December 17, 1997 Wednesday Night, Aaron's Christmas Stories

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. My plan to tell a Christmas story tonight is of no surprise to any of you and I know needs no introduction.

This instrument once asked me, "Aaron, are you going to run out of stories?" because of course I was not constantly with this man, in fact, very infrequently, and she feared they would be limited. But I don't think I will run out of stories. Only, they become a bit more subtle.

I have talked to you of the way he taught people, the way he was in his daily being. To be in the presence of a truly enlightened being is a great gift. We think of the Buddha as being enlightened because there is the story of his enlightenment. The one you know as Jesus did not move through that enlightenment process in his lifetime as Jesus but came back into incarnation after enlightenment in a prior lifetime. The path he took to his enlightenment was not identical to the Buddha's path but his realization was no less profound, nor was his spiritual mastery.

It seemed to me and to many others that he was Kindness personified. When I said that once to this instrument, she asked, "Was he ever angry?" Here you must understand that there are two bases for anger. One is a fear-based anger which comes from the ego and is based on the ego's desire to protect the self, to gain for the self. The other is a love-based anger. Anger is almost not the correct word for it; rather, it's a profound sadness which gives rise to energy, as opposed to a dulling sadness which brings despair. It's a sadness which inspires energetic action. It is not a sadness that blames another because compassion is so present. Nevertheless it aspires to touch that which is distorted and bring it back into balance.

You have heard me talk of the tripod of moral awareness (sila), concentration (samadhi), and wisdom (panna) and how the three move in a spiral, each one serving as cause for the arising of the next one. When there is a moral awareness that understands that self and other are not separate, then there is a kind of restraint to your actions. Even if anger arises, there is a restraint that prevents you from vocalizing or acting upon that anger in ways that would be harmful to another. On the basis of that restraint, there is some lightening of the being, a spaciousness which understands how these thoughts of anger have come into the mind because causes were present for them, and sees the whole situation with increasing compassion. The compassionate heart-mind knows it can be patient and does not have to act out that anger in harmful ways. This lightening leads into a deepening of happiness, a serenity in which deeper concentration becomes possible. You are able more fully to be present in each moment, and in that presence, greater wisdom arises and greater compassion. With compassion, the root causes of anger and greed begin to fall away and as equanimity deepens, anger and greed do indeed fall away. And one does reach that stage of full realization.

The being that I was in that lifetime was at the restraint stage. I could see my anger arise, could restrain myself. I felt a certain deep peace. But I was, as this instrument might put it, clueless about what to do with that anger, how to bring it into being as useful energy without creating harm by it.

One day I was with the man you know as Jesus and a group of other men, perhaps a dozen of us. You all know the story told in the scriptures of Jesus standing near the woman who was about to be stoned, and his words, "Let those among you who are without fault throw the first stone." The story I tell you here came before that. We sat beside a cooking fire by the home of one of his followers in that town. Suddenly, there was shouting, screams, anger. He arose abruptly and we of course all arose with him. To this day I do not know precisely what the woman had done but there on the ground was a woman and they were stoning her. She was bleeding. She was unconscious. A large cut showed that a stone had hit her head.

I don't think I'd ever seen an expression on a face quite like the one he gave at that moment. There was anger. There was compassion. There was sadness. He didn't know this woman, didn't know any of the people gathered around her. He simply walked in and said, "Are you finished?" Quietly, "Are you finished?" and looked many of them in the eyes. He knelt down to this woman but she was already dead. He simply sat there and wept. A quiet weeping. No vocalization but tears running down his face.

I did not understand his sorrow then. I thought he simply wept for her because she was young and beautiful and her life had been cut short in such a violent way. It seemed strange to me then because he did not know her. It was not until much later that I realized that he wept for all of us; for human passions that can so violate another's being; for human fear and hatred. And he wept for himself, I believe, for the fact that although he had come to teach love, he could not prevent human suffering and the acting out of the fear-based emotions. He understood that he could only begin the process, a process that would take millennia. And I think that is why he wept.

One other time I saw him weep thus but there was more anger in his response. This was in my village. When I say "my village," I lived in the country but this was a village near my home. It was the only time that he came through that village, a very joyous time for me because it gave my entire family the opportunity to meet him.

