February 19, 1997 Awakened Heart, Part 5, Patience, Endurance, Forbearance

Aaron: My greetings and love to you all. I am Aaron.

Tonight I want to take you a step further into this awakening heart series of talks. I do not wish this to be a series of talks that feed the intellect or of it's of no use whatsoever to you. I request you to participate in this so that you find that you CAN live increasingly from this loving heart.

Our story to date: we have noted that as long as you are in a human body, physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, will arise as long as the conditions are present for them to arise. You have all learned how to make space so as not to be reactive to what arises, but nevertheless it still arises. Now we are looking at the tools with which you may begin to change those conditions out of which heavy emotions arise. You do not offer that challenge to the conditions because the heavy emotions are evil in any way but simply because they cause pain. It is skillful to bring them to a halt, or at least a diminution.

In the first two talks, I introduced you to a practice to open the heart and help you more fully to rest in this inherent awakened heart. I want to begin by simply moving through that practice with you quickly. We call it the Seven-Step, or Seven-Branch, prayer.

The first step is support: opening your awareness to a being who for you is the very essence of love, invite that energy into your presence, invite yourself into its presence. Allow yourself to experience a sense of joy that such beauty dwells in the universe. Most often, this being will be a great saint or teacher, but it also could be simply a human teacher. When I say teacher I do not mean specifically one whose profession is teacher; alternately, it can be any human being who has taught you, and who, for you, deeply expresses love, such as a friend, parent or child.

Just sit for a few moments, feeling the energy of that being. Feel how that being represents all that is good, beautiful, and true in the universe. Then turn to yourself and be aware that although there is tarnish, there is also the same brilliance which radiates from yourself.


The second step is offering: deeply offering the self as servant. Speak to this loving one. “May I be Thy disciple. I offer you everything that I have: my body, my energy, my thoughts.” Speak to the universe itself; “I ask that the principle of love within the universe use me as an instrument through which it may flow, and I give myself freely.” Let the offering of the self flow freely from the heart, out of love for all beings.


Now turn awareness back to the self and see that the self does have a shadow side, that you have acted in anger, spoken in anger, enacted your fear out into the world. Allow there to arise in you a genuine regret that this has happened. This is not a chastisement of the self, it is just a sorrow that sees the ways fear within the self has served as condition to lead you to bring pain and harm into the world. Within this reflection, maintain the deep, heartfelt resolve to offer the energy of the self in service to all beings and with as much purity and clarity as is possible. Also note the firm intention to act and speak and be in the world in ways that are harmless to all beings.


As you reflect on how distortions that led to harm came to arise, out of the deeply loving heart let the resolve arise, a willingness to look deeper at the conditions out of which such negative activity or speech or thought was enacted. Resolve to understand and let arise a willingness to apply the antidote. I repeat that this step does not grow out of criticism of the self but out of deep reflection on the loving potential of the self, and the deep aspiration of the self to be of service.


Turn your attention outward again, to all beings who serve the world, each in their own way. Let there arise in you a deep sense of joy at how much love is enacted in the universe. Some of those who enact it may be quite imperfect on the relative plane just as you are, but each being is capable of offering some degree of love, of kindness, of compassion. (pause) Allow to arise in yourself a sense of gratitude towards these beings and joy in their actions.

Be aware that all of these beings are your teachers: those who enact a small bit of lovingkindness and those who have mastered this really to perfection. Thank these beings for their teaching and request that they continue to be available to you as teacher.


Allow the heart to be inspired, to open wide. We're not denying the pain in the universe but, just for this moment, we turn our attention to the wonder of deep love, wisdom and compassion, and how frequently beings enact those despite painful catalyst. Thus inspired, we deepen the aspiration to walk in their footsteps, not for our own glory but to serve, to be an instrument for the divine.

As part of our practice, any merit, any special good that comes to us through this deeply loving aspiration, we offer out to all beings.


