March 26, 2010 Friday Morning, Venture Fourth #3

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

Keywords: awakening, access concentration, pure awareness practice, kilesas, sem, rigpa, trekchod, togyal, dzogchen, luminosity, cessation experience, sankhara, satyagraha

Barbara: I sat for quite awhile last night and again this morning looking at the relationship between access concentration and pure awareness. First I want to take a step backward. Venture Fourth was planned primarily as a way of assisting ourselves to become increasingly clear servants in the world and to do that service from as much a place of emptiness as possible.

Service is a very clear vehicle for awakening. We're not saying that our intention is not to awaken, awakening is always the highest aspiration. But we don't start with the intention, "I'm going to do this so I can awaken," I'm going to do this so as to become an ever clearer servant in the world. And we know that's going to lead us into the direction of awakening.

We started the program with different tools, meeting your guides, doing shamanic journeying, meeting your crystal guides, breath work, work with the charkas and elements, and more. The various tools that we've been developing, including a strong pure awareness practice, are all tools that help to point out where we're stuck in the small mind, in the ego, and help us to release ourselves from that stuck place.

We can ask our guides for guidance and that's helpful. We can practice in all these different ways, always working toward the aspired end of becoming ever more clear, more empty of the control of the ego. It's not that we're trying to get rid of ego; we're trying to find that aspect of ourselves that is not controlled by ego and live from that space, from that clarity.

I find Vipassana practice is a complete vehicle that can take us there but it's useful to find other supports where they're available. It's like my feet will take me on a walk from here to California but if there's a river, a boat would be helpful. We don't turn our backs on genuine supports and say, "No, I'm committed. I'm just going to do it by foot," unless there's a reason to do it by foot.

We've taken birth in a culture that has amazing access to all these various traditions. We need not to grasp – it's been called a spiritual supermarket – and say, "I'll try a little of this and a little of that and a little of that." We need to commit ourselves to a tradition, as all of you have; you've all committed yourselves to vipassana as a tradition and to understanding that practice and deepening in that practice. But we use these various supports.

Access concentration takes us to a place where the wisdom mind goes deep, where we see objects arising and passing away. We understand the whole conditional aspect of mundane reality, everything arising and passing away, impermanent and not self. There's no going out to an object, no pulling back from an object. We can't say the object is not real, it has a relative reality, but it has no ultimate reality, it's simply impermanent and conditioned.

Access concentration is a very specific form of concentration. It can't watch the huge picture, it watches this object arising and dissolving. It watches the next object arising and dissolving. It moves into a very deep wisdom about the conditioned realm. Out of that wisdom comes clarity about the emptiness of self, of everything, that nothing has a separate self.

But access concentration doesn't itself take us into the dharmakaya. I said last night, it's part of the sambhogakaya bridge. One moves beyond access concentration. Access concentration is a tool that gets us onto the bridge and then something else takes us beyond the bridge.

This is where I was looking last night and this morning, trying to understand, how to articulate this better. I've experienced this so many times and until your questions last night I never really thought about it. So I'm changing here a bit of what I said last night.

When I get to that place where access concentration is very strong, it's very peaceful. There's complete equanimity, there's joy, there's ease. Repeatedly I see what seems like a glow in the distance. That's the only way I can phrase it, like the very earliest dawn on the horizon. Through closed eyes there's a sense of approaching light. But I'm not in the light; I only see it out there.

Then there comes the intention within access concentration to enter more fully into the light, If I had never worked with Pure awareness, there would be uncertainty about what that light is. But it is familiar because I've done other kinds of practice and experienced it before.

For the vipassana practitioner who has done no pure awareness or other kind of practice, we come to that point that we've talked about with many of you where it feels like you're on the edge of a cliff being asked to jump into the unknown. One asks, "What if I go into that light and the light dissolves everything that I've ever thought of as self? Is it safe? Will I annihilate myself?" Solely with the traditional vipassana path, I ask myself to move toward something that people have told me is safe but of which I have no personal knowledge.

Resting in awareness takes me to a different place. First, the term, "resting in awareness: I'm going to use the Tibetan term rigpa here. It's a simple word and I don't think it's intruding on Tibetan practice to use that term, rigpa.

The kilesas, or defilements, temporarily dissolve as you enter rigpa. You can't be fully in rigpa with the defilements functioning. It doesn't mean they're gone, but at that moment while resting in awareness they are not functioning. When a defilement returns, it pulls you out of rigpa.

Q: What's a defilement?

Barbara: The Pali word is kilesa. It simply means the experiences of fear, hatred, greed, all heavy and self-centered emotions that come with a strong sense of separate self. The whole illusion of the separate self is perhaps the core defilement that we need to get past.

Added while reviewing. From the site: - N70 Please note, here at my cabin my dial-up connection is very slow so this is not a "best" site, only a useable, clear one.

Defilements are divided into three kinds, namely:

1) Coarse kilesa; they manifest by way of body and speech, for example: to cut off the life of living beings; to seize things that belong to other people by robbing, stealing, pilfering, or snatching; sexual misconduct; lying, slandering, insulting; to take intoxicants and drugs which are the origin of carelessness. (Abstention from these acts is sila and a basic requirement for the successful practice of meditation.)

2) Medium kilesa; that is to say the nívarana, kilesa that appear in the mind. They season the mind so that it gives rise to desire; dissatisfaction, anger, dejection, drowsiness, agitation, worry, annoyance, indecision, doubt, and delusion. The medium kilesa have authority when they have arisen, they make the mind hot, stuffy, clumsy, troubled, worried, annoyed, apprehensive, uncertain and skeptical more and more.

3) Subtle kilesa; they are called anusaya-kilesa. They are the nature that lies dormant in the five rúpa-náma-kkhandha. When there is a sufficient cause they are bound to arise. Usually these anusaya-kilesa remain quiet, they are not at all evident and do not issue forth in any way. But when there are any objects, whether good or bad, that come into contact with the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body, and the mind then their state changes to the medium and coarse kilesa and they break forth through body and speech later.

As an analogy, to distinguish between these three kinds of coarse, medium, and subtle kilesa, one may compare them with a match. The subtle kilesa resemble the fire that is hidden in the head of the match. The medium kilesa are like taking match and striking the side of the matchbox. The fire then becomes evident. The coarse kilesa compare to using the fire that has sprung up and setting it to some material. The fire will then burn that object and can spread into a big blaze later.

So when any of these are strong – it may be just minor irritation but any anger comes with a sense of self – mind thinks, "Me; I don't want that." You can think about rigpa but you can't move into rigpa. The move into rigpa temporarily releases the defilements. Access concentration also temporarily releases the defilements but access concentration is more in this moment. In this moment seeing even an awareness of body pain arise. Aversion doesn't arise with the body pain. There's a sense of pain and it may be felt as unpleasant.

I experienced this firmly once on retreat out at my cabin. I was meditating and in a deep place of access concentration and there was a skunk, probably somewhere near my cabin. There was a very strong acrid smell. My eyes were burning; my nose was burning, noting, "smelling, smelling, strong burning." In my mind arose the image of a skunk. It was fascinating to me afterwards to realize there was no aversion, just presence, skunk, knowing this too will pass. There was complete equanimity with it and just watching it.

So that degree of concentration is so strong that the defilements temporarily removed. But the defilements are only permanently removed in full realization experience.

Q: Final full realization or like each step <inaudible>.

