February 26, 1997

February 26, 1997 Wednesday Night Group (continuing with March 5, 1997 below)

Interlude 1: This is not a new part of the teaching, but is more of a “how-to,” offering a real life situation and how these teachings may apply. This interlude is drawn from two transcripts, two sequential weeks of talks.

Barbara: We have a question that came in by e-mail which Aaron said he wanted to speak to. Aaron says you don't have to be steamrolled by people, that from a very clear and loving place you learn to say no. What if you say no and they still keep steamrollering over you? That was the basic question.

Q: You can talk openly about the situation that I e-mailed you about, a situation that I have out that cottage with a neighbor who has put his dock and boat equipment in front of my cottage. It violates the boundary that is there. And he's also a provocateur, so he does these low-level provocative kinds of things and I hook every single time. So I've been really caught in this loop of getting really pissed off at this guy. I haven't done anything about it. He provokes and I get mad. It's just this little thing. I see it so clearly, what I'm doing, and I'm having a lot of problems keeping space around it and not opening into the provocation. Accepting this equipment being there and feeling ripped off because of it. That's the gist of it.

Q: Usually with those kinds of people, they just ignore you until they do the next thing. Talking to them does not help,

Q: That's right. Talking does not help, I've tried talking to them.

Q: What happens if you put your dock in right on the boundary line?

Q: That's what I tried to do last year. He came out before I finished putting in my dock and put his equipment in my path. I thought of drilling holes in the ice.

Other suggestions are offered/ legal, mediation ... .

Barbara: We did talk via e-mail about the question.

Q: It's going to take some work!

Barbara: What I said in my e-mail to Q was that it's a wonderful, and hard, learning opportunity and there are three parts to it. What makes you so uncomfortable about the situation? Clearly he is invading your space. But what is that about? I talked about that phrase, “Is it coming in to bother you or are you going out to bother it?” There's this dock. It's across your property line, but it clearly looks bigger than it really is. So there's this for you to learn, what's really creating your suffering on this personal level. But it's not just about this situation but an opportunity to investigate the root of all suffering. It's not to “fix; “ where does suffering dissolve without the situation changing in its outer forms? This is the second area. Third is the exploration of how to say “no” without anger. That ability grows from the investigation of the first two areas.

My suggestion to Q was to shift his tactics completely and say to the man, “I still disagree with the placement of the dock but I'm aware this has become a mountain between us. After all, it's just a dock. I wish it weren't there. I think you're trespassing. But I really want to just put this aside. We're neighbors. I want us to have a congenial relationship. I was in town and I bought this plant for you. I thought you'd enjoy it.” And bring him bagels and coffee cake when you're in town. Get to know his children. Do it mindfully and watch what arises or shifts within.

Q: One of his kids does like me.

Barbara: This is really bringing love to fear.

Q: That's tough, that's really tough! Did Q come to Aaron's Halloween story?

Q: No.

Q: Aaron's Halloween story is briefly told, about how, in a past life, he was trapped by a man who wanted to kill him. He told about how he escaped and then realized that this man would just do the same to someone else, hurting himself and his victim. So even though he was afraid, Aaron felt he had to go back and find a way to help this man see the divinity in himself. He was able to do so. He points out that even if he had not succeeded, it was something he had to do for himself, to resolve any sense of duality of good/ evil. He needed to be able to see that this would-be murderer was also an expression of the divine.

Q: So it may be an opportunity.

(group comments omitted)

Barbara: It's basically what Aaron did in the story and I'm glad Q brought that up because it was perfect. Just bringing in love. Not to fix or transform or trick your neighbor, but to know yourself. What happens when we give to others in a difficult situation, using generosity as a tool.

Q: Just to be clear, that is asking more than most of us have been asked before. It's a big choice. It's a very possible choice but so is ...

Q: ... ignoring him and doing nothing.

Q: It becomes a, I don't know, I just honor you for even considering it.

Q: It offers a tremendous opportunity to break through many barriers.

Q: The fact is, I don't believe it should be undertaken to change the neighbor, but only to heal your own rage. And if it does change the neighbor, that's a wonderful and very possible outcome. But nothing guarantees that.

