January 12, 2000

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. I welcome you, old friends and new, and celebrate with you this start of the new year. That we call it a new year, much less a new millennium, is quite arbitrary for even within this culture there are a number of different calendars to which people adhere. But at any time in human history it is always a thousand years past some other time in human history. It really doesn't matter whether you consider this the start of the new millennium or that it will not begin for another year. The question is, where were you 2,000 earth revolutions around the sun today? 1,000? Where are you today? And where will you be five minutes from now? One hour from now? One year from now?

Each of you has myriad habitual tendencies. You can carry these tendencies through your entire lifetime, truly through many, many lifetimes. If the predominant tendency is to fear, defendedness, and separation, then no matter how hard you try, you cannot manifest the experience of deep interconnection and compassion in your lives. In order for there to be that opening into compassion, you must look honestly at the habitual tendencies you have dragged behind you for so many years, centuries, or millennia. You must ask yourself honestly, what is the future I wish to invite, one of violence and degradation or one of compassion, kindness, and peace? If it is the latter, what is there in myself to which I must attend in order to invite that future in the world?

There are some who think of this new millennium as the start of a new age. Any moment can be the start of a new age if you are determined to make it so. And any moment will simply be a continuation of the old tendencies if fear is predominant and not met with care.

I do see a rich potential. I'm not going to speak here of a thousand years; one year is an eternity. I see a rich potential for this year, for this decade, for beings on Earth. There are incarnate on Earth at this time many old souls. There is a whole process of evolution, one that all beings follow, some at a more rapid pace than others. But the process remains the same.

We use the words, "pure awareness." This is the pure Buddha nature or Christ Consciousness. It is that awareness which shines through from the deepest essence of being, not from the personal self but from that divine and eternal core. I'm not speaking of the soul in the Christian use of that term, for the soul is often seen as part of the personality self with emotions, thoughts. I'm speaking of the pure spirit body, free even of the emotional and mental body-the essence. There's no self to it. It is perfectly clear, radiant, free and infinite.

You begin your journey in that place of clarity but as immature sparks of the divine. There is awareness but there has never been self-awareness, and self-awareness is a process you must move through and which is necessary for the full maturity of understanding before the return to pure awareness mind-understanding the entire pattern of self-awareness and consciousness as conditioned expressions of pure awareness, but finally free of identification with such expressions as self.

Certainly the body exists. Certainly the thoughts and emotions exist. These are part of the conditioned phenomena of the universe. Everything in the conditioned realm arises when the conditions are present for it to arise and ceases when conditions cease. It arises and it passes away, and it arises again and passes away. If the conditions are right for it to rain, rain will fall down. When wind comes and disperses the clouds and there are changes in the atmosphere, the rain will cease. When conditions are present for a certain emotion to arise, the emotion will arise. When those conditions change, the emotion will cease.

This is all what a friend calls "passing show," just a parade passing by. We don't take the nihilistic view though that none of it is real. This sentient being in the world is a real expression of that divine essence. Sometimes there are many distortions. Sometimes much of the clarity of that essence shines through.

Moving far backward in time … as I said, you were once what I call sparks of the Divine. Pure awareness but no self-awareness. At some point in your evolution, the notion of separation and self arose and you began to see that divine core and also to identify with what seemed to be expressions of a separate self. At that moment there was self-awareness and the beginning of a stream of consciousness with an identity to that consciousness as "me."

It was inevitable that somewhere in that process, pain occurred, pain that seemed to be catalyzed by somebody or something else, and then thoughts of fear and desire to control arose. Then simple self-awareness, the idea of self and other, became magnified by fear. You contracted more and more into this illusion of separate and increasingly you sought to control your environment, which was not seen as connected to you.

Offering here a very short synopsis of history, beings through many millennia enacted this kind of fear, moving deeply into the sense of me and mine. Sometimes, that "me" and "mine" was expanded to include "all of the people who live in my country." Nevertheless, there were us and them, and conflict.

My dear ones, how many times would you need to see a beautiful hot coal, say, "Oh, that's lovely" and reach out and grab it, before you learned that it would burn? If you grabbed it, how long would you hold it? Not long, I'd say. And you will not grab it again, or at least not many times.

But so many of you have grabbed the hot coal of belief in separation, in the individual self dwelling in opposition to all that is. It has taken you many millennia to come to understand that this delusion, that things in the phenomenal world exist fully in isolation to each other, is unreal.