Barbara: Each of the stages of realization – stream-entry, once-returner, non-returner, arahat, or Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami, Arahat – releases different of the defilements. From the same web site for those who want more detail:

The Arahat (the fourth stage of realization) is a fully Enlightened being who has extinguished all defilements. The Sotapanna (first stage of realization, also Sotapatti-magga-nana) has uprooted wrong view but still has other defilements. The Sakadagami and Anagami are at the second and third stage of realization, respectively .

The Sotapanna and the Sakadagami have consciousness with attachment (lobha-mula-citta) without wrong view, and this citta can be attached to all six classes of objects. The Anagami has lobha-mula-citta without wrong view which is attached to the class of objects which can only be experienced through the mind-door (dhammarammana). He has eradicated attachment to the sense objects which are visible object, sound, odour, flavour and tangible object. The Arahat has neither kusala dhammas nor akusala dhammas on account of the six classes of objects. He has completely eradicated all defilements and akusala dhammas. The person who is not Arahat may understand the characteristics of the objects as they are, he may know when the object is a paramattha dhamma and when a concept. However, so long as one has not eradicated all defilements there are conditions for their arising. There can be happiness or sadness, like or dislike on account of the objects, be they paramattha dhammas or concepts. To what extent defilements arise for the non-arahat depends on the degree of understanding that has been developed, it depends on whether a person is a non-ariya or an Ariya who is a Sotapanna, a Sakadagami or an Anagami.

This web site may be helpful for those who want a more technical explanation:

Each of these 4 stages of enlightenment permanently releases certain of the defilements. Meanwhile the best we can do until we've attained that arahat level is to be mindful of how we shift back into a sense of a separate ego that starts running things from a place of fear and contraction and just say no, I'm not going to do that. This is a core of our Mussar-based practice, deepening in awareness and seeing that we can shift these habitual energies. We can create a shift that has us living from a much more centered and loving place rather than the habitual fear-based place.

So with each of these areas that we've explored like humility, responsibility, generosity, and so forth, one thing that ties them together is that when we respond in an unwholesome way, that response is coming from a very self-centered and fear-based place. When we respond in a wholesome way we see that this is just a concept of me vs. that; if I release the idea and move past the idea, I'm able to respond to the world in a much more loving way, whether it's in term of patience of generosity or responsibility or something else.

Pure awareness practice is a bit different because when we rest in pure awareness we're temporarily outside the whole field of the defilements. The Tibetan system uses 2 Tibetan words, sem, for everyday mind, conceptual everyday mind, and rigpa, the pure awareness mind.

Sem is the mind that makes up the marketing list, feels annoyance at your neighbor whose dog pooped on your property and is trying to plan to get 3 things done this afternoon when you only have time for 2 of them. It's the everyday mind that's always racing around, planning, fixing. There's nothing bad about this mind. Somebody's got to get to the market. But it doesn't have to be a "somebody". A "nobody" can go to the market. There doesn't have to be a self in it.

The traditional dzogchen teachings are taught at two levels. The first is called trekchod, cutting through. The second is togyal or toghal. The trekchod practice resembles the pure awareness practice you have started with me. We haven't called it trekchod; we've simply called it pure awareness practice. We've done this at Emrich retreat for over a decade and many of you have done it with me at other retreats.

There are 3 stages. View, simply seeing the view, as it's called in Tibetan tradition. This is introducing you to this pure awareness mind. This is what this experience is. And again, we've done this countless times under that catalpa tree. Just that moment of the falling blossom. I can remember so many people saying "Ah, I got it!" at the moment seeing the blossom fall, it was just, "I got it! That's it!" Seeing the view.

After seeing the view we stabilize that in meditation. The meditation phase is the practice that we've worked with through the years where we rest in awareness, in rigpa. When pulled out we question or analyze. When the contraction releases, we return to rigpa. One approach is, when something seems separate, when we suddenly feel ourselves moving into a place of self and other, we raise one of several questions. "What is it?" or "Is there anything separate here? Anything other than God here?"

In the Tibetan teachings they ask a question in Flight of the Garuda, is it separate color or form or shape? That question seems to confuse some people because yes, this object that I see might have a specific form or color or shape but that's not it's permanent form or color or shape, it's always changing.

I prefer personally the question, "Is there anything separate here? Can I see that this is just the expression of conditions?" To understand that, you've got to have the basis of a vipassana practice that recognizes it's all arising from conditions and passing away, and there is nothing separate.

That tree someday is going to have fallen and decayed into the ground and presumably a flower garden is going to be growing there and a new tree. Is the new tree, the same tree or a different tree? It may be a totally different species of tree. That's an evergreen. What if a maple grows there with its roots buried into the rich soil of the decayed evergreen? Is it the same tree or a different tree?

All conditioned objects are arising from conditions and passing away, impermanent and not self, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. We need to be careful not to get caught in that seemingly logical pathway of nihilism that says, "Nothing exists. Nothing matters." Everything exists but it has no separate self. It's all expression of the divine and we have to cherish it as that. It all exists. But there's no separate self and there's no reason to be more attached to one form than another. It's all constantly changing.

So we work with the meditation practice to stabilize the practice. After it's stable then we get up off our cushion and take it out into the world. We can and must carry pure awareness into the world. So often Aaron reminds me, just a little tap on my shoulder, where is rigpa? And it's a wonderful question. It immediately pulls me back. I realize that I've closed myself up and separated myself. Because of the depth of my practice, that's all it takes to just (sound effect), "Okay, here's rigpa" and as soon as rigpa reopens, the defilements that were gathering dissolve, at least much of the time.

Let's use a concrete situation. I come into the kitchen; my kids are home for vacation and there's a whole pile of dirty dishes and garbage in the sink. Anger comes up. "They're 30-some years old and they still don't know how to take care of themselves!" Blah blah blah blah! Aaron will then nudge me and say, "Where is rigpa?"

Just seeing, "Okay, they're the product of their conditions. I suppose I didn't make them wash dishes enough when they were 10 years old." Maybe they have been conditioned not to clean up. Letting it go. Watching, seeing the impermanence of the anger mind. Seeing how that arose out of conditions, it's impermanent and not self. Maybe a few breaths working with feeling the out of balance-ness where there's a lot of heat and fire energy and not much movement. Even turning the water on at the sink and feeling the water. Using the water element to help cool the anger. It's not always a matter of instantly moving back into rigpa. There may be need to attend to what has arisen, which in this case might be anger. Releasing it.

And then as there's re-entry into rigpa, there's no possibility any more of anger, there's just compassion and ease. And that compassion doesn't necessarily clean up after people; it might go and tell them, "I can't make breakfast until you get your dirty dishes out of the sink." That's fine. It doesn't mean I have to do it. Just from that clarity there's no anger that asks, "Clean up your dinner dishes." Maybe they had a late party after Hal and I went to bed and left all the stuff in the kitchen. "Clean it up." But it's kindness that asks.

Rigpa is strong and there's no possibility of the defilements in that moment. But unless I can stay in rigpa 100% of the time the defilements are not eradicated. This takes us back to the vipassana practice. I'm sure that the Tibetan tradition has its own pathway for the complete release of the defilements but I don't know that pathway. For me, I take this back into the vipassana practice, back to that place where I'm sitting with access concentration and luminosity. Because I'm so familiar with luminosity and I'm so familiar with the emptiness of rigpa, with no sense of a separate self, that instead of saying, "What's that? I'm not sure I can go there," it's inviting. I see this light literally.

Q: Does it pulsate?