Barbara: Precisely. If there's any part of the intention that maybe this will work and the neighbor will move the dock, then grasping and self arise. You've just got to be clear, at least for now, “for this summer the dock is just going to be wherever it's going to be, and I'm just going to watch my response to it and I'm going to be, each time that any anger arises in me I'm going to let that anger be transformed into lovingkindness.” Aaron wants to talk about this directly. This is the basis of satyagraha or “soul force” as used by Gandhi, to feel so clear in your own truth that you must offer that truth, regardless of the response it may provoke.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Each of you at some level has a fear that your needs will not be met, that you'll be hurt. It touches you in different ways. Some of you can be so generous about so many things and yet in one small area of your life there is contraction. For example, I would highly conjecture, L, that if this man did not have trees between your properties, and if this man's children played football or catch, and their game ran over onto your yard on occasion, it would not trouble you at all. You would simply see the children playing. I think that there's such contraction about the dock because it displays a premeditated selfishness and fear.

We have talked about the ways that we recoil most against those patterns in others that we are most sensitive to what we think of as possible of in ourselves. This doesn't mean that you are greedy, it means that you are afraid of your own greed and grasping. They are discomforting to you. You condemn them.

By way of example, if you know that you are very patient, you may find another person's impatience unpleasant, but it's just impatience. You look at what is beautiful about that person and you notice their impatience with tolerance. If their impatience comes too frequently and forcefully, you may decide not to be with them very much. But still it doesn't arouse deep aversion in you.

But when they mirror a quality that you are afraid of in yourself, the situation is different. Let us pretend hypothetically that impatient thoughts often come up in you. You never act them out, you are the model of patience, but part of the reason that you are the model of patience is because you keep these negative impatient thoughts under such strict control. Somebody else's impatience then is very threatening to you.

What I would ask you to do then is to begin to look deeply at that in yourself which really understands this thing, that in yourself which, if you did not stay very conscious and aware but lapsed into the unconsciousness in which he dwells, really could act in similar grasping, greedy ways that are harmful to others. Look deeply at how repugnant that possibility is to you. In forgiving him, you forgive yourself. And in forgiving yourself, you forgive him. You no longer need to act out those feelings. He still does. Can you forgive him for that also?

This, then, is the major part of it, the possibility for healing this in yourself. My conjecture is that by the time it really is healed, where seeing his dock there is simply a reminder for compassion for you both, and it no longer arouses strong feelings of any sort, at that point he will probably move away or move his dock. But it won't matter much to you at that point.

We come to another side of this question which this instrument raised. I have said repeatedly that from this place of deep compassion and clarity, you still must say no, because to let another being walk over you, use you as a doormat, is harmful to both you and to them. I stand by that statement. But before you can say no in that way, there must be the space of clarity from which the no comes. If you say no from a place of fear and anger, you're simply participating in the whole situation of fear and anger.

Certainly it depends on the kind of situation. If you are in a relationship with someone who is very verbally or physically abusive, and if you are deeply afraid, discomforted, saddened, by their actions, before you have clarity you still may need to say no, simply to remove yourself from the situation because so much harm is being done. If you felt that to be your situation here, yes, you could elect to move away. So you need to look at each situation independently and assess it.

Here is a situation that allows for patience, allows you to just be there and learn. I would liken this much more to living with somebody who is self-indulgent, selfish and thoughtless, than living with somebody who is violent and constantly abuses you. In this situation you can take the time to find that clarity in yourself.

However, you also are saying no in a different way. You must be very clear when you bring him a first gift: you are not apologizing. You are not saying I'm sorry I blocked the way, of course you can put the dock in anywhere. You are making it clear, “I do still disagree with where you put your dock, but we are neighbors. This is really a trivial matter. I want us not to wage a war out here in this place, where we both come to be at peace and enjoy ourselves. We don't have to be close friends but I want us to feel a general liking rather than antipathy toward one another. I don't want to be angry when I see you and I don't want you to be angry when you see me. It doesn't make our life enjoyable. So let us end this conflict between us. “

This is a different way of saying no. You're choosing your fight. You're not saying no to the dock, You're saying no to the ongoing hostility. The matter of ongoing hostility is more important at this time than the dock. You are refusing to participate any further in that ongoing hostility. He has pulled you into it. The dock is just a symptom. If it wasn't the dock it would be something else. You're making the decision, “I'm not going to be pulled into this hostility any more.” Then, you look for the antidote.

