March 6, 2013 Wednesday, Open Heart Class

Class transcript; akashic field; elements; resistance and the open heart.

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to all of you. Thank you for being here with me tonight.

What can I tell you that you don't already know? At one level, you do know it all. It's not lack of knowing it all that holds you back; it's lack of trust that you know it all. Most of you in your meditation have really touched this radiant core of your being, this “One Who Knows,” and then you dismiss it. You say, “No, I'm this agitated human that's racing in circles.”  Well, on one level you are. But why is it so hard for you to trust the truth of tour essence and live from that truth?

There are a number of reasons. One is that most of you are perfectionists. If you acknowledge, “This is the truth of what I am,” it's much more painful to have to say, “Yes, but I still don't have it down perfectly.” If you say, “Ah, I'm not that. I'm just this muddled human. Sure, I make mistakes,” it's easier not to be so hard on yourself for the mistakes. But that comes with a denial of your truth. Can you acknowledge that you are this divine radiant being and still be compassionate to the human who walks around in this body and slips in the mud? Can it be both?

We will be introducing some new material this semester, but more important is simply the inspirational talks, the reminders. We are sitting here in this room together because you aspire to live with love, and I'm here to remind you that that's possible, and that you have not come into the incarnation to repeatedly fail. And yes, at times there's going to be anger, rage. The small ego saying, “No! I don't want this! I want that!” That's okay; can there be compassion for the human?

Perhaps 10 years ago at a retreat-- it was the June retreat. We had perhaps 40 people, all in silence, meditating. Instead of being held at Emrich that year, for some reason the retreat was held at Howell Nature Center. During the day they brought children down to the lake to the waterfront and took them out on the boats. Apparently one little girl pulled a lily pad out of the lake, was bringing it back to shore, when it slipped out of her hand into the water. Who knows how old she was, maybe 5, a little girl. And she started crying, “I WANT MY LILY PAD!” She was screaming it. “I WANT MY LILY PAD!” And there was so much anguish in her voice. Of course, everybody was in silence, so this voice permeated the surroundings. At first Barbara was concerned--- Barbara didn't hear her, of course. But when somebody said, “This little girl is screaming. What should we do?” she was concerned for the child's pain and that it was disturbing the silence. Then she realized, this girl is simply echoing the suffering that everybody at the retreat, about Day 4 of the week, everybody is feeling, “I want it this way. I don't want it that way.” People were simply stopping whatever they were doing and sitting and doing metta with this child and with themselves. It opened so many people's hearts.

It was decided to just let the counselor handle it. It wasn't up to Barbara or the retreatants or anybody to go down there and say, “You've got to get this child quiet. We're on retreat.” Can we open our hearts to that degree, to her suffering, our own suffering, the suffering? And it so happened that this was in the afternoon, when traditionally I meet with whoever wishes to meet with me to talk, a  group discussion and learning period. It so happened I was talking about non-duality, the simultaneity of pain and spaciousness. So we sat there, about two dozen of us, just holding space, watching what this girl's screaming brought up in us, including simply aversion to hearing her scream. Her scream brought up one's own pain, her pain, all loss. “I lost my lily pad, I want my lily pad.” How we can simultaneously hold the spaciousness of “I have everything I need in this moment. There's absolutely nothing lacking in this moment, and the present anger, tension, fear,? In this moment of pain, there's also nothing lacking.” This is not a paradox. There are no paradoxes. This is the simultaneity of relative and ultimate.

This is the place that I most want to lead you, this semester. There is no denial in resting in spaciousness while there's severe pain. There is no denial in the acknowledgment of the pain, even when there is a peaceful and spacious heart.

This brings us into the akashic field teachings. I want to begin to talk about that tonight, because it will be a core of our work together this semester. You're all familiar with the term akasha, yes? Akashic records, have you heard of the akashic records? A few “No's”.