Barbara: It pulsates, not so much pulsating as like long rays of light reaching out, inviting. And like the sun coming up this morning, as it came up over the hill. First the ground was all dark and you could just see it across the lake, and then gradually it was lighting the grass. The strength of that luminosity invites me in; it shows me the opening.

There is a strong aspiration; this is where that change of lineage knowledge comes in, the strong aspiration not to keep coming back to the kilesas over and over and over, not to continue entrapped by them. Here is the path.

I don't know where to put rigpa on that bridge. It seems to be in two places. When rigpa is strong it takes me completely into the dharmakaya. This is the, we talk about the difference between luminosity and this innate clarity and light. This strong light of awareness seems to be dharmakaya. The luminosity is more of the sambhogakaya, more of the bridge.

Q: So does that mean that you can experience the clear light without necessarily experiencing the luminosity <inaudible>?

Barbara: No, the luminosity I think has to come first. (inaudible dialogue and laughter)

Q:...luminosity as in nada or does it have another sign?

Barbara: Luminosity as related to nada. We experience that first.

Q: The direct expression of the Unconditioned. Whatever it is, you experience that first and then the clear light after that.

Barbara: Yes, but then beyond that is that, THAT. That just disc of innate clarity and radiance, which I can't say is the Unconditioned. It's like one has stepped off the sambhogakaya bridge and got at least one foot on the dharmakaya shore. One may not have wandered 100 yards into the dharmakaya, one is still touching the bridge, but that innate clarity and radiance is... akin to but not identical to, and here I can only speak of my personal experience, akin to but not identical to the same kind of clarity and radiance that I experience through a vipassana path when there's complete ego and body dissolution, and then what is called cessation experience, when everything seems to cease arising and dissolving and there's only stillness. Within that stillness awareness notes that same strong clarity and light.

I wish I had more ways to talk about it but I've never talked about these experiences with other people and heard their experiences aside from John, a little bit his experience of it, and his experience has been similar to mine. If I talked to 100 people who had gone deeply into these experiences I'd have a broader range of illustration to give you.

Q: I heard you mention two kinds of experiences in our conversations. This type you're referring to right now is clear light. It does not seem to have any objects or content in it other than the light. (Barbara: Correct.) Then I heard you speak of being in a state of no self where there are all the objects around you and you are not separate<inaudible>.

Barbara: That would be access concentration. There's no sense of a separate self, objects are still arising and passing away. They also seem not to have any separate self. There's not necessarily a strong sense of light.

I feel the experience of what seems like a giant cornucopia; it's as if I'm standing outside and can just see the rim and I can see objects emerging and then sliding back in. Then I get myself up on the rim. When I'm up on the rim it's more like resting in rigpa. There's still the experience of objects arising and passing away and attending to them skillfully. The experience there is of resting in rigpa; if I'm just in access concentration I can only see one at a time. With rigpa I can see the whole play of it, the vastness of it. This conditioned expressing and falling away is not just about this object, it's about everything.

Then awareness seems to go down into the, "Where is this all coming from?" It's all arising out of emptiness and passing away. I don't know at this point whether to say it's access concentration taking that as an object or if awareness, I think it's more awareness, holding the whole field.

Okay, I need to ask Aaron something here, just a minute.


Aaron: Good morning and my love to you all.

Access concentration is still a form of consciousness, citta. It is bordering on the opening of the lokuttara citta, but it's still a form of consciousness. As it opens-- this instrument is hearing my thoughts and phrasing them not quite the way I might phrase them. I don't want to incorporate into her body until later.

As access concentration deepens, it moves into what is really identical to the experience of rigpa, of awareness. It is a broad awareness yet retains the ability to shine the spotlight on this object or that object.

Rigpa does not have the ability to shine the spotlight in that way on one object or another. Thus access concentration or simply deep presence provides the practitioner with a certain wisdom about the nature of the conditioned realm. One comes to that point of saying, "What I'm seeking is not in the conditioned realm." When one is sitting, as Barbara put it, on the edge of the cornucopia, everything is seen as arising from a base of emptiness and falling back into the emptiness.

Within the mind resting in awareness, the innate clarity of mind is liberated. (pause) Access concentration sees the innate clarity of mind also as an object but it's not a mundane object; it is the dharmakaya itself, revealing itself as the nature of mind, as innate clarity and radiance, as clear light.

The two seem to come together then. If one is sitting on the edge of this cornucopia and sees everything expressing out of emptiness, one understands that one must move into that emptiness, whether it's from the perspective of the vipassana practitioner with access concentration or the perspective of the practitioner resting in awareness. The practitioner with access concentration has the advantage here because there is a strong mindfulness that can be directed, as is not always present with rigpa. So there's the ability to direct mind into that emptiness and to realize the nature of that empty clear radiance as Dharmakaya, as the Unconditioned, and to move into it.

For the practitioner who approaches this with no access concentration, simply the dawning of that clear light, awareness, seeing it as clear mind, seeing it as the Dharmakaya, but there may not be the tool developed to direct awareness deeply into it, so that there's just a glimpse of it rather than a full emergence into it. This is why the vipassana path is such a practical path to taking you through these 3 remaining stages beyond stream entry, which is really the first dawning of that clear light. Let me phrase it differently. Stream entry is the first realization of everything as that clear radiance. Then the non-returner has the experience of going deeper into that clear radiance and seeing how everything is expressing as the aggregates. How the elements themselves come into play, and the various aggregates of form, feeling, perception, and so forth. All are arising out of that emptiness. There's nothing that's self.

Then for the non-returner there is the experience, usually, of seeing how this being that you were got trapped into the whole illusion of separation, and a deep understanding of the various karmic aspects that pulled you there. For the non-returner coming out of that experience, there is a very strong release of the kilesas because there's no longer any self-identification with any of it.

If I could use this as an example; if you built a whole village of snowmen, a dozen of them, and you put different decorations on them, different facial expressions. Some were tall, some were short, some were fat, and some were thin. You gave them each a name. You spent several weeks chatting with them, getting to know them. And then one day there was a heat wave and the sun came out and everything melted. All that remains is a big puddle

The non-realized human in that situation would say, "But I've lost my best friends!" And the realized human would say, "Well, of course. They were nothing but snow. But when it next rains tomorrow they'll all come back to me again, as water from the skies." Nothing is ever lost. It's all recycling.

If you were self-identified with one of those snowmen, with a deeper non-returner experience you see how you got to be a snowman or how you got to be a human. What is this human body? It's just a mixture of the elements. What is the human consciousness? That's also conditioned. What are these feelings? What are perceptions? There's nothing there but conditioning, just the outplay of conditions. And samsara is the continued flow of these conditions based on the view of a separate self.

Do you know the word sankhara? I'm looking for a word to explain it in English...Sankhara is everything that arises from conditions and in itself serves as the conditions for future arising.

This insert is from Aaron, page 11 of Aaron's book, No Chain At All:

The second part of the circle, volitional formations, sankhara means all things that come into being as the effect of causes and conditions, and, in themselves are the causes and conditions for the arising of other phenomena. As used in the doctrine of Dependent Origination, sometimes this word, sankhara, is taken to mean only actions, words and thoughts that lead to reactions, in other words, that which creates adhering karma which keeps one captive to the wheel of becoming. I feel this definition is incomplete, and prefer the first, that is, everything that comes into being as the effect of causes and conditions, and in themselves are causes and conditions for new arising.