Many of you are still playing the game to some degree, but so many of you have begun to see through it. There are two related ways that you are connected and you begin to see them clearly. One is the whole nature of interbeing. This is, because that is. Nothing in the conditioned world can exist independently. All conditioned phenomena inter-are. The tree outside exists because there is fertile soil and sun and rain, birds to carry the seed from which this tree grew. It cannot exist independently.

And also nothing begins or ends. This means it carries within itself not only all the conditioned expressions from which it arose, but also the Unconditioned. The plant here grows a leaf. The leaf does what you call die, that is, it falls off the branch, it falls to the soil. And there it decays and becomes the fertile ground that nourishes next year's leaves. Is it dead? Does it truly die and take rebirth in next year's leaf? Or does it simply move into a transitional phase in its being; first it's expressing as a leaf, then it's expressing as crumbling remains of a leaf, then it's expressing as energy in the soil. It just keeps expressing itself in different ways. There is no birth or death.

We look at the ocean. Just as the plant has leaves, the ocean has waves. The waves arise because conditions are present for them to arise: wind, tides and so forth. When the conditions cease, the waves may cease and the water may become very still. The outer form of the waves may cease to exist; does the wave cease to exist? All the wave ever was was ocean, expressing itself in a certain form. The ocean continues to exist. The metaphor ends here because the ocean, of course, is also conditioned phenomenon dependent on conditions for its existence. But this pure awareness mind, this divine core of being, this is the Unconditioned.

By the word Unconditioned, I mean that which exists without needing any supporting conditions for its existence. The Judeo-Christian world, the Moslem world, call this God or Allah. The Buddhist world calls it simply Unconditioned. In the Udana Sutta, the Buddha addresses a group of monks, saying, "O monks, there is an Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncreated." This is the Unconditioned. Metaphorically, this is the ocean from which the waves arise, the conditioned world constantly expressing itself out of the Unconditioned. So there is not a dual relationship between Unconditioned and conditioned. The Unconditioned is the ground out of which the conditioned expresses.

Take that back to your personal being. Your form is an expression of this Unconditioned essence. Your thoughts are an expression. Your whole stream of consciousness is an expression. What is the Unconditioned essence? As in the ocean, each wave does not have its own ocean, there's just one ocean, many waves. There is just one Unconditioned. The pure awareness mind rests in the Unconditioned. It is part of the Unconditioned just as the water in each wave is part of the ocean. Then that water takes form as a wave just as you take form as a body and mind. The Unconditioned essence is always there as ground of being.

So many of you through millennia have moved through this progression, moving into self-awareness, into identification with all of these forms as self, and you have been dismayed at how separate and alone you feel. You have said, "How do I come home? How do I find peace? How do I learn to live my life in love?" As part of your journey, many of you seek to take this whole bundle of physicality, feelings and thoughts, and get rid of it. There is an idea, especially with the difficult experiences of mind and body, "If only I could be rid of those and be left just with the purity, then things would be easier." But you cannot separate any part of yourself or you re-enter a dualistic experience, and it doesn't work.

So in the course of your learning, you have had to open to the shadow of the self, to the anger, the fear, the greed, to the painful experiences of the body. These are not punishments that are heaped upon you, and they are not signs of your wickedness, they're simply the flow of conditioned experience. They may be unpleasant but they are not good or bad. For example, anger is just energy. It's not good or bad. Sometimes that energy can be used in skillful ways, not using your anger to harm others but taking the energy of the anger and letting it fuel the appropriate movements for change in the world. Sometimes anger can be used in unskillful ways and cause great harm. Greed, impatience, any human emotion, we think of them as good or bad because we see the painful results that arise when we do not know how to be with these experiences and act skillfully. We don't know how to make space for them and allow the experience without identification with the arising as "me" and "mine."

So much of human history has been the trial and error experimentation of what to do with difficult body states and emotions and thoughts. Now we come to today and why I feel so positive about the potential future of the beings on this earth. There are so many of you who have worked hard to understand the pathway to expression of that innate compassion and kindness which are the essence of your being. That is not so clearly stated, may we try it again? Kindness and compassion are your true nature. When fear blocks the expression of that true nature, then various difficult mind states may arise. Many of you have come to see your true nature and instead of trying to destroy the difficult mind states you are beginning to approach such difficult body and mind states with more spaciousness and compassion. You are learning the truth that only kindness begets kindness. Hatred can never beget kindness. This begins with yourselves. It does not mean you are not responsible for what has arisen, but you do not have to hate what arose. So you have all been learning these hard lessons, how to be with the present mind and body states with kindness. How not to get lost in separation from yourself, cutting off the shadow side of the self.

