October 13, 1999

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. In Buddhist teaching, the First Noble Truth is the truth of suffering, of dukka. Unsatisfactory experience exists. No matter how hard you try, you cannot be free of it. Just when the walk is pleasant, it begins to rain. Right there in the middle of the most delicious food, you find a sour spot.

There will be experiences of physical pain, emotional pain, anger, desire, confusion, as long as you are human. You are not going to get rid of these experiences. You are not here to get rid of them. Most of you have heard me ask you many times, are you here to get comfortable or are you here to become free? What is freedom? We are not searching for freedom from the large or small pains of life so much as searching for freedom from reactivity to those pains, and freedom from the whole karmic stream to which that reactivity leads.

Nobody wants to be afraid, or angry, or jealous, or impatient. Nobody wants to suffer that experience of burning with desire. Yet all of these experiences will arise as long as the conditions are present for them to arise. If you walk barefoot and step on a tack, certain conditions are there. The tack punctures the foot, there's going to be pain, there's going to be blood. You don't say, 'I shouldn't be bleeding," but you hold that foot mercifully, withdraw the tack and note the conditions that give rise to the puncture.

When you understand how that puncture of the foot happened, it doesn't take the immediate pain away, but there is a certainty that the next time you can wear shoes to protect the foot, or you can sweep the floor to make sure there are no loose tacks. You can attend to the conditions.

When you ask yourself what conditions have given rise to heavy emotions like anger and desire, you must be very careful. There are two different karmic streams here. One is the whole stream of arising anger or desire. One is the stream of aversion to the experience of those emotions. This is why it's so important in your practice to differentiate between the experience and the relationship to the experience.

Last week we spent a fair amount of time tossing zafus at each other. I had you stand in pairs. The ones receiving the toss closed their eyes and let their hands hang mostly at their side, so that this cushion struck them in the chest or belly, gently, no harm done. I asked you to note the difference between that bare touch and the relationship to the touch. We were talking specifically about how trauma is stored in the mind and body and about what ways you may release that trauma so it doesn't just keep running on and on and on, recirculating itself.

Each of you has stored literally within the cells of the body and within the mind the trauma of many lifetimes. You have had countless rebirths. The karmic stream that pulled you into each rebirth was based on the highest areas of tension within you and it literally pulled you into the re-experiencing of those specific kinds of tensions and experiences.

The simplest way I can state this, when the cushion hits the belly, you note 'touching." Because you are human, there is almost certain to be a startle reflex and a contraction of the body around that touch. This is what I call the first contraction. In itself it does not store or perpetuate karma. It's just a contraction, like a knee-jerk reflex when the doctor strikes that specific place in your knee with his little hammer. We cannot fully say that the contraction is not intentional, but at some level it grows out of an instinct towards self-preservation. Even a mindless microorganism, if you watch it through a microscope, it will draw back if you take a needle and approach it under the microscope. This is simply an instinct of living tissue, to protect itself, to perpetuate itself.

So, if I came along with the doctor with that little hammer and tapped you on the knee and said, 'Oh no no no, don't shake your leg," but you can't help it. That's the way the body is built. The cushion hits your belly and there's a tension there, just a contraction. Where the karma is stored is in your relationship to that contraction. This is what I call the second contraction.

So we have contact, the cushion hitting the belly. Then the observing of how the body energy contracts around that contact. And then, the reaction. For some of you it might be judgment, the thought, 'I shouldn't have contracted." For some of you it brought up a feeling of helplessness or anger. Here we have all the thoughts about the contact and the body's contraction around the contact. I'm using a physical example of the cushion hitting the belly. But in just the same way, if an angry voice touches ears, 'hearing, hearing," and because of the roughness of that anger, the energy of it, there's a contraction, if you are able to note that contracting and let it be, not judge it, not get into an argument with it, not try to fix it because there's nothing to fix, then the situation is entered and released.

Nothing sticks; no karma is created. One just notes, first there was hearing and then there was a contraction, and right there is freedom. That which hears is just the ears. That which contracts is simply the natural movement away from unpleasantness. Dharma does not ask of you that you learn to like unpleasantness, only that you see it for what it is and stop reacting to the withdrawal from unpleasantness. It's just happening. Watch the touch of the unpleasant object. Know it as unpleasant. Back up a bit from it, contracting.

