March 27, 2010 Saturday Afternoon, Venture Fourth #3

(this tape not yet corrected by Barbara and Aaron)

Keywords: dark night of the soul, sinking mind, astral projection, 4 bodies, karma

Barbara: I want to spend perhaps 45 minutes to a maximum 1 hour on finishing up what we were talking about before lunch. Then I want to move into your spiritual program, the major foci you're going to follow for the next 6 or 8 months, how to choose and some discussion of that to clarify. Then have you break into 3 small groups to talk about your work with the qualities, as it's been the last few months. So let's go back to this dark night. I hope you had some fruitful discussions at lunchtime.

Q: Our table had a great discussion... I described an experience I had in the monastery and then <> was there and she described an experience she had as a young girl. And the way she described it gave me a handle on how to describe my experience. I decided that the experience I had was a non-dual lucid dream, kind of like access concentration.

Barbara: Thank you. What I'm trying to do here is to help you normalize your experience. Each is unique and yet there will be certain threads that they have in common and will help you to go back into your own experiences and to understand them and better see the passageway that your life has been about. And what's happening with you as you move through these different kinds of experiences. So it can be very helpful to share and hear other people's experiences.

Q: It was very validating for me to hear others' experiences that were similar to mine and to know that I wasn't out there alone having those experiences. That was very helpful.

Barbara: Good, good. Others? Maybe there is no need for further discussion, I don't know.

Q: <lost to noise> I can give you two examples. There were others. The first experience for me <>, it was the second, but it was a sense, a recurring sense of no self when <>. There were also examples of what I would term now panic attacks, when I was 12.

Q: I think the question is more about the similarities.

Q: Well, then after I shared about these experiences, different ones, like L and J and B and A all shared similar kinds of no-self or emptiness or a deep sense of angst, or existential...I don't know how to explain it.

Barbara: Anything else that people can share with Q?

Q: The more J talks the more things fly up for me. <inaudible> and I didn't know it! ...

Barbara: I remember in college having recurrent experiences of no-self. I had completely forgotten about that until you talked about it. I was still in that period when I had not really returned to a sense of spirit presence. I would go into the college chapel, which was a mandatory once a week chapel, and meditate and disappear. When I came out, I was afraid I was losing my mind because the whole body and ego and everything would disappear, and I had no idea what was happening to me. I'm thinking about that now; I have not thought about it for decades. I see that that was just a kind of no-self experience.

Q: I'm wondering is there a distinction between emotionally intense times in our lives compared to dark nights of the soul experiences. Knowing that dark night of the soul would have a lot of emotion around it but does it have another quality beyond emotional trauma.

Barbara: I will want Aaron to reply to that. I have some thoughts about it but I don't know. Let's let Aaron answer. Let me hear Q's question or statement first...

Q: I had a question this morning, but I can ask it... My question is related to levels of consciousness. I am wondering what is the relationship of the astral body, how is it involved when access concentration is knowing arisings among light.

Barbara: I don't understand. Aaron is saying, are you asking what happens to the astral body during access concentration?

Q: I get a lot of images that come out of nowhere.

Barbara: During all meditation or just during access concentration?

Q: I think it is access concentration when there is a lot of light, luminosity.

Barbara: And then images come in. And is there any movement out to those images at all or any pulling away from them?

Q: They disappear.

Barbara: They're just noted as arising and passing away? Okay Aaron will speak to that as well.

Q: When I delivered my son, gave birth to my son, I was on morphine and a kind of similar thing happened with images.

Barbara: It sounds like you're touching into universal consciousness at some level and maybe touching into past life images as well, all the women you have ever been who have given birth. During meditation when these images are coming up, and if access concentration is strong, they should simply be noted as seeing, just images. I'll ask Aaron to verify this but I think it's more about the purification that's going on. It relates to the elements work that we're talking about, too. The whole process is one of release of old obscurations so that the clarity of the pure mind can fully come through. And we do some of it consciously, some of it happens unconsciously, which relates to an earlier question. It's not something that we're doing, it's just something that we are happily participating in, releasing old obscurations.

