November 17, 1999

Barbara: I believe that Aaron is going to tell some Thanksgiving stories.

KW died last Thursday the 11th, as I mentioned before we began the tape. Aaron had asked me as I was sitting here with my eyes closed getting ready to start the session, what am I grateful for? And I said, 'You, Aaron." So we exchanged gratitudes back and forth a bit. And I mentioned that I was grateful for K. She was part of this work from the very beginning, offered so much loving support through her countless hours of transcribing, her deep questions and her loving presence, did so much work to support getting Aaron's teachings out to people. She was a wonderful friend to many people. I'm grateful that she came through my life. I'd like to dedicate this evening's session to her.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Good evening and my love to you all. Last week I taught you a very specific practice focused on the Mother energy. I asked you to bring your own mother, or if necessary, a mother substitute, to mind, to offer real appreciation for this human's life which she has given you by the very fact that she gave birth to you, or if it's not the literal mother, for the ways she nurtured you. Then deepen your resolve to help her find freedom from suffering and to look at the ways you must do your own work in order to help this person and all beings find freedom from suffering. While of course this being is your mother in this life, countless beings have been your mother. Perhaps even in this room there is somebody who once was your mother. So we see all beings as the mother and offer them gratitude, are deeply aware of their suffering. Even if they have relatively happy lives, they have known of pain and fear and loss. From the goodness of your heart you resolve to help alleviate that suffering, to bring them clarity, the path to true happiness, and whatever else you can give.

This is part of the practice of gratitude, which is what I wish to speak about on this week before you celebrate your holiday of Thanksgiving. This national holiday for most of you has become a feast and football day or weekend. You eat, you enjoy your friends and family. You relax and have an extra day's vacation. But very few of you think deeply about what it means to offer gratitude. You have such rich lives, relatively speaking and based on the planet as a whole. Few in your culture are truly starving. Most have at least minimal medical care. Those of you with the good fortune to have money have excellent medical care. You have a roof over your head, you have heat. Your material lives are so filled with abundance. And you take it for granted.

I have often thought that on Thanksgiving Day, rather than preparing a feast, it might be well if you fasted. Because when you go without, you become more aware of the blessings of what you have. When you fast, you understand that happiness is not based on a full stomach. When your table is laden with food, you often do not think much about the gift of plenty that you've been given, nor about the gift of lack.

'Plenty" is an interesting word. Relative to what? This instrument's grandparents had a humorous story. They had come from Russia. At a time when they were married and well settled in a lovely home, relatives came, immigrants. They offered them a place to sleep and dinner for the night before they went further on their way. The grandmother served food at the table and said, 'Eat! Eat! We have plenty." Then a meat and vegetable course was served, and a salad. 'Eat! We have plenty! Eat! Eat! We have plenty!"

Now these people did not speak English very well but English was spoken at the table. The visitors ate very little. 'Eat! We have plenty!" So the plates were all cleared, the guests having eaten little, and one visitor looked at the grandmother and said, 'Well, where is the 'plenty'? I have been resisting eating too much because I have been saving space for the 'plenty'!"

I tell this story for a reason besides that I find it an enchanting story. Instead of appreciating what you have, so often you wait for what you think will come. And when it comes you don't recognize it. You're still waiting for that plenty to arrive. 'If only I had a new car. If only I had a new computer or a new chair, a new suit. A new boy or girlfriend." But would you recognize it when it comes?

Plenty is here and now in this moment, and it doesn't matter whether you live in luxury or a hovel. What matters is that you recognize your wealth. No matter how ill you are, there are days when you feel better. No matter how little you have to eat, there are moments when you are eating and enjoying delicious food. No matter how lonely, you are still divine, and loved. It's very important to see how you contract, spoiling even that potentially joyful moment. You bite down into the delicious fruit when you are hungry, and instead of totally enjoying that moment, you ask, 'Why didn't I have it yesterday? Will I have it tomorrow?" So fear contracts you and separates you from your appreciation of life.

There is a story told of a man in the time of the Buddha's life. He had heard of this great teacher and he wanted nothing more in life than to meet him. He believed the Buddha, and only the Buddha, could guide him to enlightenment. He traveled and came to a village where there was an inn. Meanwhile another traveler had wandered through the village, a monk, and because the weather was very cold he had sought shelter in a shed of sorts. In that shed there was a warm place to spread out one's robes, and so he had settled there and was meditating, very contented to have been offered this lovely, warm space.

