April 30, 1997

97.04.30 WC.doc

April 30, 1997 Wednesday Night Group

Barbara: Aaron says that questions of many different sorts have come in during the week. He's going to save the new Awakened Heart talk for next week and deal with these questions, to include under “interlude.” He wants to start with a talk and then open the floor to questions.

To begin, Aaron is asking me to read to you several sentences here. from Shantideva's poem. “In solitude the mind and body are not troubled by distraction. Therefore, leave this worldly life and totally abandon mental wandering.” It goes on to talk about worldly life and renunciation. He says “enough” and he will talk.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Good evening, and my love to you all. I want to talk about stress, the alleviation of stress and the use of stress in your life. We will come back to the lines I asked Barbara to read a bit later on. I did not want to interrupt her channeling to read them later.

The question does often arise for you, what to do with the many catalysts in your life: the stress, the confusion, the physical pain. Is there any one of you who has not at some time dreamed of going off to some place of great solitude and dwelling there? You may have considered the idea of a monastic life, letting go of worldly things and all the stress contained in worldly things. Or you may have simply pondered running off to a South Pacific atoll, living under coconut palms beside the sea and plucking fresh fruit at your back door.

Certainly there are places such as big cities where there's much more bustle and energy, and the possibility of stress is greater. There are certain kinds of involvements that do create greater stress. But do you really think that there's any place that could be free of stress? A friend tells a wonderful story of one of the most stressful nights of his life, when he was a monk and lived in a cave and found a large boa constrictor beside him The cave was on the side of the cliff. He had no flashlight or other modern convenience. There was no way to get away from that cave. Here he was a monk and had left a monastery in Asia to find even more solitude in the hills, searching for peace. And what he found was a giant snake!

Is there any place you can go where your mind will not come with you? If you renounce modern living are you going to renounce your mind too? Are you going to have some kind of surgery to cut out a portion of the brain, along with the outer world? Your stress is not out there! Your stress is from within and the relationships you get into with the outer catalysts of your lives. And those catalysts are not going to disappear no matter where you go.

I understand that some places are quieter than others and offer a certain peace, such as a being in a beautiful woods or by the sea. A place in nature and away from the turmoil of mechanized life, away from telephones and doorbells and so on, is peaceful. But you cannot hide there, for doorbells and telephones will be replaced by another catalyst. Furthermore, you cannot do the work you came to do in the incarnation if you bury yourself off in some obscure wilderness. You need these catalysts, whether you may wish to entertain that idea or not. You need these catalysts.

You can learn to be very creative with your pain, your stress, your confusion. You can learn to embrace them as teacher and not arm yourself in battle. And you can learn very practical ways of releasing them rather than perpetuating the relationship with them. For herein is the suffering, not in the touch of the object itself but in how you relate to that touch.

I emphasize release. This is not “getting rid of,” it's release. You open your hands, and if it wants to go, it will go. If you pick up a very hot object, you have no difficulty releasing it. You don't think to yourself, “Should I let it go?” At that moment, fear may say, “Get rid of it” and you may toss it. Or a quieter voice may simply say, “Let it go.”

It is this letting go that you must learn. Your pain, your stress, your confusion, give you countless opportunities to practice this letting go until it becomes second nature. You have lived your lives with one kind of relationship to the catalyst in those lives, which was a confrontational relationship, with a sense, “I must defeat this or that, control this or that.” What is required is nothing short of a total change of perspective, whereby instead of being one who was in control of one's environment, one shifts from that place of fear that would control into a place of love, trust, and harmony, which is willing to be co-creator with the environment. I'm not talking here about surrender to the environment. That's a defeatist kind of attitude which denies your infinite power and divinity. I say “co-creator.” To do that, there must be a relaxation of tension. Learning how to relax tension in that way comes both from specific exercises and through your formal meditation practice.

