March 27, 2010 Saturday Morning, Venture Fourth #3

Keywords: nada,access concentration,cessation,dark night of the soul,defilements

Barbara: Our plan is to spend the next 45 minutes continuing the question/discussion period we were having last night, then take a break...and then switch gears, moving into talking about the Dark Night of the Soul and the levels of consciousness. Aaron will talk and we'll have questions.

Any more questions or comments?

Q: You've explained quite a bit about the visual connection with the Unconditioned, the smell, the taste, and you've made the sound. Can someone describe those sounds?

Barbara: Classically it's described as cicadas chirping. A lot of cicadas in the background. I hear it slightly differently, I hear it more like...ocean, not big waves breaking and going away, it's a more constant sound. If one extended the sound of small surf hitting the shore, just a constant sound of that. Other people may hear it differently.

Q: I hear it like a radio when it's not on a station. Not like static but it's a constant thing...

Q: For me it's often like crickets in the background but sometimes it's like <> and sometimes it's been like, occasionally like Tibetan bowls.... More often it's like crickets or high-pitched tones.

Q: Mine is typically the cicada sound. It's with me 24 hrs a day; it's always there if I tune into it. When I'm meditating it can become much louder. I think I'm just now learning how to not treat it as an object, just to merge with it.

Barbara: It's an important statement; when we're meditating it gets louder and sometimes higher pitched. When we're not meditating it's quieter in the background.

Q: I find that when I turn my attention to the cricket sound, it will go quiet and variable. Sometimes it will stay off for awhile.

Barbara: When you're not listening for it; it's never really off, you're just closing the door to it.

Q: When I'm concentrating.

Barbara: It can't. It can't literally go off. Maybe that you're trying too hard to hear it. In some way you're shutting the door to it, maybe trying too hard to hear it.

Q: I hear the cicadas too. And you know how in the summer if it's cooler, they're slower, lower pitched at some times, and when it gets hot, high, the same thing. But, just to be evocative the peepers out here are very, very close. I went and stood in the middle there yesterday, just being (in) it, and letting that evoke the whole thing too. It's not exactly the same but it's a similar quality.

Barbara: And the interesting thing is that you can probably hear the peepers over the background sound of nada, and the peepers come and go and the nada stays there.

Q: I find that if I'm very, very tired, nada just gets really loud. It's like it's telling me to go to bed.

Barbara: It be comes louder when your energy is low? (Q: Yes.) I think it's not telling you to go to bed so much as it's available to raise your energy, because it has a strong energy element in it. For me when I hear nada more strongly, it increases my energy and intention and makes me much more awake. I haven't noticed that I hear it more when I'm tired, but my guess is if you're hearing it more when you're tired, it's one of your body's ways of trying to give you energy and wake you up.

Q: But it's at bedtime.

Barbara: It comes at bedtime? Maybe because you're quiet, not paying so much attention to the external world. I don't know.

I hear nada very clearly over the tinnitus that I always experience, and the tinnitus comes and goes. Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears that sometimes affects people, especially deaf people. There are different sounds, so sometimes I'll have music in my ears and all different kinds of sounds that come. And it can be very loud but the nada is always there as a background. I can move through the tinnitus and rest in the nada. The tinnitus remains but mind is not distracted by the tinnitus. Nada is just there in the background.

I've sometimes thought of offering a workshop for people who are very disturbed with the tinnitus, teaching them meditation to the point where they can move through the tinnitus to the nada.

Q: My usual form of experiencing Unconditioned is spaciousness but I had an ear infection a little while ago and I have had the ringing in my left ear since then. So it's come and gone though, this ringing has come and gone before. So how can I tell if that's tinnitus or nada?

Barbara: Aaron is saying, nada will always have a peaceful, joyful, energizing effect. If it feels distracting, disturbing, and irritating in some way, it's not nada. Nada does not come and go but our attention to nada comes and goes, our doorway to it comes and goes. So we can't just say if it's always there, it's nada because nada may not always seem to be there. But if it's irritating, it's not nada. If it's peaceful and energizing, it's likely nada.

Q: Can you say something about merging with the nada or merging with the luminosity?

Barbara: Merging with nada and luminosity... I was just about to pass this to Aaron but he says no, let a human answer this. This may seem like a very strange example. But sometimes in the morning after meditating I'm very cold. My meditation room is cool and after an hour of sitting my body feels cold. I usually go out then and into my hot tub. As I climb into this warm water, the whole body relaxes into the warmth. The sun is usually just coming up over the trees, or the sky just getting light. And there's an experience of releasing. In the cold I've been contracted and I've been slightly armored trying to hold my energy and heat in, usually wrapped in a blanket and just a little bit tight. Everything opens up. There's just this complete bodily release into the warmth.

Merging into nada and light feels a bit like that. First, there is no "I." There is either merging with one or the other. One will be predominant. Any sense of boundary falls away. There's increasingly just a disk of light. I don't only see it in the third eye, I feel it in the heart chakra also, but it's a feeling in the heart chakra and it's visual in the third eye. And it's, maybe it's what a moth feels when it's drawn toward a flame; it almost pulls me into it.

It's different than access concentration. There's no longer a sense of any separation between me and the light. There's no longer a physical body for the moment, or if there is a physical body there may be subtle awareness of body pain but it's felt as if I was in access concentration without any aversion to the pain, just physical sensation. There is still noting of the body and that the body may have a stiffness or pain. The heart is open to that stiffness or pain, kindness. But it's almost totally irrelevant, that this light is so much what I am, so strong, as not what I am personally as ego but what everything is. So strong a merging into that light that everything else dissolves.

Sometimes it's more visual; sometimes it's more energetic. When it's visual there's an experience of radiant disk, and I think this is why this has been such a strong object for me at the retreat, this "door disk." When it's energetic I feel it more in the heart and the body, just the chakras fully open, everything open and moving. They are not my chakras anymore but just the energy of the universe. Very full, very strong.

If I then make the decision to move into a vipassana practice, I bring my attention to that sound, light or space as the primary object. What I do is simply to close my eyes, sit up more straight, bring the attention to that as an object. It's a little hard to explain. When I say bring my attention to that as an object, there's no 'me' or 'it' at that point. So there's just concentration resting on that, mind present with that.

But with that shift into vipassana somehow I'm giving this human mind permission also to note any objects that may be arising or passing away, like a cool breeze or a scent. At that point there are usually no thoughts but there may be physical sensation, pulsation, something of that sort. These objects are just arising and dissolving; nothing solid. It takes me through access concentration and immediately beyond access concentration to a place of very deep equanimity with arising and dissolution.

On a long retreat it will take me beyond that. In just a morning sitting I will sit there with that deep equanimity and the strong object of light that has moved from the third eye to dominate everything. It's gotten from this size to this huge radiant disk. Just resting with that light. It seems to pulsate at that point.

As I said, at that point if I didn't only have 5 minutes longer in the sitting and then have to get up and do my day's work but was on retreat, I would keep going with it. I would walk after awhile. I would sit again. It would become stronger and stronger and invite attention beyond it. I said the other day that it seems to light the way beyond access concentration. It's not just this equanimity with arising and dissolution but... the whole experience of cessation is the only way I can phrase it.

By cessation what I mean is the experience in which – with access concentration we're meditating, we're in a very still place, arise and dissolve. There's no going out to them or pulling back from them. After awhile they even cease to be pleasant or unpleasant, it's mostly just neutral experience but awareness is so strong that it sees each object arising and passing away, and arising and passing away.