Our traveler came into the inn and asked if there was a room available. 'We're all filled up, sir, but we have a shed and there's just one traveler there. You may sleep there." So he went out to the shed, saw the man sitting and meditating, who in fact was the Buddha. He settled himself and then the Buddha opened his eyes and began to talk to him. Who are you, where are you going? But our traveler thought, 'I do not want to talk to this shabby monk. I am on my way to find the Buddha." And so he didn't talk to him. In fact, the Buddha was radiant, but our traveler's eyes were blinded by his delusion. The Buddha tried several times to initiate a conversation. Perceiving how much this man was suffering, he began to teach him, but the man's mind was closed. He was looking for the Buddha. 'The Buddha will resolve all my suffering." So there he was in the same shed and he never knew the Buddha was there, even though he was right in front of him and talking to him.

How often do you miss the gifts life offers you because you are so fixed on some object, because your mind and heart are closed? Plenty is available; life always brings you what you seek. But you will never see it if you are blinded by fear and delusion.

What do people fear? That they will be hurt; that needs will not be met. And so you fixate on the need rather than seeing the abundance. One does not need many goods to be happy. It is fear that drives most grasping, not need. Without fear, one recognizes the plenty.

My happiest days in many lifetimes were in periods of those lives where I had very little in the way of possessions. I have an extremely joyful memory of living high up on a mountain. People considered me a wise man. I won't say whether I was truly wise or not, but I suppose I was able to offer useful guidance to people. So they climbed up the mountain to see me. And they would ask me, 'Aaron, what do you need? Do you need wood for your fire? Do you need some rice or grain? Maybe some sugar? Would you like some fresh flowers from the garden?" People took wonderful care of me. There was enough. I had two beloved children who I raised on that mountain top, a boy and a girl. Their mother had died when they were babies and so I was both mother and father to them. They did not go to school, there was no such thing as school in your terms, in those days. But I taught them how to milk a goat, how to build a house, how to sing, how to plant and nurture flowers and the small scrubby trees that grew at such a high elevation.

We did not have books so they didn't learn to read but we had many poems that I knew by heart, which I could share with them, and stories, endless stories. So I lived with no money at all, living really by the generosity of our neighbors who felt that what I gave them far exceeded what they gave me. Our lives were extraordinarily peaceful and happy. There was very deep love between us all. Of course, eventually the children grew up and moved off the mountain top to marry and raise their own children, and the old man that I was needed to come down from his mountain top and dwell in the village because I could no longer easily make the climb back and forth. And that was a blessing to me because then, in that twilight of my life, I lived surrounded by people who loved me, who continued to take care of me as I took care of them.

In the spring our field high in the mountain would be filled with the most wonderful display of wildflowers in a true rainbow of colors, all sizes and shapes. There was no authority that said children should be in school. Spring was a time to run in the meadow, to climb up to the highest meadows from which we could see the high peaks, to revel in the sunshine and these lush fields with the snow so recently melted that it still nestled in the shadows. At the end of day we would come back to our very small hut, not a fancy cabin but a one room hut, with our arms filled with wildflowers. These did not grow down in the village so we gathered them together and placed them in water and early the next morning we would travel down the mountain to the village, bringing with us hundreds of flowers to give our friends. And they would give us back the fruits of their gardens and delicious cheeses, fabric for clothes and whatever else we might need.

Besides the beauty of living in the present in that lifetime, there were the great gifts of gratitude and generosity. I cannot remember ever feeling afraid in that lifetime that my needs would not be met. Even when my wife died leaving me with two babies, I was surrounded by loving friends who said, 'Do not worry, Aaron. We will help you with the children." And I knew that they would.

In the coldest winters, when the winds howled around our hut and the snow was deep, friends would make their way up the path with firewood. There was no fear that my needs would not be met. There was no hoarding of what I had, nor did my neighbors hoard. And so we lived this very peaceful life of generosity and gratitude.