Let's begin here with an exercise together. A very simple conscious relaxation exercise. I want you to begin with your eyes. If the eyes are clenched close in any way, relax them. Let them be totally effortlessly closed. No tension in the eyelids, no tension in the forehead. Relaxed ... Move up into the forehead, feeling any tightness there. Just let it go. And on up over the top of the head. Bring attention to the crown chakra. Allow it to feel open, as if there had been a muscle holding an orifice closed, and you totally relaxed it. You really can relax at the top of your head ... Down the face into the cheeks and in the jaw. Let the mouth hang subtly open, no force to open or close it. Breath flowing in a great “Aaaahhh.”

Relax the ears. I'm not being funny. Just as you relaxed the eyes and jaw, you can relax the ears. It's a slightly different muscle than the jaw. With the jaw hanging slightly open, left the attention up to the ears. You may feel a band of tension that goes around the back or front of the head from the ears. Let it open. From the ears down into the neck, let your head roll sideways ... forward ... side ... back ... and the other way, back ... side ... forward ... other side ... back ... and up to balanced. Neck and shoulders relaxed. Feel the tension not just coming out of the muscles but coming from a much deeper place within you, a place that fears and believes it needs to control. As you work with this exercise, I request you to see if you can get in touch with that within you which knows it is safe. It's just a different aspect of your being. It's the divine voice which knows its divinity and perfection, which has tremendous faith and love. It is the place within where there is and is not and never has been tension.

As the clouds of holding which buried that tensionless place dissipate a bit, allow that clear place to emerge into the shoulders. Take the arms and shake them gently. Let the energy pour out any tensions and then rest them comfortably on your lap. Move down the back. Take a deep breath. Hunch your shoulders forward a bit to feel the stretching between the shoulder blades and then come back. Natural spine. Relaxed. And then into the front and into the belly, chest and belly. Open, relaxed. Belly soft. If your belt is too tight, open it. Let your belly expand. I pause.

“Aaaahhh.” Feel that spaciousness when the body can open itself. Down into the hips and the legs, releasing tension. No hurry to make it go. Nothing to get rid of. Just a deeply loving recognition that you have been carrying this tension for hours or perhaps even for days, and you don't need to do it any more. It is as if you put on a heavy backpack at the beginning of a journey and have gotten so used to the weight that you've forgotten that you're bearing it. There's nothing bad about the backpack, but it's heavy and it creates discomfort. Bring attention to it and note, “I can put this down.” It's as simple as that. I pause.

“I can put this down.” I have a choice. So many of you are addicted to your tension. You feel naked without it. It has become your habitual way of being with the world. If you are not in a mode of oppositionality, you feel like there's no self there. It's as if there has to be something pushing against you, something to push back against, to reassure you that you exist.

As you move through your life, you will find myriad things that do push against you. Physical circumstances, other people's thoughts, energy and opinions. Your own emotions and those of others. When you were very young, in your first evolutionary third density experiences on whatever plane, physical or non-physical, you moved into the illusion of a self and believed that that self needed to be protected. This was not a matter of lack of love, only it was a confined love, love for the small self and for those things that were dear to the small self. But there was an illusion of separation: the self vs. the rest of it. You seemed to be offered lessons in self-preservation which said, “I must kill an animal that's attacking me or it will kill me.”

Somewhere along the line you evolved into a deeper understanding that while there seemed to be separate selves, they were not fully separate. Consider your own hand and foot. If you were building a brick wall, let us say a stone wall, and the stone you were working with came unbalanced and began to drop, in that instant, seeing it was about to drop onto the foot, the hands capture it. The hands don't have to ask, “Why should I protect the foot?” The hands and foot are part of one greater being. At some stage in your evolution you began to ask the hard question such as, “Why should I put myself above all else? Can I really be happy if others are suffering, especially if I am adding to that suffering?”

When these questions began to arise, a new type of stress was added, that of self-judgment. But you still hadn't learned how to deal with any of this. The self-judgment was treated in the same confrontational way as another person's aggression. “Kill it! Destroy it! Get rid of it!” As soon as you move into that mode of being, your body tenses and holds on to the tension. It creates very real physical distortion such as headache or backache.

