February 21, 1996 Wednesday Night Group

Barbara: Aaron is suggesting that since we have a very small group of people, (8 people are present) it might be a good night to put aside his normal talk and work more deeply with personal questions. One series of questions came in by e-mail and I'll read it.

One of the ideas from the tape of the February 7, 1996 Wednesday night group that has been causing the most echoing is contained in the statements about “the highest levels of intention,” that our relative form of self here is an expression of intention of that which we are, that the relative self is a tool of the higher self.

It's funny, this is not so much a new idea as I am experiencing it from a shift in perspective, a shift “from down here looking up” to “up here looking outward.” It is quite different to identify with the source of the intention instead of the result of the intention.

Still, I'm having difficulty with what seem like two forms of being aware of the higher self's intentions, one perhaps of becoming aware of an intuitive communication while in a “usual” state of awareness, “small self” awareness, and the other being a direct experience of a more expanded sense of self, where intentions are known through identity.

The only way I have to think about this is to realize that because we have appeared to come here, incarnate, to learn, we come veiled, and will remain relatively so while in lesson, so the higher self will appear to be “other,” perhaps an intimately aligned “other,” most of the time. Were this not to be the case, we would not be incarnate, we'd be off learning somewhere else. So, becoming aware of the higher self's intentions is to become aware of our “own” lesson plan, in a larger sense. This lesson plan, though, will appear to be coming from without, even if from what we perceive as our higher self, while incarnate.

“The self exists on many levels,” and “It's energy is stepped down. One drop of water does not contain the same energy as this infinite sea.”

These are wonderful statements. I'm okay with this idea and with the relative paradox of a continuousness seemingly partitioned from itself. This seeming separation is an illusory quality intrinsic to the mode of awareness making the observation, an aspect of the focus of the consciousness on the dual.

Is it so that anywhere lower than the pure awareness existing on the etheric plane will have a “sense of self,” a sense of relative “me,” however rarefied? I guess I'm asking this because I'm confused that I have always felt the same sense of “me” in daily life, when astral projecting, as well as in the dream-vision I talked with you and Aaron about, although that “me” was concurrently aware of its identity with the infinite. I gather that these three examples would be more of the order of “the self exists on many levels” that Aaron mentioned. It seems clear that these discrete experiences of relative self can only be pure awareness in relative forms, and thus the relative forms are contained in the body of pure awareness, non-dual.

If pure awareness is equated with love or fullness, then relative forms of awareness must be equated with relative forms of fear or emptiness. I guess what I am thinking of is that there is the potential to move into patterns of relationship with the relatively illusory ways of experience intrinsic to any relative form of awareness. As all of these can be experienced as other than pure awareness/unity/One, there is the potential to experience them as real and substantive.

I must admit I'm not sure where the above paragraph came from. I would like to ask if Aaron could make any comment on it (including, “Next.”)

Aaron mentions an intention to “come to understand what obstructs that offering (the intention of a being to offer its energy in service).” I am assuming that these obstructions also operate “behind the scenes,” as it were. By this I mean, I can be sitting in a relatively quiet meditation, for the moment not actively seeming to be acting out a relationship with fear, or so I think, and I am not necessarily aware of any state of self-awareness comparable to some I have experienced on other occasions. I simply seem to be me, seemingly not actively obstructed and yet also not apparently aware of an identity with the cosmos. Is it so that there are “activated” and “habitual” modes of blockage, or entrenched blockage or contraction that serve to habitually condition our sense of self and the “offering” that Aaron mentioned?

I'm paraphrasing Aaron here, he says that this next question is a compilation or summary of various questions that have come in during the week.

“Who is the ‘you' who chooses to draw an experience, or to create experience?”

He says that what he interprets that to be asking is, when we talk about manifesting things in our lives, and we talk about the different levels of motivation and intention, intention to offer ourselves lovingly in service to others, or the places where fear arises, who is the “you” who intends, what level of self, and how can an understanding of what level of self it is be of any use to us. He does not mean this as an intellectual question, but one whose answers offer to lead us more deeply into the experience of fullness of ourselves, and the importance of acting from that fullness, not only from the small self but also not only from the higher self.