My sense as you enter this new year, new millennium if you want to think of it that way, is that you are at a threshold. Beings on Earth, sentient beings, are at a threshold. Certainly not all of you are in the same place, and those of you with more understanding are going to have to be the leaders. You are ready for a radical shift in your thinking. These past many millennia have been the "me and my" millennia. I see the threshold you are on as opening into a new space of "we" and "ours."

Look at your hand. If you get an infection on your little finger and the rest of your hand is healthy, you do not think, "I'll cut my finger off." You ask how you can heal the finger to bring it back into wholeness and health within the hand. You are learning to see that everything interrelates and you cannot cut off any finger anywhere in the world, that you must think inclusively of the whole world as "me," indeed, the entire universe and all of its expressions. This is "me," this is "us."

This to me is the hope of this new year, decade, century, millennium. It is a threshold. Certainly nothing will happen overnight, and yet I suspect there can be a geometric progression, that as more of you begin to think interdependently, interconnectedly, that that is going to be a very contagious way of being. The world is ready for this kind of thinking because beings everywhere, even those who dwell in the utmost of fear, are weary of war, hatred and starvation.

The work begins with yourselves. The work will take courage. You are still habituated to contracting into the fear-based separate self. You're going to need to work with this the way you did with the hot coal, to remind yourself each time you reach for that protection of barricades, "No. This may be painful but separation brings only the illusion of safety. It is not the way." You're going to need repeatedly to invite yourself to release the barricades, not to judge yourself that the barricades came but just to remind yourself, "I do not need to carry this with me. It is not useful to me." So that you change these old habitual tendencies. In this way the power of kindness can shine through, can radiate through from this pure awareness heart.

You each work with this wherever you are. Each of you I would invite to look deeply at the place where you most separate from yourself and others. Is it when others judge you if you feel ashamed or inadequate? Is it when you feel heavy emotions like anger or strong desire? Is it when you feel physical discomfort, when you feel tired, weary? Look honestly and lovingly at your own patterns. You have what a friend cheerfully calls "the top ten hit parade," your own predominant patterns where fear becomes enacted.

You are not to attack these patterns. Some years ago this instrument adopted a collie which had been much abused in the first two years of its life, whipped and kept isolated in an outdoor kennel. This dog was terrified of people. He trembled. He came into the house, hid behind the bed and needed literally to be dragged out. Food would not entice him. Gentle speech would not entice him. He was terrified. Persistence and kindness won out. With each meal he was invited into the dining room, sometimes literally dragged and tied to a chair. And there, there was gentle conversation with praise for him, occasional tidbits of food, and slowly he came to trust and allow his own very beautiful, sweet disposition to shine through.

This is the work you are doing on yourselves. If somebody blames you and you feel fear and anger arising in you, you do not attack yourself for that fear and anger, but you note, "Fear is present in me. It is pushing me off into this duality of me and the attacker and separating me from myself, creating what I see as the good and the bad self. I am not going to follow this myth any more. Rather I am simply going to observe that certain conditions are present and have given rise to certain habituated mind/body experience. I'm going to offer myself the kindness this instrument offered her dog. To hold myself, to cherish myself so that the kindness and goodness of this radiant heart can begin to emerge and fully dissolve the illusions of separation."

I say as an addendum here for those who do not know me, this does not mean that you do not act and speak in appropriate ways to say no to abuse, but kindness says no, not fear, not anger. That's a different talk and I will not go into it further, only to clarify that what I am saying does not mean that you allow yourself to be steamrolled by others. That's the voice of fear. Compassion knows how to say no skillfully. But that no is not said from a separate self or to a separate self.

This is your challenge, then. Can you plant the seeds today which will flourish tomorrow, creating truly a millennium of growing peace and understanding, a world not of separation, me and mine, but a world of awareness of the deep interconnection between all that is, of deepest reverence for every expression of the divine, with the increasing ability to say no to the distortions and help invite deeper understanding of those distortions but without hatred? You truly have the ability to create a world free from hatred and the ravages of hatred.

I thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. After your break I will be very happy to answer your questions both related to my talk and any personal questions you may have. One deeper universal question that occurs to me, and I know is in the heads of several of you here: as we come into this sense of we, us, our and our deepest interconnection with all that is, we find that we become increasingly aware of our interdependence, increasingly telepathic, increasingly sensitive to our own and others' energy fields. In this process, the energy fields open. Yet most of you are still in the human phase of awareness that fear and anger and heavy emotions do arise. These create an assault on an energy field in which the barricades have been dropped. For example if another being is thinking hateful, angry, frightened thoughts, and sending out frightened and angry energy, and you have let down the barricades enough so that you really can feel and receive that energy, how can you relate to it kindly? Is there more possibility for kindness when barricades remain standing? What do you do when outer fear inspires fear in yourself? In other words, how does this transition phase work? It's easy once everybody has transcended fear. But meanwhile, how do we work it? I leave you with that thought and will be glad to speak to it further if it interests you. That is all.