Last month I suggested an antidote for anger is in giving to the person at whom you are angry. We were talking about it in terms of the overbearing boss, what one might do for that being. In what ways can you be of service to that being, to really be kind and be helpful? It might not change them but it will change you. So here's a perfect example of a situation where that would work.

If you decide to do this, Q, I would suggest that you do a good deal of metta (lovingkindness) meditation first. I gather you have at least several weeks before the time when you begin to see this neighbor in a regular way. Simply sit with his energy with a formal lovingkindness meditation. Begin with a loved person, looking deeply into that person, seeing the ways they've suffered and wishing them well. Then do the same thing for yourself. And then bring up the difficult person, this neighbor. Contemplate, reflect on, the kinds of fears and pains he may have suffered which have made him so frightened and greedy, so unable to hear another. Reflect on the way he must suffer because of the way he cuts himself off from others, that through his greed he cannot give and connect in ways that are deeply meaningful and joyful. You're not reflecting here that you're better than he is, you allow to arise in you a real sense of sorrow for this being, and a heartfelt wish, “May you be free of suffering. May you learn what it means to give and receive. May your heart open and flower. May you abide in well-being. May you love and be loved. May you be happy.”

I would work with that practice in depth for several weeks. See what blocks in your heart, what blocks the offering of such wishes. You must also work with yourself as I said, start with a loved person, then yourself and then your neighbor. You wish yourself the same things: may I be happy, may I love and be loved, may I live in connection with my neighbor.

There is also the third area mentioned by this instrument. When there is less turmoil, you may reflect back upon the nature of suffering itself, its causes, its arising and cessation. I will not talk in depth about this now. I pause.

Q: In doing that metta, at first it may most probably not be a heartfelt loving wish. The wishes are very formal, even if you don't feel loving or even kindly at first, it's okay. It's okay just to wish those wishes. And if it's too hard to wish them to the neighbor himself at first, pick the child who likes you and work with that child, and then with another one of his children, or someone in the family who is easier. Work your way into the process. It's a long process. It doesn't have to be long but it will take however long it takes. It pays to work gently into it. Before you take any gift to the neighbor, you need to see clearly the truth of it. That does have to come from a very true place in yourself.

Barbara: Thank you, Q. It's important not to demand of yourself that your heart be opened, but Aaron is saying at the same time, you do ask of yourself just to look deeply into him. You find the place where the heart IS open to him. It doesn't mean the anger is gone, but you find the place where there really is compassion.

Q: I see so clearly how he represents a part of myself.

Barbara: Aaron says, he is “yeast for the bread.” Aaron says there will come a point where you can bring him cinnamon buns or a rosebush with a real sense of gratitude that he's living there for all he's teaching you!

Aaron says that's why he's suggesting that you work with lovingkindness first. Take it to a point where you're ready to bring this gift. He says, remember the gift is not a statement that the dock is okay but a statement “our enmity to one another is not acceptable and I want to take whatever steps are necessary to end that enmity.” He says, this statement is a truth that you do feel.

Q: I'm feeling really humbled by all your responses. Thank you.

Barbara: You're welcome.

March 5, 1997 Wednesday Night Group

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. Tonight I would like to expand a bit on last week's session, to help put it into a clearer context.

We have been talking about working with heavy emotions, going one step beyond our work of the past years wherein we've often spoken of the natural arising of heavy emotions and how you must not condemn yourself because they arise. I noted that even though you no longer need to act out those emotions and you do allow the experience of them without suppression, nevertheless they do arise and they're painful. In this series on the Awakened Heart, we have been talking about how to reduce the force of arising of those heavy emotions by work with the antidotes to them, antidotes which you must apply only with great gentleness and mercy, and with no judgment upon the self in whom these emotions arose.

Last week, Q spoke with some pain about his country neighbor who places his dock on the shoreline in front of Q's cottage instead of in front of his own house. He talked about how angry he was and that this neighbor would not hear him, that Q felt it was indeed a trespassing. So we spoke of this question: I have said often to you, you do not need to allow yourself to be a doormat to others but the “no” must come from a place of love. What happens when that “no” doesn't work and the trespass continues?