(Bell rings three times)

Thus inspired, let us go on to look more deeply at what tools we have at our disposal to work with the painful catalysts which do arise. I want to begin with a deeper look at what it means when we say, “Everything arises from conditions.” Let us take an imaginary walk. I would like you to imagine that you have a lovely back yard with a stream that flows through it. By that stream you have just planted a beautiful garden. The stream has been very reliable; it is never empty and it never overflows. The day after the planting of the garden, you walk back to look at what you have put into the soil. And there, instead of garden you find a flood. The stream has overflowed its banks. Your small plantings and seeds are washed away. Can you see how you will look for a cause?

It rained very hard all night and morning. Should you be angry at the rain? And look! Just downstream where your neighbor has a small dam for a swimming pond, it looks like beavers have built an overdam that blocks the overflow valve of the pond. Should you be angry at the beavers? And your neighbor on the other side whose yard used to flood, he put an embankment in this winter so the surplus flowing into his yard is now flowing into yours. Should you be angry at your neighbor? And in digging the soil for your garden, you made small irrigation trenches, they invited in the water and added to the flood. What are you going to be angry at? The garden, the shovel, yourself?

All of these conditions came together. Any one condition would have not created the flood. Together they were sufficient that a flood resulted. The causes and result cannot be separated. Can you see that? They are a necessary part of each other. The flood itself then becomes one condition for future arising, such as of grief or anger. There's nothing to blame.

And yet, desire to blame does arise. We see that it arises. Pain arises, and anger. And we cannot deny that they have arisen. In the last awakened heart talk, I spoke about the importance of mindfulness, bare perception and pure awareness. I said that you must be present in that moment of arising desire to blame. You must be present with that energy contraction that says, “Oh NO! My garden!” and wants either to weep or to throw things. The anger did not arise only because of the flood. That flood was just one condition. It arose because the flood wiped out your work and left you feeling vulnerable and helpless and betrayed. And so it called up the small ego self and its habitual reactions.

Let's use another example. You're replanting your garden and suddenly you feel a sharp sting on your shoulder. Turning your back you see a neighbor's child holding a slingshot. He is looking mortified. He did not intend to hit you with a rock, but he did, and it has created a hard sting and bruise. What are you going to blame? The child, whose aim and judgment were faulty? The stick out of which the sling was made? The rock? The parent who provided the slingshot to the child? Yourself for being there, digging in your garden?

These are merely the conditions out of which the catalyst arose. Because the catalyst arose, it triggered certain other conditions such as an ancient sense of wanting to be safe, ancient fear of helplessness, ancient survival instincts, learned reaction to pain. Those are all conditions. Through all of your life you have been reacting to pain in certain ways, trying to push away that pain or control it, whether it's the pain of seeing your garden wash away, the pain of the stone hitting or the pain of an argument.

You know the first step, which is to open your heart to this pain, to embrace it—both the pain itself and the one who experiences pain. Then you don't have to go tearing down the stream and destroy the beaver's dam. You don't have to break your neighbor's built-up shoreline or curse the rain. You don't have to chase the already terrified child. Nevertheless, the anger is still there.

Through the coming weeks we're going to speak of different tools. We don't bring just one to bear on the anger but we've got to start somewhere and my preference is to start simply with one and ask you to practice it deeply. Actually we have 3 words here: forbearance, patience and endurance . They're not the same thing.

We begin with forbearance. Forbearance means not to react. Forbearance takes self-control. There must be a willingness to stay with that which wants to react. There must be a willingness to open the heart ever so deeply to the pain of the self and the pain which the catalyst also may be experiencing. This forbearance must come from a place of love and never from a place of fear.

At first, if impatience is very strong, you'll simply want to use the practice, “Breathing in, I am aware of my impatience; breathing out, I smile to my impatience.” Once you have enough space around that impatience, though, you must move into it with that bare perception we spoke of last week.