There was a young man in the village who was deaf and mute. He was a simple man, really a boy in his teens. Those who knew him knew he had a loving heart, but many made fun of him. The village had a central square, a marketplace. As we walked into the square from one side, we became aware of crying, a soft cry. And there across the square was a small child, dirty, disheveled. She was making signs that she wanted something to eat, pointing to food. I am sorry to say that nobody was paying attention to her except for this one young man. He saw her hunger. He walked to a stall where a merchant was selling fruit, simply took a piece, took it and walked to the child with it and handed it to her. He was deaf, remember. He didn't hear what happened as he turned his back on the merchant. The merchant had known this boy most of his life. He knew he was deaf, but he yelled, "Stop, thief!" Of course the young man did not stop. He handed the fruit to the child. The child's face lit up. The merchants came out from their stalls. Some few of them did not know him. But most of them did. They had sticks and they began to beat him.

By the time we could push our way through the crowd, this boy was severely beaten. Jesus said in a voice that I'd never heard from him before, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?" The power in his voice stopped everybody short. They were ashamed of themselves. A dozen men attacking a boy, a teenager not full-grown, and in no way able to defend himself. One spoke up, "It is the law. He stole. He's done it before." Jesus said in the same commanding voice, "IT IS ALSO THE LAW: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. HE IS YOUR CHILD AND SHE IS YOUR CHILD." I cannot imitate his voice. It was controlled but I could feel the anger in it. And in that anger, again, the sorrow, the compassion, the clarity that they had acted as they had to act. When a two year old snatches a toy away from another two year old, you stop that snatching. You tell the snatcher, "No, you may not do that." But you understand that he does not yet know any better and he will probably have to pull toys away from others many more times before he learns to take care of others and not to take what doesn't belong to him.

Written on his face was all of that, his sorrow and his compassionate understanding that these were infants around him. Again, I got a sense of his own realization of his limitations. I said to you that my stories become more subtle. Of course he was not limited. He had immense power and could have used that power if he wished. But he would not violate another's free will. He understood that they had to learn kindness by themselves; that he could serve as guide but he could not do it for them. On his face was etched the dilemma, the acknowledgment to himself of his infinite power and the acknowledgment that he could not change the way things were right here, that any changes that he made are those that would be seeds that would take fruit many, many, many centuries down the road.

He sat down and held the boy in his arms, his tears running down his face. He did not speak again. He looked up at the men and I could see that within him that wanted to speak. I knew there was really nothing to say. I know he had a miraculous power and I believe that he could have saved that boy's life. I think that he understood that much as he eventually himself needed to die, to be crucified as part of his instruction while in incarnation, that this boy also was giving his life in this way as teacher to others. He saw that the boy's death would have a much more profound effect upon these men than they would experience if he worked a miracle and revived him. So he sat and cradled him and we stood there and watched him die.

The little girl meanwhile had finished her fruit and came over. She was perhaps two. He looked at the men and asked, "Does no one know this child?" They said yes, she was the baby of such and such.

"Where are the parents?"

"The mother died. The father cares for her."

"Where is the father?"

Again I could feel his anger growing. And yet, it was a controlled and compassionate anger, one with a purpose: to lead these men to a deeper wisdom and a deeper compassion.

He asked in a very quiet voice, "Would this baby normally be here alone and hungry? Was there none among you except this young man who realized that she was in some kind of difficulty?" It is the only time I ever heard him speak in a way to create a sense of shame to people. I do not think it was his anger talking; in fact, I am certain it was not. But he was asking them to reflect more deeply on how they had reacted and killed, how they had moved from their own anger and hastiness, without reflection or restraint. Several detached themselves from the group and went to the father's house which was in the village. There they found the man lying with a broken leg. He had fallen down a ladder. He was in his cellar.

How do we teach another to wake up? The enlightened teacher has his own methods. He always knows just what the other needs. It is not that he does not experience emotion so much as that emotion is not what drives him. He understands how it arises and lets it pass by. What drives him is a generosity of spirit, a willingness to give everything of himself to others.

There is absolute clarity that anger can be a catalyst for compassion, that it can lead to clear, direct statement of truth, offered with no intention to harm but also with no intention to let oneself be damaged by another. And yet for the enlightened being there is also the clarity that each being must resolve its own karma. One can only point the way. Then one must step back and allow freedom of choice.

While he was enlightened, he did not come knowing the best way to teach. Through the years that I knew him, I watched him evolve a clearer teaching style. I watched him come to understand more deeply what it means to allow another to make their own mistakes. Certainly we try to help prevent those mistakes if they can be prevented; to intervene if one is about to hit another, for example. What if the deed has already been done? What good is anger then? The question is not how to punish the one who has acted violently. The question is how to teach that one. And if anger is present within, what to do with that anger so it does not become a force for wrongful action, word or thought. The answer to both questions is non-judgment.