Your fear keeps you from generosity and from gratitude. When you are afraid to give, when you cling to what you have and hoard, and somebody gives you a gift you cannot truly be grateful for it. You don't see it for what it is. Instead, you see it as something else to which to cling. As soon as you're given it there's the fear, 'I may lose it," clinging begins and suffering escalates. Or it becomes another object to bolster your self-identity and again you don't see it for what it is, don't simply taste that delicious fruit, for example, but wonder, 'Ah, there are only six pears. Does he not love me enough to give the full dozen?" Fear.

So you cannot appreciate the generosity of your friends and of your universe which always supplies you with what you need. And you cannot allow yourself the experience of gratitude. How sad.

Another very joyful lifetime, one of many lifetimes spent as a monk, I really cannot single out one over another, except that as I matured, as this mind-body karmic stream matured, and fear fell away, I learned to be very present in the moment and satisfied with what I had.

In one particular lifetime, the being I was was raised in a middle class Asian home. There was enough to eat but we were not rich. The father was a merchant. So life was a series of bartering, giving and getting, with an acute awareness on trying to outdo the other, to get more than you gave. That was how I was raised. Then I became a Buddhist monk. My head was shaved, all my possessions given away. And I had nothing but my robes, my alms bowl and a razor. I will never forget the moment of awareness of the freedom that I had then. I was acutely aware in that moment that finally I did not have to worry about bartering, getting the better of others to protect myself, that I was free finally to cherish others, to give everything of myself and know that my needs would be met. So I could toss out this whole system in which I was raised and rest in this freedom of possessionlessness. Everything I needed was available. Once a year the townsfolk gave material for robes. In the morning I would take my alms bowl and it would be filled with food, good food. And in the rainy season there was a shelter. I had sunshine and rain, clear nights with brilliant moon, soft dawns, walking barefoot down quiet lanes with my alms bowl and a deep sense of peace.

In that lifetime I finally learned what gratitude really meant. This was before the mountain lifetime I recounted to you first. Here I learned what gratitude meant, that it was not gratitude for things. Rather, true gratitude is objectless. True gratitude is simply the spaciousness of the open heart, aware of the joy and sorrow of human existence. When I say it is objectless, of course there may be gratitude expressed for a smile or a gift of food or a flower. And these are what they seem: the smile, the food, the flower are objects, but they are more. Grateful for the smile, we can also be grateful for sadness.

In that lifetime I learned that there was no less gratitude for the scowl, for the empty alms bowl, and the dead flower ground into the mud. They touched my heart just as much. I learned not to choose one over the other. This is what I mean by objectless gratitude. I did not need the smile but learned to be open and present with whatever came my way and find beauty in it, find wonder in it, find the gift in it. The deepest gift was freedom from grasping, open hearted presence with things just as they were, and for that gift of freedom I was most grateful.

Here is what I would ask you to do this Thanksgiving. Certainly there is all the beauty in your life for which you are grateful: your beloved friends, the fine material possessions you have that give you comfort, a sturdy roof and a heater that works, warm, soft clothes, delicious things to eat, enjoyable books and other entertainment. It's easy to find gratitude for this. Do so; of course do so. But also, I challenge you here, think of the person who has been most difficult for you in your life and see if you can find some gratitude for that person. Perhaps it is a parent who abandoned you when you were young, or a friend who betrayed you. It's a difficult teaching. What did that person give you? This doesn't justify his having abandoned or betrayed you. But he also gave you a gift. Have you ever thought to thank him for it?

Can you be thankful not only for your good health for which you are rightly grateful but for your illnesses. Can you thank your illness? What about cherished possessions that were lost, can you feel gratitude for that loss? This is a hard teaching. It's about letting go of fear that says, 'I need this and this and this and then I will feel good" and beginning to see the true abundance in your lives, which is not an abundance of material things or loving persons, it's simply an abundance. Joys and sorrows. Pleasure and pain. Gain and loss. All of it to be grateful for.

As I think back over this talk, I'm aware that I may have given the impression in this mountain top lifetime that I was most grateful for the abundance and the love around me. And of course I was grateful for that. But I was also grateful for the lack, for the very simplicity in which we lived. Because in that simplicity there was time to love, and this is the greatest gift, to allow yourself time to love and to live in such ways that the heart is open and accessible to love. Be grateful for your ability to love and for the love you receive, and for all the teachings in your life that have opened your heart to that love. Be grateful for butterflies and children's laughter, and for tears as well. Let your heart open to it all. I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving. That is all.