I prefer the first for this reason. Sankhara is that which leads to the formation of karma, whether adhering or non-adhering karma. When your loving actions free of self create wholesome and non adhering karma, this does not further chain you, but karma is still created. Only the Arahat, a fully enlightened being who does not need to take rebirth, has the wisdom and complete freedom from attachment and aversion to act, speak or think totally without creating karma.

If you want to plant a sweet apple tree, you need fertile soil; you need water, rain, you need sunshine, and you need an apple seed. If you plant the apple seed, then you walk away and abandon it and the rains don't come, the seed will not grow. If you plant the apple seed and the wind blows several big thorn bush seeds onto the site, they may grow fast and choke out the apple seed.

Everything is arising from conditions and those conditions become the seed for further conditions. You return 5 years later thinking, "I'm going to find apples." And instead you find a huge growth of thorn trees in your carefully prepared soil. "What happened to my apples?" You did not take care of your apples so the thorns took over.

If you do not take care of your kilesas – of the various forces of grasping, greed, aversion, hatred and fear – they'll take over. The beautiful seeds won't grow.

Sankhara is part of the wheel of dependent origination. It's in the book No Chain At All. In that book Barbara helped work out a clear English terminology for it but I do not remember the precise English words that were used. Barbara can look it up later and review the definition of it we gave in that book. Or I can explain it to you in the Pali or Thai, if you'd like!

Everything is arising from conditions and passing away. With access concentration we have a temporary release of the defilements, we are temporarily outside the field of defilements. But you are not fully outside the field of defilements; they still arise when the conditions are present. And non-access concentration is a condition under which those conditions will arise. Non-mindfulness is a condition, non-presence. No matter how present you are, the defilements may still arise but they won't pull you into excessive behavior and reactivity to them if you're mindful. But they'll still arise.

Resting in pure awareness, pure awareness does not stop the defilements from arising as access concentration does. With access concentration you're using a certain energy and focus, holding that access concentration. That's concentration. Resting in awareness...if something comes along that will stimulate the arising of a defilement, it will still arise and then one must use the cutting through practice to say, "What is it? Is there anything here that's other than the Unconditioned?" To see the nature of what has arisen is just this or that seed that's popping up, impermanent and not self. And then you're back into awareness again, resting in awareness.

So they act differently on the defilements. Each is useful. The combination of the two is beautiful and that's why we're teaching it to you.

We're already beyond our time limit for the next sitting. We'll change the schedule. I want to finish up, though, and get you back to practice.

Our purpose in coming together these 2 years is to help you all become clear instruments to serve. Not from the ego place but from a place of rigpa, a place of centeredness and clarity, an egoless place. Of course being human it's not going to be perfect. Some of that service is going to come from the ego place. I want you to be able to recognize when it's coming from the ego and take care of it.

When it comes from a selfless place it's much more powerful. Are you familiar with Gandhi's teachings of satyagraha? The term means soul force in Sanskrit. This was the basis for Gandhi's non-violent action. He understood that if an ego said, "No, I'm not going to move from here. I'm not going to do this or that," they would simply shoot. One ego shooting another.

But when you come from this place of soul force, this place of emptiness of self, you invite that in the other. I want Barbara to tell you a story when I finish talking and before you go back to practice because it works to illustrate what we're aiming for here.

As Barbara said earlier, awakening would be one of the fruits of this work but you are not doing this work solely because you came together for 2 years to say, "We're going to have a 2-year workshop about awakening." Great, awaken! Please do. But simply start with the intention to be of service from as clear a place as possible, and because of that intention, to do this hard ongoing work with yourself to release the obscurations, and to shift the old habitual tendencies, especially that of the illusion of the separate self, so that you live from an increasing place of clarity.

The tool that I want you to refine today so it becomes more stable for you is the tool of pure awareness. You're not going to perfect it in one day; you are going to be working with this as well as the other tools through the next 4 months. And we'll do a lot more pure awareness practice out on the lake in July.

But I want you to get to know the experience of pure awareness. The second step in the Tibetan phrasing of the teachings, trekchod and togyal, togyal is the releasing-- I'm simplifying this, vastly simplifying it. But the releasing of all arising into that clear light, seeing that there is nothing, essentially, nothing but that emptiness, innate clarity, and radiance. And everything that arises merges with that and dissolves into that.

One of the reasons we work with the element practice is because it gives you the experience of working with the various elements and seeing how they merge together, which is a practical step stool to this greater merging of all arising into clear light.

When you start to see how tension can resolve itself when it's merged with spaciousness and air, you start to see that it's all flexible; it all changes. Then we start to bring (in) the direct experiences of the sitting. "Sitting; feeling some tension. Am I getting this right? Do I understand it? Maybe I don't. Maybe I'm doing it all wrong. Open my eyes, look around. Everybody else looks so peaceful. They must all get it. Why don't I get it? Ahhh, tension. The separate self. Who is this? What is this self? Is there anything solid here? Ahhh, letting it go. Coming back into spaciousness."

These are all stepping stones. B said last night he needs little steps and I think you all need little steps. So let's just take it one step at a time. For those who have a fairly clear sense of rigpa, what that experience is, feel free just to practice, alternating between the different practices we've spoken of in whatever way feels helpful to you. Do some vipassana practice. Sit some with the eyes open doing pure awareness practice.

If it feels of value to work with the elements at a certain point, do that. If it feels of value to work with your guides, do that. Working with your guides is not a meditation practice so much as a reflective time between the sittings. Talk to your guides about what's come up and about your questions.

For those who do not have clarity about the experience of rigpa, we will meet-- I'm going to leave this to Barbara to arrange the schedule. She has such a better understanding of your linear time than I do. I will leave the body. We will have time for questions this evening but I want you in silence for the day except for the instruction period with pure awareness practice for those who need it. I will return the body to Barbara.


Barbara: I see we're way past our time! So much for schedules. Aaron is laughing, he said he said the same thing. Aaron says, there's no linear time anyhow so why are we troubled with it!

Okay, Aaron is asking me to tell you briefly a story as illustration.

This goes back to the south in the early '60's, I think maybe 1961 or 62. A sit-in at a small restaurant. They had been holding sit-ins there for several weeks and angry people had come and beaten up the people who were doing the sit-in. Regularly they had had 2 couples come, a black couple and a white couple. The couple earlier had been severely beaten. They asked for volunteers, only volunteers who really understood non-violence and looking for people who had good experience with it.

I was young. (I and a young white man and a middle-aged black couple, the four of us went. The black couple was in the back seat of the car on the floor because we knew we'd never reach the restaurant if people saw them. We went into the restaurant. The other people who were there all immediately left. I could hear then. We could hear an angry mob forming outside.

There was fear. We knew we could be beaten, we knew we could even be killed. A basis of satyagraha is compassion and deep understanding that we're providing the catalyst for the person who is going to react to that catalyst. They may not be ready not to react violently, so there has to be forgiveness ahead of time. If they beat me or kill me, I accept that I'm contributing to that reaction, I'm giving them a catalyst so they can choose. They can hold back and not beat or kill me but if they do that, there's already forgiveness. If I take the action expecting them to be someplace that they're not, then I'm forcing them into a corner. Then I'm co-responsible for them killing me because I've put myself in front of, it's like putting myself in front of a grizzly bear with food hanging out of your pockets and saying, "You're not going to touch me now. I forbid you to!" Of course he's going to maul or kill me.

So we sat there for probably close to an hour, all of us in meditation. We knew each other; we trusted each other. We had come to a place of readiness where, simultaneously, we just all looked up and met our eyes and nodded and said, "Okay, we're ready." And we knew that the only thing that could protect us was our love and being in a very egoless place. I would not have phrased it as an egoless place back then; I didn't know dharma in that way. But I knew that I had to be holding space for my fear, have strong compassion, and not walk out there with anger or blame to the people.