I talked about the path in which we then become more aware of arising and then dissolution and then equanimity with arising and dissolution. Resting awareness in that equanimity perhaps is the final edge of access concentration. Then the mind shifts, the change of lineage knowledge. There is knowing, "The Unconditioned is not here." I'm seeing expressions of the Unconditioned but at some level there's the intention to move into the Unconditioned. But it's not an intention with any grasping; it's a much more open energy. Just the long-held intention to liberation.

And at that point there's a shift in experience and everything stops. It's like being taken out of the whole universe of things arising and dissolving. I use the image of moving to outer space and seeing that the sun never really rises or sets. Nothing is ever arising or dissolving, it's just changing the way it expresses itself. There's just this, and a vast stillness. The attention moves from what is arising and dissolving into This with a capital T. The deepest experience of that This for me is that same light. It's just a vast radiance. It seems to burn everything away, and I think that's the point where some of the obscurations are released.

The sound is not as predominant for me as the light. I've talked to some people who experience the sound more than the light. The sound will be the same sound of nada but instead of being a small background sound, it grows into a roar. It's just a very loud compelling sound that fills the mind.

I don't know if that answers your question. Let me share something here that may be of use to you.

The first very deep cessation experience I had, this is probably about 19 or 20 years ago. It was early in the morning and I was meditating. John and I had been teaching together and were back at my house after the retreat. And we were sitting together, like at 4 or 5am. I was at a very deep place. Nada was strong and luminosity was strong, both. I felt John get up from where he was sitting and go into another room.

So I was sitting there alone. In my mind there was an image of moving down a river. The light, this luminosity was lighting up a path that seemed like a watery path and consciousness was moving down it at a fairly good speed. Everything that I cherished began to appear to me on the bank and then literally catch fire and burn up; my children, my family, my home, everything that I loved, one after another.

I was distraught. There was a strong sense, I could not hold on to anything. Everything was arising, first, and then everything was dissolving. There was no equanimity at that point. Then there was the thought that the objects still existed but were just in their ash forms. You know how when a log burns sometimes it retains its shape. If you touch it, it crumbles. So Aaron said, "Reach out and touch it." It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, to reach out and touch these faces of loved ones and really know, it all dissolves, there's nothing left, there's nothing to hold onto.

This sense of flowing down a current continued and this light, it was both inner light and it was lighting a pathway in front of me. And I felt, I cannot say forced to follow but compelled to follow. I had free will, I could have said, "No, I can't do this" and stopped, but the pull to liberation was pulling me to follow.

As I followed and everything continued to dissolve, and just noting dissolving, anguish, fear, at that point I thought to myself, "I can't do this myself. I just can't do it. There's too much fear." At that point John came back in. He said he just felt he needed to come back and sit with me. And I felt him come back and sit beside me and I held my hand out and he took my hand. That really helped, just feeling that human presence.

Coming back into that space, and after a couple of minutes he says I let go of his hand, I was completely unaware of my body at that point. Everything was still dissolving. I saw not my people, my personal loved ones, but simply people, faces being annihilated in wars, big bands of people, cities burning, everything dissolving, and finally there was a deep sense of equanimity.

And then everything stopped. The light got brighter. It's hard to say how it got brighter because it was already so intense. But it seemed just that that light was what was burning everything away, and I felt it burning within me. There was no need for it to be burning within but it was like everything in me was simply being released into the light.

I must have sat there, I don't know, maybe only 5 or 10 minutes, in this place described as the "peace beyond understanding," just total peace, with no arising or dissolution. It's far beyond bliss. It's far beyond anything I've experienced in jhana, a deeply peaceful state. John was sitting there expectantlywhen I returned to the body and mind. I guess he had been looking at my face and watching me, and he said, "What happened? Where were you!"

I could remember it but I had no awareness while being in that space, of anything except peace. In other words I couldn't turn that light to look at anything and investigate anything. There was not at that time the power of mindfulness or ability to use this experience in any way, just to rest in that peace. But it was life-changing because it showed me without any doubt that nothing ever arises or ceases. Everything that is, already is, and there's nothing separate there. It took me into such a firm knowing of that.

The next deep experience of that space happened about 6 months later. I was at IMS on retreat doing a self-retreat more or less. It was late at night and it was very, very hot, maybe 90 degrees. The dormitory there is not air conditioned. I was sitting by the window trying to catch a little breeze and there was a lot of aversion to the heat. As I sat I started to feel a breeze come in and then fade away. Pleasant, pleasant, hot, unpleasant, aversion. Pleasant, wanting more breeze. Unpleasant. Starting to see deeply how all these thoughts, feelings and sensations were arising out of conditions and all passing away and again. Arising first became predominant and then the passing away, everything dissolving.

Here the luminosity was again predominant but I think nada was stronger also. Again the movement into strong equanimity with arising and dissolution and then moving into equanimity and the light at that point again became predominant. Nada had been equal to the light but as the equanimity deepened and as the cessation experience evolved, it came through the light, kind of lighting up everything, just moving into that light space.

But maybe because I had been on retreat for a week, mindfulness was very strong and there was the ability to note what was happening. So there was some little voice that was simply noting cessation. Looking for any sense of anything arising and much more able to understand the experience within the experience, literally seeing the Four Noble Truths in the experience and able to analyze it, in a sense, and understand the Eightfold Path. There was some mental facility underneath. I hesitate to call it mental facility; it was not me thinking, but some level of awareness was able to take all this in and more deeply understand the whole process and what was happening. And then, coming out of that, able to remember it, what's called reviewing consciousness, able to look at the whole passage of what had just been experienced, but leaving the "I" out of it. To look at what had been experienced and to literally see how it had released certain of the kilesas. How certain areas of doubt and self-centeredness and so forth simply were burned away.

And then a few years later at that retreat I talked about this week, at that little retreat center in upstate New York, there was much more ability to literally see that Light. Sitting with that experience I saw the whole flow of karma of so many lifetimes and literally could see this within that experience of cessation. It was like focusing a Light on objects that no longer arose or dissolved, seeing their true nature as empty and impermanent. Within that experience there was almost a flow of--

Just a minute, Aaron is saying something to me. Aaron is saying that the cessation experience came first and then moving into seeing...he says it's very subtle. It's okay to say it the way I'm saying it. It seemed to be simultaneous. He says it's not quite simultaneous and that's okay.

Seeing how the whole flow of karma of this mind and body through eons, that has brought me into who I am now. Literally seeing specific lifetimes, seeing it all playing itself out. Seeing the power of intention, the power of metta, and so forth, and how all these forces interact to literally create liberation.

So each of these 3 experiences were very life-changing experiences that took me one step further on the path. The third experience especially left me with a lot of work to do; how to integrate this experience into my daily life, how to literally live what I had learned in that experience, and I am still learning that now, over ten years later.

There have been many smaller experiences along the way. I've had many moments of that cessation experience, always with that brilliant luminosity. It's beyond luminosity; but seeing the luminosity of everything, the nature of everything as radiance. The little experiences have been beautiful and affirming and joyful, kept me going. But these 3 experiences have been the most informative and life-changing ones.

There have been different kinds of experiences. There was an experience that also involved light when Iwas visiting my parents. My father was very sick and we were getting ready to move him to a nursing home. There had been a lot of pain both physical and emotional in the house that weekend as my parents were making that decision and as my father had a lot of body pain.

It was mid-afternoon, they were both resting and I was meditating in the living room. There was an intention as I sat to be as clear as I could be, to release my own emotions about all of this, to be the most support I could be to them. Then I sat and meditated.

At some point during the meditation, I found myself as a pebble, a rock, really, on the bottom of a stream bed, very encrusted with all kinds of layers of debris, eons of layers of debris. The water pressure began to increase as it flowed by the rock. Then there was an image of a vast wall of water coming toward me. There was still enough of a "me" involved that I thought, "It will destroy me completely." And then the awareness, "My intention is not to be destroyed but to purification. Let it come. Allow it."

