November 12, 2012 Monday, Open Heart Class

Guided meditation on Non-dual Awareness; vipassana and pure awareness; Brahma-viharas- mudita, metta, karuna, upekkha;  transmute vs transcend;

Aaron: Good morning to you all. I am Aaron. My blessings and love. Please stay in this silence. I am simply going to offer a guided meditation, and then we will return to silence. For now, keep the eyes closed.

Imagine a completely smooth sea. There is not a ripple on the surface. The water touches the shore in a flat line, a mirror surface. It is a very still morning.

A very soft breeze begins to blow, blowing toward shore, and a few small ripples arise, lapping gently up on the shore. Then the water falls back into the sea. Flowing in and ebbing; flowing in and ebbing.

Try to hold in your mind both images, the still sea and this ebb and flow.

The wind increases. The waves become a bit bigger. Not big waves yet, but real waves; coming in, breaking on the shore, flowing out. Without the outflow, there can be no inflow. Without the inflow, there can be no outflow. They are one and the same. I want you to see the simultaneity of the stillness and of the arising and falling away of the water. The conditions are present so the little wavelets arise, and because of the condition of their arising, they flow back. Stillness is always there.

Your mind is intrinsically still like that mirror-smooth sea. When conditions play upon the mind, thoughts will arise. They will flow and ebb, flow and ebb. Just as it was possible to hold the image of the mirror-still sea without denial of these small lapping waves, so it is possible to rest in the stillness of the mind while observing the physical and mental wavelets. Sometimes thundering waves do arise, and because they arise, they also pass away. Sometimes there are only small waves, or none at all for a brief time. Arising and passing, this is the nature of the mind; giving rise to thoughts, and thoughts passing away. And the body gives rise to sensation, and sensation pass away.

Now open your eyes, with a soft non-fixated gaze. Seeing and not seeing. No objects jumping out as separated objects, but all objects simply arising and passing away, and a vast spaciousness and ease. The Ground in which nothing arises or passes away is also present.

Don't make this conceptual, just rest in spaciousness. Let the mouth be soft, open, the tongue loose in the mouth, not touching the teeth or roof of the mouth. Breathing in, ahhh... Breathing in again, ahhh... Breathing in, seeing the vision of the water rolling in toward shore. Breathing out, ahhh, that water falling back into the ocean. In, ahhh... In, ahhh...

Very gently, and without force, invite the image of the mirror smooth sea superimposed upon this in-breath, and exhale, ahhh.... There is that identical place of stillness within each of you. Breathing in and releasing, and yet nothing changes. No denial of the flow of the breath, because as long as you are in a human body the breath will flow. No self-identity with it, no need to control it. Just the breath coming in and then flowing back out. And the stillness remains. Rest the mind loosely in that stillness, that emptiness. If a thought comes, it's just another ripple. Watching it flow in, nothing to fix or change, letting it go. If a sensation comes, knowing it as sensation, but nothing to fix or change.

I invite you be equally present with the arising of thoughts and sensations and their passing away, and with the stillness, resting in the stillness without grasping at the stillness but knowing that stillness as the Ground. Know the quietness of the Unconditioned, and know the conditions as the play of the conditioned mind and body.

I'll be quiet now. Continue with this with eyes soft, open. If in a few minutes you feel moved to close your eyes, that's fine. And if you feel moved to go back to your vipassana practice, that's fine. Just a few minutes of this pure awareness, resting in pure awareness.

(tape paused)

Barbara?: I want to speak briefly here about the differences and similarities between vipassana practice and pure awareness practice. With vipassana,... let's use this as a model. There's a high mountain peak and we want to get to the top of the mountain. We start to climb. We think we're getting up, but we get over the crest of one hill and then it dips down again. We keep going up and down; a little and up and down again. There's no straight route to the top. So we're watching all the arising and passing away of the conditioned realm. We gain a lot of wisdom seeing that it's all arising and passing away from conditions and not self. There's not much stillness. Stillness comes slowly.

With pure awareness practice, envision yourselves sitting on top of that mountain, starting right there on top of the mountain. There's a thick cloud so only the top 50 feet of the mountain are visible. When you sit there, you can see down the slope a little way and then there's a thick cloud layer. You assume there's something down below that, but you don't know.

Gradually as the wind blows, little puffs of mist blow away, and you see tiny bits of the landscape below you. And then the cloud comes in again. We rest in that stillness above the landscape, and gradually inch our way down into the landscape in those moments when the puffs of breeze blow the cloud away. “Oh, that's down there.” And then the cloud comes in again. So there's a lot of stillness.

In both practices the focus is to bring it together, the conditioned realm and the unconditioned. We can't hide away in the unconditioned, and we can't get lost in the conditioned. It's my experience that learning to rest in awareness gives a lot more spaciousness to the vipassana practice.

I want to read you just a couple of lines, here. Flight of the Garuda is a dzogchen teaching poem. I'm reading Song 15.

Song 15

Emaho! Once again, noble children, listen carefully!

Rest your mind loosely in naturalness and

See how the mind is when calm.

Observed, it rests calmly in the continuity of awareness.