We walked out the door; there were some steps and there was an angry mob gathered. They had tomatoes, stones and bricks and sticks and various things. I remember being terrified but also somehow, as I look back on it now, it was like the experience of access concentration. I was able to look at that terror from a place of equanimity and see, it's just terror. I didn't phrase it in this way, as I said I didn't know dharma, but there was an awareness, "it's just the way conditions have formed here. It's okay to be terrified and I don't have to blame anyone for the terror or act out the terror. Just breathe and hold space."

And all 4 of us walked down and the crowd just opened in front of us. Meeting people's eyes. In some I saw shame and I just tried to smile into those eyes. In some I saw anger. In some I saw a kind of awakening in themselves. We simply walked down the steps, walked through about 20 feet of crowd that parted in front of us, got into a car and drove off. It was one of the most profound and life-changing experiences of my life because it led me really to know the power of emptiness and compassion.

This is what we're trying to learn here. I'm not going to send you off into a place where people are going to try to beat you with clubs, but how do we attend to the world from this place of emptiness?

This is the basis of Gandhi's teaching work. Aaron says he said, "satyagraha." You might want to read some about satyagraha. It's a very beautiful teaching.

(session ends)

March 26, 2010 Friday AM cont'd Venture Fourth #3, optional Pure Awareness practice.

Keywords: pure awareness practice,sem,rigpa,obscurations,togyal,change of lineage knowledge

(background noise or static on the tape makes speech harder to hear, like a motor running in the room,(this was the heater) true of all tapes in this series so far)

Barbara: Continuing with pure awareness instruction...

Let's start with posture. Body open. Eyes softly open. Remove your glasses. It's fine to wear sunglasses, especially non-prescription sunglasses. Seat yourself so you can look out the window. . . .

Q: May I ask a question? If you see an energy field around the tree, is that the same as luminosity?

Barbara: I can't answer that; you could be seeing the tree's aura. Describe it to me afterward in more detail and we'll talk about it.

I wish you could be doing this outdoors but we take what we can get (it is a cold, rainy March day)

There are long pauses between instruction, not noted.

Eyes soft, unfocused, so you're not seeing a specific object but the whole interplay of objects. Lights, shadows. Mind lets go of the whole idea of tree trunk, branch or leaf, water or sky. If those thoughts come, just note them as thoughts and let them go.

This first step we're doing is to see the view, so we won't work with the inquiry part of it at first. If thoughts comes, just note them and let them go.

Returning to seeing, body open, mouth slightly open so the tongue is not touching the teeth or the roof of the mouth. Ahh... Be aware of any hardness, as in a boundary separating your self.

Using the breath as a base. . . , invite the flow of your being out into that which is seen and everything that is seen back into the self. . . . No separation. . . .

You may begin to see a lot of light or shimmering of energy. You may experience your own being suddenly expanded, feeling yourself to be the water, the sky.

Whatever comes, whatever kind of thought or experience, don't fixate on it, simply note it, smile into, and release. . . .

Note any tension in the body. Breathing deep into the belly and releasing. . . .Everything open, flowing. . . . But the mind awake and alert, really present. Allow the mind to know of self as a vast field of clear cognizance, unlimited. . . .

If you find yourself trying too hard, just feel that as tension and release. There's nothing to fix and nothing to change. Everything left in its natural state, just as it is. . . .

There is no right or wrong thought or experience here. Resting at ease with whatever comes. . . .

If your energy feels too low you can raise your eyes a bit, raise the gaze a bit. If your energy feels too high, too strong, you can lower your gaze a bit.

You are not trying to see something so let go of that idea, let go of grasping; just being, at ease in this natural state. . . .

Don't fixate on anything; return to spaciousness.

Longer period of practice

I'd like to go around now and hear from you what you've experienced so that we can get a clearer sense what rigpa is, how it presents itself. What is this experience?

Q: <mostly inaudible>

Barbara: Pure awareness is not like the dimmer switch; either we are resting in pure awareness or we're not. But there is a borderline where we go in and out, and it sounds like you were at that borderline going into it, a sense of ease, with high energy. High energy is one of the ways it shows itself. So you weren't seeing light but you were feeling the energy. Neutral feeling, story coming in but equanimity with the story. But not fully stepping into it. Just relaxed, effortless effort. Just let it be and it will open itself more. It's like you're seeing through a little hole but just let it enlarge itself. Resting and moving into it.

Q: All these years that we've been doing this it's been the same.

Barbara: Have you been practicing with eyes open? It will deepen if you practice in that way. Did things start to merge together and lose their separate identities as you looked?

Q: They got bigger but they didn't get to the merging part.

Barbara: If it's sunny this afternoon, sunny enough to sit outside for 15 minutes, do that, or else at some point pull a chair right up to a window or sitting by one of the windows in the house where there's a much lighter view. You can also take something like the vase of daffodils and look into it. You don't have to do it looking out at a vast view. Looking at the vase of daffodils is harder because they're cut flowers, they don't have the same energy even though they're beautiful. If there's a plant up in the house, just sit with the plant. Is that a plant or a vase? A plant, that's perfect then. I thought that was a vase of flowers. Okay, that plant is perfect to work with. Sit near it. . . .

(discussion in the background; they are mums, not daffodils)

That's still fine. Awareness will not care whether they're daffodils or mums. Just sit with a growing live plant and feel the energy; let yourself release into that energy; let it release into you. For some people that's easier than working with a big landscape, where it can be frightening to let go of boundaries. So just sitting with a small plant at eye level in front of you. Breathing into it, breathing it into you, fully becoming the plant and the plant becoming you so the boundaries fall away. That experience of no boundaries, even for a moment, is rigpa. The high energy that you felt is rigpa.

Q: <mostly inaudible>

Barbara: Got it. Okay. It doesn't have to be visible, that light vibration. You try sitting with the plant also and see how that feels. It's a much smaller field to inter-be with; see how that feels.

Q: <mostly inaudible>

Barbara: You can use the nada as a way of moving deeper into pure awareness by, as you're sitting there, hearing nada and let it become strong. I don't want to make this into a thought but rather, the awareness of that sound as coming from everywhere. There's no source of the sound. It's in you and it's out there and there's no more in you and out there, and there's an opening of non-separation; this is one of the experiences of rigpa. It's not an intellectual thought, though, it's more just an experience of Ahh. . . . It's everywhere. So use the nada to support the deeper opening into pure awareness.

Q: I had a <> experience <>, however I would like to first address what happened this morning. I woke up with a very heavy <feeling>, not exactly the <> but I felt pain in my <head> and a heaviness. I sat down next to G looking out the window at the birds, no expectations, just watched the lake and the birds. Then all of a sudden <for no reason>, I had a feeling of joy, nothing<>, nothing<> but just joy.

I sat down. <>. I thought <>. Then things took a different perspective, almost like being <>, <> beautiful. Then I had a little bit too much light and I thought maybe I should have sunglasses on.

Barbara: These are all expressions of pure awareness. The light, the shift from a form to a different – it's not that there's no form, it's that the form is not this or that anymore. But it ceases to be a 'something.' The lightening of energy is the shift from sem to rigpa. Just the whole energy field opening up and interconnecting so it's no longer my energy field and that but suddenly you're part of that whole energy field and it's part of you, and everything lightens up. There still can be body pain, it's just body pain. Okay, good!