Barbara: Aaron wants to know how you feel about his challenge these next two weeks not only to feel gratitude for the obvious riches in your life but to nurture gratitude toward those things that have been challenging in your life. He asks, does that seem possible to you?

V: Not this week! Maybe next week!

K: For me it felt completely right. I had not thought of it.

Barbara: Aaron says, 'Right, but hard."

K: His stories about his feelings when he was a monk made it easier to see how to do this.

Barbara: No possessions to get in the way.

K: And also the simplicity that lets you be in touch with every aspect of your experience and gratitude for it.

Barbara: He's been talking a lot to me about gratitude in the past couple of weeks. He made what seemed to me to be a very powerful statement. He said gratitude is the foundation of spiritual life. And I didn't understand that at first, and he said, 'You can't have kindness without gratitude." He said, 'Only with gratitude when you start to recognize that your needs really are constantly being met, can you begin to let go. And in that letting go, you can begin to pay attention to others and develop kindness to yourself without grasping." Questions?

Q: I have two questions. When I feel very deep gratitude, tears come. I cannot hold them back.

Barbara: Aaron says, why would you want to?

Q: I was not sure if there was fear or …

Aaron: I am Aaron. Or the release of fear? Your soul offers tears at times when you are extremely moved. I have seen people scream in terror but I've never seen them weep, just gentle tears flooding the eyes and flowing down the face. This doesn't come from fear. This is the movement of the open heart. There may be grief; grief can give way to such tears. Or there may be joy. I pause.

Q: What is the connection between devotion and gratitude?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I think of devotion as one expression of gratitude. When the heart is open, feeling real joy in the pleasantries and unpleasantries the life has presented, feeling them as gifts, that open heart begins to express a devotion.

I want to phrase this carefully. Devotion, but objectless devotion, is the deep expression of gratitude. There can be devotion offered to someone, to some great teacher, some great saint. This is the heart moving in love, connected to that being, but that devotion opens you to a higher devotion. The saint is seen as the human symbol for the divine spirit which moves through it, and it is that infinite spirit to which you really offer the devotion, not only to the embodiment of the divine spirit but to the spirit itself which is not that saint's spirit, your spirit or anybody's spirit but is simply spirit. Holy spirit.

Feeling such devotion, true gratitude becomes possible because it is a choiceless kind of gratitude, not asking for this or that object or occurrence and then saying thank you for it. Now, that's also gratitude but a lesser gratitude. When I say choiceless gratitude, it is a gratitude that simply expresses thanks. 'Thank you for everything that comes my way which so fulfills me and teaches me, which challenges me and encourages growth, which gives me refuge and a place of rest. All my needs are met. Thank you."

They're very close, the devotional heart and the heart of gratitude, but not the same. I pause.

Barbara: He says you can start at either end and come to the other, but that gratitude is the bigger, devotion is a bit narrower. Others?

Q: How do you keep the mountain top inside when you go to the city?

Aaron: I am Aaron. If you make the mistake of thinking of the mountain top as a specific place, then you can lose it. If you think that the mountain top is only the presence of your loved ones, when they are not there, joy is gone. If you think that the mountain top is only wealth, then when you lose your wealth you suffer. If you think the mountain top is only the clarity and simplicity of that beautiful life, then when you come to the chaotic city, you suffer. But when you understand the true nature of the mountain top, you cannot lose it. The mountain top is not an object, place or situation.

We've been talking of these two terms, essence and persona, the persona being the physical, mental, and emotional bodies, the personality self and human form. The essence is that which cannot be lost, the Unconditioned, the Divine itself. The mountain top is not identical to the essence; rather, coming into that heart of true nature, Christ or Buddha consciousness, one begins to perceive also the true nature of the mountain top. This is the Sambhogakaya, the wealth or transition body. Then you do not mistake the mountain top as part of the conditioned realm or the Unconditioned, but begin to rest in this place of pure awareness, of clarity and unconditional love and know the mountain top as path.