I think of sticky notes or a thorn bush, walking through a field with briers and they're sticking all over you. If you leave them alone they'll fall off. A long time ago, I'm not sure how long ago, in England, Amaravati monastery, the monk that I mentioned before that I was teaching dzogchen to had invited me. This is not Ajahn Sumedho. He was the then-Abbott of Amaravati and he had invited me to come and visit there.

We were walking in a field behind the monastery. It was a day about like today and I had mittens on and I wore fleece pants. Burrs kept sticking to my pants and I kept reaching down and trying to pull them off. Then they stuck to my mittens. Ajahn started laughing at me and he said, "Just let them be; they'll fall off when they're ready. The more you pull, the more you hold them to you."

It's kind of like that. If we offer the intention not to carry these burrs with us, the more we attack them the more contraction and negative energy there is around them. But if we just let them be, eventually they'll fall off. They release.

The visions that you're seeing, I think, and as I said I'll ask Aaron to confirm thus, but I think they're part of this release. Just let them be. In access concentration it's just images coming and going, sometimes beautiful images, sometimes horrific images, sometimes neutral images. Just passing by; releasing. It's just the release of energy. It's like an energy release but one that is happening at a different level. It's part of the purification of the elements, which the book goes into.

Okay, Aaron will say some more about it.

Q: Sometimes when I meditate, everything disappears. There is nothing. I don't know afterwards whether I've fallen asleep or whether there was a dissolution. How can I tell?

Barbara: What form of meditation are you doing when this happens?

Q: It happened earlier and I was doing vipassana. It happens often when I'm doing dzogchen.

Barbara: It often happens with pure awareness practice but it's happening with vipassana? With vipassana is there a gradual edging into the dissolution?

Q: It gets very much quieter, calmer, slower, and then at some point I come back and realize I've been, "I" haven't been present.

Barbara: A sense of not having been present, the I has not been present. Is there a strong sense of energy and awareness?

Q: There's a sense of, it's like waking from a deep sleep, a sense of "I slept well" or I have been nourished.

Barbara: So there's a sense of being nourished and when you come out of that is there a strong energy and alertness when you wake up? Or low energy?

Q: During it, afterwards I'm not aware so much of strong energy as deep peace.

Barbara: My first thought was that this was what we call sinking mind, are you familiar with that term? In vipassana, sinking mind? It's a somewhat low energy space. It feels a little bit like falling asleep but it's not physically falling asleep. But there's not strong awareness, there's not strong presence. It may pose as access concentration but instead of seeing objects clearly arising and falling away and feeling the sense of equanimity with that arising and dissolution, there's almost a sense that everything is slowed down... but it's not a cessation experience, it's more a kind of energetic withdrawal.

I'm not sure that it's sinking mind, though. It may be a completely different state of consciousness that you're moving into at times, just resting in a healing state of consciousness, related to pure awareness. So I'm not sure. I'd need to hear more.

In either case, if it is the second, calm and peaceful state of mind related to pure awareness, then what I'm about to suggest won't change it. If it is sinking mind, what I'm about to suggest will help to wake it up.

As you move into a place where access concentration becomes clear and objects are arising and dissolving, there's no going out to objects, there's no pulling back, there's no sense of contraction, but mind is sharp and clear. If mind begins to slow down and not pick up objects precisely, bring attention to the neighbor's dog barking or the itch in your back. There's still a body; there are still physical senses in access concentration; there's still sensation. Thoughts may have stopped arising but body sensations won't stop because the body is there. Sensation will just be that: hearing, tingling or heat. . . . With access concentration, these objects will just be there, with no attraction to them, no aversion, but still there and noted.

If there seems to be a diminishment like you're moving back 10 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles back away from it, simply note the, let's call it the withdrawing, declining attention, bringing attention to the object of diminishing attention increases attention. It brings awareness back strong again, full presence again. So it wakes it up.

The sinking mind is like, it's not the exact same thing, but in dzogchen practice when one is falling asleep and then yells "PHAT!" Wake it up!

