny outer islands, water all around.

So if you can picture this, (if) the island was like an inverted cone and the volcano blew away the center and left a crescent with a cliff that drops off a thousand feet down into the sea. The far end of the crescent, there's a small town on the western edge of this crescent where many of the buildings including the rooms that you may rent are simply caves built into the cliff side, fancy caves, that were white-washed, that have plumbing, have electricity. But they're still caves with rock outcroppings within; there's a very strong earth element. There are no windows except at the front of the cave and then the rooms go back into the mountain, so that there's a front room and then a dark bedroom.

When you come out and sit on the rock in the front there's vast sky, and a huge sea. In front of you this smoking volcano, hot sun, and this thousand-foot rock that you're sitting on, just bedrock. Hal and I were there for some days and living in one of these caves. The first morning when I came out Aaron said he wanted to introduce me to a deeper level of element practice. We had done this before but not to this degree. Here we had the elements of earth, air, fire, water, and space or ether.

You're used to these elements. You know what the earth element feels like within you and you know what the fire element feels like, and water, air. Air and space are different. Air is the wind element and it's motion, it's fluidity and movement. It's change, impermanence. Space is nothing; it's empty.

One experience of the space element is energy such as chi energy. It's not exactly the same thing. It's one of the ways we can tune in to the space element but it's more of a signpost to the space element than the space element itself.

I was familiar with it to that point but what Aaron started to teach me that day beyond that was that each of the elements contains the other elements so there's not just a solid earth element, but if you tune in deeply to the earth element you can feel the balance of all the elements within the earth element. And the same for each of the elements. No one of them stands alone.

When tension comes up, for example, I can feel in myself that the fire element is usually out of balance and the earth element is out of balance. A lot of fire as anger, tension, heavy earth element, everything feels stuck, there's no air or water fluidity, there's no movement.

The simpler way to balance these elements is simply to look at that tension and say, "I invite in more water, I invite in more air." It becomes subtle, though, as you work with it; we turn to the earth element itself where everything feels stuck, or the fire element, that feels prevalent with anger. Let's use the fire element with anger. When I explore the fire element I find that right there in the fire element it's out of balance. That when there's anger it's not just that there's a superabundance of fire element and lack of air and water but that the fire element itself has too much fire in it.

This sounds like a lot of doing but it becomes a very natural process. As I bring attention to the fire element, at first I'm doing and saying, "What do I need to add, subtract, what do I need to fix?" but eventually the whole sense of fixing falls away. Instead it's more just like holding something in balance.


Just holding there and balance. The body moves naturally to restore balance. The energy, the intention, everything moves naturally to, it's not even restore because that's too much doing, to allow balance. Balance is natural so when we get into an imbalance it's because there's not attention, there's not awareness. If the strong intention is to be present in the world in a loving openhearted way, to do no harm, to bring my whole body and mind to its connection, its merging with the world in an openhearted and loving way, and then if anger comes up and there's tension and imbalance, if I think I have to fix it, that's just creating more self and more imbalance. When I trust the presence of the natural balance and just relax I immediately see what's lacking.

For me, the way Aaron taught me this is through color and painting. I had a little water color set with me there. So he said to just mix 3 colors, red, yellow, blue, using the pots of color. Now mix some yellow and blue together, there's green. If it's too blue I'm going to add more yellow. If it's too yellow I'm going to add more blue. What kind of green do I want? Mix red and blue together.

So I began to understand what he meant by knowing my intention. I don't have to ask myself, "I want purple. Do I use yellow? Do I use orange? What should I use?" because this is something I've learned deeply. If I want purple I'm going to use blue and red.

If I want a full openhearted presence and this palette feels unbalanced, what do I want to add? And it's not me adding anymore, it's just allowing to flow in what's needed to flow in to bring forth natural balance. It becomes intuitive. Some of you are probably thinking, "Maybe it's intuitive for you but I can't do that." But you can. It becomes intuitive.

You've lived for however many years you've been alive in this body and more lifetimes in other bodies. You understand these elements at a deep level even if you never consciously considered them before.

Aaron is going to talk more about this, I just wanted to give you some background. He's going to do some exercises with you. For now we're going to pause in the vision-as-mind process, not go yet into the luminosity aspect of it but to develop the work with the elements for a bit so that that serves as a support to understanding what luminosity is. Because when you understand that you're not forcing the elements but allowing, it helps you to understand how to allow that experience of luminosity.

I don't want to get into a lot of questions here. I promise you we'll have time to talk and ask questions. Let's just let Aaron come in and do some exercises with you and some practice.

Aaron: Barbara has offered some background on the elements of earth, air, fire, water and ether. First I want you to identify as best you can the earth element in yourself, knowing that all the elements are present in any one of the elements. Still there's one that more clearly identifies itself as earth, this heavy material body.


