May 7, 1997 Awakened Heart, Part 7, Being Meditation

97.05.07 WC.doc

Awakened Heart, part 7: May 7th, 1997 Wednesday Night Group

Aaron: I am Aaron. Good evening, and my love to you all. For our new friends I want to offer just a very few minutes of background. There are so many subjects that I could talk to you about. People want to know what the universe is about, who you are, where you came from and where you're going, what is the nature of human experience and what is the reason for human pain and confusion. People want to talk about somewhat esoteric subjects such as simultaneous, non-linear time or black holes. I'm happy to talk about all of these things, but my primary interest is to illuminate the incarnative experience.

You're here, here with your joy and your pain, your clarity and your confusion. How do you live this life with more love, skill, and wisdom? While we do entertain a great many subjects here, the focus of most of my work is on this one question: How do you bring in love where there has previously only been fear? How do you bring in light where there has only been darkness?

I call you “angels in earthsuits.” Each of you has this divine core of your being, the “angel,” and here you are in your earthsuits. Sometimes the earthsuits feel very stiff and unwieldy. You feel trapped in incarnative experience and the angel in you wants to soar out of the body. Sometimes you feel so deeply immersed in the incarnative experience that you get lost in it and forget that you are angels. My hope is to guide you to find a balance. You are neither the angel alone nor the earthsuit alone, but quite literally are this divine energy incarnate into a human body, carrying an emotional and a mental body also. You are all of this.

Through this year, I have been offering a series of talks which I have labelled “Awakened Heart.” The premise for this series is as follows. Some of you for many years have heard me talk about making space for the heavy emotions. A primary emphasis of my teaching has been that it is not bad to feel emotions, that when certain conditions are present, certain emotions will arise. Anger is just energy, for example. If anger arises it's not bad that it arose. Uncomfortable, yes. But you are not bad because anger arose in you. Jealousy, greed, impatience, - all the same. If the conditions are present, the emotion will arise. I teach people to make more space around the emotion so that you do not need to fling it at others, which DOES do harm and for which action you ARE karmically responsible. I also teach you not to suppress it, because its energy solidifies in you, but to figuratively and literally invite it in for tea, just to make space around it, to know that emotion is present and not get into a relationship with it but come back to a place of clarity which observes how it arose and knows that it will pass.

At the beginning of this series of talks I noted that for many years I have been talking about this process of making space around emotions and that emotions will arise if conditions are present for them to arise. I said at that introductory Awakened Heart talk that if you don't want those emotions to arise you must begin to look deeply at the conditions out of which they arise, primarily the conditions of fear, of the illusion of separation, separation from other beings, separation from the divine.

I suggested that evening that through a series of practices and exercises, one could more deeply open to that angel aspect of the self which does not choose to invite in the conditions which give rise to such painful emotion. This is not a “getting rid of “ anything, rather we note that side by side there is the tense and frightened human and there is the innately loving, open-hearted human. You have a choice; you can enact your fear or you can choose to note your fear, to observe that the loving awakened heart is always present, to nurture it and to enact that loving heart. You always have a choice.

We spent several months discussing how to connect with this awakened heart, how to experience it in the self. Then we spent some time talking about how to stabilize that experience. Finally we have come to a series of three talks about how to live from that awakened heart. Several weeks ago I spoke about effort, and emphasized that effort which allows living from that center of awakened heart must come from a place of love and not a place of fear. It's really very simple. You have a choice. We're not expecting you to do away with fear. What is your relationship with fear going to be? Fear is simply a distortion of love. It may be a self-centered kind of love, a confused kind of love. Nevertheless, fear is an expression of love, albeit distorted. Instead of solidifying around the fear and moving off in that fear-based direction, you can choose to find the love out of which the fear expresses.

Love is a big word. What do I mean by love? It's easier to say what love is not than what it is. Love is not attached, by which I mean, there is not a specific object that you love and grasp and cling to. Love is not contracted, it's open, it's spacious, it sees things as they really are. It sees the whole universe as display of the divine, and that everything from the smallest insect to the greatest redwood, from small ant to the human, that everything is an expression of God. Love is non-discriminative. It doesn't choose one object over another but cherishes life in all its myriad form. Love may find an object but that object becomes symbolic of all beings, otherwise it leads you into fear, into clinging. If you love something so that you need to grasp it, that is the distortion of love we call fear. Yes, it's still love, but it is not this divine love of which I now speak.