Q: ...even before <> when I looked at <> I experienced the boundaries <lifting>. <> There seems to be something about that color and I almost immediately go into a state of rigpa. These yellow flowers <>. But I have <> larger vistas. At Emerald Isle the amount of stimulation almost seems to pull me away from that state of connection with the <>. So I do much better with small, limited vistas.

Barbara: Red and yellow suggest to me that it's in some way working with opening the lower chakras and the lower chakra energy. It may be for you that the upper chakras are already very open and what keeps you more in the small self are the closing of the lower chakras. And as you merge into that color, the lower chakras are more open and the whole energy field opens.

As for the view, we'll talk about it at Emerald Isle but I suggest that you start by sitting by the ocean and instead of looking out at the big view, looking just at the waves coming up and going back into the water. Keeping your eyes down while sitting right next to the water line. Just see the water coming right up to your feet and back in and just watchthat.

Q: I have one far-sighted eye and one near-sighted eye. First I saw the aura of the tree, then as I closed my eyes more, then I saw a lot of light and the only way I could look at it was to bat my eyes.

Barbara: So that luminosity is one of the expressions of awareness.

Q: But I went in and out of that and when I was out, my ego had a great time talking to me...

Barbara: But this is perfect because it gives you clarity about the move into rigpa and back out of rigpa, and you really know, "This is what the experience feels like. And that, ego talking, is not what rigpa feels like." So now what we want to do here this morning is for each of you to have some certainty of what rigpa is. And then the next step is to stabilize it with the meditation practice. When the ego speaks up, then you just ask after it, "What is it? Anything here that is not God? Anything here that's not an expression of the divine?" And then back you go into rigpa again.

Okay, it's 11:15, how many did not get to share your experience with me? What I'd like to do is let people sit in silence down here, come up to the house (to talk to Barbara, everyone invited to come listen to others share). But I want to keep this room quiet for those who are sitting, so that you have certainty about what is rigpa, even if it's just a momentary experience that you had certainly about what it is.

And then we work from that base, seeing the view, deepening the meditation. That's when we start to do the trekchod practice, the cutting through practice. Looking to see, as L gave the perfect example. The ego comes in and just greet it. Awareness is aware of the ego coming in but not caught up in the ego. But asks the appropriate questions that helps us slip back into the state of awareness. And it becomes increasingly stable over time.

Okay, I'm going to go up to the house...

Barbara: Continuing Friday morning at the house. The people who did not have a chance to speak...

(there is no background hum or noise in this section, much clearer)

Q: I look at <in the> space starting with other objects as a frame. Then I breathe the space into all my cells, and the space becomes 3D or 4D, very thick or like a connected object. It then connects everything. And because I am breathing that space and in the spaces of me, then I am a connected floating object. And the vibration of that space is high and fulfilling, like food. And the objects collapse into the space like 2D, everything goes (sound effect), so everything is on the same plane of existence. And I don't notice any change in light...<the energy seems to be in that space>

Barbara: Don't worry about the change in light. For you, energy and space seem to be predominant so just work with that. I don't want to say work with that, just be with that. You said the space seems to be deep, and I'm not quite sure what you mean by that.

Q: There is another dimension to it. My experience of all the expressions of the Unconditioned are that they have a foreground and a background phase. And for nada the background is a little less intensity of sound. And for space, the background is-- I am losing the words-- but when I feel this foreground and background then all I have to do to reach Unconditioned is fall into the background.

Barbara: When you say fall into the background, there's a sense of merging with the background?

Q: Yes.

Barbara: Boundaries falling away so it just comes together.

Q: Yes. It's this, right? Okay, so nada has this, the more intense sound, then fall into the background or the sound, or the background of the light when I see it is as you discussed this morning, not a pulse exactly but...

Barbara: It sounds like moving to the place from which nada is expressing, the ground. . . I'd like to suggest you bring attention to whether there is any subtle bit of an ego trying to control, still. I'm talking here now not about seeing the view but about meditation practice itself. If you see something that's a thing, ego or anything that's creating separation, bring it into the practice in the way of noting it, "Anything here that's not an expression of the Divine?" You're not trying to force it to change in any way; you're just using the wisdom mind to cut through the illusion of something that's separate or something that's creating separation. As it falls away, just rest in the space that's created. Okay?

Q: Ever since Aaron introduced me to mind and to vision exercises, I quickly understood the general trend, where it was going, and was eager to get involved with it. I've never experienced so much resistance to something I wanted to do. And that continued right up until this morning's meditation. I just got so many arguments, visual complications, things working against me. And I was able to use the elements, and all this tension gave me an opportunity to work with all these tools we've just been given.

In the exercise just now when we did the, can't remember, the one we just finished, that I have been doing since the last intensive but getting absolutely nowhere with it, today was pretty much the same until towards the very end when I really came to a place of peace and centering with the whole experience, although to my estimation nothing really changed in terms of having the experience of rigpa. <I felt centered afterwards.>

Barbara: Was there any experience of spaciousness or letting go of self? No. I'd like you to try to work with the plant. Just being with it, ideally on the table, right up in front of you. Breathing into it, breathing it back. When you get home, do it with your dog, when your dog it sleeping. Your dog is a wonderful object to use for this practice. It's very easy to let go of your boundaries with your dog, just releasing. Love, presence, feeling his energy coming back into you. All the boundaries between self and dog falling away.

For now, for here, I would suggest that you relax, not trying too hard. If there was an experience of deep ease and peace, great, that's a doorway to rigpa. Simply be there in that space of ease and peace.

Slowly you'll be able to see the ease and peace and this "Me, I'm gonna do it," as the ego in the front. Ahhh, letting it go. Okay?

Q: The way I was introduced to rigpa was to look back at what is there, and finding nothing, notice that the emptiness was awake and the awareness was empty, and resting in that. Then sky gazing was introduced after that. And that involved seeing the space outside, sensing the space inside, noticing that both occur within the space of awareness and relaxing into that.

What occurred for me this morning as I was doing this, the window framed the space I was looking into. Within that a smaller portion gradually became somewhat darker and then within that, all these points and circles of light appeared... Almost like pointillism, the art form with dots. They were moving through the field and gradually slowed down and that's when it ended. It never got really still, which they sometimes do.

Barbara: So you've experienced that before.

Q: Yes.

Barbara: Two things here. That sky gazing can be a very helpful practice when people can go outside and lie on the ground and really be there under the sky. Harder from the inside when the sky is small through the frame.

I have a somewhat different take on the dark patch and the dots. I would rather ask Aaron to say it because I don't know how to articulate it and I think he does.

Aaron: We've moved!... Where am I! (laughter) I never know where this body is going to be!

Q: Neither does Barbara when you move it!

Aaron: I was aware that the sitting had ended and that you had moved and of course I had seen this room through her eyes before.

These beings were the original trees that were growing here, that had to be cut down to build this room, so they peeled the bark from the tree and put it in place to stay here (pointing to the ceiling beams)...

The dark area is an energetic presentation of the obscurations, and the dots are an energetic breaking up of the obscurations. As you move into that space, resting in awareness, you're clear; resting in awareness, rigpa is strong. At some level there is the intention to use this time of resting in awareness, in rigpa rather than the sem aspect of mind, to let the power of rigpa release the obscurations that are part of the sem mind. The visual effects are part of that release.

So one might call it a purification. It's not a conscious purification; it's an energetic purification.