Q, I would ask you to reread the stanza that Barbara read at the beginning of my talk, it is stanza 2 I believe, on the page marked, under “Meditation.” He is not suggesting the need to escape into some place that is free of stress so much as to understand the relationship with that stress in your own mind. I pause.

Q: (reading): “In solitude the mind and body are not troubled by distraction. Therefore leave this worldly life and totally abandon mental wandering.”

Aaron: I am Aaron. That is not a perfect translation. “ ... totally abandon mental wandering ... “ rather, totally abandon the confrontational stance with experience and the kind of wandering mind which is manifestation of the resistance and fear with which you experience yourself in confrontation. “Leave this worldly life ... “ I do not mean, read that as literally pick up and go and find a quiet place physically, so much as leave the frame of mind which is worldly life, which to me is very specifically this confrontational stance. What is the opposite of worldly life? Centered life. That which knows it is in connection with everything, so there is nothing with which to be in confrontation.

This is truly the work of your lives, all of you in this room, at this stage in your spiritual practice and growth. It is a slow process of retraining. One could liken it to, if you had been paralyzed all of your life, could really not walk across the room and get yourself a glass of water or reach your arm out or bend your body. It would seem very difficult to get what you wanted. If suddenly you were cured and discovered, “Ah, I can move! I can move anything any way I wish!” the old habit would still hang on for a long time. Crying to others for help. Feeling immobilized, powerless, and afraid. Each time that you wanted that glass of water and began to cry out, “Somebody help me!” you would need to remind yourself, “This is not how it is any more. I can do this for myself.” How many times would you need to remind yourself before you let go of that old habit of helplessness, limitedness, and fear.

Your spiritual practice is like that. You are not becoming whole, you have always been whole, but you have not realized it. Your practices are growing into the awareness of your wholeness, unlimitedness, and divinity, and of your infinite power. Every catalyst in your life offers you the opportunity to practice. You practice every time there is contraction, if you observe this, what I call confrontational stance, and simply ask yourself, “Do I need to do it this way?

Can I release it? Not get rid of, release this contraction? As I do release it, what do I experience?” You must look deeply. This wholeness has been hidden for so many centuries, so many lifetimes. But it's there.

Every confrontation is a gift. The harder the confrontation, the greater the gift. If you cannot stay fully open, present, and aware of your wholeness, that's fine. It's not a problem if you can't. That's just another kind of a catalyst. Does judgment arise because you can't? Feeling closed and separate. That's just another push.

Pain in the physical body. Today Barbara and myself were privileged to spend an afternoon with a very wonderful woman. This woman had suffered a major physical trauma. You don't need to know the details, but through an accident, a certain portion of the main structure of the body was broken. She had many surgeries which had allowed her some degree of motion but has tremendous pain, so that she is totally disabled, one might say, and in constant pain. I would have to state that she is one of the most open-hearted, loving, and delightful beings that I have met on any plane. She is new to the conscious practice of drawing this catalyst into herself as a tool for learning, and yet totally aware on a much deeper level. What I said to her stirred her own deep wisdom and memories. Her question to me was not “How do I get rid of this pain?” but, “This pain seems to be a given in my life. It must be here to teach me something. How do I learn?” My primary instruction to her is very connected with what I have just done with you. I pointed out to her a time when her body was opened and relaxed. Then, later, pointed out a time when she created a certain tension through her own self-judgment and how she carried that tension in her body and how it enhanced the pain. I asked her to see how that pain and her level of pain could give her constant feedback as to whether the heart was open, or whether there was self-judgment. And we talked about the learning of unconditional love.

Your bodies offer you such wonderful feedback if you keep checking in with your body, not only in meditation but throughout the day, simply noticing the difference between open and contracted. Do it 100 times a day. Then you will start to see how you move into the contracted state, the kinds of thoughts and physical situations that accompany the contracted state, and to understand you have a choice. The old fear-oriented small self clings to that contracted state because within that contraction comes a sense of power, control, safety. What does it mean to surrender the contraction, to surrender the armor? What happens in the heart when there's even the slightest surrender of that armor?