I could feel it washing off all of these layers of debris and there was physical pain with it. It felt like it was just tearing me apart. Just breathing and sitting through it, trusting. What remains will be good, trust. And finally it was finished and there was just this small crystal left, this radiant crystal, and a deep sense, "This is me. This is the essence of what I am. Be this. Let everything else go. Just be this." It was radiating intense light and I merged with it. And then there was light and again a cessation experience for awhile but nothing seen beyond that. The cessation experience came more at the end rather than at the beginning.

As I said, there have been more experiences like this. This one was a very important one for me. That light has always accompanied them, and the merging with that light.

I feel in some ways like the blind leading the blind. I am not a renowned Buddhist scholar who has studied thousands of scriptures. I have not talked to hundreds of people. I've talked to many students about their experiences. I've heard your experiences. But all I can share is my own experience and my certainty that liberation is possible and that the path does lead us there and that these experiences heal and liberate us. That's all I can share.

I can hear your experiences and, looking at things from others and from my experiences, I can offer some guidance. I can ask Aaron, and that's enormously helpful because he sees a lot more than I do. But me as Barbara, this is all I can offer you.

Q: When you say eons, can you give an idea of what that means?

Barbara: Eons meaning seeing myself as gas and mineral and vegetable, and seeing the obscurations already accumulating in those forms.

Q: In talking about enlightenment, you don't ever use that word and yet it's a word that's used by Ram Dass and Stephen Levine.

Barbara: I prefer not to use the word enlightenment. Let's call it lightening, lightening of the obscurations we've carried. The term enlightenment has caused a lot of suffering in the world. People trying, grasping at enlightenment. People with a lot of pride saying, "I'm finally enlightened!" Aaron has something beautiful, I don't think I brought it with me. I shared it with the teacher training group a few weeks ago, I read it to them. I'll find it on my computer and maybe carry my computer down here and read it to you.

There's always further to go. One cannot say, "I am enlightened," only, "I'm hopefully dropping off some of the obscurations that have blocked that radiance from expressing as fully as I'd like it to."

Aaron's quote added later, from various private journals:

What is "Enlightenment Experience?"

What is enlightenment experience? You've asked me that many times and I've declined to answer as I did NOT want you to focus on a goal other than opening and learning and becoming more aware. So what is it? Let us use the Buddha's river. You cross, and find yourself on a new shore. But immediately you realize that you've just set foot on land, that there is a whole world beyond. You are nowhere, but at the beginning.

In a sense it is the rite of passage into adulthood. When you are finally an adult, what do you do with that. If all you do is to sit and tell people "I'm finally an adult," to brag or let that state be an excuse from doing your work, then you are still a child wearing adult garb. The true adult has no time nor need to mention this or even think about it. Rather, he is busy being an adult - being responsible, serving others, doing whatever needs to be done.

You are deeply aware of the responsibility. Also that you are a very young adult. There is much you do NOT know. There is no fear here, just a strong openness to learn, and that is fine. But keep your humility about you; you are truly just on the threshold, and you must work tirelessly and ceaselessly if you are to not simply stagnate with a prideful "I made it." Enjoy the bliss of this deep peace you are experiencing and let it be a balance to the heightened pain. Stay aware and trust. It is really no different than any place else on the path; simply your clearer vision gives added responsibility....

...There must be tireless devotion to practice and to continued work on yourself...

...What does enlightenment experience mean? NOTHING! It is NOT the experience but what you DO with the experience that matters.... To be enlightened is merely to understand that you are nothing, empty of self, just energy and light, and that that is all you need ever be, that this is the substance of God and the universe. "I AM That!" It is truly "lightening" rather than "enlightening", a divestment of the illusion of self so you need no longer carry that burden.

That knowledge is the threshold, but you walk the same world, only with a new perspective that asks constant mindfulness, constant responsibility, constant love. Enlightenment drops the burden of ignorance and fear and in their places picks up the yoke of service grounded in love, in oneness,. In the joyful bearing of that yoke is the movement of perfect freedom.. Here is the space where you can finally hand the reins to God, let go of control, simply be and do what is required and serve with love and an open heart. It is the most joyful space I know....

from Aaron: private transcripts

Q: Sometimes folks who have come out of a Breathwork session will tell me that they see in a much different way, what appears as luminous, brilliant, bright, more so than in their daily life. Can you shed any light on what may be happening for them? Everything seems bigger, brighter,

Barbara: I think several things could be happening. The Breathwork does bring some intense concentration, and in a similar response that one would have to jhana. When there's that strong concentration and one comes out of the jhana, everything seems luminous. It's one of the results of that strong concentration.

Another aspect of it is simply that as some of the obscurations fall away through any spiritual practice, we see more light and we let out more light. When people have been doing this kind of practice, it releases some of the obscurations. It's like walking into a room with your sunglasses on and coming out with them off. There's a crystalline quality, a sparkling to it. But part of it is also the concentration and just seeing anew.

I remember, I must have been about 12 years old because that's the age I was permitted to take the test. I was at camp and taking my junior life-saving test. Part of it was a written test and I was sitting inside for 3 hours, very focused on answering these questions. Very strong concentration and writing out, and there were a lot of questions. I was taking the senior life-saving exam because I was the only one eligible for the junior life-saving exam and they didn't have one. So there were 16- and 17- year olds there with me and I was writing out all these answers, to get it all in!

Then I walked outside at the end, and I had never seen the world look like that before. There was radiance everywhere; every leaf, every pine needle, everything was emitting light. And I asked spirit, "What is it? What am I seeing?" I didn't identify the one who answered as Aaron at that point, it was just the guidance that I was always in touch with. But spirit said, "You're seeing things as they really are." I had the idea, the sense from that answer that normally I don't see things as they are. That in that moment, finally, for the first time, the veil was lifted and I was really seeing things as they are.

So I think this is what they're experiencing. Have some of you had that experience of suddenly seeing everything so clear and luminous; everything is radiant? Have you had that experience, some of you? It's wonderful. And then why do we walk around behind these dark glasses all the time? Dark glasses and fog. Because we're so closed in to the small self.

Q: As you talk, it has confirmed some of my own experiences, which are not nearly as wonderful. I'm wondering if, when we have a certain modality like luminosity, if somehow we're attracted to like-minded people but don't really know it? Somehow you feel it? I think my passage through life, I have gravitated to energy and people that somehow experience it. We don't always talk about it but somehow feel it, and exchange it on some level of consciousness.

Barbara: Definitely. Even if it's subconscious, we see the energy, we see the vibration in others. We're aware of the levels of consciousness in others even if we're conceptually ignorant about those levels of consciousness. And it attracts us. If we're on a path to a higher vibration, we're attracted to higher vibration.

Now, lower vibration can also have a fascination for us. This is part of our old karma that we're releasing. So that we can be very drawn toward higher vibration and yet still sabotage ourselves in various ways; still have some seeming need to experience lower vibration and negativity because we have not fully resolved our experience with negativity. So there's both.

Q: Just as you were talking I was thinking about my sister's death. I knew that she was dying. B and I went to her bedside. I knew she waited for me...I brought her into the light and knew in the moment that I handed her off to a greater power...

Barbara: Thank you for sharing that...

Ley's have a 15 minute break. We'll come back and talk more.


Continuing on Saturday morning...

In your journals many questions arose about this dark night of the soul, many of you saying, "Maybe we ought to stop now! I don't want to go there!" Aaron will talk some about this. I'd like to talk a bit first. And I'd like to hear from many of you.