There are four material elements: earth, air, fire, and water, and what might be called a fifth element of ether, or akasha, which is more an energetic element. I use the term akasha, how can I define it? Your language doesn't really give me the means for precise definition. Beyond the earth, the air, the fire, the water, what exists? What is the container for all of it? Nothing comes from nothing. What is the ground out of which the earth and the air and the fire and the water arise, and into which they fall away?

In another part of the description, many of you are familiar with the term akashic record. When we look at past lives, we go into the akashic records, into the energetic substance of the akasha that shows all the small fluctuations and movements of energy, that are the cumulative history of each of you through your myriad lives. Imagine if I gave each of you a candle, and we had a time-delay camera that could run very slowly and pick up the movement of your candle as you walked around the room and moved, not just one person but 20 of you, all moving together. Maybe instead of a candle we gave each of you a different color flashlight. so you see the trails of all these colored lights. When we look at it after half an hour of filming, we can see exactly the movement of the blue and yellow and the red, what each individual did, how they moved. Some moving fast, some moving very slow, some paused.

In the akashic records, we pick up the energy imprint of each consciousness movement through what we consider to be space and time. This is not a relative plane movement only; it's not just through space and time, but it's the energetic imprint from a deeper source, moving through the mundane-- the ultimate, as it moves through the mundane, and we pick up all the imprints of it. This is the akashic record. By looking at the akashic records we're able to know what each karmic stream did in certain past lives. How you lived. What sort of karmic patterns became deeply imprinted and were repeated through many lives. You don't have to specifically go into the akashic records, but when you see a habitual tendency, like, if you were to give very freely of yourself in terms of material goods or time or energy, you can assume somewhere back in the distant past that wholesome habitual pattern that developed. Or it could be a pattern that I “should” give or I shouldn't give, that it could be painful to give, it could be painful not to give, various judgments and fears around giving. So that it's no longer just easy and spontaneous. One moves into the pattern of self and other, of separation, and based on that, giving becomes challenging. We see all this written in the akashic records. We also simply see it by viewing our present tendencies. You don't have to say, “I can't help it; it's because of old karma and past lives.” Right now, in this moment, note, “This is difficult, but ah, without even seeing it, I can tell because of the stickiness of it that, in some past life, there must have been some challenge with this. Perhaps somebody holding a stick over my head and saying, ‘Give! Give! Give!'” Or a life of extreme poverty and great fear to give.

At that point, one begins to work with the tendency, not needing to see it specifically in the akashic records, but simply knowing, “This is old karma. There's something sticky here, and I can feel its stickiness, so I will simply pay attention and watch to see what supports release.” This is where we bring in the various tools that we'll be working with, both vipassana and working with body energy, for example. In this act of giving, or not giving, or constantly giving, can't give enough - that's the other side of it. The person who constantly feels, “I can't give enough. I must constantly give more and more and more.” - watch it! Ask, “Am I holding this in the belly, in the heart, in the throat? Where am I especially holding the tension of this old karma? What happens if I bring gentle attention to it, singing to it, opening my heart to it?” Just paying attention. And then we move into the non-duality: that which is aware of tension is not tense. That which is aware of closure is not closed. On the one level, see the closed belly that's afraid to give, or afraid it cannot give enough. And on the other, that which is open.

This is what Barbara was conveying about her practice at the start of class, finding the tension in the belly, and also remembering that which is open. Finding the place in the belly where the chakra is completely open, where the energy is open. And not denying the reality of that, nor denying the reality that on the mundane level, the chakra in the belly was closed. Can you see how they can co-exist?

This is where we step up your mindfulness practice to be able to become more deeply in touch with that simultaneity. We'll talk more about this in future classes. Right now I want to come back for a moment to the akashic field.

So we have earth, air, fire, water, and akasha as the ground. Here is the earth; here is the ground. Everything exists because of conditions. Earth, air, fire, and water also need conditions, and the condition is the existence of this field, this ground.