This, my dear ones, is your entire incarnate process. This is your pathway to return to the enactment of your divinity. It's not that there will not be contraction, it's simply that each contraction is not greeted as another push, another opponent, but as another reminder, “Come home!” Again and again and 1000 times again. “Come home to who you are.”

This talk is preliminary to the Awakened Heart talk on meditation next week. This state of awareness of openness and contractedness, and the realization that one has a choice, is really preliminary to that form of meditation which is offered from a place of love rather than that which is offered as simply another “fix-it” technique. That is something I will address in the talk on meditation next week. That is all.

Q: I've been reading Sharon Salzburg's book, Lovingkindness, and I'm at the point where she's asking one to meditate on happiness. And I wonder if Aaron might talk about what happiness is. Where do we find it?

Aaron: I am Aaron. To me, happiness is synonymous with peace. It's easier to define non-happiness than to define happiness. Happiness is, I would not say an absence of fear but an absence of need to get in a relationship with fear. It's not an absence of pain but an absence of any need to get entangled in any conflict with pain. Happiness does not come to you because dear friends are present or warmth or comfort or good food. One can be happy when one is alone, cold, or uncomfortable, because there can be a spaciousness which does not need to wage war with those external events in one's life. At that level there is a deep peace. And that peace, to me, includes happiness.

Happiness and joy are not the same thing. Joy also does not relate to riding on a roller coaster or eating an ice cream sundae or holding the hand of your beloved. There may be joy experienced at those times, but the joy is not because you are having that experience. The joy is because with the wonder of that moment you are fully present. Joy is your natural state, and when you are fully present, you experience intense joy. There you are, feeling such joy, holding the hand of your loved one, and suddenly you glimpse a clock and you realize it's almost time for the plane to leave. She's going thousands of miles away(clap) Where's your joy? In that moment the heart closes in fear. “Will I be safe? Will I be okay?” It is not sadness but fear, that closes the heart. Then, because the heart is closed, you separate yourself a bit from the experience, you are not present any more. And then there's no more joy.

Can there be either joy or happiness through the moment when the loved one climbs onto the plane to depart if that heart is present and open? I think there can be both. Happiness is the quality of peace and joy is the conscious experience of happiness, a peace that knows that no matter where this beloved goes, I cannot lose him or her. There's no fear. There's a spaciousness that accepts the situation, feels peace about it rather than at war with it. So there's an abiding sense of happiness. And as you experience that spaciousness of happiness, that in itself is the joy which emanates from the happiness. Does that answer your question? I pause.

Q: Would Aaron relate, then, the state of bliss to joy and happiness?

Aaron: I am Aaron. Here we're dealing with subtle semantic values of words, I cannot give you a dictionary definition, only the way I personally understand this word. Bliss is not really experienced on the relative plane. Joy and happiness are experienced on the relative plane. Bliss is more of an ultimate plane experience. Please remember here that the relative rests in the Ultimate, so any Ultimate experience is also known on the relative plane. Bliss may come when the heart is fully open and present and you are resting deeply in that state of pure awareness mind, seeing the arisings of the relative plane but not caught up in them at all. Or, bliss may arise when you are resting on the ultimate plane and oblivious to the occurrences of the relative plane. That oblivion can be borne of a presence which has transcended the relative or it can be borne of a denial of the relative. So bliss is tricky. At times it's a full presence and at times it can be fruit of an escape. I pause.

Q: How can we tell if it is an escape or if it is not an escape?

Aaron: I am Aaron. How can you tell if it is escape or presence? Bring it back to the relative plane. If you're in meditation, experiencing bliss, simply bring in mental noting and note, “Here is bliss, here is bliss.” Does it shatter when you note it or does it maintain itself? If it shatters, then you were in some altered state, separated from relative reality. If it maintains itself as you bring it back to relative reality by the use of mental noting with the conscious mind, then you are finding a place of balance, where there is presence and in which bliss is the fruition of happiness and joy. In the Sanskrit language, there are separate words for these 2 states of bliss. In your language there is only the word bliss. I pause.