This next step is the practice of patience. Probably you begin with patience for yourself, patience with this moment of arising anger, but long before you practice patience with the heavy moment, you begin with the clear practice of patience in the myriad details of your lives.

What exactly is “the practice of patience?” It is the practice of kindness and of spaciousness. You cannot force these experiences. You allow them. You move deeply into the impatience and there, right there, you find patience also!

You can practice patience everywhere. If you have gone out to drive in the car and your friend or partner who was walking out the door with you went back inside, feel the impatience growing in you. What can you say to that impatience? You can ask, at whom am I angry? Certain conditions arose, perhaps the phone ringing, you don't know, you're in the car. He turned around and went back inside. So perhaps the telephone rang, perhaps he needed to use the toilet. Perhaps through his fear and lack of clarity he IS abusing you. We do not deny impatience but hold it and go deeply into it asking, next, “what is this impatience?”

I said last week that mindfulness was the doorway and bare perception was the key. Move deep into impatience to investigate, what is impatience? What are the conditions that give rise to it? Is there anything solid there? Is there any “self” there?

Whatever you find, of course, you simply offer love to it. There may be old memories of not being heard, of your needs not being met, a sense that others do not care enough for you, a sense of fear that you're not taken seriously. Those are just a few possibilities. Whatever is there, you must be with it and open your heart to it. Then there can be clear seeing, “in the past I felt that others did not meet my needs and I did not know how to ask more skillfully, so there was pain. But in this moment, just in this moment, all that is happening is another is answering the telephone, or perhaps another is expressing his fear or anger by being late. Just that! It is the other's lateness but it is YOUR fear. You are each responsible for your own distortions. His actions cannot make you afraid.

If anger has arisen, that is not a problem. What will you do with the anger, use it as is habitual to blame or use it in a new way to aid healing? Out of the energy of that anger, deep clarity and wisdom can arise about the way this person who is keeping you waiting has a habit of doing that. When you see deeply into him, that his fear creates his habits, then simultaneously there can be compassion for his fear and skillful decision from that compassionate heart that you will no longer participate in his fear. Then you may say, “I'm leaving,” but the remark no longer comes from a place of anger nor from a place of trying to control another, but from a place of clarity and kindness.

You may see that this is an issue that person may need to be confronted with kindly. It's a place where that person can grow. Your loving, but nevertheless direct words, “Are you aware you always keep me waiting? Please, will you look and see what has happened. The next time it happens I'm going to simply start the car and leave. I'm not going to wait for you.” now come not from a place of anger, but from a place of love, of loving respect to yourself and to the other.

So when I speak of patience, I do not mean simply sitting back and letting the universe roll over you, but understanding how impatience and fear arose in you; finding the place that is able to be patient because it so deeply understands how that contraction of impatience has arisen from many conditions; and finally, finding that which is able to say “no” from this place of love.

The third part of this is endurance. To be born in a human body is to experience pain. To be born with an emotional and mental body is to experience pain. The bodies are never going to be completely without distortion. Are you going to rage against your bodies or are you going to find a kindness which simply endures the distortions of the bodies while striving to bring those distortions into balance, not from a place of fear but from a place of kindness?

There is no self or other, and yet in the relative world that certainly is your experience. As long as you live with the experience of self and other, there is going to be pain. There is going to be that out there that seems to be catalyst, either taking what the self thinks it needs or threatening the self in some way. Out of patience grows endurance. Impatience is that which feels it must react quickly, find something to fix so it will be safe again. Endurance is that which is willing to just sit there and say yes, this is uncomfortable but it's tolerable. So instead of needing to fix it, I am willing to sit here and understand it.

Again, endurance does not mean being misused by others and permitting that misuse. Endurance means a willingness to take what arises as catalyst for growth, a willingness to sit with it, hold it and penetrate it. Without endurance, you cannot do that. If your primary motivation is to make it go away, then you're not going to be able to sit with it and understand it. So endurance is that which allows you the space to manifest this aspiration, to use what has arisen as catalyst.