My personal experience of this dark night and the experiences of people I've talked to lead me to feel that while there is a basic map, it's not a universal map in terms of, everyone will experience this and then this and then this. There is a linear progression: the dark night of the senses, the opening into subtle consciousness, the ending of subtle consciousness, the dark night of the soul, the opening into causal consciousness. But people experience it differently and for some it's a huge and dramatic experience and for some it's just a slow, I would not say gentle, but ongoing and very workable process.

I think that one of the advantages of a vipassana practice is that when these different states come up we've been trained; we know how to note what's happening energetically and perceptually in ourselves, and not get knocked out by it. We just note it, "Okay, here's another object arising. This too will pass," so there's a lot more ease and equanimity with these states.

It's also, though that progression of psychic and causal consciousness happens in that linear fashion, there are a lot of little things that come in also. So it's not so much this big stage, psychic consciousness, and then dark night of the senses, and then finally dark night of the soul, it's more many little pieces. It's only on looking back at it that you really recognize the passageway.

I got through it and I'm still here! If that's encouraging. . . .

So Aaron will come in at some point and talk. But the book has very clear information about it. The only other thing I really want to say is if you aspire to higher consciousness, you've got to walk the path. I don't know how many of you have ever climbed a big mountain, but there usually comes a point in climbing a big mountain where you feel, "I just can't go on any further." Then if you keep going, you get to the top. It's just part of our passage as conscious beings.

Are there specific questions?

Q: I have a comment. My son climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro and when he was getting near the top he developed altitude sickness. And I think this is such a powerful metaphor because the way he summitted was that he had a guide and he just put his footstep in the next footstep of the guide's. That's all he thought of, and he made it to the top. So I just wanted to share that metaphor with you because I think that is so powerful.

Barbara: A very powerful metaphor, thank you. You neglect to say that at the summit it was beautiful! (laughter)

Q: Well, they arrived at 2am in order to see the sun coming up over the summit. It was incredibly amazingly beautiful. That's the rest of the story.

Barbara: The difference in mountain climbing is you then have to come down. But once you come into causal consciousness, you don't descend back into mundane consciousness as a permanent condition.

(side comment inaudible, laughter)

Barbara: I think for altitude sickness you have to descend to a lower altitude where there's more oxygen. And metaphorically one can do that, one can move oneself out temporarily, get stable again, and then start climbing again.

Q: Another piece of that story is that when you get to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, you're walking in scree, which is, like if you start falling backward, it's like walking in sand, it's pebbles, so that's why walking in the footsteps of the guide was so helpful.

Barbara: The other difference here is you do get to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here you get to causal consciousness. That's not the top; you just keep going.

Q: Can you share with us a little bit about what your journey was like, with the dark night of the soul and causal consciousness, and what it's like being there...?

Barbara: Yes, but I'm not sure I can lay it out as a precise map as he seems to do in the book.

I seem to have always been in subtle consciousness, as long as I can remember. And my problem as a young person was getting to the point where I understood that that's not where most of the world was.

When I was about 13, 12, up until that point I had very constant connection with my guru Neem Karoli Baba-- inwardly, I never met him in the body. There was a pond across the road from my house, and an island in the pond. I used to go there and meditate all the time. I did not call it meditation. I didn't know the word meditation. But I was a good swimmer. By the time I was 5 or 6 – back then a 5 or 6 year old child, a little girl, was permitted to go off into the woods herself and to the pond. I wasn't supposed to swim but my parents had no problem with me building myself a little raft and paddling myself to the island. The water at that shore was shallow. The island was only maybe 20 feet from the shore and the water was not over my head.

So I built a little raft. I had a place where I could tie it up on the island. I took my dog with me, my collie. And I would sit there. I was a normal little girl in many ways. I went to friends' houses after school and we played jump ropes or jacks or we played with dolls. And then after awhile that wore thin so I'd leave and go home and put on my jeans and go across to the island and sit and talk to my spirit friends.

I recognize now looking back that I was taught jhana practice and I moved through the jhanas. Again, I had no terminology there; just moving into those states. It was a much happier place to be than my everyday world. At that point of time in the world it was the ending of WWII and my family was Jewish. There were frequent conversations at dinner of news received about distant family members who had perished in the Holocaust. So I was 6 or 7 and I couldn't understand why people were so brutal to each other and felt I didn't want to live in that world.

So I spent a lot of my time alone meditating. It wasn't that I was cutting myself off from people; I played with other little girls. I climbed trees with the boy next door. I did those normal kid things. But my happiest times were, and most of my time was spent just meditating on that little island and talking with spirit, hanging out with spirit. I know now that Aaron was there too but I didn't know him consciously then, and the information I got seemed to come from Baba.

When I was 11 years old I was at summer camp; we were on a sleep-out, planning to sleep in a little tree house that had a lot of straw spread out on the floor on which we could spread sleeping bags. Some of us climbed up into the treehouse and there was a litter of newborn baby mice. Some of the girls screamed, "Mice!" The counselor came up and killed them by stomping on them, gathered them up and got rid of them.

I was devastated. She was killing God. This was a place where my level of consciousness just could not make it with the world around me. So people spread out their sleeping bags and went off into the nearest town to get ice cream and I chose to stay there at the camp. I don't remember someone being with me but someone must have been with me, they wouldn't have left an 11 year old alone at the campsite. But I was crying and I wouldn't go and I sat and meditated. I didn't know where else to go but to spirit.

There was a very strong experience of Baba. He came at that point and gave me my spiritual name, Shanti Das. I had no idea what it meant or what language it was in. He said, "When you understand your name you'll be ready to do the work you came to do in the world." I just sat there, I kept saying, "I don't want to live in this world. I want out. It's too crazy." And he reminded me, "You came for a reason and you can do it." He said to me, "Furthermore," --this reminded me of what Jim Marion said in the book when his guide said goodbye, Baba said to me, "No more contact with me." I was starting junior high the next year and he said, "You have to spend your time with people. You can't just be with spirit. You've got to get yourself back into the human world. I will always be with you but I will no longer be consciously available to you."

I suppose one would call what followed a dark night of the senses. I just felt totally bereft of spirit, cut off from spirit, and yet I learned to cope. And I also had that strong memory, sitting on that lake. I will share this with you. It's a memory I've rarely shared with anyone. After Baba finished talking, it was what I would call the first direct experience I had of God.

Baba had talked to me and given me this name, given me some instructions and said I would be safe but I would not have conscious contact with him, and I had started to cry. I was sitting there feeling, "I don't know how to go on." And suddenly there was just, the sky was filled with light. It was sunset but it wasn't just the sunset, it was the most remarkable sunset I have ever seen, and so much light and energy coming through. Feeling myself totally wrapped within that energy. Just the words coming through, "You are never alone. You are always supported." I felt wrapped in love. There was a celestial music. There was a Presence, and stillness.

That's what allowed me to get through the next years. I just said, "This is what spirit has asked me to do and I'll do it." I engaged in sports activities, I played basketball – I was on the high school varsity basketball and Lacrosse teams! I did the things that kids do. I can't say I didn't find enjoyment in those things; it just seemed meaningless like there must be something more, why am I doing all these things? This is what Baba asked me to do. I'll do it.

I think that that was a dark night of the senses, but I was already in subtle consciousness. It didn't end suddenly. I slowly worked my way out of it. I started to find a new spiritual quality of life without direct contact with spirit. I started to meditate again regularly. By the time I was 19 or 20 I was starting to understand – to misunderstand – Shanti Das and to engage in peace demonstration and be a militant pacifist! Militant civil rights worker, and so forth. Well I was misunderstanding but at least I was trying to head in a certain direction. And it lifted me out of that period of darkness.