I observed to Q that the focus of his question had become different. At first the focus was how to say no to the neighbor's setting his dock inappropriately. He literally was trespassing. But as Q has gotten caught up in this issue with his neighbor and become a participant in the anger of the issue, the question became not so much, “How do I stop him from placing his dock inappropriately,” as, “How do I say no to my involvement, my angry involvement in this situation?”

Nobody can make another angry. Something happening within us brings up that strong anger. How do we say “no, I will no longer be a participant in this rather unskillful dialogue between us” ? If Q won't hit the ball back that his neighbor is hitting to him, his neighbor is going to have to find somebody else to bash with his ball. Admittedly, the dock will still stay there. But the issue has gone beyond the dock to the fact that the neighbor is looking for somebody to control, somebody to dominate. The neighbor's outward act is a form of domination, but Q really can choose to ignore it and then he will not be a participant in this domination.

So we asked Q to do something extraordinarily difficult. Two things, really: to begin more deeply to observe the anger, not at the dock but at his neighbor's controllingness, his neighbor's inability to hear another. I requested he understand the nature of that anger, how it reflected not L's own personality but what Q feared might come to the surface in himself. To which Q said, “Yes, right on”; that he could see that characteristic. Second, I asked Q to begin to apply this antidote, which is truly to seek to treat his neighbor with love.

What happens when somebody hits you and you offer them back Jesus' “other cheek”? What really happens? Not “what happens in them”? You're not doing it to make anything special happen in them. What happens in you? You begin to find that place in yourself which is innately loving and which has immense compassion for the fear out of which this inappropriate action on the neighbor's part is coming.

Of course, this doesn't stop his placing the dock inappropriately. What happens is, once the inner work has been done on the self so that the neighbor's various trespasses are truly met with compassion both for his fear and for your own fear, then the setting of boundaries can begin again. But this setting comes from a place of love and not from a place of fear and anger. Q's prior attempts to set boundaries came from a place of anger.

I said that I wanted to put this into a clearer context in terms of the whole Awakened Heart series. How do you do this difficult work. We are talking about any situation which arouses strong anger, impatience, jealousy, greed, fear, or any strong emotion which involves another.

Do you remember the steps of the Seven-Branch Prayer I introduced in January? The first is support, deeply opening your heart to that being, be it human, historical, mythical, or simply to divine energy, to that being who is the essence of lovingkindness and truth to you. Therein, find deep support, deep connection for your own innate lovingkindness and truth. The second step is offering. See in the beauty of that being the potential for the self to also express its divinity; deeply offer yourself to all beings, that you may walk in the steps of this blessed one, may also serve all beings in such a profound way.

Move into that longer third step of three “R's”: reflection, both upon the divinity of the self and also upon the fear and sense of limitations of the small ego self, and the ways that the small ego self has acted out of that fear. Within reflection is understanding of how that action arose, not in condemnation of the self, - no, no. With kindness. But there is also regret or sorrow, deep regret at the ways one has moved in habitual patterns that harmed. . Deeply seeing that harm has been done, there is desire to do no more harm. This s is the third “R,” resolve.

I cannot be too careful in my expression of this step that it must not involve castigation of the self, but only the deepest desire to offer the self in love, and sorrow for the harm that has arisen through ignorance. . That desire is innate to you and expresses itself when fear is not predominant. You will not reach that desire through arousing fear by creating contempt for the self. So there is reflection and regret, and then there is deep resolve that you will live from this awakened heart, and a willingness to look deeply at what prevents from you doing so.

The further steps in the Seven-Branch Prayer are very important but are not as directly relevant to our present discussion. Very briefly, these were that one once again sees not only this first divine one or ones, but all beings who have been teachers in one form or another, who have offered their energy purely, who have become what one might call “enlightened beings” who cease to enact their fear. One offers one's gratitude to these teachers, a sense of deep sympathetic joy that such enlightened action can exist on the earth. Ask those teachers to remain present as guide to you in your daily life. Ask them to teach you.