(Tape change.)

L: I liked Aaron's comments at the end when he was talking about having the barriers down; how do we protect ourselves when the defenses and barriers are down? So, I would like a continuation of that thought if possible.

Aaron: I am Aaron. When you have enough trust to lower these barriers, and what you experience is kindness and goodness from others, it confirms for you that you do not have to maintain the barriers. You feel safe. Of course, at that point there is a duality created that you're only safe as long as what you receive is kindness from others. What happens when you receive pain? What helps the barriers stay open so separation does not increase?

If you walk into a person's house and there's a dog lying on the floor, doesn't seem to pay much attention to you, you turn to take off your coat, feel a lump under your foot as you turn, and suddenly, "AH!" the dog bites your ankle, you might scream and holler, "That is a bad dog! A vicious dog! He should be destroyed!" What if your host then says, "Well, you stepped on his paw, and it just so happens it was badly cut and I just brought him home from the vet; he has twenty stitches on it"? Suddenly you feel enormous compassion for the dog. He's not a bad dog any more. He just reacted out of his pain. It doesn't justify his biting you but at least you understand why he bit.

When people respond to you from kindness, it's because the conditions for kindness are available in them. When somebody snaps at you or blames you or abuses you, that is not justified. We're not saying they are right to do that or are absolved from responsibility, but begin to watch how the barriers then come up and the thought arises, "See, I cannot trust. I must keep up my barriers to keep myself safe." But when you understand that sometimes there will be comfort, sometimes discomfort; sometimes there will be praise and sometimes there will be blame, sometimes kindness and sometimes anger, sometimes you have done something that triggered it, sometimes not-and you don't take it so personally-instead of getting caught up in a self which thinks it has to fix the situation, if you can just be present with their discomfort and your discomfort, a barrier doesn't have to arise. And it's our discomfort and together we can attend to it and resolve it. This question would bear further discussion. I pause.

T: When we deal with the barriers we put up ourselves, and we feel anger or fear, how do we let it go? Where can we retreat to or how do we have the ability to not put so much focus on it?

Aaron: I am Aaron. This grows out of your practice, T … In meditation practice, one watches the arising of an uncomfortable body state like an itch, not something major, not agonizing, searing pain, just an itch, but it's unpleasant. One watches the tension around this unpleasantness. One begins to see the distinction between the sensation of the itch and the mind state that arose in relationship to the itch. Unpleasant, wanting it to go away. One begins to see how one relates habitually to this whole stream of experience: a pleasant sensation, grasping at it; an unpleasant sensation, pushing it away. It's just habit. One first must practice with these lighter simpler experiences like somebody's annoying impatience behind you in the supermarket line, or the itch in your body when you're meditating. You discover that that which observes the arising anger is not the anger itself. You begin to get in touch with this pure awareness mind, to see this ground of being and how it functions as observer of experience without getting caught up in an identity of experience.

This sets the framework. For one who has identified with all the positive and negative movements of body and mind, there's been a continuing battle going on trying to hold on to the "good" experiences and get rid of the "bad" experiences.

Slowly the battle begins to dissolve and you get to know this innate kindness which can watch these unpleasant mind and body states arise without getting so caught up in them as self or as something that needs to be fixed. So, you foster this awareness of the innate kindness and radiance of the heart. It's a process. You then bring the ability to be increasingly spacious with difficult experience and the ability to connect with that innate goodness when there is rage or fear. You begin to bring those two truths of your being, spaciousness and kindness, into increasingly difficult experience. You just keep going. Does this sufficiently answer your question or may I speak further to a specific aspect of it? I pause.

T: Yes, but if you have more …

Aaron: I am Aaron. There is always more. Why not try this much and see what questions arise out of your practice with this? I pause.

Q: … I wanted to ask a question. I've been dealing with a lot of difficult personal situations lately and I have a tendency to want to try to figure everything out, to try to make logical sense of things, in order to understand or process how things are, to understand intellectually. I feel like what I need to do is accept things instead of trying to figure them out, and I was just asking what would be helpful to accept situations as they are.