This is one thing I learned from him beyond anything else: non-judgment. To be with a being who is totally non-judgmental is a profound experience and that cannot help but rub off. So many times judgment arose in me and then I observed him respond in a deeply compassionate and non-judgmental way which nevertheless said, "You may not pursue this violence to another." He never said, "You're bad." He simply said, "You may not. Look at the roots of your anger." And he said it with so much love and so much understanding that the one who was asked to look did not feel threatened but deeply loved.

I am glad to be able to tell you that after he left our village, there was much change. This child, this baby, was taken in by a loving family along with her father, something that never could have happened before. His family would have cared for him but he had no family. People before would simply have turned their backs. So this was a process of waking people up. The baby became the entire village's baby. In fact, she called the whole village "Mama" and "Dada." Everywhere she went people hugged her and fed her. After her father's leg was mended they continued to live with this large family at the family's invitation. They said to the father, "You cannot be away at work and care for this daughter. Leave her here and we will care for her."

He said, "No, I need her with me. I love her. She is all that is left of her mother, whom I loved."

They said, "You stay too."

I'm not suggesting that there was no generosity of spirit. Such generosity of spirit is always present but sometimes it's sleeping. His presence awakened it, not only in that situation but wherever he went.

There are three different kinds of giving. If I have two apples and one is shinier and richer than the other, the second has some brown spots, if you ask me, "May I have an apple?" I can give you the defective apple. It's still edible. I don't have to give anything. So there's a certain kind of generosity to giving you even this slightly wormy apple. In the second level of giving, I look at the two apples and give you the better apple. In the third level of giving, I give it all to you. I know that if I need an apple, somebody will give one to me. You may choose to give one back to me. But I don't keep anything for myself.

This level of giving requires a great awareness of fear. It requires having done much prior work with fear. It must never come from a voice that says "I should give it all." It must never come from a voice that says, "I want others to respect me or love me and so I will give it all in order to get something, to get love and respect." Rather, it comes almost without thought. It comes from a clarity where giving of oneself becomes a reflex.

I have told you several stories through the years, other ways that he gave. But I would add one more, more subtle story here.

We were walking in an area which was arid. I want to remind you here, when I talk about walking with him, I was not one of his disciples. I was not constantly with him. It was a great gift to have a day or two here and there in which I might be with him. We had water with us and a small bit of food. Also, some cloth that we could set up as a shelter against the hot sun of mid-day. For to be out in the open in that hot sun could truly kill a man. The dwellings were far apart where we walked.

We had no beasts with us; each man carried his own few possessions, a bit of communal food, some containers for water. We were attacked by bandits. They did not know who he was. We had very little for them to take but they took it all, or almost all. They left us one jug of water, just a small container, perhaps about like your quart container. It was enough that they need not acknowledge they had left us waterless, which was akin to murder. But there were four of us. They took our shelter, they took our cloaks, they took our food, they took the rest of our water. We walked on after they left, but it became clear there was no dwelling, shelter or water source. We decided to burrow down into the sand as best we could to give ourselves some shelter from the mid-day heat. And so we slept awhile.

When we awoke it was late afternoon. We could barely talk, we were so thirsty. We knew that we might need to walk a long way through the night, that if we walked all night we would reach a dwelling and be given food and water. But it would be an arduous walk. We passed the water around and each took a sip. And we began to walk.

We had walked for perhaps an hour when there was a bleating noise, a goat. A goat? Here? In this wilderness? Around a pile of scrubby brush and sand we found a she-goat who had just given birth. She must have been lost from a flock and been wandering and here was her infant. It was nudged up close to her and nursing, and miraculously she did have milk for it, although she, herself, must have suffered terribly from thirst.

Most men would have made a choice that said, we humans are of more value than a goat. They would have said, "The goat has come to us to save us." They would have killed the goat, drank its blood, eaten its meat, or killed the baby and taken its milk. He looked at the goat and he looked at us. He did not ask us to give the goat our water. He simply looked at the jug and said, "I wish to give it my share of the water." We knew him well enough to know that he was not pushing us to follow, that he would not think less of us if we did not also give. And we also knew him well enough to know that he was not promising we would survive that night without water. Yes, he could do miracles. He could have brought us water there. The question was not to survive, the question was to learn, to learn to have faith, that if we could offer this selfless gift, truly the abundance of the universe would be available to us, and that whether we lived or died was quite secondary. It was clear that what was necessary was to support this life and there was simply no question in his mind that this is what had to be done.