Breathing in and breathing out. First feel the air element in the breath and then more deeply throughout the body... The fire element is energy. Clench your fist, then unclench it. Feel the energy in both motions... Bring attention to the base chakra. Sitting erect, feeling the energy moving up and down the spine... Think a thought such as an intention to reach out the hand but don't reach out the hand. Pause, feeling that intention, the energy behind it, almost like a pulsation in the hand and shoulder, ready to reach out. Fire energy... Water energy, the blood running through the veins. All the fluid in the cells.

We're going to do a short guided meditation here with appreciation to Thich Nhat Hanh.

Be a mountain. Feel the platform of the buttocks on the cushion, the triangle of the knees of you're sitting on a zafu. Vision the mountain in your mind. Feel the solidity and stability of it...

The sun may shine on it and bake it. Rain may come and wash it away. Winds may blow against it. The mountain just sits. Solid, stable... You are earth.

(pause; further pauses are not noted)

Now you are stream running down the mountain formed of a spring pumping its fresh water and of the snowmelt... Feel yourself racing downhill, winding through crevices, bouncing off rocks. At times, leaping up in a fine spray and then falling down 10 or 15 feet only to gather yourself and begin again.

Feel how different the form experience is for the water. It is fluid. Its nature is to fill any hole that's available to it, whether that's a cleft in the rocks or whether it permeates itself into the soil, into the space between the molecules of soil, and is sucked up by the tree roots and the grass roots...You are the stream, moving, fluid, unbounded...

Now become the fire element, the sun shining down on the mountain and the stream. Feel your power and intensity. Feel yourself heating the rocks and warming the water. There is nowhere you cannot go, breaking through everything, even into caves in which you warm the air as the wind blows into the cave. You are not only fire from the sun but fire from the heart of the earth and molten lava...

Heat, power, energy. Feel the expansiveness of that power. Where the form element was stable and still and the water element was fluid, the heat element is expansive, not in any way afraid of its power...

Now become a breeze blowing across this mountain, touching the rock, the soil, the stream, the trees and flowers. Also powerful, sometimes coming as a caress and sometimes as a very firm force...

Whereas the water element must follow certain natural rules like gravity, the air element is everywhere. It comes as wind and it comes as stillness also. When the wind ceases, the air element remains. So the air element comes as the wind and it comes as the cessation of wind...

I would ask you now to be a flower. First feel the form element in the self, that material sturdiness and stability, face turned up toward the sun, roots dug deep into the soil. Be a strong large flower... Feeling form element...

Next turn your attention to the roots pulling in moisture from the soil. Feel that water coursing through the flower body... If you take the moisture away, the flower dries up. Adding moisture, you are vital. Feel the fire element that adds energy.

It's interesting that without moisture one might say the flower burns up because of the fire element of the sun, but the flower itself has no fire element when you take away the moisture; then it loses all its energy, all its fire.

Feel the difference how when you take in adequate moisture, then the fire element can express itself. Feel that fire moving through you, filling you so that the budding leaves, the budding petals open, embracing the sun.

I want you to feel the balance, how at this point form element, water element, fire element, have come together in this vibrant, fully alive flower. Swaying in the soft breeze, embraced by the breeze. You might at first think the breeze is not within the flower. Be the flower, feeling the breeze and see how you take that breeze into yourself...

Still as the flower, I want you to feel the space within you as you felt it within the petal that you hold. Feel the openness of your cellular structure. Feel what a large part of you is made up of space. There are molecules of matter, molecules of water, but also space.

Feel yourself changing moment by moment. As the hot sun parches you and the ground dries out from the sun, feel yourself pulling into yourself so the form element becomes heavier. There is less fluidity, less water element, less air, less space. Which is becoming very hot. The fine hairs on the roots are drying out. Feel yourself closing to conserve your energy.

It's not just that there is too much fire outside of you. Watch what happens inside and how the inner fire element dies away. Lower and lower energy, closing, protecting, hardening...

And now the gardener has arrived with a large watering can with a gentle spray. Feel the spray on the hardened body and the earth beginning to soften and begin to take in moisture...

Feel those root hairs beginning to reach out and extend out into the now-dampened earth. Feel yourself opening. More water coming in. More accessible to the air and to space. That which was hardened and closed is opening. Flower face again reaching up from its drooped stance to face the sun.

Feel the whole body coming back into balance...