Aaron: I am Aaron. There is always a balance. If a baby toddles into the street and you see a car coming from the distance, you don't just accept things for what they are, you go and get the baby out of the street. But if there are three babies together in the street and many cars bearing down, well, you can't rescue them all. There's a point where you must come to the juncture of acting appropriately from a clear and loving place, free of fear, while letting go of grasping for results. In other words, you act to try to reach the baby but without any set idea, "I must do this or I am a failure." It is this mind of spaciousness, of letting go, in which peace is found.

A much loved Thai meditation master is quoted as saying, "Do everything with a mind that lets go. When you let go a little, you will have a little peace. When you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. When you let go completely, you will have complete peace and happiness, and your trials in the world will come to an end." Probably no one here will quarrel with this idea. The question is how do we allow the process of letting go, or more appropriately phrased, how do we find that within ourselves which has already let go, which is not contracted or grasping, and allow it to manifest when there is fear and grasping present in our experience? This is the crucial point, because you can not create "letting-go" mind; you can only open to it.

You must get to know and be able to distinguish between the direct experience of contractedness based on fear which wants to control, and which is a very human experience, and the spacious experience of letting go. You must distinguish between letting go, which is love-based, and resignation, which is fear-based. Letting go is not resignation. Letting go is at its essence lack of contraction.

Last night this instrument gave her meditation class a very interesting assignment and I would like her to share it with you. I think it would be very helpful to you. I pause.

Barbara: What I assigned in the meditation class last night is what I call the broken egg meditation. I asked people to take a dozen eggs and a non-carpeted floor where clean-up is fairly easy. I asked them to find a big cookie sheet or cutting board and put it on just a slight slant, put one egg on the top and watch it roll down. Crash! Plop! Watch the experience of contraction, which we can call by the simple name "tension." It's just a neutral term, not good or bad, there's just a contractedness of your energy. Wanting to stop it, wanting to control. Get to know that experience of wanting to control and how that tension feels in your body.

What happens as the egg crashes? For some people the mind will say, "What a mess!" and move off into another kind of tension. For some people there will be a release of tension, "Well, it's broken. There's nothing I can do about it now." And you can feel the release of tension. Do it very slowly, very mindfully, not trying to change anything, not saying, "I should feel this, I shouldn't feel that," just present with whatever presents itself in your experience. Watch it roll, watch this wanting to control. Let it fall.

Wait a minute or two, just present in that moment, then put a second egg on. Do it again. A third, go through the whole dozen if you need to-as long as it feels useful. Try to distinguish between this tension state, wanting to control, and the letting go state. For many people there comes a point where you really can watch it rolling and relax. Take three quick steps and turn around so that you know you couldn't catch it if you had to, and just watch it fall off, and there's just this release. "It's just going to break. There's nothing I can do about it." You can enlist another person to help you with it. Let somebody else set the eggs while you're on the other side of the room and you can't catch it. You can't fix it. It's just going to break.

How do we let go of control in that way? The part of us that wants to be upright, to take care of things, to keep everything just right for ourselves, for other people? What does it really mean to let go and let the eggs break, literally? You can't put a big frying pan on the floor and catch them and make an omelet afterwards, you've really got to let them fall on the floor.

So I would suggest you try this to see what you can learn about the difference between this tension state and the release of tension. Then the second step is, in your personal relationships when tension comes up and the desire to control, you can say to yourself, "Wanting to control. Tension. Here is that old familiar tension. Can I just let the 'egg' drop? Can I not try to control the situation? How would it feel just for experiment's sake not to control it?" Do you see what I mean?

K: Barbara asked us to do that the class before. I don't think anybody did it. She reassigned it this class and said, "This is the ONLY assignment!" I haven't done it yet. But I am confessing to the group, I AM going to do it!

Barbara: People here might like to try this, too, and tell me about it next week.

Q: I have a tiny question about that exercise. Did you have in mind any particular distance the egg should drop?

Barbara: Far enough to break!

Q: I had images of rolling it off the counter.

Barbara: You can roll it off the roof if you want to! But it needs to make enough of a mess so there's some tension, not just to land on the grass.

Some years ago at a personal retreat, I was looking at the part of me that wants to be upright, that wants to be the good one, the helper, to take care of people, take care of myself, and how confining that was, because there was some image of somebody I had to be. I could see how parts of that came out of my childhood. I had a set of loving parents but I was raised to be the good little girl. I could see it in the early years of my deafness too-I lost my hearing suddenly through an illness twenty-eight years ago and those first years were very, very painful. But there was a thought, "I have to cope. I have to be upright." I had a baby, a husband, a family. I needed just to put the discomfort aside and cope. So there was this image, needing to be upright.