So we all gave the goat our water. It revived a bit. One of us carried the kid and another helped support the goat to stand. Alternately it walked and we carried it. It was this conviction in him to offer himself freely in whatever way he could to where there was suffering, to hold nothing back, and to trust God, that was so powerful for me. It was this deep-seated love and faith that spoke so deeply to my own fear. No words he could have said, no lecture he could have offered would have taught me. I had to walk the road, to see how it felt to let go of fear.

I knew at some level that if water did not appear, he was not going to save us. That may sound cruel to you. But the lesson was that it's okay to give everything regardless of the consequences. This is unconditional giving. He could not then lift consequences of our choice from us. I understand that you must be practical in your lives. For instance, this instrument owns a house. She does not need to give her house away to the homeless of Ann Arbor. It's fine to keep your house, to keep the food that you need and the clothes on your back. But each being must investigate for himself, "Where am I hoarding out of fear?" There is truly very little chance that we would die that night, because we did know that we would come to a village by morning. We knew it would be hard. We knew the water would have made it easier. There was no guarantee. But we all did know the countryside and did know where we were. I don't think he would have asked it of us, if our giving the water to the goat would have meant certain death for ourselves. But he didn't say that. He didn't even ask it of us, he just gave his example.

What does faith mean? And how can you deepen your own faith in the course of your everyday life? What opportunities does life offer you to give more graciously of yourselves?

I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to the universe for the opportunity I was given in that lifetime to walk occasionally by the side of this man and to learn from him. And I am grateful that I was awake enough to be able to learn from what he offered. For that I respect and honor myself.

One way that you celebrate his birth is to exchange gifts between you. I would request you to be mindful as you exchange these gifts. You don't have to give your whole house and all of your bank account in order to find this total giving. It is a state of mind. Investigate as you offer a gift: is it given with true joy and a sense of love for the recipient, with deep desire that that recipient rejoice in this gift? Or is it given with some sense of fear and wonder, "What will I get back?" If that fear is present, do not castigate yourself for it. But simply acknowledge that fear is present and offer yourself love in response to that fear. Work with lovingkindness, "May I be happy. May my needs be met. May I experience safety and ease of being." Acknowledge the desire to be safe. Until you can acknowledge that desire in yourself, you cannot acknowledge it in others. Then offer the same wishes for others. Until you can acknowledge fear in others you cannot do other than judge others when they act upon their fear. And your judgment will never lead them to the growth that lovingkindness and compassion can offer.

Whatever you may be celebrating this season, I wish you happiness and a new year of fulfillment, clarity, and peace. My love to you all. I would be glad to speak to your questions after your break. That is all.

Barbara: C1 said that she was confused because Aaron said that Jesus did not become enlightened during the lifetime he was Jesus but in a previous lifetime. Aaron says he was simply trying to make the point that we don't think of him specifically as enlightened in the way we think of the Buddha as enlightened because we are aware of the Buddha's enlightenment. But that everything this man did, it came from the same clarity of enlightened mind.

(Mention of treats waiting for everyone during the break.)


Barbara: If we can tear ourselves away from the fudge and cookies, do we have questions? Aaron asks, do you have any questions about his story, did it bring up any questions for you, both the issue of anger as energy and allowing anger to move through you and be transmuted into clear energy. And the questions of giving or anything else.

V: It is very hard for me when I allow anger to move through me to then be clear about when I am then acting from the anger or when I am transmuting it into something else.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Think of anger, V, as having a sticky side and a non-sticky side. When the sticky side is turned out, everything seems to grab hold of the anger and attach itself to it so that what moves through you under the guise of anger is fear, disappointment, expectations, old conditioning and so forth. These are not the anger, they are the things that have gotten appended to the anger. Anger itself is just energy.

When we speak about the liberated being moving beyond anger, the point I hoped to make tonight was that the liberated being does not move beyond the experience of anger so much as he or she moves beyond the adhesive quality of anger. Then the anger is clear. Of course, that's not where you are and that's fine.