In vipassana we use the mind itself, asking, "What is it? What's happening here?" Watching the experience of diminishing attention. That which watches the experience of diminish attention is fully attentive. And it brings you back in that field of strong attention.

If what you're experiencing is indeed some other healing state of consciousness that's temporary, inquiring after it will not harm that process. So try that. Okay?

Q: Often when I'm doing breath sessions with clients they will leave their bodies. And during that time, they stop breathing. They can stay in that place for a long time. And sometimes when they come back they'll say to me, "I would have like to have stayed there."

Barbara: Do they really stop breathing or does the breathing just become extremely subtle.

Q: They stop breathing.

Q: Do they come back gasping?

Q: No, no.

Barbara: I personally have no experience with this and cannot say anything about it. Aaron says he doubts if they stop breathing so much as the breath may become very, very subtle, slow breathing. They simply are astrally projected out of the body.

Q: They often respond that it's a very peaceful place. They're not sleeping.

Barbara: How many of you have experienced, conscious experience of astral projection? Has it been peaceful? For me it's always peaceful. Well, I can't say it's always peaceful, it's often peaceful.

Q: What is it?

Barbara: Astral projection is projection of the astral body out of the physical body. The astral body is capable of looking down on the physical body but it's no longer in the physical body, it's watching the physical body.

It can be very peaceful because there's a strong recognition, "I'm not that physical body. I'll take care of the body but I'm not that." Looking at the astral self, a much deeper recognition of who and what one is.

Sometimes the astral body, especially I would think in a breathing session where the intention was to heal and reveal something and release something, the move to astral project out of the physical body can be part of the whole spirit's and wisdom's move toward healing and release. And so I would imagine it would move them into a very peaceful place. I've experienced astral project that was extremely peaceful. I have no idea if I was breathing or not but I would assume I was. But out of the body for a considerable period of time and sometimes I've experienced astral projection with very strong memories and a sense of being able to direct the astral body where I wanted it to go. Sometimes with no sense of projecting it at all or directing it at all, just seeing the body below me and floating in space. Both are aspects of astral projection.

Q: Sometimes when I'm working with someone I get the sense that there's some ambiguity when they go into these places of whether or not they really want to be here. That just comes to me kind of intuitively.

Barbara: I think this is true for a lot of people. When people through either the breathing experience or through other lead-ins to astral projection, they see that they are not the body, they release some of the self-identification with the body and the clarity comes up, "Do I want to come back into this body? Do I want to be here? Why am I here?"

With the near-death experience I had in '04, that came very powerfully because there I was in a lot of pain, drowning, and astrally projected from the body. I could see it below, tossed by the surf. I rested in a beautiful light and peacefulness, so alluring. And there was, it seemed like a long period of time but it must have only been moments, but a deep sense of, "I could leave now." It would be a respectful way of leaving the body. I could just choose to go into that light and peace. And seeing all the reasons that I didn't want to return to this body, that for all I knew might end up being a quadriplegic body with a broken neck, my legs wouldn't move, my arms would hardly move, I was in agony and I didn't know what body I was going to come back to.

So then there was a deep sense of, "I've not finished my work. I choose to come back."

Q: This is a question for Aaron when he comes in. Is Jim Marion's description of the experiences after death accurate?

Barbara: Let's let Aaron incorporate now, we have a couple of questions... let me pause and bring Aaron in...

(new file, Aaron's greeting not recorded)

Aaron: First, about Barbara's near death experience. You've got to believe that clear instruments are hard to come by and I was not about to let her go easily. . . . <lost to laughter!>...

I don't mean that in an unkind way. You know I love this being very much. I cherish her. If she had died to the physical body I would have her closer to me in some ways. But we have work to do. I did not push her at that moment, I simply helped her remember that she had work to do. It was her choice.

We need to weave together many different aspects of human experience. The physical, emotional, mental and spirit bodies are part of what you express, of what you are. Each body has a different vibration. The physical a lower vibration, then emotional, then mental, then spirit.