Out of all of this inner movement grows the willingness to understand and apply the antidote to whatever emotion is arising, not because that emotion is wicked but simply because that emotion creates pain and is a force for harm to self and to others.. You understand that the emotion arose because certain conditions were present for it to arise, and that you cannot deny what arose, which is result. You must look to the conditions themselves. In the case of L's story he must look to his own fear: what is it that gives rise to this disproportionate anger? In order to get at that you've got to be willing to work with certain antidotes, and those antidotes can be quite painful. I have offered the metaphor that to remove a splinter from one's foot, one may have to dig with a needle. The digging can be painful but ultimately it is necessary if one is to get out the splinter and resolve any infection.

It must be done with as much kindness as possible. There must be a willingness to endure some discomfort, not just to continue to run from discomfort. When we hand Q this very difficult assignment, all of the Awakened Heart practices, all of the lessons of kindness and awareness, provide support for his work.

Can you feel the difference? What if I said the same thing to Q but without this support? “Simply go into yourself and see what the roots of your anger at your neighbor are. Bring your neighbor some gifts, make an effort to mend your relationship and deeply to treat him with kindness.” The words are the same but can you see how all of that could become just more of ego's movement, an inflated self who is going to be noble, who is going to put on a pretense of lovingkindness, even an inflated self who is going to figure out what's wrong in “self” and fix it.

But this isn't what I have in mind at all. The setting is of vast importance. This work must be done within the framework of already accessing this innate awakened heart. It must not come from the ego. If Q is to give his neighbor a plant, there must be no one giving, as much as is possible. If he is to do lovingkindness meditation, there can't be somebody doing the lovingkindness meditation for the purpose of forgiving or opening the heart to somebody else, or it won't work. This is perhaps the most difficult part of it. One has got to be immaculately honest, and even that honesty must come from a place of mercy and graciousness. You can say, “I can be honest, I'm going to be honest” and it's somebody being the honest one. When you deeply connect your heart with the Christ, the Buddha, with all the great beings of past and present, and understand that you can walk not only in the footsteps but right there beside him, that you also are capable of deeply loving, selfless action and thought, this reminds you of the deepest truth of your being and you begin to be able to express your energy from this truth.

My dear ones, of course you're not going to be perfect at it. If “someone” is there, if ego is there, just notice it and that it too arose from conditions. It is your choice whether or not to become identified with that somebody, that ego. Here is the point where you work! The innate wisdom mind is always there. With what do you choose to identify, and why? Just as clouds my cover the sun but cannot fully screen out its light, so the clouds of delusion cannot hide the true self.

Over and over and over, you are going to make mistakes. That's fine. Each mistake is just a mud puddle. Wipe off your shoes and keep walking. You will become quite adept at spotting the mud puddles and learn how to skirt them more successfully. In short, if Q offers his neighbor a rosebush for his yard and his neighbor says something abusive, and anger comes up, Q will see the various mud puddles of his own anger, his judgment of his anger, his extreme discomfort with his neighbor who mirrors kinds of emotions that Q himself experiences, although Q has the maturity usually not to enact them on others. Seeing those various mud puddles, with practice Q will learn how to work more skillfully with them and that he doesn't have to fall flat on his face. But if sometimes he does, then he does.

And this is true for each of you. To be human is to accept that you are going to fall in the mud! And also that you know the way out. You know where the pure water is to wash yourself off and you have the courage and love to continue.

If you are afraid of the mud, the earth plane is not the place for you. Since you are in incarnation, I presume you have at least to some degree decided to test your ability to make peace with the mud.

This opening talk is shorter than usual. I would ask when it is transcribed it would be combined with an abbreviation of last week's talk, and that this be put into the bodhicitta series in whatever way is possible to preserve anonymity and privacy.

The questions I am touching on tonight connect for all of you. It really is the essence of incarnate experience. How do you deal with your sadness, your fear, your pain? How do you find the courage to endure? How do you remember the deep joy, connection and beauty that are possible during those times of sadness, alienation, and fear? Your ability to remember in that way is what allows you to tread lightly through the mud and not get mired in it. I pause here for you to stretch and then welcome your questions about either my talk tonight or any issues that you have brought with you. I pause.

Q: When we do the Seven-Branch Prayer? Can we do that right on the spot when something is happening.

Barbara: Aaron says, Absolutely.