The reason you have trouble with anger is because you have a concept of where you think you should be with your anger, and you're not there. Instead of experiencing the anger and the appendages, each one clearly seen in this present moment, you get lost in the thought of either getting rid of the anger or that in some way you "should" be able to channel the anger in ways I have just described. But it's a process and the result will not come until the intermediary steps are taken. You can open the faucet of a hose and go to the other end and open the nozzle, but unless the hose is unkinked, water will not come out and no amount of turning up the faucet or opening the nozzle further is going to entice that water out. First the obstructions in the hose must be cleared away and then the water will naturally flow.

So when you experience anger in this way, this is your opportunity to investigate the obstructions, which are mostly old concepts, to investigate that which has attached itself to the anger, and see through it bit by bit until all you're left with is that flow of pure energy. I pause.

Q: If it's pure energy, it's no longer anger.

Barbara: He says, "But it is a process through which anger dissolves." He asks, conceptually do you understand what he is saying? He says it may be a helpful image to you when you're feeling anger to envision the faucet turned on and instead of running to the other end of the hose to see what's coming out, just slowly to trace the line of the hose and investigate, is there anything stuck here? And slowly work your way to the end, uncovering all the myths that are in the way, any expectations. What's blocking the clarified emergence of this anger?

R: I thought that anger has to do with contraction. Pushing down, and that once the contraction or blockage disappears, is loosened, it's no longer anger.

Aaron: I am Aaron. You are correct, R, it does cease to be anger and English does not have a word for it. It is this movement of the heart that I attempted to describe but which is really quite indescribable. It's a mixture of sadness, equanimity and compassion, and yet entails a firm dedication to not allowing the harm that has grown out of this specific situation to perpetuate itself. That commitment to addressing the various energy contractions of the situation is the transformed surge of energy which we initially called anger. We can only say it is a compassionate energy derivative of anger. I pause.

C1: In polarity therapy the energy which arises from the solar plexus in the third chakra is referred to as fire energy or fiery energy. It is also the source of anger.

Barbara: He says that's perfect except all of the elements are really involved in anger, in this expression of anger that he talks of. Fire is the heart of it but if contains all the elements ...

Aaron:I am Aaron. If it were just fire, then it would probably emerge as anger, explosive anger. The other elements balance it in such a way that it emerges as compassion, patience, endurance and sadness, and energy combined. This is a quality that you can see in yourselves. It comes up at interesting times, not always times of enormous anger. This instrument this morning was filling the dog's food bowl when the dog nudged her hand and the kernels of dog food fell all over the floor. She was in a hurry. There was one moment of initial contraction and then a spaciousness that smiled at the whole scene, at the fact that she was hurrying, at the need now to pick up all of these bits of food and place them in the dog's bowl, the dog's eagerness for his meal, these feelings of impatience. There was in that moment a tremendous amount of compassion for the human condition, a sense of joy, and it was all born of the energy of that initial moment of anger. You can see this in your lives, more often in the small things like the spilled food than in the major things which do tend to catch you more. I pause.

J: In past meditation classes and private sessions, discussing anger and related energy, I am attempting to clarify the examples I offered from personal experience. I thought that I was clear. Now I feel confused by Aaron's last comment in responding to R specifically, that what now feels like a clarification of his earlier comment; I had understood that anger without attachments is still anger and it is a pure energy, we just label it as anger and it is a powerful force in pure form. What I hear tonight is that is not what has been described.

Barbara: Aaron says we are simply getting subtler about it. Breaking it down from anger into its different components.

J: For me right now, use of labels in the subtle differences is very useful. In watching anger arise within myself, my intention is to note whether or not fear or fear-related pieces hang on. There are times when the anger, or what I describe as anger, feels very clear and I continue to experience confusion: is it old anger with attachments or not? The energy sense is very similar, though different if I am sufficiently aware.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Generally I confine myself to discussions about what you are experiencing, where you each are in your path. Tonight, because I am talking about a spiritual master and what I learned from him, I'm not talking about where you are as humans but about where he was. It is a refinement somewhere down at the end of the path. But I do not tell the stories just to entertain you. I hope that they provide a map which you may pull out someday when it's useful to you. If where you are with anger is simply trying to restrain yourself not to react to that anger but to develop some understanding of what provoked the being who provoked you-to experience some compassion for that being and his or her fears and pain so that you need not be reactive to the provocation of it, but may simply experience the intensity of the anger-that's where you are, that's the work you need to be doing.

So please regard what I have said tonight simply as a map. Take out of it what is useful to you now and leave the rest for another time. Remember that there are different practices, of renunciation of anger, of transformation of it, and of what we may call "self-liberated" anger, knowing it immediately as wisdom. One can not move ahead of oneself.