I started to hear spirit a bit again and the idea, if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. So how to be part of the solution. I still was not thinking in terms of levels of consciousness, and I still didn't understand why I felt so different than other people. But I found much more acceptance of myself. I met Hal and we fell very much in love.

I was working as a sculptor in New York City and had a good uptown gallery selling my work. So I was doing work that I loved. I was communicating with people who had much more in common with me. And while I felt there was much wrong in the world, I was no longer in that dark place. And I continued like that for quite awhile.

And then I lost my hearing. This is what sent me into the dark night of the soul. Suddenly I was totally cut off from all humans. I was so dizzy that I couldn't focus my eyes to read so I couldn't hear and I couldn't read. For over a month there was no human communication. A dear friend who lived across the street found the finger spelling alphabet, learned it, and came and taught it to me. And while my eyes couldn't focus to read, they could focus to read the finger spelling alphabet. So within about 6 weeks we were communicating that way and she taught it to Hal. We started some form of communication and by the end of 2 months the dizziness was subdued enough that I could read again.

But I felt totally cut off from humans and from God. I had been going to Friends Meeting regularly and I stopped going there. It was too painful to be in any place where people were talking. I cut myself off from that, I felt my own meditation was enough but my meditation was sterile. It was forced, just sitting, breathing, forcing myself through it. And it continued like that for almost 10 years.

I had 2 more children. I had a husband who loved me. I had dear friends. Life was not empty of good things. I was doing work that I loved. There was just no sense of any spiritual aspect to life, which previously had been the core of life to me.

It took me about 10 years to emerge from that and it was not a sudden emergence but a gradual asking of myself to trust that God exists and trust these memories. I remember going to the attic and finding that childhood journal from age 11 in which I had written the name that Baba had given me, and reading in my 11 year old handwriting what had happened that day. Okay, this was real. If this experience was real, why am I cutting myself off from it?

So it became increasingly clear to me, I have the choice here and I choose to reopen to spirit. Then that started to happen and moved quickly; within a few years of that opening, I met Aaron. Then very quickly within that first year of meeting Aaron came these first 2 profound experiences of the Unconditioned that I shared with you, in my living room and then at IMS. When we move into that kind of realization experience, the dark night drops away completely. It's not the only thing that will drop it away but it drops it away. It may seem to return, but never with the power it had before.

During those last few years of the Dark Night, as I was increasingly aware that I was in charge and my experiences were my choice, I read John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, and I found it very helpful reading it. It gave me more clarity about what was happening to me, and that while it seemed hard, it was also positive. I knew then that I could pull myself out of it and I could realign myself with spirit.

So that was basically the experience for me. But as you hear from me, it was rough, those years being deaf, and I felt isolated, but there was also a lot of joy and beauty. It was not total despair and total grief or negativity. It was just, there was no connection with spirit. Where did God go? How do I get God back?

So what are some of your questions about this dark night?

Q: In some of the material you sent us in the run-up to this intensive there was one episode you described when you were with Neem Karoli Baba. He was telling you that you have to be a servant and you were crying at his feet. He was throwing oranges at you. <inaudible>?

Barbara: No, that was when I was older. That was after I had met Aaron, after Baba had returned to me. This is a place where I differ from Jim Marion whose guide said, "I'll see you upstairs," and the guide leaves. But for me the shift was that the guide consciously arrived, not left.

That experience with Baba, I think you're mixing up two different experiences, several different experiences that I may have shared through the years. Baba saying to me once, "Your name is Shanti Das. That means servant. Be a servant. You're trying to be somebody. Servant is nobody. Let go of being somebody." That was actually during that retreat in upstate New York, that self-retreat, that servant is nobody.

The Orange story is a different experience with Baba, (The full experience from my journal is pasted here, to replace the summarized version I told during VF)

Journal, April 18, 1990

Davy and I left at 7: 15 for his breakfast. He was chosen by Ann Arbor Optomists as one of the high school juniors awarded a plaque and scholarship (3 kids, one from each school). There were about 40 people. They were very nice, but I was judging them and putting down the whole thing. Not really judging them; what they're doing to support youth is great. More I was feeling the oppressiveness of small talk and how I wanted to escape that, and that being deaf made easy conversation impossible. But, while we waited for Hal who came late in his own car, Davy, the man making the presentation and I were the only three at the table so I had to talk.

I asked him questions about Optomists and what they do. He said working for good causes gave them the opportunity to meet and have fun together. I said did they really need an excuse to have fun? Anyhow, through this chitchat, one part of me was judging and feeling out of place. I see the need to judge is defensive, when I feel out of place. Almost "sour grapes."

He kept telling me to take as much food as I wanted, that it was on them. Enjoy. Eat ... Then there were speakers and I sat there eating slowly in silence. I began to see Maharajji. I haven't seen him since. . . . With a twinkle in his eyes and a big smile Maharajji said "feed everyone and love everyone" and faded. I've read that quote so many times. I began to ask myself if I'd imagined his presence.

Then I started looking at my judging and this man sitting with me, with a plaque and scholarship for Davy, and his "eat, eat." I saw how he believes in what they're doing, encouraging top students. There's a lot of love in that and they're not doing it for their own egos but to really give to others.

Davy got his award and then a speaker came on. It was 8: 15 and I decided to go. Hal was there by that time and would drive Davy on to school.

I got to the sitting group at 8: 25 and tiptoed in. As soon as i sat, Maharajji was back. There was so much love. I haven't felt myself this open to him, with no defense against that total openness, for a long time. Again he said "feed everyone and love everyone" and tossed me an orange. I peeled it and asked what i was to do with it. He gestured and I saw a lot of people. They only took sharp focus one at a time. I'd break off a section of orange, bow deeply, and hand them the orange segment. They each bowed back or acknowledged the bow in some way, a nod or smile. It was a slow and formal ritual, but done with much love.There was a beggar in rags, a well dressed (in robes of some sort) wealthy looking man, an old woman, a young child, so many more.

In each I saw the Buddha, the Christ. They weren't just humans but also God. I felt great reverence for each one as I bowed and handed them this orange segment.

I felt so much love to and from each, and a deep level of respect. Old, young, rich, poor–it didn't matter at all. They were each unique but all one and I was one with them. They each took the orange, acknowledged Maharajji in some loving way, and then a new figure would come to the front and focus. Finally i was left with just one segment. I gave it to Maharajji. He broke it in half, ate half and put half in my mouth. I was crying very hard and prostrated myself at his feet. I just wanted to stay there and feel his love.

After a few minutes he told me to get up, that I wasn't done. He tossed me another orange. I looked around but all the people were gone. He told me to peel it and the people i needed to give it to would be there. After I'd peeled it, he asked me who I'd put out of my heart? He asked me to find someone I needed to give it to. I thought of the man at the table and imagined him and gave him a piece. With that, other's started appearing.

First were a half dozen people that I've worked with, with forgiveness, in this life. With each I could notice a resistance to offering this, and hear Maharajji's "feed everyone and love everyone" and feel the resistance dissolve. With each, whatever their offense against me, it just melted with a feeling of compassion and an awareness that in their situation I might have made the same choices. They were people from throughout my life. Finally the last of these took a segment and I turned to Maharajji with 1/2 an orange left.

He gestured and I turned to look. There was that indian medicine man sitting on that hillside, looking at the carnage of his tribe and his white and other-tribe friends. When experiencing this lifetime before, I'd been watching it. I'd felt my peace enter him, but we'd been separate. We were suddenly much more one consciousness. While i remained Barbara in physical form with the orange, there was a strong acknowledgment from us each that we were part of each other, that all that was left of him was contained in this new being that i am now.