Q: But lots of times you can't. So is it not also in meditation that we can look at the situation and go through the steps there?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear your question, Q. We use it in both times. The deep practice with it step by step in meditation provides you with a foundation. Then when you're in an intense situation in which you might be reactive to another or deeply judgmental of the self, you find yourself with more spaciousness out of which more immediate skillful action and words may arise because of the foundation. I would liken this to learning various swimming strokes and perfecting those strokes with daily swimming in your swimming pool, practicing your arm stroke and your breathing and your kicking, building up your endurance until it becomes second nature to you. Then when you are paddling a canoe in heavy current and the boat tips over, you know exactly what to do. You're able to use what you have practiced. At that moment you don't think, How do I move my arms, how do I move my legs, the body knows how to do it.

In just the same way, if Q's neighbor does something quite obnoxious next weekend, if Q has been practicing with this, he's going to see the anger arising. Along with the anger will be the wisdom that understand the roots of the anger. Then deep compassion may arise. He will be able to think of that great teacher and ask himself, “what would this being do?” Now, he's not going to respond with absolutely perfect skill and openhearted love, but he'll come a bit closer than he has before, and each time a bit closer.

When I say that you practice this right in that moment, perhaps I mislead you a bit. You do not sit down and go through each step, spending 2 or 3 minutes on a step, sitting there for 20 minutes while someone is ranting and raving at you. But within that person's ranting and raving, right there, comes the image of the beloved, the awareness of innate perfection, and your own deep resolve to enact that perfection also in your own life, to enact that lovingkindness. This gives you the strength to make space for the anger and fear that may be coming up, and work skillfully with them so that increasingly skillful, selfless response is possible. And then yes, you take the whole thing back to your meditation. Reflect upon it and work even more deeply with it.

Does this clarify it for you my sister? I pause.

Q: Yes, it does clarify it a lot. I just wanted to add something I think is very helpful, and that is, what we talked about in vipassana meditation class on Monday and also on a Wednesday night session a few week's ago. And that was how to look at an object or a person without self or attachment.

Barbara: Seeing with bare perception.

Q: I find that helpful because I remember how I have been at times when I am involved in intense emotion and at those times I say to myself, “Refuge! Refuge! Where is this refuge!”

Aaron: And where do you find it? Refuge cannot be a hiding place. Refuge is strength. It's your own innate strength and not something which you hide behind.

Q: I think of refuge in order to start the process, the Seven-Branch Prayer, but I cannot get beyond the first step because I cannot connect with any inner strength.

Barbara: At that point, just work step by step and trust the path. Connect with whatever you find, simply with divine energy or a specific expression of divine energy such as the Christ or Buddha or some living expression, whatever expression is useful for you, something that is “truth” for you. Simply hold that being up as a teacher or that divine energy itself up as a teacher. Then the second step then is offering, and that's what helps you connect then with your own innate strength, because when you deeply touch the aspiration to offer your own energy with the same purity as that blessed teacher, then you find within yourself the ability to do that. Aaron has said if you're very honest with yourself, you know that that perfection is also in you. The question is really, then, one of willingness . Aaron will talk.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I will say this myself. You are approaching the ability to make the choice, “I am willing to let go of my defendedness, to let go of my barriers, to let go of all the means I have used to remain safe and in control in the world. I am willing to do this because the aspiration is so deep in me to offer my energy with love. And so I am willing to endure whatever discomfort there may be as I move through this transformative process.” It really is the fire that purifies. I pause.

Q: He said “endure discomfort.”

Barbara: He says, Precisely.

Q: I don't understand. I thought it was the discomfort that blocked me from access to the innate wisdom ...

Aaron: I am Aaron. It is NOT the discomfort, my dear one, but your relationship to the discomfort. Can you see that you are still attached to comfort, and thus are doing all these practices, at least in part, to make the discomfort go away. I do not blame your dislike of discomfort, but you can not push it away. What are the roots of discomfort? Only that understanding will resolve it. To understand, you must be willing to go further in to the discomfort, to “endure” it rather than to try to control it. What allows this willingness to go further in?