Anger is essentially a fear-based emotion. It may be very much based on the present moment or it may have many old-mind components which turn it into a kind of rage. If somebody passing by you spills something accidentally, a cup of tea, on your shoulder, anger might arise. "My clothes are dirty. Why was he careless?" There's a contraction of energy and thoughts of anger and wanting to blame, feeling discomfort and so on. But the anger is really right here in the present moment.

If this person habitually pours tea on you (laughter), is truly careless and furthermore when you were a child, adults in your household continually poured beverages, spilled beverages on you (laughter), and didn't even apologize for it, so that there was a sense of being invisible to those adults, not being respected, if all of those old thoughts came into this bit of spilled tea. Then there might emerge an enormous amount of rage.

I'm using these words "rage" and "anger" loosely. We need to call one by one name and one by another name so that we're speaking the same language, so I'm simply choosing the word "rage," I'm not saying this is the word that must be used, but just so we understand each other. We see that rage arises at a point where there is much old-mind involved. With anger there is still separate self and other, even in this present moment, but it doesn't go further. Mind need not obsess in the presence of anger. But it is very difficult not to get caught up in obsessive mind when rage is present. As you begin to investigate the old-mind involved so that it becomes merely anger, it's much easier to restrain yourself from reacting verbally and physically. Nevertheless the feelings are still there. That awareness of anger and its triggers is one step. Awareness of old mind components is another step.

The next step is to create some spaciousness around those feelings. We talk about the contraction of anger and then the secondary contractions, which may be about wanting to get rid of the anger or wanting to attack the catalyst for the anger; whatever these secondary contractions are, we observe how they arise around the experience of anger, and we cease to contract around the contractions, we just notice the entire flow of process. This gives rise to that; that gives rise to this. At this point there is still anger, identified as "anger." There is still a sense of self there, but there is much more spaciousness and no need to react to the anger in any way, just to see it moving through. There is more space for wisdom.

At the point that one has that spaciousness around anger-and I'm using anger here but any heavy emotion such as jealousy or desire could be substituted for it-at the point where one has some spaciousness around it, one might begin to nurture the conditions that lead to a compassion with the anger. Instead of being thought of as "my anger" it's more thought of as a human experience of fear and pain. The heart begins to open in a boundless compassion for all beings who keep being pushed back into this self and its fears. Slowly and with practice, compassion becomes the primary ingredient. You literally create a new habit where instead of the arising of anger leading to various mindstates in which you contract and try to figure out what to do with the anger, how to fix it or blame someone for it or in some other way control it so you don't have to experience it, instead there is the deep willingness to experience the discomfort of this energy, and a profound compassion for all sentient beings which experience this kind of anger, the pain of it. These are the fruits of morality or precept practice, the deep intention to do no harm, and renunciation, the willingness to not feed into old stories, along with a growing recognition of one's true nature as kindness, compassion, love. Here, self and other begin to taper off. The energy of the anger will still be felt. It's transmuted into something different, though. C1's fire element is part of it but I don't want you to think of it just as fire because it's balanced. I can only label it "the compassionate wisdom mind's energy expression resultant from the experience of anger."

Let's use a very simple metaphor. If I pour boiling water into a cup, it will burn you. You cannot put your finger in it, you'll burn. If I take ice cubes and add them to the water, it cools it off. It's the same water. Let's say I had a pot of water; put some on the stove to boil and some other in the freezer to freeze. Then I put them back together, the ice cubes and the boiling water. The ice cubes change the boiling water but there's nothing there but water in different forms.

Anger here is an energy. There is contraction. Mindfulness is the ice cube of presence and awareness, which touches anger energy, but that mindful awareness is also energy. So these two energies of anger and awareness merge, and they create this new expression of, let us simply call it compassionate result of anger. That's a shorthand expression for the lengthy description I gave you earlier. This is really dzogchen practice, the instantaneous liberation of anger into Dharmakaya itself. Does this clarify it a bit for you? I pause.

J: Yes. And there is another piece which may be useful. In the polarity training, an example is offered of using fire to heat an earthen bowl filled with water, turning it to steam. Letting the steam rise to the heart, which then controls the energy.

Q: Aaron often speaks of putting space around the situation and I wonder if you could review the practical techniques of doing that when one is in the clutches of anger. Would you suggest a specific meditation?