So I spoke several weeks ago about effort that comes from a place of spaciousness and non-contraction. This effort is the act of will but it is not a will that says “I must” or “I should” or “I should not,” it's not a dictatorial form of the will. It is the innate action and speech of the loving heart. It is the form of will that offers food to a hungry person without thinking, “Should I or shouldn't I?” For example, you may have a very small and hungry child in front of you. You have an apple you're about to bite into when suddenly the child appears and holds out its hand. Love is what prompts you simply to hand the apple to the child, not to look around and say, “Did somebody see? Will I get credit for that?” Not to pat yourself on the back and say, “Look how good I am!.” And also not to “fix” the child. But just because this is what your heart says it needs to be doing. There's absolute clarity. It is yourself that you're giving the apple to, your hungry self. It is all beings who are starving to whom you give the apple. There is also no question “is this skillful? Will I create dependence?” Wisdom knows what to do!

When noting the arising of an emotion such as anger, right effort does not say “You shouldn't be angry.” It doesn't make an effort to stop the anger so much as to allow the anger to remind you to have compassion. Thus, your heavy emotions cease to be a catalyst for hatred, for separation, and they all can become a catalyst for compassion. When anger arises, clearly there's some fear. When you can say kindly to yourself, “feeling fear, feeling fear,” then your very skillful effort is not to make the anger go away so much as to meet lovingly with anger itselff and with the conditions which gave rise to the anger; to attend to the fear, to attend to the pain or sense of separation or whatever condition may be there.

Our talk on right effort dealt with these movements of will, of volition, which effect the mental and emotional bodies. Tonight I want to talk about the second of these supports for living from the open heart: the support of meditation. I am not speaking here of a specific form of meditation. Those who know me know that I do teach a very specific form of meditation, but I am not speaking tonight of meditation as a practice, as a tool. I'm speaking of resting in meditation, of literally being meditation, not doing meditation.

Those of you who are on an ongoing spiritual path have a deep aspiration to purify your energy, to live your lives with more love and with more consciousness. You often have glimpses of the ways that you are unconscious and a negative energy or thought or speech pours out of you because you're not fully present. Then some of you decide to meditate as a way to fix this. You may then approach meditation as a way to move into some alternative space where the loving heart can be attentive and can express the deepest level of the human. But, (there is always a but, isn't there!) can you see how this movement can come from a place of fear? Here is action or thought or speech that you have labelled “bad” and you're going to “fix it” through meditation. It's just another form of control. Certainly it's a more skillful form of control in some ways than it would be to pour out that negative emotion on the world. And yet it is still not coming from the open heart. It is still not expression of the angel in all its purity and clarity but is a fear-based expression. WHO needs to control?

Sometimes those who meditate develop a very powerful concentration. They find the ability to still the mind so if there's anger or other strong emotion arising, then by the force of their meditation practice they literally can still the mind. I do not want to give the suggestion that I consider this bad in any way. I repeat, it is more skillful to still the mind that to erupt with all that emotion. But there's still a doer and you're still escaping into an alternative realm which does not fully embrace the human experience. This you must practice with, you must persevere in your meditation practice. But the goal is not to be a better meditator in terms of learning to control the mind.

The goal, if I speak of a goal at all, is to find that angel within you and learn to rest within that angel, within the experience of that angel in the midst of all the chaos and confusion of your life.

You are not escaping the chaos but finding a place that is so firm, so centered, so wise, so open and loving, that it is non-reactive to chaos. . You are a mountain, immovable in the middle of a flood. You are the firm ground that cannot burn, even amidst the raging forest fire. You are the sea bottom that does not care whether its waves storm 30 feet high in violence or lie relatively still. You find that stability in yourself, that place that does not burn, that cannot be washed away or blown away. This is the meditative heart, the meditative mind. This is what I refer to when I say, “Be meditation.”

One of the roots to being meditation is doing meditation. But people can do meditation for 20 or 30 years and never learn to be meditation. This being of meditation is the second support to living from the clarity of the awakened heart. When you rest there, you are totally unafraid, even when there's fear.

In other words, there is simply observance that fear is arising and there's no fear of the fear. You are totally unconstricted, even when there is tension of constriction in the physical body. When the body contracts in pain there is access to that spaciousness, the heart of the angel, which just says, “Ah, so this is how it is,” breathes a sigh and lets go again and again and again.

You can understand how this being meditation combines with right effort, an effort which comes from that centered place of love and not from the judging and controlling and fearful mind. They're each a part of the other. The more you practice this kind of effort, tensionless effort, the more you will find yourself able to be meditation. The more awareness you have of those times when you are resting in that center, the more awareness you will have to the arising of fear-based effort and the ability to make a choice, “No, I choose not to enact this now.” Fear-based effort is just another cloud passing through, another movement, contraction of the physical and emotional and mental bodies. You rest in that spaciousness and let the fear be.