Because of my deafness I have a visual balance, it's very hard for me to walk in the dark and my balance comes from the soles of my feet. So it's hard for me to walk in uneven terrain. This was part of "being upright" too, the need to learn to walk again after my illness, to literally stay upright and deal with being unbalanced, and not to permit this lack of balance to interfere with my life.

I was in a northern place where the snow was this deep, thigh deep. It was snowing hard and it was the middle of the night. And Aaron said, "Go out. Walk on the path. Close your eyes and let yourself fall." I wasn't going to get hurt, there was a deep cushion of snow. It was so hard to let myself fall. Just to let go of this whole idea, "I'm supposed to stay upright," and fall. The falling was so powerful. Each time I fell, I just sat there in the snow. I cried a bit. I allowed myself to feel that which doesn't have to stay in control. To give myself permission not to have to stay upright. It was a very powerful experience, truly a transformative and liberating experience. So, I've taken that falling-in-the-snow meditation and played with it and tried to create a way for students to get into that experience without a month of retreat and deep snow. So this is where the egg idea came from. Letting go!

Can we hear further questions?

R: I find that when I'm open, I find that I have a lot of sadness. And it basically underlies most of my other feelings, it's like an essence of sadness. It comes and it goes but it's definitely the stream in which my life sort of evolves. I think it has to do with a sense of impermanence and loss. And I'm wondering, I mean, it's not a pleasant feeling but it's always there. Sometimes it's not too bad but sometimes it's really painful.


Barbara: We've got a new stove burning here. It's a gas fueled stove that looks like an imitation wood-burning stove but very realistic looking and it sends out a lot of heat. It was just installed today. It has a very simple on/off switch on the top so it looks like a fireplace. We've just turned it off by simply pushing the switch. Somebody said, you don't expect a fire like that to have an on/off switch. Aaron is laughing and saying that this is something very new to his experience. He says he keeps thinking he's seen everything. And never before in all of his many, many incarnations has he seen a fire with an on/off switch!

J: Would he like to come back and experience other new things?

Barbara: He says the last thing that really took him aback was when we went to an amusement park and I rode on a roller coaster! As we drove up to this park, there was a big Ferris wheel spinning around, and Aaron said, "Do you mean people willingly climb on that apparatus and ride around on it!?" Okay, Aaron wants to speak to Rebecca's question.

Aaron: I am Aaron. There will be sadness. This is part of the human experience. I spoke to someone recently about the experience of depression. She had spent her entire life fighting depression. She was depressed in part because she could not conquer her depression. It was about safety and control. She had tried various kinds of anti-depressant medication which had smothered the direct experience of depression, but she could sense it still there in the background. We talked at length about the distinction between the experience of depression and the war with depression which was creating a secondary kind of depression, one in which she saw herself as a constant failure because she couldn't conquer the depression. I said to her, "What if you just leave the depression alone, the way one might leave a sore foot alone, treating it with medicine of that's appropriate but not believing that you have to fix it?" If you sprain your ankle you just have to be patient and be aware, "There's going to be some pain here." I'm not bad because I sprained my ankle, I don't have to wage war with the sprained ankle. I treat it appropriately with ice and by being off it. If I have cancer I treat it appropriately, maybe through surgery or radiation. But I don't have to be at war with the cancer or the cancerous part of my body.

So there's the potential for tremendous release and for the learning of coming into a deeper aspect of the self, not identifying with the depression or, in your case, R, the sadness as self and as an aspect of self which is bad or must be gotten rid of. It's uncomfortable. The sprained ankle is uncomfortable. The cancer is uncomfortable. The loss of a loved one is uncomfortable. Human experience is such that there is constantly going to be a progression of gain and loss.

This letting-go mind learns to let go of grasping, of holding on to that which is loved and desired. It develops the wisdom to see that things do come and go. There's still going to be sadness. Eventually the sadness, too, will dissolve itself, but at least for some large part of the path there's going to be experience of sadness. When you love something and it's gone, there's sadness.

If the sadness is okay, unpleasant but not something with which you have to wage war, it can immensely change your experience of sadness. It's only then that wisdom about the movement of joy and sadness can develop. So this is what I would request of you, R. When sadness arises, to observe, "This is part of the human experience. This is not something bad in me or broken in me. This sadness is not something that needs to be fixed in me." And then I would like you to work either with tonglen or with metta, with this sadness. If with tonglen, sit there with the strong centered part of yourself aware of the sad aspect of self. I don't mean this to create a fragmentation of the self; clearly it's one being. But there is the experience of sadness, and you can also get in touch with the experience of this spacious mind which can see the experience of sadness without getting caught in an identification with it. It is that pure essence of mind which can offer loving energy to that which is experiencing sadness, to the personality self.