Humans tend to divide human experience into physical experience, emotional or psychological experience, mental experience and thoughts, and spiritual experience, but you are one whole and it's all interwoven. And any spiritual work touches all the bodies. This is not THE core but an important part of the statement in Barbara's new book, the integration of all this work, or at least I hope it is!

There are various ways of healing emotional distortion. One of course is through psychology and psychotherapy. I don't think Barbara mentioned this morning – she had thought to mention, she was trying to shorten what she said – that somewhere in that coming out of the dark night of the senses she had 2 years of intensive and very helpful psychoanalysis. She has stated numerous times that she probably could not have done anything that followed without that support, that this was invaluable partially because it was with a very competent and compassionate analyst who was not completely the conventional the Freudian analyst but more willing to share of himself as well and to dialogue with her and not just sit in the background and do a classical Freudian analysis.

It helped her to see what she perceived as the broken parts of herself and to take them into meditation; he supported her taking them into meditation, and seeing that right there with what she perceived as broken was that which was whole. She was able to sort it out and release the old images of brokenness.

At that point yes, she could have done the same work with a very capable spiritual teacher, a very capable meditation master, but she had no access to such. She had never had any formal meditation instruction. She knew nothing about Buddhism. The closest she could come at that point was a wise and compassionate psychoanalyst.

There is not just one path. You came into the body, this combination of elements that the body and mind are, carrying karma, each element with its own specific karma. Each body – that is the physical, emotional, mental bodies – with their own specific karma and each chakra carrying the messages of that karma and the path to the release of it. You came into the body with all of that, into the incarnation with all of that.

The intention for any relatively mature being is growth toward wisdom and compassion. The intention is to release some of the old karma. The intention is to move into a higher vibration in consciousness. It all comes together. Karma is literally stored in the cellular tissue of the body. If you have a neck that constantly goes out of joint or a constant upset stomach or a bad knee, it's because you're because you're carrying cellular karma in that part of the body from many past lifetimes. There is the intention not just to release it so the knee doesn't hurt or the belly doesn't hurt; there is the intention to release it because it is part of what is keeping the whole vibration lower.

Spiritual practice is really all that's necessary to heal these things IF there is clear guidance for that spiritual practice. By clear guidance, there needs to be a teacher or guide accessible to you frequently and not just at several-month intervals, so that if you're experiencing a lot of upset there's someone right there who can guide your practice with whatever catalyst has arisen. A teacher with whom you sit a retreat once or twice year, is insufficient in terms of this form of guidance. Once you connect strongly with your guides the guidance you need becomes available to you.

Sometimes there can be an experience, for example, during a meditation retreat, where something comes up that's very painful and brings up a lot of strong emotion. At some level there is the not yet conscious intention toward healing, toward release of that specific karma and lower vibration, to release of that whole pattern of obscuration. However the pain brings forth the impetus to release. So the issue comes up and becomes dramatic and painful because you're on a path of healing.

I've never observed this directly, but they tell me when people have very severe burns they must constantly remove the old tissue in the hospital. It's a very painful process. But in order for the new healthy tissue to form they have to keep removing the old tissue that's blocking healthy tissue from coming forth.

Q: It's called debridement.

Aaron: In ancient times we did something similar but we didn't have the skills in primitive societies to offer the life support to the patient and they generally died before we could get to that stage. But using some of the Essene and mystery school practices, we released toxins from the body. The organs are aging because there are toxins. Part of the cause of the toxins is old karma. So in prolonging life and living to 500 years I went through many periods of time when my body was supported; I did the inner work and others supported it, consciously releasing the toxins from the organs using certain kinds of herbs and other fluids that helped to release the toxicity of the organs and of the muscles and various tissues so that the body could renew itself. This is how a body lives to 500 years. It's not much different than that process of debridement.