Q: I don't understand why with bliss you may be in an altered state.

Aaron: I am Aaron. One moment ... What I offer here is an extreme hypothetical example. Imagine while you're climbing a mountain, you become lost in a blizzard, are sitting in the snow and your feet becoming frostbitten, literally, numb and frozen. The pain is excruciating. You move into a meditation of intense concentration following the breath. Through that level of meditative absorption, you enter an altered state of bliss in which you seemingly withdraw from the conditions of the body. It is not that there is non-attachment, it's not that there's not aversion to pain, there is simply withdrawal into an altered state which escapes the pain. There you find bliss. You don't dare to come back to the experience of the body.

Some people with whom I have talked have reported moving into that state when in the dentist's chair. Even though there's not severe pain there's still attention and fear of pain. You quite literally move out of your bodies and some of you have told me you have quite blissful experiences. But it is a bliss gained through non-presence.

On the other hand we have that fully-realized being who feels his toes freezing, experiences the excruciating pain, understands that in this totally blinding blizzard there is really no place he can go and nothing he can do. He has no matches, no more clothes, he's already built a bit of a snow cave around him. There's nothing left. Fully present with the experience of the pain, the helplessness, the fear, he transcends all that and enters into a place of profound peace which realizes, this too is okay. It is Ram Dass's “Ah, so” that we talked about some weeks ago.

At first with that realization, there's happiness, then increasing joy and finally bliss. But it is a bliss that does not exclude any relative reality experience. So in this way, bliss is the fruition of equanimity. The other kind of bliss is simply a hiding place, easily shattered. True bliss cannot be shattered. But in the moment of experiencing, they may feel very similar. You can always test it simply by coming back to relative reality enough to offer that test through the noting process, noting “Bliss, bliss,” just that. Does it shatter or does it stay? Note if it's pleasant. If it's pleasant, note it's pleasantness. Note how the bliss is being experienced in the physical body. If it doesn't shatter, it is true bliss.

The teachings define many states such as joy, bliss, and rapture, and talk about the physical phenomena experienced in these states. One may move through happiness, joy, bliss and rapture, and on into a different level of peace than the first peace. The first peace that I mentioned equated with happiness. It is peace experienced by the relative being still dealing with conditioned realm. The second level of peace that one finds as one breaks through the various levels of experience is a peace of the entry into the unconditioned world. Here it becomes subtle, because resting in the unconditioned realm you are not out of contact with the conditioned realm. It is the phenomena this instrument sometimes talks of experiencing as if there were cornucopia, with the Unconditioned as its deep still core and the whole conditioned realm exploding out. Within this level of peace of which I speak, this higher level of peace, there is the sense of resting within that core, within the Eternal or Unconditioned space. One is not oblivious to the presence of relative reality. One simply sees all of the relative realm exploding out of the Divine. At that level there is nothing to do, nowhere to go. That is a doorway to perfect peace. When everything seems to be in motion, one also rests in the stillness of that core, in absolute cessation. Everything is exploding out but nothing is going anywhere. It's all right there in the core. So that is a level beyond bliss and rapture. I pause.

Barbara: Aaron asks, is that clear? (Yes). He says that is conceptual for you now. Simply test it with this test: if you're feeling any experience like joy or bliss or whatever, note it. If you note it and it goes, then it came from not being present rather than from deep presence. He says, but sometimes in the noting of it, it shatters. What shatters is the concept of joy or bliss that you were holding onto and you find yourself sink immediately right into the real experience of it. He says it would be like sitting and looking at a big picture of the ocean, a great big wall-sized picture. You touch it to see, is it real? And as you touch it your hand goes through it, there's the ocean. So, discovering that it's not real, just in that moment sometimes you can find reality on the other side.

Q: I look forward to doing my work and reconnecting with these experiences.