The backing up from the unpleasant object in itself will cease in time. You can't make it cease. To try to do that is simply to create a different karmic stream, a different tension which we might call fixing or controlling, and in all of that there is so much self. But when the cushion hits the belly and it's just touching, there's nobody there, there's just touching. When the body is startled by that touch, there's just 'startled." There's nobody there, there's just 'startled." Then there is the shift into mind thinking, 'What am I going to do with this startle?" That is the moment when it becomes stored as karmic stream.

My talk here could easily go in the direction of asking you to stand up and practice this again, watching for that distinction. I choose not to do that tonight but to let you experiment with that on your own. We'll save such activity for a night when some of you are sleepy. It was a good wake-up exercise last week.

So I want to take this in a different direction, watching this whole movement, touching, startle, contraction, and then the stories come up: judging, dislike. We watch all the old opinions about how it should have been different and what you should have done. I want most of you to begin to see how this is an habitual tendency for you and how that move into the stories and opinions creates a more solid sense of self. But what is this about? You all tell me you want freedom, you want to move past the identity with this ego self. And yet the first thing you do when you experience something through any of the senses is to run into the stories, to try to fix or control or change what is, rather than let it be.

You know I am not suggesting that you act out the experience. If instead of a soft cushion on the belly there is a push from an angry person, you contract around that push and anger comes up, I'm not suggesting that you then punch the person, of course not. When I say, 'Let it be," that 'Let it be" is specifically aimed at the emotions that are arising. It doesn't mean you cease to have responsibility for those emotions. This is a basic teaching of sila, and I know you all understand it. The question is, here is this belligerent person and he shoves you. There's the touch, it's unpleasant. There's the contraction around the touch and around his and your anger. And then there are the stories that begin to arise, what you should say or could say, or judging your own anger. At that moment, where does freedom lie? Where does truth lie? As soon as you get invested in these stories, the self solidifies again.

You are each in different places in your spiritual work. For one, balance means opening the heart, and for another balance means moving deeper into the wisdom teachings. What I try to do when I teach is to keep what I offer you in balance so that you develop a balanced kind of toolbox. Tonight I am emphasizing the wisdom teachings. Get to know this experience of contraction and then the experience of arising of opinion before stories start to come up about it. There is a moment before one fixes into a solid self where one can directly experience that shift into the self away from the direct experience of touching and contraction. Learn how you shift into that solidity when fear arises. What is the antidote to the fear? You can't get rid of fear. You can be mindful and know that fear is present, that fear is creating the solidity that wants to run with the stories. But that too can become mechanical. How do you directly, authentically, relate to fear? How do you open your heart to fear? And so we're right back from the wisdom teachings to the heart. Wisdom cannot be separated from the heart.

There is no magic answer, only to have faith to persist, to be as honest with yourself as you can and as compassionate with yourself as you can. Insight deepens slowly. You begin to see the patterns and eventually you come to make a decision, 'I'm not going to get stuck in this one any more."

Recently this instrument had an experience where she was offering some teaching to another who had come to her with a problem. This woman kept offering blame and excuses …we pause.

(There is a request to speak louder.)

Aaron: I am Aaron. I am telling this instrument that each time I refer directly to her personal experiences, she has a habit of lowering her head and lowering her voice. I will take responsibility for this, as I move into channeling of her own personal experience, to remind her to sit straight and project outward. It's an interesting pattern.