Aaron: Basically I could say that Barbara is spending a whole year with the advanced meditation class looking at just this question and the many, many answers to it. There are many tools that you have accumulated that allow spaciousness around any heavy emotion so that you will not be reactive to that heavy emotion. While there is a vast toolbox here, and I hesitate to say one is most important, I think intention is primary, intention to live without harm.

When a heavy emotion has arisen in you, I just said intention is primary but of course there must be awareness, awareness of the whole process of arising and dissolution, awareness of this present moment and the willingness to be in this moment. It's circular: the willingness to be in this moment is dependent upon the intention. If your intention is simply to be safe, to be right, then you may choose not to be in this moment because it demands of you to explore more deeply. So it's circular.

To nurture in your heart, constantly, your innate connection with God and all that is, and your deepest intention to live your lives doing no harm but only good, this intention leads you to investigate what it means to do harm, what it means to offer yourself in service to others. It leads you to investigate the nature of the self and the experiences of that presumed self. Out of the deep-hearted intention to live one's life lovingly with more kindness and wisdom and skill, comes all the rest. So awareness and the nurturing of intention are the places to start.

Through last year I gave the teaching on the Awakened Heart, which I hope will soon be available as a book. This entire chain of perhaps a dozen dharma talks was essentially dedicated to the question, "How do we nurture this intention?" I would refer you particularly to what is called the Seven Step Prayer, which was in the book. Perhaps this instrument can provide you with a copy of it.

You begin to acknowledge that you have a choice and that you are responsible for your choices. You begin to acknowledge that the divine essence is there and, if you allow it, to express that essence. What really allows expression of lovingkindness? If you wish to offer lovingkindness to another and there's simply a thought, "I should offer lovingkindness," well, that's a start. But it comes from a place of judgment. But when you are truly peaceful and happy, and deeply experiencing the interconnection of self and other, then the offering of lovingkindness flows very naturally.

This really comes back to the beginning of my talk tonight, the whole chain of experience. From moral awareness grows deepening awareness of the interdependence of all beings, which leads you into a sense of restraint, into more lightness and happiness and so forth, I won't repeat the whole chain. So these are some of the ways that you can practice. Does this sufficiently answer your question? I pause.

C2: My experience is that when I am in the clutches of anger, it's very difficult if not impossible to become philosophical about my overall intentions, leading a good life. I need some ... I need some quick fix to get to a state where I can offer lovingkindness and compassion.

Aaron: I am Aaron. C2, if you ever were cold and somebody with a pair of tongs offered you a hot coal, if you didn't know what a hot coal was, you might take it. OUCH! You'd drop it. You'd learn that to grab the hot coal, appealing as it may be in this freezing night, is not comfortable, in fact is very painful, and that it does have repercussions, blisters on your hands for example. In the future, nobody needs to tell you, even if you're trembling with cold, "Do not grab the hot coal in your bare hands." You understand that there are consequences. My suggestion to you when you are trembling in that way with that anger, and there is an angry reply looming up in you, a desire to speak out in ways that might hurt another, my suggestion is not philosophical at all, it's on the immediate experience level of the hot coal. Ask yourself, "What are the consequences of this going to be? Is this really what I want to do now? What is my ultimate intention here? Is it to be right, to shame the other? To protect myself? Or is it to create harmony? I have a choice." Which choice leads to harmony? You can even ask in a more self-invested way, "Am I about to burn myself as I attempt to burn another?" It's not a philosophical question, it's very immediate. In your gut you know the answer. It's the simple reminder, "I have a choice and what I choose will have consequences." Begin to rely on past experience, not moving out of touch with the present but simply remembering, "When I grab the hot coal, I get burned. If I throw the hot coal at another, they get burned." I pause.

Barbara: Others?

M: Here goes. I know I am probably way behind where your advanced students are, but I am still having difficulty with getting past judgment. I tend to be very self-critical and self-judgmental. It is all very well to talk about anger but we keep coming back to the first step which seems to be non-judgment, which I do not quite grasp how to get there.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear your question, M. First, please recognize that each of you in this room have different stumbling blocks, such as judgment, jealousy, pride or greed and selfish motivation. Each of you have areas which are more difficult and other areas may not be hard for you. This is not based on degree of training but is simply the individual karma. This is not a problem. If you had no stumbling blocks, no difficult areas, you would not be here in incarnation. Your incarnation is a schoolroom. You're here to learn. The stumbling blocks are the catalysts for your learning. They're tools. You are not here to conquer judgment or jealousy or pride or anger. Do you want an honors certificate at graduation? I'm sorry but there are none. You're here to learn how to use those mindstates to lead you into a deeper spiritual awareness, to lead you into more non-judgmental, unconditional love, beginning with the self.