So, he hands that out to you as one possible area of discussion. He would like to hear what else grows from all of you. Is there something you passionately feel you need to know about? He pauses.

Q: Increasingly I am experiencing various levels and types of tension. Perhaps I'm just being more aware of those tensions and finding myself at times perplexed on how they show up. Perplexed may not be the best description. At the same time, I seem to be more aware of subtleties of the choices I could be making in any one moment.

Barbara: Aaron says, may he paraphrase what he thinks you are asking?

Aaron: I am Aaron. My love to you all. Q, what I hear you asking is why when there is a conscience intention to act in ways that are loving and skillful and in service to all beings, why sometimes it seems to backfire so that you find yourself acting in sabotage of that intention. Who is offering the heart-centered intention and from whence arises the fear-based intention? Please expand upon or correct me if I have misread you. I pause.

Q: His interpretation is essentially correct. It seems like I keep revisiting the same issues, presented differently.

Barbara: You mean each time different situations come up, it's the same issues. And something in you says, I've already done that, I've already learned that, but it's still repeated.

Q: Seems so.

Barbara: So, what or who is repeating?

Q: It feels like me! Perhaps yes and no.

Aaron: I am Aaron. No one is repeating it, karma is repeating it. An energy stream is repeating it. I will talk about it in greater depth. I pause.

Barbara: Are there other questions either related or unrelated to this?

Q: Yes. I have 2 questions. One I thought of when Q was asking his question. It seemed to be a little related, although after hearing his entire question, it's different. Broadly speaking, there are 2 ways that I practice. One is relative-reality kind of practice. For example, intellectual—thinking about my patterns of behavior and fear, and considering childhood issues and things of that nature. Another example is, suppose I feel angry. I ask myself, what am I angry about? And if I can, I try to get beyond the angry feeling to what accompanies that. That kind of work.

The second broad category I call ultimate-reality work, vipassana kind of practice, and dzogchen, where I do not try to intellectually understand, but with the example of feeling angry, I note feeling angry, and perhaps watch what it feels like but not conceptually understanding it. These both seem very valuable and it seems that I can do each type nearly at the same time, or focus on one kind of coping. The question is, what can Aaron say about how to balance these two broad approaches, because as I've said, they are both valuable.

My second question relates to karma and Q's question about repeating acts. In Emmanuel's book, he makes the statement that karma can be completely released by the willingness of the open heart. Does Aaron agree, and if I am not completely releasing karma, does that mean my heart is simply not opening yet?

Barbara: Aaron says he hears your question. Before he speaks to any of this he would like to see if there are other specific related questions.

Q: Adding to Q's question on karma, if the heart is not open, how does one recognize it is not as open as it could be?

Aaron: I am Aaron. Let us pretend that you have a stick in your hand. Is it a big stick or a small stick? If you are holding this stick, and it's not big enough to do what you needed it to do, then it's a small stick. If you're holding the same stick and it's too big, if you need a smaller stick, then you're holding a big stick.

Is the heart open, fully open, partially open, partially closed? Is it open enough to release karma? 99.97% open? How open does it need to be? The heart can always be more open. It is not the fully open heart which releases karma or no one would ever release karma. Rather it is the intention to allow the heart to be as open as it can be, which may be relatively open or relatively closed. If the intention is there, the heart will follow when it is ready. I will speak more to this. Are there other questions that apply to this general topic? I pause.

Q: Aaron used the word intention, that our intention is related to releasing karma. The intention that we have in our actions and lives is related to whether we release karma. Ask Aaron to elaborate on intention.

Barbara: He says he will need to elaborate on the whole thing.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Because of course, intention from a place of fear only creates more karma. I will elaborate on that. I pause.

Q: One point is that my human intention frequently seems somewhat opposed to the intention of my higher self.