So she was tired. It was after a long weekend of teaching. Most people had gone home and she felt on the one hand a bit cornered by this woman and also, truly wanted to be of service to her. She was not afraid to say, 'No, I'm tired right now." But she felt there was something this woman did not understand, and she wanted to try to help her understand. But it was as if they were speaking two different languages. Each time she tried to explain, the woman simply went off into a track of blame. This instrument watched the pattern, the movement in herself: hearing, pulling back, anger. She could see so clearly how the self solidified immediately as the woman began to complain again about her situation. Now, this instrument understands that she cannot make another learn something. She understands she is not responsible for others. She has no difficulty with that. Her difficulty was that she was not fully honest with her own tiredness. If the woman had responded in a clear and open way, there would have been some exchange of energy. Here there was no exchange. So as she looked at the situation, she saw that she was trying to fix things a little bit, not to fix the woman or take away her responsibility, but to be done with the issue and able to leave. She saw that this movement created a place of solid self within her. She did not consider it at that point as a long-held karmic pattern. There was simply an immediate response, 'I'm not going to do this" and a reply that the meeting was ended.

A good question to ask yourself is, 'What would the Buddha do?" I've seen some people wearing little bracelets, that say, 'What would Jesus do?" What would the Buddha do? Each of you has this Buddha nature in yourselves. You don't have to go and find a Buddha and ask him 'What would you do?" Your own inherent wisdom knows the answer. As soon as there is fear, you must be aware of fear and touch it with mercy. There must be constant awareness. But it's an awareness that is based on love, not on fear. It's not an awareness that wants to fix and control, it's a very open and fluid awareness which watches things just the way they are.

As soon as fear arises the self contracts and you lose touch with this wisdom which knows what the Buddha would do. I like the phrase, 'The Buddha doesn't go there, ' offered by a friend. It can serve as a very helpful reminder to yourself when you feel yourself getting caught in this kind of energy which leads back into a more solid and separate self. 'The Buddha doesn't go there. I'm not going to follow this track, nor am I going to judge it or in any way get involved with it because to judge it is to follow it." To attack the movement with the idea of self-discipline, that's to follow it. 'The Buddha doesn't go there."

Imagine if you will a child's jar of bubbles and I sit here blowing bubbles. Ahh, it's lovely! Reach out, grab it! But it bursts. You can only have it if you don't grab it. As soon as you grab it, it's gone. Watch the arising of fear, anger, desire. Know it for what it is, it's just energy. Yes, it's habitual, it's conditioned. Sometimes it's simply instinct. But it's just energy. Don't get caught up in it. The Buddha doesn't go there. How can you say no to this energy from a place of kindness? This is something I cannot teach you. It takes constant practice and a very firm intention to learn. The intention is simple, to develop kindness with which to support the growing wisdom. Use this question as a checkpoint. The Buddha doesn't go there. Do I need to go?

Begin to see how these patterns solidify and that at any point along the way you can stop it. Control doesn't stop it, kindness stops it. Kindness opens the window so that the innate wisdom can see out. Kindness takes you up to the top of the mountain so that you can see the whole scene and you can understand just how this relates to that, relates to that. How this has arisen because of that, because of this, because of that. When you go up to that mountaintop with a sense of control, 'I'm going to fix this by seeing how it works," it doesn't work because it pulls in the self. But kindness up on that mountain, right there is liberation.

I began by talking about the contraction and the secondary contraction, let us call it. Begin to watch this in your life. Touch through any of the sense gates, contact. Knowing it as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Aware of the contraction that comes with that touch. I'm taking this whole mass, not just the touch. I use touch in a loose term here, not just the seeing or the hearing or the mind touching a thought, but the whole body and mind tendency with that contactsee that as one mass, and watch how you then move into the secondary contraction, the judgments and opinions. That's the first step.

And then ask yourself, 'Is this what I want to be doing? Do I have a choice?" And of course you do have a choice. Know your highest purpose here and at times you're going to have to remind yourself, 'My purpose is not just to be comfortable, my purpose is to be free and to create freedom for all beings." When mind is spinning around, trying to think of a way to control or fix the situation, remind yourself, 'The Buddha doesn't go here. Just because I've done this ten million times before does not mean I have to do it this time." It's a proclamation, 'Freedom is possible. I already have freedom, I just have to know it. I have to know I do not have to go here."