We cannot work with the space element itself until there is that preliminary balance. This is where your mindfulness work and vipassana practice are very useful, watching contraction, seeing how mind jumps to stories and personalizes the experiences. More stories, closing. But when there is mindfulness and one knows this has arisen out of conditions, it is impermanent and not self, one lets go and there's simply watching without a watcher, just presence. Letting everything be as it is. The flower has to let everything be, the flower cannot water itself. And yet the flower does not quite leave everything be, it closes itself, it hardens itself, and so does the human.

For the human who is closing, the choice not to close can become a conscious one. The more conscious it is, the more you are able to rest in awareness and simply watch as consciousness, mind and body consciousness arise and pass away, without any stories of self. Or if a story arises, to simply know it as one expression of mind consciousness.

The more you are able to do that, the more access you have to spaciousness. The spaciousness has always been there. To try to know the spaciousness before you have done this work with the elements would be a way of fixing and causing greater solidity, imposing a concept of spaciousness rather than coming into the direct experience of clarity and spaciousness...

Now instead of being a flower, be a human. Be a human sitting on a cliff top, as Barbara was, with the hot sun beating down, the earth baked beneath you. Feel any closure from that discomfort. The flower needs rain or the gardener's watering can, but you the human don't. Yes, of course, on a literal level to survive you need water but you're sitting on this cliff top.

Imagine in your mind looking out at that vast sea that surrounds you on 3 sides. Breathe in the water element... Let it mingle with the form element until it feels balanced... Feel the breeze on your face and breathe in the air. Let the air element fill your body. Feel this form element body until form, air, and water are mingled. And the sun, not as something that burns and destroys but as energy, bringing it in, inviting balance.

Eyes within the meditation, keeping your eyes closed, but imagining opening them and seeing this vast sea, seeing the radiant sunlight, glittering like a million diamonds on the water. Feeling the breeze and seeing the ripples of breeze on the water. Feeling that mass of rock beneath you and merging with that rock. Let go of the self and become all of this. Right here in this form body, be the mountain, the water, the fire, the air. Let any concept of self dissolve.

Just as the sea holds the air as wind and the fire as sparkle and the fire's warmth, just as the sea has its own form, allow this being that you are to experience its fullness, to let go of any self-identity and simply to be the elements...

Mind activity ceases. There is pure being...

Allow the experience of a color arising for each of these elements, a rainbow. Releasing the body into this rainbow of light. The form body, the air element, the water element, the fire element, opening out in space as a rainbow of light, radiant.

Don't let a something intrude. This radiance I speak of is not a something, it's pure essence. Resting in awareness, not the mental noting of vipassana, just full presence, allow yourself to experience this mingling and dissolution of the elements into pure light.

Let's sit for a few minutes in silence with that instruction.


Now imagine a strong catalyst arising, maybe the memory of your famous person or loud sound.

(bell bell bell! Loud!)

Feel any contracted energy. Each of you will have your own habitual patterns here. Some may harden, slipping back into an unbalanced earth energy, barricaded. Others may bring up excess fire for power to control this guest. Whatever your own habitual energy is, look and see what brings in balance first. Let's do that.

You are not fixing anything, you are simply re-inviting balance because of your intention to non-harm and for the highest good...

Within that balance experience both spaciousness and emptiness. Everything that has just been experienced is simply the passing of conditions, no self. Allow yourself to rest in that spaciousness. Clear and empty. The nature of mind is clarity and that clarity is luminescence. Don't create luminescence. But as you dissolve into spaciousness, if luminescence arises, simply rest in it.


The nature of mind is clear and empty. It reflects whatever comes. When a thought comes, mind touches the thought. When the sensation comes, the sensation is likewise touched and known. These objects arise and pass away according to conditions. They have no solidity. Like the flower with which you experimented, which will eventually die away into the earth, literally be pulverized into the earth. As it becomes dust, it becomes ground for a new flower. Everything is impermanent yet nothing ever ceases entirely. In the conditioned realm it is constantly expressing.

The mind is so used to mirroring what comes that it has learned to create a self-identity with whatever it's experienced. When this habit of self-identification is seen as just another object, and is released into the vast spaciousness of clear mind, everything stops. At first you will find space that is more of the nature of the elemental space there. When you move through that elemental space, seeing this also as an object, and relaxing any attempt to control that space in any way, you find awareness merging with space and the innate clarity and luminosity of mind reveals itself.

This is the practice with which we will continue to work. After lunch we'll do some very specific open-eyed pure awareness practice, practicing with posture and breath in certain ways. And then we'll take these 3 aspects of the practice that we've talked about today and discuss them, hear your questions. Talk about how you may use them through this evening and tomorrow.

We'll end now for your lunch.

(bell bell bell)

1 Geshe Tenzin Wangyal. "Vision is Mind." A link to this teaching is on the DSC web site, archives/ venture fourth/ readings. This is the 5-step practice to which Aaron refers.