In a sense what you're doing is a spiritual debridement so that the toxins come to the surface through the help of a therapist, through the help of your meditation teacher, your sangha, your friends, your spiritual friends, kalyana mitta, you come together and work to help release what needs release, always with the intention of releasing that which is carried as baggage and moving into the highest vibration possible, for the highest good of all beings and with love. So it's never a, "Let's get rid of this" with anger, kind of process, but always with love and for the highest good and the highest good of this body. In that debridement work they can't just shave off the whole top layer of skin, it's got to be gradual. It's painful whether it's debridement of the burn tissue or debridement of the karma, it's painful. And yet the results are healing.

We'll talk a bit more about this when we talk about healing through the elements in July. Q, does that answer your question?

Q: Yes, thank you.

Aaron: And Q, your question...?

Q: It was about seeing images when access concentration...

Aaron: Okay, it's part of the same thing. The images are arising out of this old karma of body, emotions, and mind. They're arising spontaneously. They're arising in part out of the elements of the body.

When there's a going out to them, "Oh, not that!" that just keeps them going. But when you can experience these in access concentration, it's a way of liberating them; they're just going, freeing themselves. Self-liberating. But the important thing here is not to be over-concerned about it. If there is concern about it then the attention must turn itself on to the tension or concern. If there's anything that wants to control, that's where the attention much shine itself, onto that tension of someone who wants to control. Because the release cannot happen as long as there's a "somebody."

Q: I understand. Thank you.

Q: When is it useful to go back to that < > extreme, to the ancestors to do metta and healing as part of that release work?

Aaron: Only if there's something that's stuck. If you leave it alone, what needs to be released will be released as far as is possible. Then you may come to a place where something feels stuck and cannot open.

For example, using Barbara again, a past life in which she was stabbed in the belly. I don't want to invade her privacy here but I think she has shared this with you already.

Q: It's in the book...

Aaron: She was wounded in the belly by the karmic ancestor of the one who is her present husband. And so she was watching his present stabs and her reactions. She and Hal spoke together about this knife in the belly and how he still had a tendency in his anger to figuratively put the knife in the belly but also how she gained power, as she had in that lifetime, by inviting the knife and then saying, "Look what you did." He is responsible for stabbing; she is responsible for provoking and using the results of the provocation and action to gain power. That being she was died slowly and in much pain. The one who is Hal in this lifetime, in that lifetime was her father. He did not intend to kill his son; he was aiming the knife at somebody else. Her ancestor stepped in the way so he intercepted the knife. He was in anguish. The karmic ancestor saw it gave him power to hold the knife in the belly. To release the knife meant to offer complete forgiveness and release.

So she was observing the ways that she still held the knife in her belly so that when Hal was angry and figuratively threw the knife, she held it there instead of just letting it go past. Then she had power and he felt shamed, blamed and uncomfortable. They had to talk a lot about it.

Her work was to learn how to release the knife. His work was to learn how to stop throwing it. They both worked hard to learn these things. In learning how to release the knife she spent many months working with the solar plexus chakra, which is where the knife was embedded. She looked at a past life where a bear had raked her belly. She could feel the hardening of that scar tissue. She had to learn how to release the scar tissue that she saw as protective. Releasing, opening.

She saw a past life in which a karmic ancestor was captured by an enemy and was literally tied out on the ground and the belly was slit open, opened up so that the birds ate his organs while he still lived. That being died very slowly and in agony, the birds eating on the inner organs. She had to learn how literally to offer the body to the birds, to see for that karmic ancestor, once he was captured, tied down and slit open, he was as much as dead even though he still lived. Hating the birds only created more karma and hating the one that had tied him only created more karma. The only way to end the karma was literally to offer the body freely to the birds with full love and generosity, and to cherish their well-being.

So she had to work through this in stages. First she learned to cherish their well-being, then to forgive that karmic enemy, who was not Hal. Then to see the scar tissue and work with that to heal and release it because that was the armor. And it was only at that point that she began – only with divine help, praying for divine help because she just could not do it herself, and Jeshua came and helped her – to help remove what she was still holding of the knife that the father had planted there, to fully release it. Interestingly until that time the belly was always cold and now it's warm and normal and full of life and energy.