The question is not really how can you take it with you down into the city so much as how can you pull off the filters that distort your vision so that you think you've lost it, because, my dear one, you cannot lose it, the essence; you cannot lose the path. You can only move into a delusion that thinks you've lost it. How to maintain that clarity so that you know that the mountain top is always with you? This is a matter of practice. It starts with simple sitting and meditation and watching how sensations and thoughts and emotions arise, and how they cease. You begin to understand that everything in this conditioned world arises and ceases. You become closer to an observer, a pure awareness mind which watches everything arise and fall away and arise and fall away. At first mind is quite perturbed, thinking it must keep things away that it doesn't want or hold onto what it wants. But eventually you deepen in insight and come into this heart of pure awareness and deep wisdom, which knows that everything that has the nature to arise has the nature to cease and you can't stop it or hold onto it and have no need to do so.

You begin to shake loose from the identity of the physical, emotional and mental bodies as self. If they're not self, what is? What remains? Rest in what remains! When you rest there, there's really no notion of separateness, of 'me" as self. Rather it is a place where, when you are there and I am there, we are in the same place. So your meditation practice introduces you to the whole flow of the conditioned realm, and from there gently guides you into the experience of this Unconditioned. As you practice, it becomes a more stable experience until finally you are able to take it down with you into the city.

To come into the world of difficult situations and pain and chaos, of arising uncomfortable emotions and thoughts, and not get stuck in an identity with them but rest stably in this open heart, not hiding in the open heart from any of these uncomfortable experiences of the incarnation, but also not verbally identified with them, just attending to them as necessary, this is the path. I think here of when this instrument's children were babies. A baby will pull itself to its feet, toddle a step and then plunk! sit down. She didn't worry that they had hurt themselves. She didn't worry that she had to hold them up or that she had to keep them down to keep them safe. But when one went plunk! she would reach out a hand and pat its back. Just smile at it. Attending to it. Not caught up in any myth that she had to do anything to fix it. But present, kindly attending. Of course she was careful this plunk didn't occur at the top of a stairway. The more you can rest in this essence, this mountain top experience, and bring it into your daily life, the less you have to run or hide or fix the difficulties of the daily life. It becomes a very stable place from which you can reach out and pat the back of the one who has stumbled. Just that, with an open heart. I pause.

Barbara: He asks, do you have further question about that? He says it's an ongoing process, that one just begins being present with one's breath and this moment, breathing in and aware of what is in this moment, be it the hornet flying around your head and the buzz and tension, or the butterfly flying around your head and the beauty. Be it the sunshine or the cold sleet falling on you. He says whatever is there, just watch it.

K: I had a question and Aaron in what he just said went a great distance toward answering it. But I would like to ask the question as a question and see if there is more that Aaron would like to say about this.

In teaching this material about spiritual work, where does the teacher start? When Aaron teaches this subject of spiritual work, where is the starting place?

Barbara: Do you mean what motivates him to teach something, as opposed to something different?

K: What are the principles of the order in which it is taught?

Barbara: He says, do you mean, in answering a question how does he formulate what he will say first, and what next, and what next? Or do you mean overall, like what motivated him to speak about gratitude and generosity tonight, for example?

K: Not his motivation, but how would he approach a beginning student? What does the student need to understand first?

Aaron: I am Aaron. Most people come to me either because they are suffering or seeking something. In that seeking there may also be suffering. It does not need to be acute suffering but just a feeling that there must be more to life than this. 'What am I missing?" I like to ask people to ask me questions because when somebody raises a question, that is a statement that they are ready to hear the answer and be responsible for what they hear. If I just talk to them it can so easily become talking at them. So I want to hear, what is most pressing for them? Often it's an area where there's suffering or confusion in their life and that's where we start. If I'm speaking to a group, I would generally begin by speaking about areas where suffering is common, such as fear that one will be hurt or one's needs will not be met, or the deep aspiration to live one's life purely and with love, and the very strong tendency in your culture toward feeling that what you have to give is never enough, toward feeling inadequate in that way. Or even feeling ashamed of the negative thoughts and emotions that arise. These are-I would not call them universal things; suffering certainly is universal, but the tendency toward self-recrimination exists more in your culture than in some other cultures. But I like to simply start where people are. Because I'm telepathic, when somebody asks me a question, I get that question and a bit of richness around it. I will not invade their privacy but I do hear the additional questions that are put forth. So I get a sense of what people are struggling with, and I try to answer it.