Each of you is in a different place. None of you in this place are new to spiritual practice but some of you have done more of certain kinds of formal practice than others, and certain formal practices are more viable tools than are others for certain issues. So this is not a matter of somebody being ahead or behind somebody else, it's just a matter of being present where you are, accepting of yourself, knowing that while judgment may be a stumbling block for you, generosity may be no stumbling block at all, and greed may be a stumbling block for somebody else. This is part of the pattern of judgment, by the way, not to recognize this truth but to denigrate the self.

So here you are and judgment, including self-judgment, is an issue. How do we start? You start with simple awareness, being present and noting how often judgment arises. You may begin out of your meditation to reflect on the question, "What does judgment give me? If I were not feeling judgmental right now, what might I be feeling?" As you begin to feel safer asking these questions, you begin to find a softening and spaciousness which is able to acknowledge some of the pain that judgment has protected or seemed to protect you from. As you begin to investigate that pain, and understand it better, judgment ceases to arise as often. You're more able to be present with the pain and let it arise and dissolve without needing to barricade yourself from it with the barrier of judgment.

The process then is first to become aware of the arising of judgment in a spacious way, so that you can see, "Judgment is present and I want to fix the judgment," without needing to jump in and fix it. Just let it be there. What is judgment free of all the stories which arise with it? That's step one.

Step two is to begin to investigate the judgment. "What is it? It's curious. Whenever this happens, the judgment comes up. Whenever that happens, judgment comes up. How fascinating. How curious. What's going on? What is this?" It's the spirit of investigation which you nurture gently and gradually, which allows you to begin to break the judgment into small pieces so it doesn't feel so heavy, so solid. Then you begin to be able to learn and to make choices which do not necessitate the arising of judgment. Awareness is a very beautiful, flowing process. I think it might reassure you to hear some of the others in this room briefly acknowledge that this process has worked for them and how it has. One of the difficulties in the present meditation class divided between the more experienced practitioners and those newer to this form of meditation is that you don't get that feedback from those who have had more experience with meditation. I pause.

Barbara: He asks, does that answer your question or may he speak further on it? He asks would it be helpful for you to hear briefly from someone who has worked with judgment and is experiencing less judgment now than they were at some other time? Anybody willing to talk about that?

It is 10 o'clock, is there anybody who would speak for just two or three minutes on that before we end?

J: It works. For me, speaking about anger, with anger one issue I have been working on and I've gotten to where I can break it down and recognize energy patterns and feel the energy within my body and just invite deepening awareness of that sensitivity so it's further upstream, when pieces start showing up energetically. And to respond and in that process also a sense of judgment, like, "Dammit, I shouldn't be feeling this again, I should be through that, blah blah blah," and sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. And learning to just acknowledge that it's there is sometimes a way of just diffusing the whole thing.

Barbara: Thank you, J.

Q: Judgment is also a form of fear. I don't always remember to use this technique. But it works when I do. And that is to ask myself what is the fear I'm experiencing that I need to make this judgment. It might be a fear that I'm not being treated fairly coming from my own insecurity. And then I can remind myself that I'm a divine child of God and feel better, or it may be a judgment about someone's behavior and I can look inside and ask if some of my behavior is inappropriate. Well, it can go in many directions.

C1: My teacher Marguerite used to just remind us, how would you know if we were feeling judgmental about something, simply she would say to us, "How would you know that that was good or bad? It's God's judgment, not yours." That helped me learn to quiet my own mind.

Barbara: I think there are two issues: the arising of judgment, and the judgments we have around the judgment. It takes a lot of patience and willingness to trust, for somebody who is just beginning to work with this in meditation, that it does open out into spacious mind, but it does. Aaron would like to say one last very brief thing here.

Aaron: I am Aaron. My thanks to you all for allowing me to be a part of your circle tonight. For those of you who celebrate the birth of Jesus, keep in mind that he is but one of many masters who have offered themselves with great generosity and love to the earth plane. Allow it to serve as a reminder to you that you are not alone, that you are loved, and all you need to do is extend your hands and help is available. You are loved. And each of you has within you the same divine essence and the potential to also become a master, offering your own energy back to those who follow you. We each teach and learn. My deepest love to you all, and I wish you a joyful holiday. That is all.