Do it as tonglen breathing out that loving energy to the sadness, breathing in the sadness and releasing it. Or do it as a simple metta practice, acknowledging, "Breathing in, I am aware of sadness. Breathing out, I smile to my sadness. Breathing in, I am aware of sadness. Breathing out, with a wish 'May I be safe.' Breathing in and aware of sadness, breathing out with a wish 'May I be happy. May all beings be happy.'" In this way you can make space for the experience of sadness and stop thinking you have to fix it. You can make space in which the unpleasantness of it can float without so much discomfort. Does this feel workable to you, R? (Yes.) I pause.

Barbara: Other questions?

K: Could Aaron speak about conditioned arising as it applies at the level of thought, conscious awareness, and energy, and how all of these move through time in our direct experience.

Barbara: He says this is two questions. One is the arising of thought and consciousness. The other has to do with linear vs. non-linear or simultaneous time. He would like to put off that second part of the question for another night because he says it's a long explanation and he cannot do it justice tonight. He says, simply consider that on the relative plane it's all happening linearly, or seems to be, and on the ultimate plane it's all happening simultaneously. And that the mind may not be able to wrap itself around that, and that's okay. Just to let go and experience it however you experience it, and know that the perspective is somewhat limited by where you're standing.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I would be delighted to get back into a discussion of linear vs. simultaneous time but it does become a bit conceptual. As for the first part of your question, we have these aspects of the chain of dependent arising. First there is contact, the contact of any sense with a sense object. Since the mind is considered a sense, that which touches the mind becomes the sense object.

So if the eye touches an object, there is contact. Consciousness becomes aware of the contact, we call that stage "consciousness." For there to be the sense consciousness of seeing, there first has to be the sense, the eye, and the object, and they have to come together. And then, dependent on these two conditions, the consciousness "seeing" will arise. It is what we call a necessary step. If the eye does not touch an object, there cannot be seeing. If the eye does touch an object and if the eye is functional, seeing must occur.

If the physical body, the hand, makes contact with an object, touching must occur. The touching is not the joining of hand and object, that is the contact. The consciousness of touching is the mind awareness that touching has occurred. One might call it the conscious awareness.

This gets very precise, K. This instrument can refer you to some commentaries on Abhidharma that may be of interest to you. I don't want to go into that precise detail and all the terminology involved in this talk to a larger group.

Based on the examples I've presented, you can see that if the mind as a sense touches an object, such as a memory, then the sense consciousness of thinking, knowing, and remembering may arise. In linear time we say that first there is contact and then there is consciousness. There is also a feeling of pleasant, unpleasant, or perhaps neutral. There is also perception. Seeing can occur, for example, without any knowing of what it is you see. For there to be perception, memory needs to come in. If you see green, you've got eye touching object, and then some recognition based on old experience, "This is green."

We talk about bare perception or old conditioned perception. If you've become conditioned to see a certain facial expression and think of it as being negative and anger-filled, certain mental formations will arise out of that old conditioned perception. So you're not seeing the face freshly.

We do need to learn from our experience. For example, there is conditioning which teaches you not to pick up the hot coal. It knows, "This is hot and I will get burned." That thought can rest there without any contraction, a simple loving thought, "I won't pick up the hot coal. It will burn me." Or that thought can run off into memories of fear, the memory of how you were burned and this scab on your hand and how it ached, and so forth. Even anger may arise that there's a fire with hot coals in front of you.

So we go through this process of contact, consciousness, perception, feeling and the arising of mental formations. The mental formation is just another thought. One needs to see the flow of the process. Contact, sense touching object. It's easier to see when it's one of the physical senses. Eyes touching something that seems repulsive, such as vomit. The perception of what it is. A feeling of "unpleasant." Perhaps at the same time as the eye touching it, the smell coming in. And then, thoughts of revulsion. The thought is a new contact. The mind touched the whole parcel of physical contact and perception and feelings as its object, and all the old concepts about vomit, and moved into a thought of revulsion. Here again there will be feelings, perceptions and the possibility of a continuing mental formation. It just goes on and on and on.

This mind that keeps running, there's a Pali word, papancha. I like the sound of the word, alliterative. Proliferating mind. Each mind state not seen with mindfulness and presence contributes and becomes part of the foundation of the next one and the next one and the next one and continuing on. So this is how thought and consciousness arise out of the direct experience of the senses and contact with the objects of the senses.