This might put it in very simple terms. If a child comes to you who has never played baseball and says, 'I saw a baseball game and I want to learn how to play baseball," where do you start? If the child has a bat in his hands, you might start by tossing the ball to him and saying, 'OK, hit it." If he has a ball in his hands you say, 'OK, throw it to me." You start where he is. The first thing he might want to learn is simply how to run around the bases. If he's interested in learning to throw the ball and you try to teach him to bat, he may not be very interested and say, 'That's enough. I don't want to learn any more." But if you attend to where he is, he wants to learn to throw the ball, fine, we'll practice throwing the ball. He's not ready for technicalities. When he is, he will ask. I pause.

Barbara: He says, (paraphrasing) so there is no first place, it's wherever people are. He says you have heard this term, the teaching moment. He says learning to catch people at that moment, what's going on in your life right now, that's what you are most able to hear about. He says, loneliness, fear, feelings of helplessness or inadequacy, anger, falling in love, what's present in your life right now?

Barbara: K sent this question in by e-mail. 'Can you give us some insight into how the human tendency to deny the reality of the spirit in our time has arisen? For most human societies that we know about the existence and importance of spirit was taken for granted. We've seen in our time whole nations trying to suppress spiritual awareness, for example the Soviet Union and China … Your metaphor, 'angels in earthsuits' can be seen as a reaffirmation of spiritual reality. How did we get so separated from and hostile to the idea and experience of spiritual reality, as for example in scientific materialism and political materialism."

Aaron: I am Aaron. In human experience there has been a constant confrontation between fear and love. It starts early. Primitive beings who were afraid of that which they did not understand, sought ways to control their world so they could feel safe. They may have created a spiritual framework but often it was one based on fear. 'If we offer these sacrifices then we'll be okay," for example. Fearful human always seeks control of himself, of others, of his environment. Now, there's nothing wrong with control. If you come into a cave at night and there are wild animals around you, it can be very loving to build a fire for warmth and to keep the animals at a distance. The building of the fire can be seen either as a movement of self-respect and kindness or of fear. So it's not the act but the motivation for it which determines whether it is primarily a fearful or loving act. When fear becomes primary, the motivation moves increasingly toward fear-based control.

Such fear-based control has been seen in so many of your religions on Earth. Jesus taught a teaching of love. Love one another, that was the heart of it. But all the teachings of the Catholic Church built up around this to create certain forms and rituals you must do, certain acts you must do, or you'll go to hell. You must attend church, go to mass, take confession. These forms were all created by priests who truly wanted beings to be saved and safe and happy and did not trust beings enough to entrust to them their own salvation. So they created a set of awards and punishments so as to manipulate beings into being good rather than trusting their own inherent goodness. They came up with the whole idea of original sin to convince man that he is bad unless saved. And I don't point out just Christianity here. I only use it as an example because you're familiar with it. But most religions have this fear-based distortion in them somewhere as well as the deeply loving strand.

Fear is painful and difficult but it is one of your teachers. You are not on the earth plane to abolish fear but to see fear for what it is and not get so caught up in it as real. When I say 'not so caught up in it as real," of course the experience of it in this moment is real but that does not mean you have to fix things. The experience of fear is real, in this moment. Is that which is feared really fearsome? From where did the stories about it come. For example, you learn to fear death, but I keep telling you that death is safe, that you have moved through it many times. The ego fears death. The essence does not fear it.

Experiencing this contraction, one can simply be aware, 'Fear is present." Sometimes there is something to attend to. If fear is present because the candle has fallen over and you're in danger of setting the room afire, you put the candle out. That's a loving movement, just like building the fire in the cave can be a loving movement. But seeing fear arise, one does not need to be a slave to fear. This is what you have incarnated to learn. Fear is the foundation for so many negative emotions: anger, greed, hatred, jealousy, and so forth. You don't have to be reactive to these emotions. You don't have to get caught in the stories and build more self and separation on those stories.

So fear is one of those gifts for which it's difficult to experience gratitude. But when you start to experience that gratitude toward fear, and not to be afraid of fear, then you can begin to open to the truth of who you are, the opening of spirit.