Then relax and watch the movements of mind and body without contracting around it. This is such a powerful experience to see that even rage can arise and there's no attachment or aversion to it, it's just rage. Sharp pain in the body can arise, it's just pain. Grief can arise. Any state of mind and body. Don't be a somebody experiencing it. But if that somebody does arise, treat that with compassion too. Don't try to fix that. Now this is a hard one. Once there's a contraction into somebodyness, I say don't try to fix that. You can understand conceptually that the one trying to fix it, the energy of trying to fix it, simply enhances, increases, the contraction. Note the difference between attending to it which can come increasingly from this spaciousness of the self, from the heart, and fixing which comes from a place of fear. Get to know when you are fixing and when you are attending. When you see fixing coming up, 'Ah, the Buddha doesn't go here. How can there be more space?"

A major part of karma is its habitual pattern. Each time you bring mindfulness into this patterning with the thought, 'The Buddha doesn't go here," each time you offer it more compassion and spaciousness, you begin to cut through karma. It's almost like riding in a stream, a fast-flowing stream with rapids. You see a steep place where the current rushes over rocks and then you see a shallow, wider way around. You are all conditioned to go into the main current and bump, bump, bump headlong along the rocks. And then you come out and say, 'Why am I bruised?" At that moment, start to know you have a choice. You don't have to choose that current just because it's been the predominant one for so long. The Buddha doesn't go here. Know you have a choice.

Nurture faith. Look deeply at the areas of your life where there was pain and confusion that you have resolved. Then come to the area which is unresolved, where there is still delusion and bring that faith with you, knowing 'I have the capacity to allow this also to resolve." This helps to foster the intention to work with it skillfully rather than falling into the trap of the old patterns.

I could not possibly enumerate every step …

(Side one of tape ends.)

Each of you is unique. If I gave you each an identical toolbox, showed you how to use each tool and said, 'Fine, now go out and build a little cabin for yourself," each cabin is going to come out different. One of you wants lots of windows. Another wants it cozy and snug, like a cave. One of you wants a lofty ceiling and another, a very small space that's easy to heat. Take these tools and work with them skillfully. You have to know where you are going. You can't expect the toolbox to take you there. So you must hold this vision of happiness, of freedom, of peace, in your mind and in your heart. Freedom for all beings. And let it guide you into the most skillful selection of tools at every moment.

My love to each of you. I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. I will be happy to answer your questions. We're going to try something different tonight. I would like you just to sit for a minute or two quietly before the lights are turned up and you begin to talk. That is all.

Barbara: We'll open the floor to questions.

R: I was just talking to L and I was thinking about suffering. I was wondering if to be a practicing Buddhist, whether that eliminates suffering or can you just deal with it more gracefully.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a magic where one could say, 'I commit myself to this" and whoosh! suffering dissolved. But the Eightfold Path (the path of moral awareness, concentration and wisdom delineated by Buddhism) is just a doorway. If one is deep down in a dark cave, has never seen the light, has no idea that light exists, but thinks that one must always be surrounded by darkness, and then, through one's peers, one hears tell of a place where there's light, one may make the decision, 'I'm going to find that light." That's the first step, first you have to know what you're looking for. You have to know that there is a possibility of freedom from suffering. In fact, you may first have to know that you are suffering, which isn't a problem for you but is a problem for some people. Our teachers in the introductory classes tell us how many people come into class and say, 'What is this about suffering? I'm not suffering. I like my work, I like my family. I'm not suffering." They're very adamant. 'I'm not suffering." So first you have to understand what suffering is and second, you have to understand that there is a possible freedom from suffering.

Then you begin to ask … we're coming back to our metaphor, 'How do I find the light?" Somebody might tell you, 'Take the paths that go upward." So you commit yourself, 'I'm only going to take paths that go in this upward direction toward the light." That could be a metaphor for committing yourself to dharma practice-to practice mindfulness, to practice the entire Eightfold Path.

But just by setting foot on that path, suffering doesn't automatically disappear. However, there is a guarantee that if you persist, if you persist through the inevitable difficulties, the inevitable pitfalls of practice, and learn to bring balance, the balance of moral awareness and concentration and wisdom, the balance of tranquility and energy, of wisdom and compassion, and many other kinds of balance; if you learn to work with all of this slowly, insight will deepen and wisdom will develop. In the beginning you will not cease to suffer so much as you will understand the nature of your suffering and how to create more space for it. But yes, if you persist, just as that traveler through the dark caverns, you're going to come up into the light, you're going to come to a place where suffering does cease. It is the birthright of every being. But you must have faith and courage and stay on the track. Does this sufficiently answer your question? I pause.