You must always differentiate the foundations of endurance, must check to see if endurance is coming from a place of fear or of love. That which arises from fear is NOT endurance as I speak of it but is another form of seeking safety, a willingness to allow discomfort, even horror, to just grit your teeth and tolerate it rather than look deeply into it. Of course, that is not what I suggest you ask of yourself. In other words, if you are enduring a tirade of somebody's verbal abuse because you are afraid if you speak up it will get worse or even turn to physical abuse, if you are sitting there hating that abuse and saying with your teeth gritted and your fists clenched, “I will endure it!” that's not love. Of course not. The endurance I am speaking of is that which comes from a place of loving spaciousness which is so deeply resolved to understand how things are, to finally begin to put an end to this on-going karmic cycle in which you have been caught, that it says, “I will stay here and investigate this.”

I listed these in a specific order: forbearance, patience, endurance . But there is really no order to them. They each lead around and feed into the others, and strengthen the others. Each of these can be practiced alone and it is very useful to do so. It is especially useful to be able to identify the feeling of patience, the experience of it, the experience of forbearance, and of loving endurance. One must always ask after the motivation, and find the motivation for these movements, which comes from a deep desire to hold true to your resolve, to diminish the heavy emotions by understanding ever more deeply the conditions from which they arise, for it is only that understanding which robs them of their power.

Remember, my friends, the heavy emotions are not wicked. You are not getting rid of anything because you have judged it bad, but you are allowing the release of that which causes pain and are learning new ways of being with all of these catalysts of your universe. For those of you who will be at the meditation retreat, I think you will find patience and endurance are very wonderful to work with as you practice patience constantly. It can be an on-going practice. Simply note the energy contraction that you would label as impatience. You could simply label it “contracted, contracted.” See the whole sequence. Contact, hearing or seeing or whatever; then any movement into the sensation of “unpleasant.” Watch very precisely. I will not delineate the whole movement for you. Just ask, “What is this impatience? Without attacking impatience, how can I drop into my heart, transform this energy through loving attention and allow patience to blossom?”

In the afternoon of the first day, your body may feel rather sore and tired; the sitting may feel rather long. I suggest at that point you begin to investigate what endurance means. Not endurance as stoicism but endurance as love. I hope there will not be deep need to practice forbearance but if that kind of catalyst does arise, use it. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. My love to you all. I will be glad to speak to your questions. I pause.

Barbara: Aaron has implied to me that he is going to wait several weeks before going on a step because he wants you all to practice with this. He would like to know if there are questions either about his talk or about anything. He thinks that one of the questions that he sensed coming from the group, which is an old question we keep coming back to, is, what is the borderline between patience and enabling?


Q: I want to know if Aaron completed his homework assignment from last week regarding a 6th density joke we would understand.

Barbara: He says no!

Q: Elaborate on the question Aaron just asked, about the difference between patience and enabling behavior?

Barbara: Aaron is saying the question is, if that person is always late, always keeps you waiting so you sit down for dinner and a half hour passes and they're not there, at what point does your just sitting there being sweet and patient feed into this irresponsible pattern on their part? What is harm? What is non-harm? He says he would prefer that people give real life examples from their experience. He says you can disguise it if you prefer but he would like to talk to issues about which you feel passionate.

Q: I frequently have reactions which are partly here and now, and partially old mind. I think what works best is to deal with old mind so that I can work better with the here and now. Because, I don't think there are very many reactions that don't have old mind.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear you. And in the beginning it certainly is very useful and important to differentiate between present pain and old pain. But there comes a time where you do begin to see that there are simply many different conditions for this pain, some of them very present in this moment and some of them old. And regardless of how many different conditions there are, there's nothing you can point to and say, “That's what's at fault.” At that point you begin to look at that in yourself which wants to find something at fault.