This returns us to your question. Those who dwell in a fear-based, control-based mode of living cannot allow the experience of spirit because spirit is connected, spirit is centered, spirit is not afraid of fear or emotion. Spirit is an adversary to control. No wonder then that human movement has been increasingly toward these fear-based modes of operation, be they the control of this or that religious group, or the control of this or that political or scientific group. They are people who are desperately trying to find a way to keep themselves safe and the idea is that to keep myself safe, I must enhance the self, enhance and inflate the ego, be somebody important. But the deepest teachings of spirit are that there is no separation. Does this answer your question, K? I pause.

Barbara: I'm paraphrasing Aaron. He says we are all learning, and this is the constant lesson of our times. Things come more and more into seeming conflict to bring it more and more to our attention that we do have a choice: fear or love. When he says 'choose," he doesn't mean choose love by killing fear, getting rid of fear. The choice is to relate to fear with fear or to relate to fear with love. The choice is to relate to any emotion with fear or with love, be it joyful or sorrowful emotion.

But he says, as you've discovered from your meditation practice, when you're resting in that deep space of centeredness, primary is that there's nothing to control and nobody to control. There's nobody, no self, to be the one who is controlling, nothing out there to control, nothing separate from me. But that's terrifying to the person who is deeply engrossed in the myth of ego self. We hold fear because fear holds the ego self. So, we just keep letting go of it a little bit at a time, each of us as we're ready.

He says, and of course, tremendous harm happens because of the ideas of separate self, me better than you, me opposing you, me manipulating you. Beings suffer terribly and the karma just keeps recurring and recurring and recurring until finally we see, this isn't working. And each of has that wake-up moment. 'I've been doing this for decades or for lifetimes. It's not working. There's got to be a different way." He pauses.

K: What comes to mind is our current myth that if we were not separate and very competitive there would be no progress. Everything would stagnate.

(While cleaning up the transcript, Aaron indicates he would like to talk about this more another week. He feels my paraphrasing was unclear. Additionally, he's talking to me about societies on other planes where there is no fear or competition; but the learning there has a different focus, training in cooperation, co-creation.)

Barbara: Aaron says, (I'm paraphrasing him) the illusion serves a function. This is why we can't say fear is bad. It serves a function. Only we don't have to buy into it and act it out as if we were unaware of our ability to use fear for learning.

He says, take a plant like poison ivy, or something that has a fruit that's poisonous to some creatures. One of the ways the plant protects itself is to put out this poison fruit and bad odor. Well, that's not bad, it's just the way the plant expresses itself in order to survive. He says this poison is just catalyst, all the negative emotions, all the fear, all the pain are catalyst. But of course, if we get caught up in it and perpetuate it, it leads to enormous suffering. He says, just because poison ivy is there doesn't mean you go out and roll in it. You don't say, 'I'm not afraid of it" and go and roll in it, you say, 'It's poison ivy. I'm not afraid of it but I'm still going to walk around it." You don't have to get caught up in it. In this way you learn to respect the poison ivy, not to see it as separate, but also to know it has distinct characteristics that can cause pain and one doesn't need to get caught in it.

He says, think of the story of Jesus last night and his betrayal by Judas. He says, what if Judas had not betrayed him and he had escaped, and gone on and lived his life and there was no crucifixion, there was no resurrection? What would have happened to all the teachings? He really needed to experience this and at some level had agreed to experience it as a gift to others to teach them. He said, what if the Buddha on the night of his enlightenment had decided, 'Well, I'm just not going to teach anybody, it will be too hard." He says the story of the Buddha, the night of his enlightenment, when the forces of Mara came and offered him all these temptations, what if that was not part of the story? What if it was just easy, and then as soon as we met those temptations and difficulties we said, 'Well, the Buddha didn't have to do that so of course he got enlightened. But I can't because I have all these difficulties."

He says, what he's saying here is there is no such thing as negative in the ultimate sense. There's no absolute evil. There are simply different kinds of gifts, some of which are very painful.

Aaron: I am Aaron. This is subtle and I want to say it carefully. There are karmic tendencies that each of you have; you perpetuate certain habitual movements. You do it and you do it repeatedly and you don't see into it, you don't see the suffering it's creating. This is not an absolute evil but it creates great pain. Nobody is pushing this on you. There's nobody to blame. Ignorance is to blame. Delusion is to blame. Your own attachments to self are to blame, but these things are also not bad in any ultimate sense. Beings will suffer until they see the nature of that suffering and resolve to pull themselves out of it. They will learn through trial and error that hate engenders hate and love engenders love. Nobody can teach you that simply by telling you, you've got to do it by trial and error. When you experience this trial and error in a state of asleepness, non-presence, you don't learn anything. You have got to be present, to be awake!