R: Even if you lose a child, can you not suffer?

Aaron: I am Aaron. Of course. And if you lose a limb and if your house burns down, if you lose not only a child but your entire family, you still can be free of suffering. First you must understand the nature of suffering and the causes of suffering, and you must understand that perhaps you will not find perfect freedom from suffering in this life, although the potential is there. You have to be where you are. The loss of a child, the loss of a limb, the loss of a home, these are all very powerful catalysts that teach you about the nature of suffering and how you either find more spaciousness with that suffering or increase it.

There is a famous Buddhist tale of a woman who came to the Buddha carrying the dead body of her only child. 'Bring her back to life," she pleaded. 'In your infinite compassion, restore her to life." The Buddha gently took the body and told the mother that he would do this; first she must go and find a house where there had been no death, and from that house obtain a certain common seed.

The mother knocked at doors all day. 'May I have this seed?" 'Of course," came the reply. 'And has your house been free of death?" 'Oh, no. Our grandfather/aunt/daughter/mother died this year …" And on she went to the next house.

At day's end she returned to the Buddha. Now she understood. Everyone knows loss. Death is as frequent as birth. When we do not let go, then we suffer. The Buddha helped her to bury her child.

I would add something here. You cannot come to dharma practice saying, 'I have lost a child and my pain is intense, so I'm going to do this practice to stop feeling pain." Pain and suffering are not the same thing. I do not promise you freedom from pain, only freedom from suffering. Do you understand? There is a story told of a Zen master who is weeping after the death of his child. His disciple finds him weeping and says ,"But master, you have told us it's all illusion." 'Yes," replies the master. 'And the death of one's child is the most painful illusion of all." Your practice will not free you from pain, which is part of human experience, but will free you from the suffering that grows out of grasping and clinging, out of wanting things to be different than they are. Your practice will give you the balance of wisdom and compassion, wisdom to see just how things are and compassion to keep your heart open with things as they are. I pause.

Barbara: Questions?

K: This is a comment about what Aaron spoke about tonight. I have had the experience more clearly in meditation how returning to the breath is a way of asking, 'Does the Buddha go there?"

Aaron: I am Aaron. I appreciate that comment, K, because of course, the resolve to return to the breath is the resolve to let go. It breaks down the old habitual pattern of going where the Buddha does not go. The habit resolves in the return to center. I pause.

Barbara: Aaron is saying sometimes we can get this into a very 'Buddhist" direction. While some people might find it a useful question to ask, 'What would Buddha do?" or to remind themselves 'the Buddha doesn't go here," please remember that while this implies the historical Buddha, it also means the awakened nature in myself doesn't go here. And this is not about Buddhism. This is about finding that inherently awake essence of our being and manifesting it more into the world. He pauses.

Aaron: There are two things I would ask you to do in the coming week. One, in order to work with this you must be aware. There must be mindfulness about the mind-body coming together and contracting in a certain way around a specific sensation, thought or emotion. Here's just the naming of it. Not just feeling fear, or feeling anger, but observing expressions of that fear, anger, or other emotion in the body. The second is what I spoke of tonight, watching how contact then moves into stories. I wonder if any of you watched this this week and would like to share anything about it.

K: I saw at work very clearly how my fellow employees are moved by fear and attempt to motivate others by fear. I was able to see that so clearly sometimes that I felt the freedom not to jump into fear. I just pleasantly watched.

Barbara: What happened when you did not jump in?

K: The situation remained much calmer, much more reasonable.

Barbara: Hal and I stopped at the Dexter cider mill on Sunday and I bought a caramel apple. Then we went down to the river and sat and drank cider and I ate my caramel apple. Yellowjackets started to arrive. I was sitting there with a caramel apple when suddenly there were two yellowjackets where I was about to bite. I knew I couldn't just flick them away, so I just sat there. They started to crawl off the stick onto my fingers. I could feel the fear and tension coming up.