Barbara: Anyone else? (No; Aaron will talk)

Aaron: I am Aaron. I said several weeks ago that the drop of water cannot in any way be distinguished from the sea from which it came, and yet it clearly is not the same. It carries less energy than the entire sea. The drop is not the cup, the cup is not the bucket, the bucket is not the tank, the tank is not the bay, and the bay is not the entire sea. But if you'll put the drop in that cup and the cup in the bucket, and the bucket in the tank, and pour the tank into the bay, and the tide washes in and out several times, in no way would you be able to distinguish that one drop of water.

The small self is not the higher self. The higher self is not pure spirit body. There are gradations here. Pure spirit body is devoid of a mental body, so it cannot have any notion of self, nor of dual existence. In its desire to expand itself and know itself, it expresses the mental body. It is only at the level of the mental body that “I” can enter. Pure spirit body rests in pure awareness, always. So it is not unaware, but it is aware without any notion of separation. It cannot intend in the way that we commonly think of intention, as associated with personal will, and yet clearly it has intended in some way, or it could not have expressed the mental body. What was it which intended? What is the source of that energy of intention offered by pure spirit body?

So we see that pure spirit body has an energy to it, an energy which is undefinable in your English language. In languages more suited to spiritual discussion, there is a specific term for the energy of this pure spirit body. The label “God” has been used as catch-all but is unacceptable to some people because of other implications of that label, such as those who think of God as puppet master. The simple words “prana” or “chi” are too diffuse. I cannot precisely label this energy for you but you can experience it and rest in it and then you will come to know and understand it. I call it “pure heart/mind.”

The energy of pure spirit body cannot come from any place that carries the notion of duality. It can only offer itself for the good of all beings. One might think of this as the highest level of intention, although I would prefer to use the word intention only as that which arises related to the mental body. Mental body also can move from a place of very pure awareness. But within mental body is the notion “I” and therefore the notion of opposition. Without opposition there is no fear. Nothing is ever created, nothing destroyed on the level beyond “I.” So mental body is the first place where we experience fear.

That which we'll call higher self is a mixture of mental and spirit body. It carries with it the energy of the mental body but because the higher self has such clarity, it does not get lost in identification with the “I” but sees it only as tool of relative reality. This higher self then moves to express further aspects of its energy, and so it moves into the expressions of emotion and physical bodies. Each of these is increasingly cut off from the clarity of the pure spirit body. It is rather like outer space; the clear sky, empty of all atmosphere, and the view of the sun through that emptiness, is pure awareness. Then we move into earth's atmosphere under a perfectly clear and cloudless sky. The appearance of sun is mildly distorted by the atmosphere. Here we have higher self. A bit of fog drifts through. Just a slight haze so the sun is still very clear. Then we move into thicker clouds, heavier density, and the sun and the clear sky are increasingly obscure. Here we have emotion and physical bodies. By the time you move down to physical body there may be so many layers of cloud before the sun that you cannot see the sun. You may note, “I cannot feel sun's warmth, and it's so murky on this heavily clouded day that I can hardly experience its light.” However, you are aware that the world is lighter than it is during the nighttime. Therefore a certain kind of faith steps in and says, “I cannot have any direct experience of it but the sun must be shining.”

Let us say that each of these levels of the self - and here I've broken it down just into a few layers but of course there are many levels of self, each one stepped down from the one next highest - let us say each of them had a specific intention. It began with the highest self's intention, perhaps intention to understand the delusion of separation and the ways that delusion manifests itself in fear, which creates greed and clinging. In this particular example this is the highest self's intention.

Within the human form, the emotional body is present. Karma calls up certain kinds of issues, repetitive of past issues, for reasons that I will not explain right here tonight. We can get into it later, or on a different night. I don't wish to digress into the whole issue of formation of karma at this point. The being finds itself in this heavy physical body with a heavy emotional body. Aware intellectually of the infinite nature of source, that all its needs will always be met, it also finds itself locked in to certain levels of old fear. Thinking of the ideal of non-clinging, it wishes to be generous. But fear says, “But I might need that,” and so it either holds onto that, or commands of itself from a place of sternness rather than kindness, “You must give it away.” It doesn't allow the phrasing of the fear that says “But I might need it.” It just says, “Shhhh. Throw away that fear and give it.” This is one level of intention.