Barbara will send out some transcripts to you from a very beautiful Tibetan text called Circle of the Sun. It's a restricted Tibetan text. How many of you are familiar with the text Flight of the Garuda? Many of you. All right, this, like that, is a restricted Tibetan text. It deals partially with akasha, or what they call in that text the “All Ground”. We're going to be using that term, All Ground. Barbara will send out some material about it, I'm not going to talk too much about it, tonight. But simply think of this All Ground as being almost synonymous with akasha. They have different attributes, but they're strongly interrelated.

So on the one level, there's fear, anger or confusion. There is the busy mind. There are body sensations. There are the elements; earth, air, fire, water. There is all of this erupting in the world around you. And on the other level there is a deep still place, the “All Ground”. You cannot move into that All Ground to avoid your agitation. But if you remember the existence of the All Ground, it helps to ground you. Call it Christ Consciousness, Buddha Nature, Awakened Mind, Love, whatever you will.

Barbara had reason to walk on an icy surface in the past few days. The ground was very slippery under her feet. She had her walking sticks with her, but they were slipping on the top of the ice. I suggested she dig them in. They went through the slick surface and connected down into the dirt. That's a good metaphor for what you're doing. You're moving through the surface where it's slippery, agitated, or uncomfortable, into the deep spacious open heart. Find the experience of that All Ground and rest there, but do not hide there. Be willing, then, to come out and work with conditions as they are—slippery, muddy, whatever. But grounded, not sliding along on the surface.

Tonight we're not going to go into so much detail about working in the akashic field so much as just to introduce the term. Along with the assignment to work with mindfulness, to work with the generosity practice, I would like all of you to read the (we'll try to keep it to just a page or two) material of the akashic field and begin in your meditation to try to distinguish between the outer elements of the mundane world and this deep spacious ground.

Some of you are thinking, “I don't understand that.” I'm not asking for intellectual understanding. If you go there, you'll know it. And you know how to go there. If it's icy, you have to chip a hole in the ice so that you can connect into the ground. How do you chip a hole in the ice? First you have to recognize, “This is ice and it's slippery and I can't walk on it. What's below it?” This agitation is uncomfortable, and I can't find any stability on it. What's below it? Where in this moment is the open heart? Can I move into that open heart with love, just deep enough to touch base and ground myself there, feel a bit of stability and remember the divine essence of my being that knows how to love, that knows how to be in a spacious place?

Now we come to the second part of this. It's not so much doing this that's hard, but remembering that you wish to do it, and why you wish to do it. Many of you find it slippery or muddy, icy, and slide around saying, “It's not fair. Why is this happening to me?” rather than acknowledging, “Okay, under the ice and mud there's stable ground.” What do you get out of sliding around up there and then complaining and feeling anger? What do you get out of that feeling of helplessness, despair, and so forth?

We come back to the statement I've made to you so many times, how powerful you are. When you connect into that stable ground, you connect into, not your power but the power, the power of love. And you know that you participate in that power and are responsible to that power. What if you really are that powerful? The ego isn't sure it wants to be that powerful, even while the ego says, “Yes! I want that power!” But the ego is afraid of that “Yes, I want power” because it recognizes that it comes from an ego place. But the heart, the loving heart, knows its power. It's not about wanting power or creating power, it's simply resting in the power of pure being, pure love.

So this is my challenge to you. Read the akashic field material. Just step one, just basic introduction. And then begin to ask, if I can access the akashic field and live more from this space, what resistance is there? What holds me back, set in the old patterns? Do you understand the question?

I would welcome your questions. I'm waiting for the first one: “How do I get to the akashic field?”!

Q: Am I correct in saying there is no ego?

Aaron: On the ultimate level, there is no ego. On the relative plane, there certainly is an ego! We can't say it's an illusion, completely. It's part of the relative experience. There is no separate body, either. The body is just molecules, part of everything. And yet, here you are, and we don't deny that you're sitting here on this zafu. Okay?

Is there anybody who wants to ask, how do I get to the akashic field? (laughter) Okay, now I'm going to put the question to you: how do you get there? I know this is intellectual at this point. But how might you open to it?

Q: I feel it.

Aaron: Perfect. You can feel it, when you're there. Others?

Q: I see it.