It is in this spaciousness that you begin to find true wisdom. Wisdom is the topic of the next awakened heart talk. I will not speak deeply of it now. But when the mind is settled, quiet, not trying to fix or change anything, then and only then can you see how things really are. Then and only then can you know who you really are, truly know your divinity and understand that you do have the ability to enact that divinity. Then and only then can you have the kindness to acknowledge that the human will not enact that divinity perfectly, that it will continue to get stuck, and then you can smile at those places where you get stuck instead of hating yourself that this happens. It is all a movement of deepening wisdom and kindness.

This being meditation. There is not one of you in this room who has not experienced this. Each of you at some moment of utter turmoil in your life has experienced even briefly a very deep place of calm. But you have not trained yourself to identify that space of calm and you have not observed that you always have a choice: to move more deeply into that place of calm or to move rapidly around waving your hands and saying, “I don't know what to do! What am I going to do?”

A friend tells a lovely story. Long ago she was in India in a crowded city. She was to attend a week-long meditation retreat led by ther teacher Goenka, starting in a day or two. She was walking in the street when suddenly a young puppy came out into traffic and was hit by a car. It being India where people would hardly look even if it were a human who was hit, (I did not mean that as a slight on India, simply the culture is such that the cycle of life and death are taken much more calmly and naturally) so nobody moved to help this puppy. She picked it up and it bled all over her. She was frantic. The puppy was yelping. She said aloud, “I don't know what to do! I don't know what to do!”

Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder, just touching very gently, present, and a soft voice that said, “You do know what to do.” He only said it once, “You do know what to do.” She looked into the face, looked into the eyes, a quick glimpse, and then she said to him, “Yes, I do know what to do.” She realized she did. She only had to be reminded, he didn't have to tell her what to do, she knew what to do. She had to be reminded, “I do know what to do.” Fear is strong and you are addicted to fear. It gives you a sense of some kind of control to run around screaming, “I don't know what to do!” At least that seems to be doing something. It's a way of dealing with the tension of fear. It's a way of dealing with that aspect of your being that is afraid to be responsible.

If I could put my hands on all of your shoulders that way and say it to you, “You do know what to do. You always know what to do.” She realized that a puppy that young must have a mother nearby. She looked for a few minutes and found the mother. She led the mother away from the road behind a fence and laid the puppy at the mother's side. The mother cleaned the puppy's wounds with her tongue while the puppy began to nurse. She knew just what to do. That moment, hearing this man say, “You do know what to do,” and realizing she did, in that moment she was being meditation. She was right there, fully present with her fear, with her pain and the puppy's pain, with her anger to the driver, her anger at the culture that would let a puppy bleed to death on a curb. She was right there and present with it all and instead of it leading her deeper into separation and hatred, it led her deeper into compassion, into connection with the angel within her, and from that place of clarity she knew just what to do. Meditation is not separate from the world. It is out of meditation that you do know what to do, out of that clarity and love.

A wonderful side-note on this story. Two days later she went to the address for the meditation retreat, sat in the room with a group of people and then the teacher walked in and everybody bowed. And she looked up with some wonder because it was Mr. You-Do-Know-What-To-Do! The very same person, Goenka himself.

You do know what to do. Love knows what to do. Fear is not sure it's able to be that responsible. Fear wants to run around and say, “Help me! Help me!” Here is where meditation and effort come together and lead you directly into the awakened heart. I thank you for your attention. I pause here and will be very happy to hear your questions. That is all.

Barbara: Aaron would like to hear your questions.

Q: Are Aaron's talks on effort, meditation and wisdom part of the traditional bodhicitta teachings?

Barbara: Yes. Aaron says but his talk on meditation has very little to do with Shantideva's poem. Aaron has been talking, not as a commentary to the poem but simply using the chapter headings of the poem as a guideline to talk about a similar subject, which is the awakened heart. In Shantideva's poem he talks about effort, meditation and wisdom as the supports for living from the awakened heart. But what he says about meditation is very different from what Aaron has said.

I'm paraphrasing Aaron now. Shantideva basically does talk about meditation as needing to be from a place of love rather than fear but he talks about it in much more technical terms. Aaron says his wish is to make it applicable to all people so he's translating it out of the Buddhist idiom which Shantideva offered.

Q: I was going to ask, does Shantideva talk about being meditation, but I think that probably he does, even if he does not use the term.

Barbara: Aaron says precisely. He talks about it in technical Buddhist terms with a very specific Buddhist devotional meditation practice and so on. But he's talking about the same essential experience of coming to that place of love where one is a meditation rather than is grasping at the meditative mind as an escape from pain.

Q: When there is confusion over an issue in your life and you use meditation to get clarity, that is not the same as grasping at meditation to make it all better.

(remaining discussion has not yet been reviewed)