In other words, to pin it on old pain is still a way of controlling the situation and feeling safe. To distinguish and say, “No, this part of it is present pain,” that's still a way of controlling and feeling safe. But what needs to happen at that point, and I emphasize this is not for the beginner for whom differentiation is useful but for the being who is at the point where you see that although you can make more space when you observe that it's old pain, the anger and fear are still present, then you begin to work with the self in this moment, knowing that the conditions are both new and old. Working with the fear.

This is complex because when I say work with the fear, of course some of the fear is old. But to say it's old is to suggest that it doesn't matter because it's old. Then you get caught in that place where you're saying, “Is this anger appropriate or is it not appropriate?” If this, anger or other emotion does defuse when you understand how it's old but nevertheless it tends to arise. This is where you shift and ask, what am I going to do with it? If it's going to continue to arise, if the creek is going to continue to rise over its bed every time there's a hard rain, then you are either going to have to plant your garden elsewhere or to simply acknowledge that it's going to get flooded sometimes. Anger is going to arise. So what? You start to look into that anger itself and how anger has been something to which there is both aversion and attachment because it protects you, or seems to do so. As you look into that which was afraid or is presently afraid, you begin to understand that you don't need to be protected. Here is when anger will cease to arise, when the “self” wears thin. THIS is what is old, and it's always old, this old idea, “I'm a separate self and I need to be protected.” I pause.

Barbara: He says he does not think he fully answered you. Do you have any question about what he said?

Q: It was not a question.

Barbara: He knows it was not a question, it was a statement, a concern. He says, does this clarify the concern, or would you like him to speak further on it and if so, can you elucidate specifically what area still needs light shed?

Q: I did not have a question or even a concern. My point was that it is important to see what's old mind and what is new so that I can function better in the hear and now. We were talking about the example of the person who is habitually late. If I am feeling the old feelings of being ignored, and feeling a lot of anger about that, I can deal with the person who is habitually late more skillfully if I can see the part of my reaction that has nothing to do with them.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I understand you. But look at it this way. It has been very valuable to learn to see what is old. When you see that you're discomforted because you feel you're being abandoned or ignored, and how that happened when you were a child, and in this moment the person simply is tied up in traffic, or the person is simply not very responsible and is always late, you see there's nothing personal in it. In that way, you find more space around your anger and do not need to react to it. The fear diminishes a little because you see clearly, “I am not being ignored.” And yet there's too much logic there and not enough contact with feelings. Even though it's clear that you're not being ignored, the feeling within you may still be one of fear. Yes, the fear may truly decline as you see old mind, or there may be a feeling that fear “should” decline because logic says, “this is old.” Both may happen.

Here's where checking to see that it's old mind can backfire. I don't want to diminish the usefulness as a tool in the right place, only to go deeper into the subtleties of working with it. It's essential to see what is old; but if seeing what is old is used as a shield protecting you against the present pain which has arisen because of old associations, then it's still a shield and you need to note that it's a shield and come back to the present pain. It's only through that holding and penetrating the present pain that you're going to shatter the old.. Do you understand? I pause.

Q: If Aaron is looking for real situations, I have experienced in arranging meetings from time to time where there is assumed clarity only to find out things have shifted without checking in, or two individuals seemingly in particular, that dates are not honored and shift. I sense anger as well as some fear in desire and control to feel safe. I am able to see several sides of this. Part of it feels very intellectual. And as I listened tonight, just feeling anger. Just being with this anger. And also how to lovingly present the issue.

Barbara: Aaron says you can't lovingly present the issue just because you wish to lovingly present the issue. You can only lovingly present the issue when you deeply understand the anger. But if anger does come out as you present it then simply anger does come out as you present it. And that is something honest that's happening in you. Others perhaps can learn something from the experience. He says we never choose to enact anger, but we can also constantly worry, “What if some leaks out?” Simply trust the loving motivations in ourselves. He wants to talk more directly himself.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Much of what you are doing here is what I referred to as “shattering the illusion of a separate self.” In any of these situations, as you look at what is old, what is present, the fear-based motivations, the love-based motivations, eventually you come to a higher perspective of awareness where you start to see that belief in each of these thoughts, such as you were unworthy and would be abandoned, that you were unsafe, and so on, that belief in each of them was simply something you needed to try on. It's all part of the self-discovery of learning, “Who am I?” You are not your thoughts. You are not your emotions. They are catalysts which help you learn compassion and help you learn more truly who you are and learn to rest in that truth of who you are.