Aaron: You see it. You taste it. You smell it. Yes. More? What if you're not sure what you're seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, hearing?

Q: I think that sometimes when I pay attention to my breath with the intention of accessing the heart, I drop in.

Aaron: Yes, correct. How many of you have done any formal pure awareness practice with me? Many. All right. Resting in rigpa, resting in pure awareness, we're in that All Ground, in the akashic field. So this is one, for those of you who have done this kind of practice, you know the experience. We work with a balance of vipassana and pure awareness. Vipassana, the mind is watching objects arising and passing away, impermanent, not self, until there's that shift from being the watcher into moving through just spaciousness, no self anymore. Objects are still arising and passing away, but there's no longer a sense of an ego that's arising and passing away. You're simply resting in that big mind.

The big mind is not the same as the akashic field. The big mind is consciousness, and the akashic field is the place wherein that consciousness rests. You're going to have to explore that in your meditation, but each of you has the capability to see that, distinguishing consciousness, the objects of consciousness (that which arises and passes away, consciousness is the receptacle for it), and the akashic field or All Ground as the container in which that consciousness rests. Going through that container, there's a point where the consciousness itself dissolves into a complete no-thing. A few of you have experienced that at times in meditation. It's not necessary to get to that point for the work this semester. If you do get to that point, it's fine, but it's not necessary. It's not necessary even to distinguish between pure awareness and All Ground or akashic field. But I think you'll start to feel the difference; that that which knows rests in something. And you begin to let go of the one who knows and just rest. It really is that simple.

Q: Sometimes when I journal, I didn't have a name for it, but it's being described. Through journaling you wind up someplace in peace. Now I have a name for it.

Aaron: Exactly. And do we have any musicians, dancers or painters in the room? People have experienced this within those art fields. Sports, comes in the same way. Skiing down a beautiful mountain. Running. Suddenly there's no self. The body simply knows how to move, and there's space.

Q: Sometimes when I'm meditating, I will feel sort of a floating sensation, and a sensation where I'm no longer feeling or experiencing my body. And then suddenly I realize that, and poof, it's gone.

Aaron: Let me ask you a question, here. Who realizes?

Q: My ego? My consciousness?

Aaron: Is there a sense of self that says, “Oh, my body is gone.”? Or is there more spacious awareness that just is aware of nobody?

Q: I don't know. I'll have to think about that.

Aaron: Watch it. I would conjecture that there's a progression. That first there's, “Oh, the body is gone.” It might not be “MY body is gone,” just, “The body is gone.” But there's still some ownership of that thought and ownership of the body. If you then note “thinking,” just noting thinking, watching how the thought arose, “no body”, and then it dissolves and there's spaciousness. If you think and say, “Oh, no body. How did that happen? Where did my body go?”, then you get more and more caught up in it. But with the vipassana practice, if you simply note “thinking” without any ownership of the thought, and see it dissolve, and then come back to the experience of no body from the ground of pure awareness rather than thinking mind, it's a very different and much deeper experience, which you have also had. Watch for the progression.

Q: It seems to me that you're describing access concentration, and then the akashic field is the container for that concentration?

Aaron: In essence, since access concentration is also citta or consciousness. When we talk about dissolution of body and ego, then you're really beyond access concentration. With access concentration there still may seem to be a body or ego that arises, but there's not self in it. There are no stories, there's no contraction. So if a thought or sensation arises, there's no going out to it. This is what we mean by the term “access concentration”. This is a development, a stage of vipassana, an important stage. I know many of you have experienced it, as your meditation practice deepens, with simply noting objects skillfully, so if there's an unpleasant sensation, “contraction.” Noting the skunk, “smelling, smelling, unpleasant, burning, contracting,” maybe the thought, “I shouldn't mind it.”, thinking, thinking. Gradually the practice simply opens out into noting these objects arising and passing away with no sense of a separate self experiencing it. That's access concentration.