Calm, and yet empty, thus is the state of awareness.

Fortunate heart-children, you must understand this.

This is how calm resting is the mind's ornament.

Give rise  to a thought and observe how it arises.

Since it does not depart even in the slightest

From the state of empty and luminous awareness,

Arising and yet being empty is thus the state of awareness itself.

Fortunate heart-children, you must understand this.

This is how arising is the play of mind.

To illustrate this, no matter how many waves may arise,

They never depart from the ocean even in the slightest.

Similarly, whether still or in movement,

The mind never departs from awareness and emptiness even in the slightest.

So rest, since whatever rests calmly is the state of awareness.

Rest, since whatever arises is the manifestation of awareness.

To believe that meditation is only when the mind rests quiet,

and maintain that there is no meditation when the mind moves

Is proof of not knowing the core of stillness and movement,

And of not having mingled stillness, occurrence and awareness.

For this reason, fortunate and noble heart children,

Whether moving or still, mind is the continuity of awareness.

So when you have fully comprehended stillness, occurrence and awareness,

Then practice these three as one.

This is how stillness and thought occurrence are nondual.

(not recorded, continuing with next recording file)

Aaron: My love to you all. I'd like you to picture the one-cell, two-cell zygote. The cellular material is there, the DNA material is there, but there's not at this time a separate heart, a separate brain, limbs, none of it is expressing yet. But the potential for it is innate to that zygote.  If we have a human one-, two-, five-cell organism, the very beginning of the fetus, the whole human is there, but it has not yet developed.

In the same way, compassion, mudita, gratitude, spaciousness, clarity, all of these are there within your human condition, your human potential. They are the essence of what you are, but the conditions have not yet arisen to fulfill those, just as the conditions in the very tiny human fetus have not yet arisen for the arms and legs and brain to be developed. Eventually if the conditions develop the arms will grow, the brain will grow. The different parts of the body will become differentiated. But the conditions have to ripen.

The question then is how do you assist in the ripening, or release the blocking, of conditions that will allow the fullest expression of mudita, of karuna, of metta, of gratitude, and so forth? There has to be awareness, “Certain conditions arise repetitively in me, of fear, of jealousy, of anger, and I am going to take care of those so that gradually they disperse,” like mist dispersing as the wind blows it away so that the clarity of the wholeness can be experienced, the wholeness that includes all of these beautiful qualities.

When I say they are innate to you, I do not necessarily mean they are already developed. They are innate to you, and if you do not experience them at times it's because there is something gradually releasing but still blocking the fullest expression. Each time you attend to it by seeing that there is some envy blocking the fullness of joy, and you attend to the envy with kindness for this human rather than contempt for the human, each time you do that you release more and more of the conditions for the envy and the contraction so that the fullness of mudita, the fullness of karuna, and so forth, can express.

Q: Barbara used the word “transcend”. The energy of that word feels more complete than releasing, as we tend to articulate this process.

Aaron: I'm not quite sure I understand you, and I don't want to get caught in semantics. We have different terms: release, transcend, transmute. There has to be a willingness to release before we can transcend. Transmute and transcend also are somewhat different, because with transcend we're moving somewhat past. In “transmute” we are willing to use even the blocked energy as a way of bringing in energy, even if contracted, and by the openhearted intention to move past contraction, utilizing even the contracted energy to bring forth the desired end result, so that we embrace everything. So I think transmute is perhaps the highest process, but it's important to think of it as a process.

By release, what I mean is release self-identification. Then we begin the process of transcendence, moving past the contraction or negativity. Within that process of transcendence, if attention is paid, we can see how any negative energy can be used to transmute and fully open, using even the negative in that way.

It's all a process, though, and you enter into the process wherever you are. So it is not useful to enter it saying, “Now I'm going to transmute this” if you haven't first worked with metta to open the heart, offering compassion and loving kindness to the self that's feeling fear and contraction. So we start with release, and then we work our way on.

One of the practices that I find very helpful for many people is simply chanting, toning. The energy of sound. We have a chant that most of you have probably heard and participated in. This is just the naming of the four Brahmaviharas-- metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha, repeated, but with toning and the harmonics. It's not just the words. The words are powerful and the sound is powerful, because the sound literally works on the chakras and helps to open the chakras. So, if there are no further questions and then we'll close this circle by a few minutes of chanting.

All of the other practices you've done are helpful, such as working with the chakras with color, with light, working with clear comprehension, “What is my purpose? Is my choice suitable to that purpose?”, simply mindfulness and observing the places where contraction comes up and observing the reaction to that contraction, all of this is part of the gradual shift. It's how the two-celled zygote blossoms into a semi-articulated fetus, and finally blossoms into a full-fledged human being. All the material is there, everything you need is there. We're simply attending to anything that blocks the emergence of that arm, or that heart.

Are there any questions, or simply things to share? (no)

We would invite you to watch this in the coming two weeks. What deepens the experience of mudita? What supports it? What blocks it? There is no one right answer as to what the experience of mudita is, just awareness of this at first small heart that gets bigger and bigger and bigger. The Grinch, his heart growing two sizes, stretched out. What stretches it out?

Okay, let me end here...