What I'm asking you to do here then is to see it from one rise higher up the mountain. A different and higher perspective. The relative being does not choose to enact its anger. The ultimate being never experienced anger. And yet, that aspect of the relative being which is afraid doesn't know what to do with that constant accumulation of its anger. It's all happening on the movie screen, parts that you're playing. One part that is angry, one part that's not angry, one part whose anger is from very old conditions, one part whose anger is born in a fear in this present moment.

When we talk about patience, part of the patience I request you to nurture is that which is just willing to be with the whole stew, as it is. Sometimes it's a rather highly pungent stew. You may wish to hold your nose. Can you still just be with it? No fixing! This is the value of patience and endurance. It doesn't negate the other tools, it just helps you choose a bit differently, and helps you more deeply recognize that nothing needs to be fixed. Then you begin to have better access to that place which is not and never has been angry. That pure awareness mind can watch the relative mind stepping up and down, afraid, angry, filled with energy and wondering what to do, and just give it a hug. Nothing needs to be done. The anger is just energy. It will dissipate. I pause.

Q : I need to have some explanation of how these 3 steps (of patience) relate to the overall teaching. They are not part of the seven steps as far as I can see. It seems like these are tools for helping us to see more deeply into the process of how we process.

Aaron: I am Aaron. The Seven-Branch prayer helps to connect you with that deep loving resolve. It helps to foster the willingness to seek out and apply the antidote and to understand what you're applying that antidote to. I used the example of a splinter. It's infected. It must be dug out. There's a certain point where you're going to need to suffer a bit more pain in order to rid yourself of the infection. When there's enough pain walking on this splinter, you finally have the resolve and say it's time, it's time to take care of it.

Is it time to take care of your heavy emotions? You've been learning about them with me, this particular group especially, for years. You've all done very wonderful work of opening your hearts to yourself. You have learned to cease condemning yourself that these emotions arise. Now the seven-branch prayer is what inspires you to come to that place of willingness where you say, “I am ready to go deeper. I understand that I do not condemn myself because these heavy emotions arise, but nevertheless they do continue to arise and they bring me pain and bring pain to others. And so I desire to understand this more deeply in order that these emotions may not arise so forcefully and so frequently.”

If they do arise you still must work with them in the old ways, finding compassion for the self, making space around them. Then once there is that space, instead of simply feeling content that you did not need to carry this emotion further, that it did not overwhelm, then you touch the resolve. “What are the deep conditions that gave rise to this beyond the surface ones I've understood in the past? What really is fear? What is the self in which fear arises? “

Now, the last talk, this talk, and the coming talks, are specific tools: working with mindfulness, working with the practice of patience. I'm not going to get ahead of myself and announce the others, but they are specific tools that you could use, not to get rid of heavy emotions but to learn more deeply this practice of holding them and penetrating the conditions that give rise to them. And in that penetration, there is understanding not only the emotion but the whole illusion of self and how the emotion arose. So they are tools. Does this answer your question, Celeste? I pause.

Q: Yes; I am wondering if this is also part of Shantideva's teaching.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I am following the basic headings of Shantideva's teaching. He teaches patience but he teaches patience from the bias of “getting rid of.” He speaks of strong condemnation of the heavy emotions. So I am presenting his teaching in a new light, asking you to hold firm to that loving heart which does not need to condemn, which never acts from a place of hatred or attack. There is vast difference in the original text and what I am teaching. But part of his book does talk about patience and forbearance. I pause.

(remainder of session not yet reviewed)