Another level of intention, one that might arise when there's a bit of a crack in the cloud cover, and a few glimpses of sunbeams come in, “Ah yes, I'm forgetting about kindness.” And so this level of intention is more willing to look at the fear that is present, to ask, what is this fear about? It does not let fear dictate the terms and say “I will cling to this,” but neither does it say, “You must give it.” Rather it says, “What kind of giving is possible here? Can I try it and see how it feels?” So here is another intention.

I've vastly oversimplified. There are many levels of intention. What may happen is that that dictatorial self says, “You must give it.” Clearly it is not learning about the infinite nature of the universe. It is not learning to open its heart. Rather, it is repeating old patterns of fear. Yes, it is given. But it is given from a place that forbids the heart's expression, the human's expression, of its experience.

Again, for reasons I will not detail in this particular talk, the energy contraction around that giving sends out a message which seems on the surface quite contrary to the original intention. It sends out a message, not, “Send me the experience of plenty so that I may move beyond my fear,” but “Send me the experience of limitation.” It is as if it clings to limitation to prove the need for its fear, because it is not yet ready to release its fear.

The highest self's intention is still present. If there was not intention to learn, to move past clinging and craving as states, and to move past the concept of duality, then one would simply cease this whole path that one is following. One would simply cling to everything and collect. On another level there is intention to find freedom from suffering, and awareness that collecting, craving and clinging create much suffering. So here's another level of intention.

All of these levels of intention are always at work. You never lose the highest intention, you only lose your awareness of it because you get so buried beneath these thick clouds. This is why your meditation practice is so important, because there is nothing that I know besides meditation that can cut through the clouds.

To be attached to keeping the sky always clear is just another level of attachment. You can't do it and you don't need to do it. But when there are clouds and you are acting from that place of cloudiness, you must know that you are acting from that place of cloudiness. As soon as you note that you're doing that, you allow yourself to reopen to the higher intentions, which gives you a tool to cut through this chain of repetition. This is the moment of opening heart.

I do not contradict Emmanuel's words, but I do not think I would phrase it in precisely the same way. May we pause for a moment. (long pause)

Aaron: I am Aaron. I thank you. What I was doing then was simply checking in with that energy which you have called Emmanuel. We see that this is simply a semantic difference and we are basically in agreement, as I expected. He says he has used the term, “open the heart” more in a poetic, rather than precisely literal way. The implications of that term are clear.

What you are really doing is opening the cloud cover, even just for an instant, and allowing yourself to reenter the light when the clarity of the highest intention is available to you. At that level, there is no fear. At that level though, karma is still not fully released, only momentarily put aside. To release the karma is not just to open the heart, or the cloud cover, but to find enough stability in that place of open heart or open sky, that you stop believing in the clouds. You stop believing in the need for the heart's opening. It is only then that karma truly is released. The cloud level which pushed you into the formation of karma becomes transparent. You simply don't believe it any more, don't let it get away with pushing you this way and that.

First you must recognize that these different levels of self do exist, that when you are experiencing the frightened small self, what you're experiencing is the drop of water cut off from the sea. If there is a drop of water, there must be a sea. The drop of water cannot exist in isolation. When you note the contraction of fear in the small self, noting the drop of water, but instead of condemning that fear and closing the heart, drawing darkness closer into yourself, you offer kindness to that fear. You use the arising of fear as mirror. Where there is drop of water, there must also be the sea. Where there is thought, there is mental body. Where there is mental body, there must be spirit body. When you find it just rest there! Each noting is a mirror which reflects the true self. Nothing is other than expression of the Divine, the Unconditioned!