Now, I cherish K's question. This seems to be a linear process, and yet I tell you it's all simultaneous. How does that work? While I will speak of this at greater length on another occasion, I will ask you to think of the river which seems to flow, and the water in the river which is always everywhere at the same time. Each drop of water is in a different place in the river, but the river is everywhere. It's very hard to grasp this with the conceptual mind. When there is a contraction based on old stories, old experience and perception, that contraction is like the water in the river. It's contracting at each place that that whole stream of consciousness has contracted through countless rebirths. When you break into that contraction with an understanding of what's happening, and how this papancha, this perpetuation of the mind state is happening, in that moment there is a freedom which touches everything in the river. It's like putting an electric charge into the water; it doesn't just touch this molecule of water, it touches the whole river. It purifies the whole river. We'll get further into it. K, I would request you to bring up this question again next week or soon and we will devote more time to it. I pause.

Barbara: Is there one last question, before we end?

M: Lately it seems that the heavenly messengers (old age, sickness, and death) are in my life a lot, are very apparent to me. I find myself full of fear. It's enormous and overwhelming. I find myself knowing I want out of suffering. When I hear Aaron speak on dependent origination and I see how detailed one's meditation must be to see dependent arising, I despair. I want to know how to contemplate these messengers so as to use them skillfully and not fear.

Aaron: I am Aaron. You ask a very profound question. First, yes, there is suffering, there is sickness and old age and death. If there were no path to the end of suffering, the fact that these exist would be cause for despair. Certainly, as R reminds us, they are cause for sadness.

There are two parts to the answer to your question, M. First, part of the progression of insights is insight into dissolution. And that's a very difficult piece of the practice. One must build up faith in the practice and in the truths that you have learned. This is part of the matter of learning balance. During this phase where dissolution is predominant, there can be stronger feelings of despair. Because one does desire to be safe and in control, when there is insight into dissolution, an immediate arising for most beings is the desire to control or fix. There's a great amount of discomfort with dissolution.

One of the ways one may try to control is to go deeper intellectually into these teachings of dependent arising, but intellect is not going to resolve it for you. Actually, a precise understanding of dependent arising is not really useful until after one has resolved the dilemma of dissolution through direct experience, through direct, let us call it transcendent, experience. It's very hard, literally a cliff-hanger, in that one feels that one is hanging by one's fingernails on the edge of a cliff and there's nothing below you. You've got to drop, you've got to jump off into this space of total ego and body dissolution, and your past experiences with that-you specifically, M, and many of you-have been that it's not safe because it's not something that the ego itself can survive.

But there is a misconception here. The ego is an artificial construct to begin with. It's real just as the body is real. It's the waves expressing out of the ocean. The wave doesn't die, it simply sinks back into the ocean. The leaf doesn't die, it simply dissolves into the soil and takes new form as a new leaf. The ego doesn't die, you just cease to identify with it as me, as mine, and then suffering stops.

In practical terms my suggestion would be to watch dissolution intensively, to try to stay with objects and watch them dissolve and become aware of how they then re-express. Watch the out breath until it's gone, and as new air comes into the lungs, to be aware that this is the rekindling of the breath, that nothing dies, it just changes its presentation. Stay with a thought, with physical sensation like an itch or tingling, until it's gone, and become aware of the new sensation, be it a different kind of tingling or absence of tingling. Sometimes in meditation the breath becomes so subtle that you can't find it any more. Then the primary focus is what seems to be absence of breath.

Become aware of dissolution and that something takes the place of what dissolves, so that you more deeply experientially come to trust this whole movement or transition. This will allow you to look at the truth of sickness, old age and death as a truth of the impermanence of everything in the phenomenal world, without the sense of despair but with increasing equanimity, which is the next step in this progression of insights. I pause.

Barbara: He says, we will talk more about it. It's 10 o'clock …

(Joys and sorrows.)

An addition …

Barbara: While reviewing the transcript, I raised a question about this statement from page 1:

You begin your journey in that place of clarity but as immature sparks of the divine. There is awareness but there has never been self-awareness, and self-awareness is a process you must move through and which is necessary for the full maturity of understanding before the return to pure awareness mind-understanding the entire pattern of self-awareness and consciousness, but finally free of identification with the body, feelings and thoughts, as self.

I asked Aaron to clarify this statement. Why do we need self-awareness? I know there are beings who evolve on other planes and never move into the illusion. Aaron says he will speak to this question next Wednesday.

Another question, from page 2; why can we let go of the literal hot coal and not pick it up again, and not be able to let go of all the figurative hot coals that come past, or stop grasping them?

Aaron indicates many questions in this transcript which would merit further discussion.

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Brodsky