So at that point the body released all it could, simply sitting in meditation and allowing these various releases. Then attention was brought to the place of closure. In meditation, a willingness to see the areas that had caused the closure based on the strong intention for love and harmony with her husband, to end the unwholesome karma with her husband, and to live in love together.

She worked very consciously with past lives, with energy, with the chakras, with spirit help, until it all released. Recently she said to me, "Aaron, I don't seem to be drawn to work with this area anymore, to do meditation with these chakras anymore." And I said, "Why would you? There's nothing blocked there anymore." So once it's released, it's released unless you create it again.

I want to go to N here for a minute because you had a different question and I said I would answer it. I'll come back to you, B.

Q: In Jim Marion's book Putting on the Mind of Christ...

Aaron: The death experience... I'd like to save that for tonight. That's a whole different area of pursuit, we can talk about it tonight.

Q: I have a question that sort of piggybacks with this question we're talking about. How can you tell the difference between depression that's emotional and dark night of the soul, or are they connected?

Aaron: They're always connected. This is what I was explaining, that the emotions and spirit are not separate. When there is emotional depression there is something unresolved in the emotions that needs attendance. It may be that the dark night in itself, the process of the dark night, will release it. It may be that some kind of help is needed much as Barbara needed to give special attention to the belly area to heal that. There may be some old psychological misunderstanding that needs attention which may be given through therapy or meditation or both. There may be something that simply needs more support than one can do on one's own to release. So there may be some very deep neurotic programming, if I might phrase it in that way, that needs attention, as Barbara had the attention through those 2 years of analysis.

She came into that period of analysis with a great fear of anger, especially of her own anger. Early childhood experiences had impact; the nurse who was a primary caretaker became sick and left. And Barbara, the child, 5 years old was told Nanny was sick, "It's not her fault, don't be angry at her." The 5 year old thought, "If I can't be angry at her, but I am angry, I must be bad, I must be wrong, and it is my anger that made her sick. I am poisonous." That was followed up about 2 years later by an experience of an acute appendicitis. She was rushed to the hospital, the appendix was taken out, and a well-meaning doctor said to her, "You had something bad in your stomach but we got it out."

But she knew that the anger was still there;she knew they hadn't gotten it out. So she grew up with this feeling, "I must not be angry." She was afraid of her own anger; she was uncomfortable with other people's anger. She could have learned about this in meditation but she didn't have access to an appropriate meditation master at that point. But through analysis she was able to look at this old conditioning and she was able to see that the fears of anger were simply old conditioning, literally to see it in past lives. Her analyst's eyebrows raised a bit when she spoke about past lives, but he was open to the possibility of it. He didn't question her. I think his sense was, as long as it's healing to her it's okay. So he did not consider her delusional to be seeing past lives. Another doctor might have handled it differently and in a way that might have been harmful to her.

So the dark night is geared to release these old patterns, and if there are old unwholesome emotions that are knotted up inside, the dark night is geared toward the release of them. But it is important to have support. It may not be absolutely necessary to have support. The whole spiritual practice, especially the vipassana practice, is geared toward the release as is chakra practice work with the elements, resting in awareness. All of this helps support the release of these, let's not call them neurotic tendencies but old habitual patterning and self-identities of many, many lifetimes. With insight, then it releases.

And then, I think Jim Marion says this in his book, you look back and say, "What was that all about?" It's a very strong sense, "It's gone. Whatever it was, it's gone." Sometimes you don't even need to know what it was; it's just released.

Q: You said earlier the release can't happen as long as there is a somebody. Could you say more about that?

Aaron: The release is superficial as long as there's a somebody, it's releasing from the surface. But as you move more deeply into the knowing that the aggregates are not self, none of the aggregates including consciousness are self, and this is another benefit of vipassana practice, that it teaches you this so deeply, as you move deeply into that knowing it allows for a deeper debridement. As long as there's a somebody there's some armoring. The self-identification with the aggregates has to go before the armoring goes. And until the armoring goes, the complete release does not happen. It will still happen, just much slower.

Q: That is my experience for 20 years working as a psychotherapist, trying to help people. They can become more aware of these patterns but the releasing of them rarely happens.