The higher self and the small self's intentions may seem contradictory. In fact, they are not contradictory. They can never be contradictory. It does help to understand what the higher self intends, but sometimes your fear so locks you in that you're blind. You cannot take a machete and hack away at the fear. It would be like hacking away at a cloud. The knife would slice through it. You can't make it leave. But when you sit there with kindness, and note how uncomfortable it is to be so deeply enclosed, how constricted and unpleasant it is, and simply offer kindness to the human that is experiencing that constriction, just noting it as, “constricted, constricted, unpleasant, unpleasant,” then the sun begins to shine through and break up the clouds. So you cannot grasp at the higher self's intention, you can only know that for the moment you are blind to that intention, and allow yourself slowly to reopen to it by the use of kindness, of love.

How to work with the arising fear when it is so thick as to prevent the reflective noting? Just noting, “here is fear,” is most helpful. You know I like Thay's breathing meditation: “Breathing in, I am aware of my fear, breathing out, I smile to my fear.” As you open your heart to the fear, and find compassion for the small self so locked in heavy darkness, it is that offering of mercy to the self that begins to break up the clouds and allow you to connect higher and higher, more and more openly.

I want to give you one example, when I say that the higher self's and the small self's intentions are never contradictory. Let us use an allegory. Let us say that you dwell at point A, and on the other side of the marsh, at point B, is a hill flooded with brilliant light. The top of the hill is a place of luminescent scenery and spiritual delight, so you are drawn to it, not with greed but simply to participate in its beauty. You will enter the Light! As far as you can see to your right is marsh, as far as you can see to your left is marsh. So you make your decision to slog through the marsh. The muck is up to your hips. You're wet, cold, covered with mud, and the going is very difficult. You have no intention to slog through a marsh, you only had intention to reach this beautifully illuminated hilltop. But the marsh seems to be in the way. You push your way back to shore. There is even more determination to reach the hilltop, but now it is not just to participate in the beauty. There's also a sense of opposition that says, “You can't stop me!” and wants to be a bit tough and prove itself.

It's not a wide marsh. So the being goes and it cuts a number of small trees; drags them so they lie over this muddy area, goes back and gets some more and drags them further out, and further, walking on these trees. The trees start to sink and again you are hip deep in the mud. Again you climb out. Angry now: “Why can't I get there?” You might try it 3 times, you might try 3000 times. The intention was to enter the light, but there was also intention to discover the true nature of that light. How many times must you try to cross this uncrossable marsh before you look behind you and you see that there is also a hilltop on your side of the marsh? So it takes a few steps before you see this glorious hill behind you, flooded with light. It has always been there. You were so intent on getting across to the light on the other side that you did not examine the light which was readily present.

You ask, “Why did I have to spend days or months or years trying to cross the marsh? Why was it impassable? Why was I not allowed the manifestation of a passable marsh?” Because if you had gone across you would have been stuck in the delusion that what you needed was out there. And the highest intention was always to learn that what you needed was always right here all the time. It was to enter the light, but not that light across the marsh, just to enter the light. It was your very difficulties which finally turned you around and helped you see the light that was always present right here.

Can you see then that at a certain level you wished to continue the manifestation of an impassable marsh, because that impassability was consistent with the higher self's desire to learn the truth of its nature: the present light right here and now on this side. So while you thought you wanted to cross the marsh, what you really wanted to do was to learn that you didn't need to cross the marsh. Nothing is inconsistent. This is a very accurate metaphor. Please examine it.

You speak of Emmanuel's quote, that karma is released by keeping the heart open. When the heart is closed in fear, one tries again and again and again to get across the marsh. But one cannot see one's true intention. To open the heart does not in itself immediately release the karma. To open the heart allows you to turn around and look and to know, “I didn't need to do anything, I didn't need to cross the marsh.” That instant of awareness of the inner light cuts through the karma. As soon as there's clarity, there is no longer need to repeat that situation. The karmic energy stream is cut.

At the end of my talk, I would like to ask Barbara to describe some of her present work as relates to what I have been saying. She can give you a real human example. I would prefer it be in her words.