Coming back to the breath. Breathing in, aware of my fear. Thich Nhat Hanh's, 'Breathing in, I am aware of my fear; breathing out, I smile to my fear." The thought racing through, 'I don't like this, they're going to sting me. What am I going to do?" And I very slowly put it down, let go of the stick. But of course I had the sticky caramel on my skin and they were still crawling on my fingers. Right there, watching that moment of contact, awareness of the arising of fear, unpleasant-all that was happening was these little insects were crawling on my fingers. All the old stories arose of being bitten by yellowjackets. I have a very strong memory of being about three years old and my brother poking in a yellowjacket's nest and then running away, and all the yellowjackets came out and stung me. And I was very badly stung, maybe six or eight stings. I could feel all the tension in the belly, all the 'I don't like this." Then there's that point of decision, what am I going to do with this? As Aaron said tonight, am I going to let it keep building, get deeper into this habitual stream or am I going to find a smoother side current? I discovered that I could just sit there. And I sat there for about ten minutes with them wandering over my fingers. They didn't harm me. I could just feel the fear releasing and a whole different possibility arising of just knowing what I'm doing here now is, I'm feeding yellowjackets caramel apple. That's what I'm doing. That's fine. It was very peaceful. I actually got to a point where I enjoyed watching them being so happy.

V: These last few weeks I have been very tired and unhappy and depressed, and this last week I was able to begin to be more spacious around that and see the old stories that were feeding into the situation. And that has helped some. I still feel quite caught in that, but I'm beginning to feel it loosening. For example, at work I have been angry and unhappy a lot and so this week I was able to have a couple good conversations with one of my employees who usually I cannot connect with very well because she is always so negative that we do not usually communicate well. This week it was interesting to watch her open up and connect with me because I wouldn't be negative with her! It's a start! Maybe!

Barbara: I'm paraphrasing Aaron, he says this is the perfect example, and he thanks you, to R's question about freedom from suffering.

Aaron: I am Aaron. There is not just enslavement and liberation at opposite poles, but there is a constant movement into freedom. You know this from your own experience. My question to you, my friend R, is how you can begin to work more skillfully with that doubt that arises when your suffering is strong. Because I see you year after year, going along, learning, opening, truly finding some space around your suffering. And then, something new happens that puts you back into a tight space and suddenly there's doubt. Get to know that experience of doubt before the stories arise around it. Know doubt as doubt. Watch how it closes down your energy. Watch the habitual process where first there's the doubt, then there's the closing of the energy, then there are the old fears and the intensification of suffering. This is where you make the decision, 'The Buddha doesn't go here. I'm not going to buy into the doubt this time." Doubt is hard to work with because it does close down your energy. But you do have a choice, R. You can choose to regard your own personal experiences of increased freedom along with this difficult one and know, 'This experience also is impermanent and I will get through it." I pause.

Q: I had an interesting experience with doubt that relates to Aaron's question about watching very subtle contractions in the body related to emotion. In the last couple, few weeks I have been watching carefully my body's responses in the form of tiny, tiny little energy contractions to each and every thought that arises. It has been quite interesting because I see for every thought impulse there is a contraction and I am getting to know them geographically.

One particular day I was in a very clear space and then I got a phone message from someone I work with, my supervisor, who made a choice from which I felt very hurt. She uninvited me to give a lecture on substance abuse because I do not have a master's degree and therefore no experience. So I took it personally because we have other speakers who do not have a master's degree and still give very effective lectures. And I watched doubt come rushing forward from my very clear space. It was really strong and easy to see. I was momentarily overwhelmed, and I just dropped down to my knees and asked for help on this one. My body was literally curled up. And then, from somewhere a voice came, 'You know, you do not have to own this." And all of a sudden, I realized, 'Yeah! Yeah." And with one deep breath I straightened back up, and it was like a jacket fell off my shoulders. I felt like little tiny grains of sand that were moment by moment getting bigger, they just rolled off from here, here, here. And that was it.

Barbara: Aaron asks, did you learn anything new about doubt in that experience? Can you articulate it?

Q: How quickly it was becoming solid in the tissue. It was granulating. And I realized of course how quickly I turned into doubt.