Q: When I told Surya Das about these phenomena, he gave me togyal instructions to work with them.

Aaron: Do you understand why?

Q: Yes, I think so.

Aaron: Because as you are consciously or subconsciously releasing the obscurations, the togyal practice gives you the tool of inviting it all to dissolve into that radiant clarity of the pure mind.

Let me put it in this way. Let's say you have a darkened area. You have an eraser. You have taken a pencil and it's all shaded over. With your eraser you're able to erase little bits of area where the original pure white paper can shine through.

Now let's say that you had, let's use a slightly different metaphor. Let's say you had painted with a water-based paint over a clear piece of glass. Then you took a swab with water and made little places where the original radiant, clear glass could shine through. You're clearly moving in that direction so I say, "Why do it that way? Here's a pitcher of water; just pour it over and wash the glass clean." That's the effect of the togyal practice. What you're doing is taking the obscurations and merging them with clear light so that nothing remains except the clear light. But it's basically a practice of eradicating the defilements. Eradicating especially the illusion of a separate self.

Q: What was explained to me was simply to relax and allow the display to unfold itself. It's not a doing.

Aaron: Exactly. This is why I said we're simply, instead of you doing that, which is the trekchod practice, you're simply pouring the water over and (sound effect), but there's nobody pouring, it just releases itself. It's like having some kind of magic non-stick frying pan; you just run it under the water and whoosh! All the sticky objects are gone.

You rest in that clear light. You become so free of doubt that this is your true nature that there's nothing needed to do anymore. And yet there still must be somebody who takes care of the everyday mind when it bounces into self-view thoughts. But the practice teaches you a whole level of resting in that clarity of light and the ease of it.

You cannot come to that ease of that until you're ready. I think the reason he gave you the togyal practice is that it was clear to him that at some level the mind was already busy working at releasing the defilements, not just from the vipassana practice but from the whole energetic point of view, and that it would be much better to just let it go. You never were that stained sheet of glass in the first place; the paint was just adhered to the surface.

So in the vipassana practice one works to not hold the paint on the glass and to see the nature of the glass and the nature of the paint. In the beginning pure awareness practice, one releases identification with the paint and gets to know the nature of the glass, but there's still paint on the glass.

Then the togyal practice releases the paint from the glass although it comes back for awhile. You have to keep releasing it until you are able to walk around (with it) in that fully released state, which you are not yet. It will come! But do you see the transition, the progression? (yes)

Now, the vipassana practice comes in to take that fully unstained glass and the knowing of that as the Self-- when I say the Self, in capital letters as everything, and uses that as doorway to the further release so that the paint doesn't come back on the glass.

The togyal practice is not yet a permanent release but if you do it enough, that idea of paint on the glass would cease to come. The vipassana practice handles it in a different way. Okay?

This sounds very, like a very fruitful practice. Do you see the ways it ties in with your work with vipassana? (Q: Yes.) And also the "Who am I?" kind of practice that you've done? It goes together perfectly.

Q: Often "Who am I?" is a doorway into rigpa. Is this so?

Aaron: Yes, a very powerful doorway into rigpa. "Who am I?" is always a doorway into both pure awareness and into access concentration. The mind is watching objects arising and dissolving. Nothing seems solid. There's equanimity with this arising and dissolution. There's still an observer, though. It's very subtle but there's still this subtle hint of a somebody that's watching this whole show. At that point, if mind brings in the "who am I" question it tends to just implode; the whole sense of an observer dissolves into full presence. Access concentration is then strong, though with no sense of a self. Body and ego completely dissolve at that point, with that access concentration.

Q: My experience is similar to J's. I see luminous shimmering objects... and also tigle's. But to me that is phenomena, expressions of the awareness touching phenomena.

Aaron: Expressions of the awareness touching phenomenon? I'm not sure what you're saying here.

Q: It's phenomena, not the awareness itself. It's expressions of the awareness. What is more important to me is the awareness itself, naked and pure, and resting as that. And releasing obscurations through the meeting of the pure awareness and the obscurations.

Clean to here

Aaron: Now I understand. Thank you. It's rather like, if the lighting is just right, you find shadows. If you change the lighting there's no shadow anymore. Resting in pure awareness the obscuration is seen clearly as an expression of that which is non-existent, or non-existent in ultimate reality, and there's no more belief in it. But it can take awhile because you may keep coming back and thinking, "Maybe I was wrong, maybe it's real." We get into that with emotions such as unworthiness or self-limiting ideas, and you may keep bringing up the brilliance of that pure awareness, that eliminates all the shadow. Then you review it afterward and remember, and you still need to bring that into – we were talking about that Dharmakaya, nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya bridge – you carry it over the bridge and say, "How is this insight going to work in my life?"

I think this is the place people get caught. We need to make you all more of bridge walkers. Carry it back and forth, we'll give you a good wheelbarrow so you can carry the Dharmakaya back to the nirmanakaya . (laughter)

I think the important thing for you right now is the resting in, because you are working so hard trying to fix in the everyday mind and life.

Q: I let go of that.

Aaron: You have let go of that. (laughter)... Wonderful. Okay. The resting in awareness is healing and it's good for you right now just to rest there. Trust the practice. It will evolve as it needs to.

Q: If I get caught I just say, "Vision is the mind" and it goes.

Aaron: Perfect. In your vipassana practice do you experience access concentration?

Q: It's still somewhat difficult for me to understand that since I don't come from a strong vipassana background. I am stronger in pure awareness practice...

Aaron: I understand that. You are doing some vipassana sittings, yes? This is up to you but I would urge you to do more vipassana sittings and to begin to recognize the place within the sitting where mind settles firmly, watching objects arising and passing away, and there's no sense of going out to beautiful objects or pulling back from unpleasant objects. Just seeing it arising and passing away.

Q: But that happens with pure awareness practice too.

Aaron: May I look in the Akashic records at your experience?

Q: Yes.


Aaron: It's different. It happens in pure awareness. But pure awareness by its very nature does not include, let's call it the wisdom mind, the cognizant mind, which is still part of the conditioned mind, the mind that can see and compare and discriminate.

When this happens within the vipassana practice, the discriminatory mind is still there in a positive sense so it's able to use logic and draw conclusions. And this can feed much deeper into the release of the kilesas.

I'm not saying you have to do it that way only that in the long run I think you'll find it easier, to blend the two.

Q: I will try that... I have an idea or belief that that is going backwards or too much doing.

Aaron: What is a belief? Right there is a place where the vipassana practice can be helpful. It's just a thought. And in a moment, seeing it as belief, and experiencing that thought, and the body contraction around it, with no ownership of it, it releases.

Is there anybody who practiced in the smaller group where we gave the instructions in seeing the view who has not shared their experience?

It's 12 o'clock...We'll continue this this afternoon for those of you who want to...Let us take maybe just a minute or two each to quickly hear your experience because I'd like to know what you're doing when you go back into practice this afternoon. Then I'll be happy to meet longer with you if you wish. I don't want to hold you up for lunch.

Q: I would prefer to talk about an experience that happened yesterday and ask about that.

Aaron: That's fine.

Q: I felt that eventually I got to light for a moment and then I had a sense that I touched all life, or I was one with all of life. And then my body started tearing.

Aaron: Do you mean literally you started to cry? (yes) And what was the experience, was there great sadness, or joy, or...? Joy. Was there noting of the crying, awareness of the crying? Yes. Was it pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, not just the crying but the feeling, the whole thing? Very joyful. Noting of that. And then did mind open back into awareness or did it stay with that experience.