So who was manifesting? The small self is manifesting the experience in the marsh, because it can't see anything else. Simultaneously the highest self is allowing the perpetuation of that experience because it has the wisdom to know that sometimes the human has to butt its head against the wall a thousand times before it seeks another way out. This is simply part of the makeup of the human. After you butt your head against enough walls, you start to learn with the first crash, “I'm hitting my head again. Maybe I don't need to do that. What do I really seek here?” And so you being to move into much kinder relationship with yourself and become able to spare yourself much of that suffering.

I would conclude by emphasizing the importance of both vipassana or mindfulness and dzogchen or clear light type of practice. They do not need to be these specific practices by these names, of course. But you cannot observe how much you are banging your head against the wall if you're not mindful. When you learn to watch the tensions in your body, the first tension is a warning sign, “Pay attention! Why am I allowing the presence of this tension? Do I need it?” So, mindfulness is an essential tool. You cannot do anything if you're not aware. And resting in pure awareness, however you label this practice, reminds you to stay connected to the highest intention. It reminds you that you are never disconnected from that intention. Then three steps out into the mud, you can stop and say, “There is a better way. This does not need to be painful.” If it's painful, it's a warning sign saying “Stop! Be aware.” You're closing yourself into darkness. And there is light with which you can connect. The more you stabilize the experience of resting in pure awareness, the more connected you are, the more connected you remain. Never perfect, but with increasingly less conflict in your life. I will speak further to Q's question of the balance of relative and ultimate practice on a future week. I pause. That is all.

Barbara: This is Barbara and Aaron says can I talk about something. I need to find what it is he wants me to talk about.

I'm aware that about 2 years ago when I was with Mother Meera, I asked, what do I do about the greed energy in me, the energy that craves and clings? And what do I do about the distortions that energy allows. So I'm aware that at some level I stated the intention to learn that. I didn't say how I want to learn it, I just said, “This is what I know I need to learn. Please help me learn it.”

Because of my hernia, there is something that I was watching a lot last summer. Suddenly I radically changed my diet. To eat certain foods such as wheat and corn caused me a lot of pain, so I couldn't eat them. That didn't mean I stopped wanting them, it just meant if I gave into the wanting, then I experienced pain, which produced a powerful reason not to give into the wanting. What am I going to do with this wanting? So I watched craving states, the tension of craving states in my body, and how much they led me into, “I want this, I want that.” I saw clearly the tension of the craving states, and how unpleasant they were and how much I wanted to avoid the craving states, and how much getting what I was craving dissolved the craving state if only for a moment, allowing me the illusion of space from that burning of craving mind..

I certainly could not have said at that time that I in any way had manifested this hernia as a tool of learning. I don't believe that there was conscious intention to create this particular abdominal problem. There was intention to learn about craving states. There wasn't even intention to learn about them specifically related to food, there was just intention to learn about craving states.

These various factors came together, physical, karmic, for many reasons, simply, this hernia happened. It wasn't something I created for myself so much as the body had a tendency to it, so the abdomen became a place where, because the distortion happened, I was able to observe the craving states. It gave me the opportunity to observe them. After observing the craving states with food of course I was led into observing the craving states and clinging states in other parts of my life. As I learned that I could just be present with the energy of craving and clinging around food, I also learned I could be present with it in other areas without need for reaction. I learned that it's just an energy, as Aaron would put it, “a conditioned expression of the unconditioned,” not pleasant but not unworkable either.

Slowly I learned how to let go of that energy. How not to be a slave to it. It doesn't mean I've stopped completely, not at all. But I'm not so caught in it. When it comes up, it's just an energy that's contracting, and I don't have to relate to it.

Here's where the open heart comes in. Because I'm able to be open hearted with those craving states, it's becoming very clear to me I have cut much of the karma around craving and clinging. Now, after suffering with this for 2 years, suddenly the doctors who said, “We can't do anything about it”, are saying, “Okay, now we can fix it.” I don't need it in my life any more. It's time to move on. This lesson has been learned. And so, the karma is released. I still need to balance the karma, which is part of the whole surgery experience.

Aaron says that is sufficient, that I've said what I needed to say.

(remainder of session not yet reviewed)