Slowly, wounded soldiers, indians from his tribe, indians from that peacemaking contingent and whites from that group all began to gather around. We gave each an orange segment. I continued to do a deep bow to each. This indian just solemnly nodded to each. They each nodded back in acknowledgment and thanks. Some also nodded to maharajji; others seemed not to see him. A few went and knelt at his feet.

There was so much healing, so much love and acceptance. Maharajji didn't say anything but I could feel his injunction "don't put anyone out of your heart." I felt this indian that I was so deeply let go of all his pain and rage and helplessness. I felt the others let go of the pain and anger of this senseless slaughter too. There was no talk between them, but they looked at each other with acceptance of the part they'd each played.

There was more that needed doing, I think. I needed to ring the bell and end the sitting. I wished i was home and could have gone on with it, but I trust that it was as it needed to be. Maharajji is still here. Aaron had suggested i sit when I was done writing, but now it's after two (meetings that kept me busy all afternoon)

Journal, April 19, 1990

Meditation this morning was quiet. Last night's channeling session was long and I got to bed after midnight so I didn't get up until 6 and only sat an hour. Few thoughts, good concentration, just sitting very peacefully. I continually understand more deeply the beauty and joy of being in this "now," just aware and here in this moment.

After Peter left for school I sat again and Maharajji was there, as I thought he would be. Like Aaron, he rarely imposes his presence on the early morning silent meditation time.

I just sat with him for a few minutes. I expressed my gratitude for yesterday and all the healing I found there, then asked what he wanted me to do. I understood he just wanted me to sit. I felt myself deeply enveloped by his love. He said "let go" and i noticed some resistance to allowing him in completely and let it dissolve until I was just totally there, within his heart and he within mine.

Finally I looked up at him again and he threw me an orange. I peeled it, wondering who I was to give this one to. C had just walked in a few minutes before and was sitting beside me (this literally and not in my meditation). I'd felt her arrive and felt the love and joy of her presence. Maharajji indicated that I needed to give some to C. At first I didn't understand as she is one of my dearest friends. Then I started thinking of little places when I'd been irritated by something she said or did, as of course we always are occasionally, even by those we love.

As I gave her this orange segment (this time without the bowing), I felt myself let go of any resentment, felt an opening of love and acceptance, not for C as I'd create her but for C as she is. I felt the same acceptance from her, felt the level of love between us deepen.I asked her to forgive me for judging her.

She faded (although of course she continued to sit beside me) and others in my life appeared, one at a time, in the same way–D, J, K, B etc. I worked my way through an orange and felt such deep compassion for each of them, and such love for them just as they are. I felt their forgiveness and acceptance. I also felt a deeper compassion for myself and the ways I'd occasionally needed to judge one or the other of them because of my own ego and fears.

I began to see with great clarity where my need to judge others came from, really touched that raw nerve of fear of nonacceptance with mercy and forgave myself that it was part of me. I felt like the next time it comes up i'll be able to look at it very calmly with Stephen's "oh, you again. Come in and have tea ... "

Finally I turned to Maharajji, my hands empty of orange and expecting no more. He had a big bag of them and started throwing them out to me gleefully, like it was the biggest joke in the world. At first I didn't understand. I tried to catch them and didn't know what he was doing.

Suddenly I saw this blind spot in myself, how I was separating myself and those people I know well. There's a whole world out there. To love, forgive and accept myself or C is to love and accept the kid down the street who threw stones at Prince, the man who butted in front of me yesterday at the bank, the mother I saw hitting her son in the market, Hitler and all others who have tyrannized and tortured. I realized i was going to need a couple gross of oranges. Maharijji kept throwing them at me and finally I just sat down and started laughing with him.

I sat there with him for a while longer, just glorying in that love. After awhile I looked up and he laughed again and said "love everyone and feed everyone " and his image faded. Not from him but from my own mind came his injunction, "never put anyone out of your heart."

There has been so much learning and forgiveness in this past two weeks, starting of course with myself. I am tremendously grateful.

I've had many wonderful experiences with Baba. He doesn't teach me the way Aaron teaches me, he teaches me more through his energy, just being with him. Once on retreat he said to me, "Give away everything." Tension came up and I said, "My house? My car? My computer?" He said, "Those are working tools. You don't have to give those away. Give away attachment to them. Give away everything that's unnecessary including attachment. You can keep the working tool as long as there's no attachment." And this was during a long self-retreat and it led me into a very deep place of looking at attachment and releasing attachment. So Baba teaches me in that way. (The full story is pasted at the end)

Q: For me I consider the dark night to be all of the deep, painful, emotional, traumatic experiences I've had, from this life and past lives. And I have had to learn to stay connected to spirit through that because that was the only way I could continue in this life. So I stayed connected to spirit. There's been a lot of that. So maybe you could speak more with how to deal with that <lost to noise>.

Barbara: I am not completely clear on the question. You're saying, can I speak to how to do that, how to be with spirit, how to be with the darkness? ...

Q: The darkness.

Barbara: The thing that has helped me most in those times is to remember that this is a cleansing of sorts and that my highest intention is for the highest good and to serve with love. If this cleansing is necessary in terms of the release of old karma, old obscurations, I allow it. So I'm no longer resistant of it or frightened by it. It doesn't mean it's going to be pleasant. It's like that experience I talked about, the deeply encrusted rock in the water, and feeling all these layers of what I had always identified with as self wash away. "How can I survive without this? Don't take that!" But it has to go.

As long as we fight it there's more suffering. When we recognize and really even feel gratitude that spirit is supporting our intention for this cleansing, it's much easier.

Aaron says he wants to say something here that he feels is important. I'll let Aaron come in.

Aaron: Good morning and my love to all of you... You have carried some of these old negative habit energies seemingly forever. They're so deeply habituated. As you evolve into the light you want to shed these garments. It's like somebody who has been wearing old tattered filthy clothes and you've never even recognized what you've been wearing.

But suddenly you see beings around you clothed in radiant, luminous material and you think, "Ah, I'd like to wear that." You can but first you have to take off the old garments. But the old garments have seemed so much like a part of you that they seem like a second skin. So there's some resistance to releasing the old. This is why we started this program with the work with the soul traits, looking at these traits and how they can be released.

But you cannot just intend to release the old garments without aspiring to and reaching toward the new radiant garment, which is the bodhisattva ideal. And so we incorporated that into the program.

Now for many of you as you work there is a growing into lightness and light but every once in awhile your eye catches on one of these old garments and the comfort that it gave, even though it was old, filthy and ragged. Somehow, distorted though it was, it was comfortable.

Barbara spoke to somebody earlier about holding the intention for the light, attracted to that high vibration, and yet suddenly something of a lower vibration catches your eye and pulls you back. At this stage in your progress there needs to be much attention to that kind of your occurrence. It will happen. It's not bad that it happens; it simply points out where there still is old obscuration to be attended.

Giving a very simple example, if somebody has learned to be very open, hearing other people, even when the other people are saying things that are something negative about the self, the hearer's self, not defending, and then somebody makes a more cutting remark from their own ego and negativity, and instead of drawing forth an openhearted and compassionate response, it draws forth contraction and defense of the self. "No, I didn't say that. I didn't do that. You're wrong!" That kind of response. Ah, where did that come from? It's just old habit energy.

One may find oneself drawn back into seemingly negative experience and characteristics because of the fear of the unknown, of the vastness out there as one moves up into higher consciousness, saying, "I kind of like my feet here on the firm earth. I'm not sure I want to move into that much high vibration."