If you come to a bed of hot coals that give off a great radiant heat, you're going to turn and walk the other way. That's human nature. If certain situations create anger within you or pain, you're going to choose to move away from them. One of L's first questions last week was, “Shall I sell my house and move?” It's human nature to want to avoid situations of pain and this isn't bad. Indeed, without that instinct, most of you would not survive. But you do not need to put up all of these barriers and defenses to be present, fully present with bare perception, with an emotion like jealousy or impatience. It's going to lead you deeply into certain experiences of grief, fear, and confusion. They are experiences that you have strived to avoid at all costs. You've created certain habitual emotional patterns because those patterns seems to protect you, patterns of control, of denial, of distancing.

It is precisely because of the deep aspiration, you become willing to take these burning coals literally in your hand and investigate. Of course, if they burn too much, you're free to put them down and say, “They're too hot. I need to start with something that's not quite so fiery, not quite so formidable.” Then you build up your muscles, so to speak. But there is endurance there.

If someone beloved to you was on the other side, let's not call it burning coals but burning sand, 130 degrees outside, brilliant sun, literally blistering. You're standing in the shade and somebody who's dear to you who is in the water screams “Help!,” are you going to endure the sand? Of course, because of your deep aspiration and love. Might there be fear? Of course, but there is also willingness to endure. The self fades.

In order to act from that deep aspiration and love you must become connected with it in a conscious way through your meditation practice. Does this explain it, C ? I pause.

Q: I understand but I also would like to add how I am beginning to see how useful that exercise is, of looking at an object or person to see its divinity, how useful that is to me now.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Yes, it is one way of beginning to see that everything is expression of the divine. Several weeks ago in one of the Awakened Heart talks, I talked about the movement of mindfulness, bare perception, and so on. This practice provides another way of understanding the same truths. We give these teachings to you in different forms. Those who do not choose to come here for the channeling sessions but choose to meditate learn the teachings as part of vipassana practice. In the classes I present here, I put it in a bigger spiritual format. It helps to provide clarity and really to help you find a deeper sense of the inspiration for this very difficult work. It helps take it out of the more mechanical format of precise mental noting of vipassana. It puts heart into it, you might say. It's the same practice, though.

Receiving whatever arises, you are with the breath, and if there is then hearing, such as hearing my voice now, simply know there is hearing and receive it with a sense of wonder, as if you had never heard anything before. No concepts about the words themselves, the sound, the content. Just presence with it. If thoughts arise, you allow yourself to be present without thought about the thought, just seeing thought blossom, exist and then dissolve, as if you had never had a thought before.

For those of you who were not present at Monday's meditation class, which Barbara taught, she brought up the cup which is on the windowsill. She held it up just for a few seconds then covered it and asked people to draw it. People became aware of how much they were invested in the concept of cupness rather than the direct experience of this cup. Then, she held it up for a longer period of time and asked them to draw it again. Finally, she passed it around the room and asked people to connect with this cup and draw it again. She requested that people do this at home with a shell or plant, with something simple like a leaf, not the whole plant. Directly experience it with that sense of wonder, free of the concept. See how concept separates you from experience. She asked, “Does concept protect or is it merely habit, or both?”

Then she requested that people take that material experience and move it into the human frame. She suggested sitting with a friend or willing partner, just looking into one another's eyes. See how directly you can experience that person, not your concepts of them as you want or expect them to be, but just present with them exactly as they are in that moment. And finally, that you be with your own thought, such as an experience of fear or anger or jealousy or desire, in just the same way.

The mental noting that we do in meditation is both extremely helpful and also limited. It can push you into categorizing experience and thereby separate you from experience. So it's very important to employ this 2-step process. Work with these factors, technically. “Vitakka” and “vicara,” holding and penetration. And you must do that with everything in your experience if you are to be able to experience it. Here is where the willingness comes in. So much of experience you have not wanted to touch because it felt dangerous. So much of the sense of danger of it was in your old concepts of it and not in this specific experience. But because old history told you this is likely to be painful, you said no to it and did not let yourself get near it. Now you are asking yourself to hold it and penetrate it. Willingness to do that must come from one of 2 places: either sheer will power, which really is more a force of fear and judgment, or this deep aspiration as expressed through this Seven-Branch Prayer, in which you connect with that which we might call Love, which is willing to endure discomfort in order to experience truth, and through truth to find freedom. I pause.