Aaron: Exactly. Barbara talks about an experience about, I described her experience with anger. And there was also a sense of deep unworthiness, something wrong with me. If something was not wrong with me this experience of anger wouldn't be there. It would be better for her to say this but I don't want to go out of the body and come back. If something wasn't wrong with me...I'm trying to phrase it in her words and not mine.

There was an experience of abandonment because of the loss of that loved one and the feeling, "I must be poisonous in some way that made her sick. If she left because she was sick it's because something was bad about me." And the doctor said something was bad in her and they got it out but she knew it was still there.

So those 2 years of analysis helped bring all this to the surface so that she no longer functioned from the viewpoint of somebody who was constantly afraid of being abandoned or was constantly feeling unworthiness. But it was not fully released; the feelings came; she was just not so reactive to them. She had to keep working with it.

She talks about at a long meditation retreat, walking in the halls and purposely making eye contact with people whose response was to look away. Each time it happened there was the feeling "I'm bad." She did that day after day, week after week, many times a day, until suddenly she understood at the deepest level, "This is just conditioning. This is just old mind. Nobody was ever bad." Then it released.

Had she not done the earlier work she probably could not have done that during the retreat. She needed to work with it and understand that she wasn't bad, understand it at a conceptual level. But then it had to touch at the deepest level. That first understanding did come through the analysis but it could have come through meditation.

I see more questions. It's 4 o'clock. I want to break here, let you shift into a different place for discussion. We will come back to this tonight, I promise you.

Q: I was just going to say, so ultimately the spiritual work is necessary <inaudible>.

Aaron: The being may find the ability to cease to act out those old patterns through shear grit. "I'm not going to react. This is old conditioning. I understand it intellectually. I'm going to walk into this room where I'm afraid I'll feel unworthy and smile at people. I'll do it." There's no release but there's the ability to live one's life and to function well, albeit with tension, and for many people that's as far as they get.

For many people that's enough. They've been living in a nightmare where they're not free at all, where they're constantly enslaved by their old conditioning and afraid to talk to strangers, afraid to drive a car across a bridge, afraid to be near a dog, constantly afraid that loved ones will die in accidents and having these violent images coming up – all the common human kinds of fears. The therapy frees them somewhat, so they can function. It does not move them into higher consciousness. Spiritual experience is necessary to move them into higher consciousness but the therapy can provide the groundwork, especially skilled therapy with a therapist who is spiritually knowledgeable.

You're going to move into groups. Within the groups I want you to talk about the latest work you did with the spiritual program, mostly you're looking at metta and, I can't remember what you were looking at the last weeks. The Eightfold Path, to some extent. Wisdom, concentration, sila, what's been happening for you in the last weeks. And as you reviewed the program for this whole past 8 months, which categories come up for you, which traits come up for you. I'm not asking you to share so much which traits you're going to choose as how you are going to choose the traits. By what process can you choose the traits. Basically we direct you toward those traits that are most challenging for you. You've each discovered what they are.

He uses the Hebrew work in the book for that, I'm looking to Doron for the Hebrew word... <bechira>. (group helps Aaron pronounce it) Okay. So it's that place where when you get there, there's tension and a sense, "I'm not sure I can work with this. This is my edge."

He gives an example. If you found a dollar bill lying on the floor here you'd have no problem with it, any of you, picking it up and carrying it to the bulletin board just with a note that says, "I found this on the meditation hall floor." If you found the dollar bill in the supermarket you might take it to the manager. You might or might not. If you found a hundred dollar bill walking somewhere in a deep woods where there was nobody around, no sign of people and you had not seen any people there that day, what would you do with it?

Q: (sound effect)(laughter)

Aaron: So we look at that point. Right here, talking about the dollar or hundred dollar bill, it's about greed and grasping and materiality. But it could be about patience or kindness or generosity, where are the areas that ensnare you most?

I'd like you to break up into groups of 5 or 6 and simply go and talk about this. You have until 5:30 when dinner will be served. You can sit outdoors or in the living room or here...

(session ends)