Q: When you're in a somewhat hostile environment on a daily basis, how do you try to stay open and release contraction?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I don't mean to be facetious here, but all of you are in a somewhat hostile environment on a continual daily basis. By that I mean that there are, on the relative plane, those things that seem to come at you and push you.

Some of them seem bigger than others. You may find that you're able to wade into the ocean when the waves are 2 or 3 feet high, to feel just a tiny tingling of excitement at the size and power of the waves, but not any real fear. You can practice skillfully with such waves. But when the waves loom 5 feet over your heard, it feels unworkable. Since much of your action, and your karma, is habitual, why reinforce the fear based habits by surrounding yourself with that which overwhelms. It is best to practice with the 3 foot waves and build up your ability to work with such catalyst until you're ready for the bigger waves.

I would suggest the practice in your daily life of becoming increasingly aware of tension held in the body using the very neutral term, “contraction.” No judgment about contraction. If you ask for a glass of water and I hand one to you, as your hand reaches out to take it, it contracts. As you draw in a breath and are ready to exhale, when the lungs are full there's a contraction.

This process of opening and contraction, opening and contraction, is as natural as breathing or the flow of the waves upon the shore. So there's no value judgment there when we say “contracting.” You simply bring awareness, “Here is contraction.”

The question is not whether it exists but what you're going to do with it. Am I going to use this contraction to throw me into this confrontational stance or not? With contraction you may note fear is present. Are you going to use fear to push you into this confrontational stance? What if you take a deep breath and simply are present, present with whatever is there? This is the making of spaciousness.

We use a metaphor here, Q, which I believe you have not heard. We talk about being in a box with a tarantula. If you were sitting in a 3x3 foot cardboard box and I placed a tarantula in there with you, I would venture to guess you would be out in a fraction of a second. If your box was about 10 x 10 feet, you might stay there for a breath or two until the creature started to move. But if you were in a box the size of perhaps 30 feet square, no furniture, very open, and I put a tarantula in the far corner, with that spaciousness you'd be able to stay there with it. If it got too close to you, you could pick up and walk to the far side of the box again. Eventually you might actually let it approach you because you would be able to observe it, to note its characteristics and observe this creature is shy and gentle, not vicious, it does not have intention to harm you.

To do this with the small catalysts in your life, you've got to create a bigger container in which you and the catalyst can be together. Your awareness of tension is one of the things which helps create a bigger container. Your deep commitment to finding increased love and harmony in your life helps create that bigger container. Your verified faith through observing what has happened when you've stayed open and uncontracted, which lessons have taught you that it's maybe safe to do that, that helps you to create a bigger container. Through your mindfulness, your presence, through all of these varied tools of morality, of wisdom, of presence, you create a bigger container that allows you to be with this push, to note your own tendency to react to the push, to make the very skillful decision, “I'm not going to run, I'm just going to stay here with it.” Breathe. Offer myself kindness. Acknowledge my fear or discomfort. In those ways I'm going to make a bigger container.

Soon the making of a bigger container becomes an habitual response to that pushing catalyst. Then you can relate to it with much more space and kindness. It really is a very precise process. It begins with either formal meditation practice or what we call mindfulness practice, beginning with a resolve to be present. If it's in sitting meditation, practice presence with a small push such as of a pain in your knee. Discomfort, unpleasant. Feel how your body reacts and wants to fight back. Then for just a minute or two, you'll ask yourself just to be present with the pain and relax, and reassure yourself, “After a few minutes I will stretch my leg,” You can experiment and feel how it feels to be present with push. You do the same thing with an emotion that comes up in meditation, seeing that you can make space and be present with anger, jealousy or confusion. Then when it is stable in your meditation practice you begin to bring it out into the catalysts of daily life. I do not mean by that that you cannot work with it in daily life until you stabilize it in meditation, only you're going to find yourself far more skillful at working with it in daily life once it is stabilized in meditation. Does that sufficiently answer your question, P, or may I speak further? I pause.

(remaining Q&A not yet reviewed)