Always when one is pulled back it is because there is still some obscuration or defilement, however you want to name it, that needs to be attended before you can move on. If I could use the illustration of a hot air balloon held to the earth by 100 cords, not heavy ropes, 100 cords, or by 1000 threads; this is enough to hold this inflated balloon down. The intention is to let the balloon fly. You begin to investigate and release each thread. The balloon starts to lift up but it still can't fly free because there are still threads attached. You can't turn your attention away from the threads that are left and just say, "Let's soar," eventually if you put your attention away from what holds you to the ground, and simply pull the threads up with you, with the thread-holders are still hanging on. You haven't cut the threads, you're dragging all these old obscurations behind you. Picture them holding on to the threads, holding onto the balloon. The balloon has enough hot air in it that it will soar, but it's still dangling these obscurations. They're shouting, "Hey! What about me! You forgot to cut me free!" You've got to come back to earth, attend to the obscurations until the threads are cut fully and then the balloon can soar freely.

In what you describe, Q, I would suggest to you that you remember that you have chosen this for a good reason, for a reason deeply based in love and in commitment to service. What you are experiencing now is very akin to Barbara's meditative experience of the washing away of the encrustment. Once it washes away you'll be very careful not to turn around and say, "Did I leave something I need behind?" But trust and let it go. You don't need it or it would not wash away.

Can you feel the part of you that keeps looking over its shoulder and saying, "What was that? Might I need that?" Let it go. Trust the process. The process itself is healing and life-changing and will lead you into the higher vibration, and it will heal what needs to be healed along the way, not in the usual way of healing but simply because with that high vibration the old negativity cannot continue to exist. It dissolves in that light.

Q: I was part of this conversation with Q and it seems that little periods of depression and grief are part of the dark night experience for me. And being with family members, especially ones who are depressed, are part of my learning. But I am concerned for myself the physical impact that this being around these people has on me because my energy just feels drained for a couple of days after I've been present with them. So I'm wondering about how to take care of my energy during these learning opportunities.

Aaron: There are 2 related paths and sometimes one is more helpful, sometimes the other. When something is draining your energy you either have to release what is draining your energy or find ways not to be drained and to bring in more energy.

Sometimes a person is simply not ready to say no to that draining and doesn't yet know how to bring in more energy. Then the only solution is literally to say no to the entire contact, to cease to be with that person for a period of time or seriously limit the time spent with that person, knowing, "I am not ready to do this yet. It just harms both of us."

It depends who the person is, the situation with the person. For example, if one has a dying parent and the parent is constantly grabbing with fear and angst, one cannot really say no, one just has to get through it. If one is a parent supporting a young child one may need to find a way to get through it, but with an adult child one can say no. One can look at the situations that drain and make it clear to the child or to any "famous person," "I love you but right now I cannot be with this anger," or whatever it might be. "I cannot be with this drinking problem, I cannot be with this abusive talk, I simply cannot be there."

I remember one friend who had been sexually abused by her father, this is not somebody in your Deep Spring sangha but somebody far away, and the father now as an old man wanted to re-establish a relationship with her. And she had worked hard through the years to find compassion for him and to begin to forgive him. When she went to visit him he drank, and when he drank he became verbally sexually suggestive. It destroyed her; she could not do it.

She said, "I want so much to forgive him and to be with him but I cannot do this." I said the only way to stop it is to say no. Tell him on the phone beforehand, since he was perfectly fine when he was not drinking, "I cannot be with you when you drink. As soon as you reach for a bottle, I'm out. I will get on the train and go home."

Several times after going several hours to see him, arriving and finding he had been drinking, she had to walk in the door, to just say no, and leave. She said, "How can I do that?" But she began to see she had to do it. And then he stopped drinking when she came because he wanted the time with her. When he was not drinking he was okay. Then she was able to reach out to him compassionately, to see him dying and afraid, and to love him.

So sometimes one must limit the time spent with that person. Also in your meditation look at "draining". Nobody can drain you without your permission. Giving such permission is an old and habitual pattern. The person is reaching out and trying to pull something from you and your habitual energy is to give it, or to feel "I must give it." If the person insists on that pulling and simply cannot understand what you're talking about when you say, "You're draining me," then you can look inside yourself; it's a different kind of no-saying. "I'm not going there. I'm not going to be the one who is constantly trying to fix and to give." What supports that old habit?

This is different than connecting yourself deeply to Source and letting the energy flow through you; that's another step; here you take yourself out of the picture. You are simply the vehicle through whom love flows. So you sit there with the person who is pulling from you just doing metta or tonglen. Tonglen works especially well, deeply connected, just flowing that love, letting it run through your heart, touching your heart and out. But there's no self in it at all, there's nobody doing it anymore. So it doesn't drain you.

Some combination of these 3 usually works. Now I want to shift to something else that you said, that part of the dark night experience is experiencing these difficult people and situations because you are at some level inviting what gives rise to the defilements so that the defilements can be investigated in meditation and so that you can see right there with the defilements that which is free of the defilements and make the choice to rest in that space. It's a different way of releasing.

There have never been defilements at one level. You're releasing the whole concept that you are stained in some way. You're rinsing off the glass, coming to know the clear glass. So the defilements are released. And this is the essence of the dark night process; it's a purification process. Purification is going to be challenging.

Q: It seems to me that Marion and other mystics were right about the dark night, emphasize a certain kind of passive purification that is different from what you're describing, where they're just somehow in pain and the divine is working on them and cleansing the obscurations. It isn't something that <> humans can do. Comment?

Aaron: I think both are true and both happen at the same time. It is your intention for the highest good of all beings to release the obscurations, that brings both the conscious and unconscious release. You can only do so much and grace does the rest. By grace I mean simply the forces of love in the universe, your own guides and various angels, God. The whole pull of light; light draws itself; light draws you to it, draws that which is light within you.

That which is heavy, using a different image of the balloon metaphor, if we had the balloon going up through some kind of mesh, the balloon itself can go through but the heavy airbags that are tied to it can't go through. The balloon wants to rise and as it pulls upward, those heavy airbags just drop off. It's up to you whether they drop off with much suffering or more ease. If there's a lot of attachment to them there will be more suffering. If there's a deep sense of trust in the process of moving into the Light, understanding of the process and willingness to allow it, you'll find that many of the weights drop away. It doesn't take conscious attention or effort to make it happen, just awareness..

It's like you could not possibly release and balance every moment of karma from every past lifetime, but when you resolve a major piece of karma from one lifetime, everything that was stuck to it--think here of 10 million sticky notes stuck onto it-- from this lifetime and that lifetime and that lifetime, that compounded it, the whole thing falls away.

Q: The reason I ask the question is that during the past 4 months I have been pondering this quite seriously. I was introduced to the notion of dark night of the senses and dark night of the soul when I was a novice, when I was a monk in 1952 or 53. And looking back on my past life I think I came to the conclusion before coming to the intensive this month that beginning then in 1952/53 when I went into the monastery up until 1980 when I met J, that was the dark night of the senses for me because I was going through a lot of turmoil in the monastery, darkness, disgust with prayer and things like that, and difficulty with superiors.

And when I left I kind of washed my hands of the church and everybody else, and I still held on to one basic <lost to noise> important experience to have, which was really the dream of emptiness <lost to noise>. And I always had my lodestar pointing in that direction, I was never going to give that up or the way to that <inaudible>.

Yesterday we were in a Q&A session with Barbara. One of the people in the group was <reading> their experience about mind as vision. And when she said mind is emptiness, I saw an image of a cube with golden lines around it and my heart just broke. And I started crying and I didn't understand it-- it was joy, just joy.