From the point of access concentration, one can then simply slip down into the ground out of which these objects are arising and passing away. We see that smelling still exists. Acrid smell, skunk. Itch on the arm exists. Loud noise. Light. We begin to see these as expressions of the elements, simply arising out of this, the term the book uses is All Ground.

Akashic field and All Ground are not totally synonymous, but close enough for our present use. Later in the semester we'll explain the distinction. For now, because the book uses the term All Ground, we'll use the term All Ground and akashic field as synonymous.

So at that point where there's access concentration, instead of being caught in watching the objects arising and dissolving, you go down into the ground out of which they're arising and dissolving. And because of the nature of that ground, it's still. It's the point where you've put the seed into the ground and there's this rich soil, and the seed sprouts. But the ground is holding still. The ground isn't wiggling around the seed. The ground holds the material out of which the seed can sprout. The All Ground holds the material out of which the various elements arise, and out of which thought and sensation also arise.

What I want you to learn here is simply to get a sense of the experience of this All Ground or akashic field. It's a very important tool to working with old habitual karma and releasing the karma. But I'm not going to go into that now step by step, just getting to know it.

So, going back to the question, how do I know it? Your vipassana practice is important, here. Simply sit and watch objects - physical, emotional, mental objects - arising and passing away. Be aware of any aversion or attachment to the objects; aware of contraction in the body vs. spaciousness. Note pleasant object, grasping, a bit of contracting; unpleasant object, contracting, unpleasant, wanting to be rid of it, pushing it away.

Watching contraction as it comes with aversion and attachment can be a place where you can easily access this All Ground or akashic field, because you begin to see so quickly: right there with the contraction is the non-contracted. If you get caught up in a personal identity with the contracted, trying to fix it, you can't experience the All Ground. What happens if you just slip through the contraction into the spaciousness and rest there?

So this is all I want you to do. I don't want you to try to figure out what it is or how to work with it or what to do with it. Just for now, what is the experience of it? Are there questions?

Q: I have not really formulated my question. But you asked us to pay attention to the resistance to slipping into the All Ground. And I am wondering if it is in those moments when I have forgotten the experience of that space and wondering why it seems like I have so forgotten?

Aaron: I think it's both. There's forgetfulness because the ego wants to stay in control. It doesn't want to remember how deeply it is interconnected with everything, because at that point of interconnection the ego no longer has control. So if we move into the All Ground, we experience that aspect of our being that has no personal control.

The fear comes up in that because we forget the simultaneity of mundane and ultimate. On the mundane level, I still have control. I liken it to, last week in my talk; I was talking about ice skating. (see 130227WC.doc in archives) When you ice skate you push off with one foot and glide, and then you must shift your weight to the other foot. You can't propel yourself across the ice with weight even on both feet. You've got to shift back and forth.

Now, at the lake when we skate, there are cracks in the ice. There may be some holes. There are ridges you can trip over. There are some smooth spots. From the mundane perspective, as you push off on this foot, “There's a big crack, I need to go this way.” There's a ridge, a little bit of tension. Watching. People are skating. You know the ice will hold you, but there's a little bit of tension. Staying present in mundane awareness. And then you push off onto the other foot, and there's this patch of perfectly smooth clear ice. You just slide on it. There's no tension at all. Ahhh... And as you shift your weight again back to the other foot, “Oh, there's a hole, watch out!” Come back into mundane awareness.

This is the human experience. You're constantly skating between the mundane and ultimate. But as soon as you're skating with that “Ahhh,” you forget about the cracks and you'll fall in. If you skate with tension-- Cracks! Ridges!-- you can't really enjoy the skating. Your life is just filled with dukkha. Where is the balance?

You cannot live completely in the All Ground, or akashic field. That's simply the ground. You need to come out into the expressions, the beautiful and the painful expressions in the world, and pay attention to them and get to know them and work with them. But if all you do is work with them without paying attention, without remembering the All Ground, you're like the skater constantly trying to avoid the ridges and cracks. There's no joy or ease. Balance.