Barbara: He says he hears in your statement the thought that only the mind has made the doubt solid, and as soon as the mind sees that what it's doing it also can make the doubt very transparent and allow it then to fall off.

I'm paraphrasing Aaron. He says with any emotion, with doubt, with restlessness, with anger, with desire, it's so easy to get stuck into the stories of it. That when there is this commitment, 'For the good of all beings, I am not going to go here, this awakened nature in me does not need to go here," it's a statement, it's not a war with the experience …

Aaron: I am Aaron. I will say this for myself. Waging war with it won't help, rather it's knowing it for what it is. It arose because of conditions and when the conditions cease, it will cease. It is not me or mine. You have to know that that which has the nature to arise has the nature to cease. That knowing shatters doubt and fear and anger. Then there is a decision, am I getting caught in the story because it's an old habitual tendency? Am I getting caught in the story because I still find some idea of safety in that story? You do not move into these habitual tendencies by chance. You saw something you thought you needed, and desire arose and you grasped at it because you thought you needed it. You experienced something that was painful and aversion arose and you tried to push it away because you thought you'd be safer without it. You have to look at where these movements originated and respect the self, that it did move into certain patterns that it felt were skillful.

This is the old lifejacket metaphor. You put on the lifejacket because it keeps you afloat. But ten years later you're still putting it on just because it's habit. This instrument has given numerous dharma talks about the work with those habitual tendencies that are rootless and simply old habit, and those that still have roots. Do you put on the lifejacket because it's simply habit and when you stop and reflect you know, 'I do know how to swim. I don't need this." Or do you put it on because there's still a sense of doubt, 'What if I don't yet know how to swim?" In which case that doubt needs to be investigated. We've talked about this in terms of letting go and letting be, seeing where it's just habitual tendency, and letting it go consciously. 'I don't need this in my life any more." But the one that still has roots, you need to let it be and just be patient and stay there until the roots reveal themselves. I pause.

K: I worked with the release of stored tension by allowing trembling movements. And it works. I found especially in my neck that was very helpful. It looks weird to do it …

Q: I have another short observation to offer about the stories. Just the other day I was watching my stories as I was sitting and I saw clearly how they tend to fall into two categories. As soon as I realized that, the next day I got a living opportunity to work with one of the stories. For example, one was about being a victim. And then I started a workshop, a massage workshop, where the head instructor fairly blatantly was sticking it to me, really focusing on me in a very critical way that other students also noticed. The story started but it was a life-awake story, not just in meditation, and I laughed and have had a wonderful time working with it and her the last couple of days.

Barbara: As you're talking, it's occurring to me how with the yellowjackets on my hand, how I was first involved simply in the old habitual stories of 'yellowjacket-danger." How lovely it was to meet a yellowjacket in a totally different way. To see I didn't have to get stuck in that old story.

Q: Today as that instructor was literally bending over my back and criticizing, criticizing, criticizing, over and over, I realized that she was putting all her time and energy into me with instruction and suddenly I was very appreciative that I was getting so much attention! I suddenly saw that gift in it and was grateful. And the story ended.

Barbara: It's like looking at the world through a filtered lens and suddenly being aware you've got those filters on. Take them off and you see clearly.

K: I wish I had been there to take a picture of you and the yellowjackets!

Barbara: I'm not sure I'm free enough, K, to coat my hand in caramel and go sit in the back yard so you can get the picture!

S, I know you're visiting just this week and don't have the opportunity to ask questions here normally-would you like to ask any questions?

S: You have put me on the spot! There is a letting go. I am suffering deeply, thanks to Aaron's teachings. I will continue to suffer deeply until conditions change.

(Tape two begins.)