At lunch 15 minutes later I was thinking about, looking out the window, and this is the time of year, springtime, right before Easter, when the shadows and the light and the bare trees have meaning for me. When I was a monk my name was Pascal which is Latin for Easter. I have/had a great love of the Passion, the narrative of the Passion, Christ and the Gospels. So just the atmosphere brought that all back to me and I broke down again.

Then I was walking through the kitchen and something from Marion's book about the dark night being the crucifixion came to my mind and I just crumbled <>. I don't know how to figure all this out or even if it's important, probably not important at all. Was my decision about identifying that period from the monastery on out correct as dark night of the senses, when the crucifixion idea is inherent in dark night of the soul? And I don't feel like the kinds of descriptions that they gave of this passive purging that you get and all these visions that you get in the dark night apply to me. The worst night I had in my life was the night I walked into the monastery, like going into a grave.

Aaron: B, each soul is unique. Each has its own passage. What you've just described is very moving and beautiful and real. The name Pascal did not come by accident, either. The dark night is the crucifixion. What is the resurrection? Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life." That's not just about him. Each of you is, each of you goes through that resurrection moving into higher consciousness in which you finally become truly alive.

You don't need the intellect to grasp every nuance of it. Let the heart lead you. Just trust your heart.

Q: I think one of the things that I find most difficult is the frequency and intensity that things are coming my way. It feels like I'm not getting the chance to catch my breath before the next one comes in. I work skillfully with some of them, some of them I just <>.

The other thing that I find difficult is that this whole process has challenged my trust and faith. It's just a hard one. You know that joke we've told many times about the guy <on the cliff that> needs to let go and God says he'll catch him? I don't want to let go.

Aaron: You need to swim a bit more in the waters at the base of the cliff so that you feel safe knowing what will be there when you let go. Recently you have not been able to meditate that much. There's a lot of tension. As soon as you lose touch with what's there at the base of the cliff then there's more fear, more closing in, more contraction, more armoring, more self trying to fight your way out.

I have no easy answer for you other than to remind you, I would never lead you anywhere that is not safe. I hear that it's hard for you, son, and I wish I could make it easier but I cannot. Only to give you my love and to say I trust you and your ability to move through it.

It is noon. I think this was a very helpful conversation for many of you. I'd like to suggest that you continue it at your tables at lunch time as that feels appropriate rather than just chattering about whatever, that you stay focused on this question and share with each other. Does that sound acceptable to you? So find those people you'd like to sit with and share more with them, and move around a bit and share with each other. And then we'll pick this up at 2 o'clock when we resume. Thank you. Enjoy your lunch.

(session ends)

July 1996, Dechen Choling: self-retreat journal: Maharaj-ji: "Give away everything."

...I felt his present energy as I haven't felt it in a long time. I just sat, clutched his feet and cried really hard for awhile. He kept hitting me on the head. He said in a joking manner to some people who were there. "This one is mine; see how happy she is to see me; she cries!" After awhile he added, "She thinks she lost me!"

When I stopped crying I asked him, what am I doing? I'm trying to do what spirit asks me to do but often I feel like I don't understand anything. What is asked of me? In answer, eyes laughing, he threw me an orange, threw it hard so it hit me. He looked so innocent as I fumbled to catch it. I just sat there and looked at it. so he asked, "don't you want it?" Aside to others, "she doesn't want it!" To me again, "Why don't you eat it? Eat it!" So in my meditation, I ate it. Then he threw me another and said, "eat!" I did. Another. By now I was slowing down; too much orange. I finished the third and he threw me another and said again, "don't you want it?" I said I was full. He replied, "Give it away. You're always full; give it away. Give everything away. That's what I want you to do. Give everything away. Learn that you are always full. There's always everything/ fullness/ completeness." (hard to translate this) And he threw more oranges at me. "Give away everything; give it away!"

I wasn't sure what he meant and questioned, not "aloud" but in thought, , does he mean my house, my money my car. What does he mean. I felt some fear that what was being asked was too much, that I'm not ready to be possessionless. I wanted to protest but he wasn't looking at me any more. I understood I don't have to give away things that are "working tools" in my life like home or computer, only not to be attached to them. If they go, I didn't really need them or if I do they'll be replaced. I really do already trust that. What Maharaj-ji was talking about was the present confusion over completeness/ incompleteness. Nothing was ever incomplete so how can there be completion? I need to empty myself so as to understand my fullness. The more I give away, the more space there is to receive, to be a flow-through.

Maharaj-ji began to talk again; paraphrased. Can't get it precisely; it was a clear, simple thought. "I told you, forty years ago, your name is Shantih Das. I said you would know what to do with that name when you learned what it meant. (This is my dressing it up. It was more like, "You, Shantih Das! Why not live your name already?" but the rest was implied )

He continued, "You've learned 'Shantih'. You haven't learned 'Das' (servant). Give away everything; don't hold back anything. Give everything until you know 'Das.' It's very simple. This is all you need to do."

I started to withdraw but felt his energy again so I sat back at Baba's feet. I felt such an outpouring of love, started crying again. He hit me on the head again a few times and said, "go away, go away." I started to get up and then he said, "come here."

He said, eyes twinkling, "Be empty and God goes through you. Das is nobody. You can't be Das and still be somebody." Then he abruptly turned his attention elsewhere. I sat there for some time, just holding that love and finally realized I didn't need to hold it, that was just what he was talking about, so I stepped back and let others near, just let his energy pour through me and let it go. Full!

Aaron and I talked a little. Aaron said, "this is about completion; for several days you reached back to that cessation experience, wanting to find a way to reenter it, rather than allowing to arise in yourself the awareness that you are already and always in that center, that the Unconditioned is your essence. The experience of resting in that utmost peace is there, was there before your first experiences of it, years ago, will always be there. Like the oranges, why would you need more of it. 'Give away everything' means just that. You can not know completion until you let go of the idea of incompletion. Let it go. Think only of God and let go of fear."

1 A.M.: a long evening of practice, mostly looking at "give away everything." Aaron asked me to note my breath, that I can not draw in new breath until I release the old. There would be no point in inhaling without the exhale. I don't hoard the breath; I exhale and trust the inhale will follow. There's no self in it. Breath breathes itself. But in other areas I hoard, afraid to let go. I know that "let go" is the key

7/28 afternoon: I've been sitting since 5AM with "das is nobody" and "give everything away." This is a hard teaching but right on! ... Thoughts of feeling invisible in childhood/ old mind. ... Looking at what makes that somebodiness come up. (old memories) feeling humiliated, wanting to defend myself and knowing there was no defense. Image of self as "the inadequate one" or "bad one" and needing to fight against that, but also being that, repeatedly, as a way of being in the world. All old.

A: Give it away."

B: How?

A: Just let it go. It's an old myth. Can you just let it go? Who needs it?

So the morning was a mix of looking at das is nobody" and the fears that nobodiness idea brings up, old mind and "give it away." Very painful and also very wonderful. Much release. ... ...

July 28, 10:30 PM I've been sitting outside in the glorious light of a full moon, Venus beside her, mountains rising around me. Some agitation about ...

Slowly mind quieted. I can see how much I do serve the dharma and that if to do so is my highest priority then I have to accept the path of service life has handed me. "Das is nobody." I can't start by saying "Thy will be done but only if it works out this way." Looking at the desires to control this path. Give away everything: give away thoughts of being "somebody/ fear that I'm not. Give away my conceptions of how I want it to be and work with what is. I am NOT running this show!

Servant of peace. To serve that peace, ... to serve the peace that is arrived at through the understanding of our deepest truth, ... but nobody serves anyone or there is no "service", but only manipulation. With this clarity, I briefly experienced Baba again, felt his energy embrace mine and then depart.

Barbara Brodsky