Barbara was going to share a metaphor with you in her talk but put it aside. But I think it's a valuable one. Many years ago she used to train horses, and in part trained young horses how to jump, different kinds of jumps. Some young horses would dash into the jump and bang their front hooves on it, because they were too eager. Her job in helping that horse balance was to sit back as he approached the jump, to bring her own weight back onto the horse's hind legs and use her hands to help him lift his front hoofs over the jump. As he started to spring, she would move forward. Another horse might hang back, come up to the jump, spring high with his forelegs, but bang his back legs into the jump. Her job with that horse was to try to keep his head down a little bit, to start up a little bit more forward, to get his rear legs over the jump.

She found that a wonderful metaphor for balance in life. You're constantly riding different kinds of horses over jumps. Some of them need you to lean more forward; some of them need you to lean more back. Be present with the mundane reality, but more spacious. But the power of the metaphor for her was the simplicity of her body being totally connected to the horse. It didn't happen in the mind. It happened in the body. The body knew by the feel what was needed, how to balance in this moment. And you really can pick up that kind of balancing living your life.

We have another five minutes, if there are questions. (No questions.) Okay. We do not want to overwhelm you with practice, but we do expect that you're going to put some work into this class. We're going to ask a lot of you, because we trust that you are here because you want to learn, because you aspire to understand how to soar over the jumps, or glide over the ice. To live with that degree of ease and spaciousness and love.

I want you to remember that you are models of an openhearted consciousness that's possible in this earth, of non-dual consciousness, not stuck in the small ego. Models of compassion. You are all part of this spiral of ascending consciousness, and at some level you know that. Everything that we are inviting from you is possible. I did not invite you into the class to overwhelm you, but to help you learn, step by step, how to reach that to which you most fully aspire.

So let's take it step by step. Work with the generosity practice. Work with your vipassana practice. Review the akashic field material that Barbara sends to you. Don't try to figure it out in your head, just allow yourself to be in that space until you can finally say, “Yes, this is it.” Not too different from your pure awareness practice, and opening and saying, “Yes, this is it. I'm resting in awareness now.” A similar kind of experience. Just take it that far.

You had a question?

Q: I was able to ask the inner guru and obtain the answers.

Aaron: Good. Perfect. That is also something we're aspiring to, in this class. I want to make myself superfluous. You all have an Aaron inside of you. Learn to access your guides. That will be part of our semester.

I would also like you to begin to watch the interplay of the elements. Think of hard, dry earth, parched by the sun. And then think of that earth when rain has been pouring on it and it has become muddy. You can see that in one case you have the earth element with a lot of fire in it, burning, parched, hard. And another, the earth element with water mixed in. Feel the difference between hard dry earth and earth that's filled with air and light, light loam that has a lot of air in it. Think of these elements in your body, and simply begin with mindfulness to reflect, “Right now, what is the balance of the elements in this body?” When there is anger, feel the fire element come up. Stand under the shower and feel the water moving through your body. Feel the openness and fluidity. And then, at a time out of the shower when you're simply flowing with your life, become aware of the openness of the water element. If somebody pushes at you and anger comes up, feel the hardness, how the fire and earth hold together. What happens when you bring in more water or air? Just begin to play with this in a playful, inquisitive way. Just exploring.

In this way, we'll begin to introduce how we use the elements to bring balance. Barbara described tonight for her. One of the things she did was to look at what the elements were like within her. She could see the fire, and she literally brought some water into it, cooled the fire, found some air and space.

I want you to learn to distinguish the different qualities of the elements within the body, and then we'll take that on to the next step, also. Not hard, just paying attention and with a smile, enjoying this flow of the elements in the body.

That's all. Any more questions before I close? Please come prepared for the next classes, which will be on Monday morning and Wednesday night, two separate groups, to discuss the work you've been doing. We will set aside time for dialogue, with me and Barbara and Anna Marie, and also within your small groups. We are likely to present some interesting questions, like, was it easier to give of time or material goods? How did it feel? Sharing that with each other. So please come prepared to talk together. We'll also bring in some exercises that will help.

Thank you. My blessings and love to you all.

(session ends)