Q: I didn't know what to do.

Aaron: Okay, it sounds like there was a very deep experience, let's call it a unification experience, arising out of pure awareness. And then a strong mental and body response to it. The next step then would be the ability to note that response just as, "What is it? Anything here that's separate from the Unconditioned?" Joy, tension, emotion, watching the emotion, the thought, the body, each of them just arising out as the Unconditioned and passing away. Nothing separate. That asking will bring you back into the pure awareness. So that's one direction to go.

The other possible direction with that kind of strong unification experience is to immediately shift it to "Who am I? Is there anything here that I can point to and say, 'This is self'? I am connected with everything." Ask the question and let it go.

You are not directing this; rather before the sitting you are stating the highest intention for the highest good and allowing the practice to direct itself. It may take you back into a deeper sense of pure awareness, just resting there. Or it may take you back into literally seeing everything arising and dissolving around you, the path of the insight knowledges. And very rapidly into insight into arising and dissolution, equanimity, change of lineage knowledge, and through it. It can be a very potent doorway to awakening.

Don't grasp at it. Let it flow the way it needs to flow. You are not steering it; you are simply riding it. Okay?

Q: When I do the 5-step meditation and ask, "What is mind?" or "What is emptiness?" I have an experience of great vast, infinity, emptiness. And when I look at the emptiness and say, "What is this?" it becomes the clear light, it becomes clear and I see a light quality to it and yet a presence to it. And as I sit with that then I realized that I am that. And it's very comforting.

When I gaze out the window in the clear awareness practice, I initially go there to that sense of vastness. This morning I found myself getting scared as if it began to expand and a part of me would go "Whoa! I'm not ready!"

As I let go of that, as I keep attempting to let go, it's as if my focus changes and then I start to see everything blending and I see this foggy luminosity. And as I rest there, thoughts, feelings, even bodily sensations simply arise and pass away. Conditioned stuff.

Aaron: Was there a sense of equanimity with it?

Q: A bit of self.

Aaron: This is the stage in which the mind touches the "everything is arising and everything is dissolving." But the practice needs to be directed then toward that subtle sense of self, again with a "Who am I? Is there anything solid here?" If there is tension – you said at first there was a moment of fear – the most skillful practice at that point is to immediately bring the attention to the experience of fear. Not into the stories of fear but the direct experience of fear, so that it's seen clearly as also arising from conditions and passing away, sankhara, wherein that which arises out of conditions is itself the ground for future conditions. Just arising and passing away.

Okay, so here's fear. If at that point it has an unpleasant feeling, be with the unpleasantness. What is unpleasant? What is the feeling of unpleasant without any stories? And that also will shift. If there's any aversion arises based on the unpleasantness, you start to see the whole flow of sankhara, one object after another, each firing off not just one object sending another up, but many coming together, and this arises and that joins it and here's another, just bursting out.

This is a necessary preliminary experience because at a certain point one says, "I am exhausted. I can't do this anymore," and this is where that change of lineage knowledge comes in. "There's not going to be any peace in this whole realm of sankhara. I want out." There's still a subtle "I" there that wants out but there's the readiness to open to the Unconditioned.

Q: My question is about my focus. When the fear arises or the aversion, I pull my awareness back or expand my view, and cease identifying with it. And then I see it as stuff. But this is different, from more of a vipassana presence.

Aaron: Are you saying this morning that when this happened you let go completely and the mind shifted back into the space of awareness? (sort of, but fear was still at the edge) So this is where they interplay with each other. You are not resting in awareness because there was still the subtle ego present, but there was the glimmer of the possibility of that awareness. If you follow that further you'll have a deeper experience of resting in awareness, and that experience as it stabilizes will help to dissolve or stop the arising of the fear, the fear will not come anymore because you'll have a better sense of what's there when a self is dissolved. It will feel safer. But you can also bring attention to the fear as an object, no stories, just the direct experience in the body, as tension. Then it is seen more quickly as arisen from conditions, not self, and will dissolve, no one letting it go.

Q: Final question: it's much more fun for me to just look at "what is mind?" and "what is emptiness?" The question is, is that a level? That level, and yet that takes focus to look right at a mind. Is that a better way to practice than this letting go?

Aaron: Relax. No better or worse way. Know your intention. Start your sitting with a statement of your highest intention. As I just said, do not try to steer the practice so much as to simply ride it and be present in each moment and see where it's going. That which wants to control is self. That which wants to know the better way is self. That which seeks "fun" is self. And self will never find liberation, only no-self will. Relax.

The exploration of the interplay between mind and emptiness and knowing the emptiness of mind, this is helpful. You said it's more fun. It's okay to take a break but don't just do it because it's more fun.

You'll be at Emerald Isle, yes? So you'll be there to work with this in silence. Okay.

Q: I recognize that <inaudible> as they come up before I start the awareness meditation. And balancing the elements has been very helpful, especially with sleepiness. I raise the energy, bringing more fire in. Once I get into the practice I feel the elements come closer, take several steps closer to me...

Aaron: I don't know what you mean by elements coming closer. (signer explains silently)

Q: And everything turns very bright. And then my heart opens and that's usually where I end up, feeling very openhearted. Yesterday when I was doing it, as light was starting to grow, I felt the heart sort of suck up the light energies so that the light was <> but the energy of the heart was very large. Usually I experience them together but that time it seemed like, I don't know, the heart had its own ego or something! I was wondering what...

Aaron: Can you explain that a bit more, when you say the heart had its own ego, I'm not quite sure what you mean.

Q: The heart felt like it was drawing the energy away from luminosity.

Aaron: I think this is part of the resistance, that the heart is opening so much recently and I think it's afraid of being drawn back into its old closed state, afraid of anything that feels at all threatening and that it may not be up to responding fully so it kind of shrinks back, and says, "All that luminosity; maybe not that" and pulls back. Just note it as fear, tension. Bring awareness to it, smile to it. It will go.

You are presently working very hard with some of these old obscurations of fear, of learning to trust, letting go of boundaries. And this has been happening since the time at the Casa and before. We can't look at practice and say, "This is how it is." It's not so precise and linear because there are so many factors that come into it. Right now your practice is very much centered on that letting go, releasing of boundaries, opening the heart. And that's very hard work. So if I come shining a 10,000 watt light at you, just note it.

Q: At the last intensive I had a very big experience with pure awareness practice and I remembered the feeling of it and took it back and began using that memory to help me enter the experience. But I didn't do that for long. And now at this intensive I hear the message that that can be a crutch to use the memory of past experience... So now I'm trying just to be in the experience of what is. I have been having a hard time.

Aaron: I think both are okay. Using memory, if you have a broken leg, you need a crutch. When the leg heals, you don't need a crutch anymore. If you cling to the crutch after the leg heals then it's not wholesome.

You can use the memory in a skillful way. The question is not to be attached to the memory, not to try to recreate but to use the memory as a reminder of how you perceived before and then you let the memory go and shift into this moment, because this experience can only happen in this moment and not as memory. It's fine to use the memory as a guide, like you might pull out an old journal or another author's book, or like you're here, hearing each other's experiences. That helps you each to understand, what is pure awareness? This is how so-and-so experienced it and somebody else and somebody else. And then when suddenly you have such an experience, "Oh, this is okay. Someone talked about this yesterday." Then you release the memory and you come back into the moment.

It's 12:30 and I want to respect the kitchen staff who are working so hard to prepare your food. We will have more meeting time to give people a chance to talk.

(session ends)