Think what would happen if you had a simple child's puzzle, a square hole, a round hole, a triangular hole and three pegs in these shapes. If the child picks up the round peg and tries to jam it repeatedly into the square hole or the triangular hole without stopping to look, without paying attention, eventually he will end up tremendously frustrated and angry, may pick up the whole box and throw it at somebody and hurt them. He may bruise his hand trying to force this round peg into the square hole, and create tremendous pain.

Somewhere along the line is the thought, this isn't working. Stop. Look. Why isn't it working? Each of you do this over and over in your lives in some manner or other. At work you may approach a person in the same way, trying to manipulate them or control them or to act the part of the humble one, trying to appease them, and over and over it doesn't work and you just keep trying to force it. Eventually you do say to yourself, 'This isn't working," but first you've got to be present and see it's not working.

Pain invites you to be present. Pain says, 'Pay attention" and when you pay attention you begin to learn. This is not good or bad, it's just the way humans are. It's not only humans-animals, even many non-material plane beings pay attention better when there's pain. It catches your attention very quickly. You can sit through a beautiful sunset, an exquisite sunset, daydreaming, but let there come a very close crack of thunder, a bolt of lightning and raindrops, and that's got your attention.

So there is no inherent absolute evil. There is a great deal in pain and when you pay attention to that pain, and open your heart, you learn. Beings on what I call a fear track have not yet learned to pay attention in that way. They're just pushing ahead regardless of what the situation is.

I think here of somebody who decides to trek over a mountain. There is a pass. It's cold and it's snowing and the higher he goes, the more snow and the more cold. All he can think of is, 'I'm going to reach the other side of the pass," so he is almost unconscious of the conditions around him. As he begins to shiver, he starts to think, 'If only it were warm" but he still is pushing ahead like the child trying to pound the round peg into the square hole. He may die on the mountain! He's not present with conditions, only with his vision. He may arrive, but frostbitten. Why not find a shelter for the night and go on in the morning? This is awareness of conditions. But if it is a matter of life and death, and he must cross the mountain that night, let him still be conscious of the fact that a choice has been made and he can't blame others for his frostbite. He has made this decision.

So my question to you: instead of taking happenings as evil and thinking, 'If only things were different then it would be okay," can you see how you are creating your suffering by jamming this peg in again and again? You can stop. You can stop any time you want. It's very difficult to extricate yourself. You must examine the nature of impulse energy itself, and of the obsessive mind.

You find yourself on a trail into the jungle, you walk twenty miles, the conditions keep getting worse and worse and worse, but you're stuck on this trail, there are no side trails and you're convinced it's going to get better, convinced that the heat, the bugs, the mud will go away. Then you see it won't get better, but you keep pushing though. This is not perseverance; this is foolishness! At some point you realize, 'I've really got to go back to where that fork was and go the other way." You still have to walk the twenty miles of the trail back. The further you go, the longer the return path. I would liken this to the way that you deepen different kinds of habitual patterns. At the point where you recognize, 'This is not skillful," you still have to resolve the patterns.

You know there's nothing harder than to move away from a negative habitual tendency. There are many kinds of support for this. Sheer willpower will not do it. But understand that you do have a choice and that each time you step back into the mud and it's painful, you have a choice. You've got to keep walking the trail, keep attending to those difficult tendencies, over and over and over until they no longer pull at you. We'll talk more about it. I'm going to end here. That is all.

Barbara: He says this brings us to the question he wants to focus on in the coming months: the different practices which support our awakening to our habitual tendencies and resolving them. He said a few weeks ago, the awakened heart was one practice to work with these habitual tendencies. The practice of gratitude is another one. Generosity is another one. That there are many different kinds of practices, starting from easier ones like gratitude but also developing more potent tools. And this is what he wants to do in the coming months, to talk intermittently about the various practices we can use to free ourselves from these tendencies and to realize and express into the world our true nature. He says, 'Good night."

(Taping ends.)

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Brodsky