R: I went to the teach-in on nuclear elimination treaties, there was a teach-in about nuclear power and its elimination. I always get stuck with this thing of the good guy and the bad guy. They talked a great deal about the lying that goes on in the government and some of the groups etc, etc. I liked the people a great deal, but I somehow felt something was out of balance. It was them and us. My work with dreams and with people generally is that we have everything in us, the good and the bad, and that we need to work on ourselves to bring up the shadow, as you might call it. But I didn't feel that that consciousness was necessarily prominent in the group. And I was wondering what the Dalai Lama would say in that particular teaching.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I cannot tell you, R, what the Dalai Lama would say, I'm not the Dalai Lama. I can only tell you what Aaron would say. But I think perhaps he would agree with me. People are where they are. They are learning a multitude of different things. For one person this group meeting is definitely about elimination of nuclear power. For another person there is a desire to be a part of a group, to build up the ego by feeling good because 'We are the good guys, they are the bad guys." For another it's a way to build up and enhance anger so as to feel empowered. For another it's simply a place to come out of curiosity.

You have a society in which there are a many groups. There are religious groups, there are school groups. Last weekend two Michigan teams fought each other in front of thousands of fans on a football field to prove which team is the better team. But of course all they really proved was who won the game that day. But so many fans went home saying, 'My team is the best team!" And other fans went home saying, 'My team is not as good." People are where they are and as long as people are learning about power and control, they're going to bring these issues to any environment.

There are two answers here. One, if you can find it, is when there is an issue which concerns you, to find a group of people who are deeply concerned with the issue more than their own egos. Please rephrase that. It's interesting how this instrument can take my thought and subtly change it so it becomes a negative or critical statement, based on her own subtle and unidentified bias. To find a group of people who are mature enough that they can see into their own ego investment and not get caught into but keep returning to the issue at hand. Then it becomes a spiritual practice, learning to speak from a clear place. That is why sangha is so valuable. While all of you have not learned to speak from that clear place, there is the desire to do so and the intention to learn how to do so. So there's a willingness to be more honest with yourself. In that kind of sangha you can point out to somebody how much they are drawing their energy from the situation, playing on the power, being the authority and so forth. And they'll hear you. Maybe not happily, but they'll hear you.

So you must have a sangha, a group of peers with whom you can have this kind of honest discussion of issues without anybody trying to become the winner at the expense of a loser. And second, you must appreciate that other people are where they are. Watch that in yourself which tends to judge. They're doing their own work. It's not your work but it's still important work. They're learning in their own way about what it means to be the winner to another's loser, to be the authority to another's powerlessness. They will suffer, they will learn it doesn't work. Can there be compassion for them? They're going to endure much suffering until they learn what they need to learn.

When you come to a meeting like this, know what you are hearing. I won't say don't try to teach people, it's fine to say to people if you think they are overly concerned with blame and laying blame and being the right one rather than focusing on the issue, but don't expect them to be able to hear you. If one or five in the room hear it, that's fine. Those who are not yet ready to hear will just have to continue the path they're on until they can hear. Respect where they are and don't try to fix them, but if possible do not put important matters of country government and policy-making in their hands. Part of this is a group karma for all of you. You tend to choose those national leaders who are still in those ego issues, who are seeking to become the powerful one and the authority rather than choosing the wise one. You tell me, 'We don't have a choice," but of course you have a choice, if enough people make it clear they don't want national leaders who are trying to build up their own ego, but that you want national leaders with deep wisdom and compassion, then it will draw those people forth. I pause.

Q: Do you think the Dalai Lama would run for president?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I credit this man with a great depth of wisdom and compassion. If somehow in the next decade there came to be enough people who were ready to say no to the way things are, to work in the world from a level of clarity and emptiness, and if all of those people came together and asked this man if he would assume a political position, this is assuming he legally could, if he would assume a political position of leadership in this direction of wisdom and compassion, I feel that he would say yes. Or if I could phrase it more correctly, that the wisdom in him would say yes, not the ego.

You are responsible, each choice you make contributes to the next moment. I know you're familiar with this 100 monkeys concept. How many of you need to come to a point where you are ready to say no to a world that is predominantly ruled by fear and power, and make the clear statement that you will only be led by the heart, by love and by kindness, before the world begins to move that way? Only then will you find leaders coming forth who are capable of guiding the move in this direction. You cannot say, 'I have no responsibility, I have no control." Who else but you? I pause.

Barbara: We'll say goodnight then until next week.

(Tape ends.)

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Brodsky