March 22, 2000

Barbara: We have a fairly small group tonight. Would you prefer Aaron to go ahead with his planned talk or would you like to ask questions and skip the formal talk. (Decision to hear Aaron's talk.)

A little background on this talk. We had a number of weeks of seeming urgency of board meetings. There was the decision that needed to be made if Interfaith Center bought the church, would we want to rent space from them? Where are we going? What are we doing? So the board was meeting for long hours with emails flying back and forth and a sense of urgency.

At the same time there was some urgency about finalizing plans with the retreat center for the 2001 retreats, needing to do that quickly, the retreat center saying, "We'll only hold it for so many days." So there were various "urgent" issues.

So the memo came through from the board, "Regarding people's observations about the sense of urgency that has been evident lately, and (name's) thoughts about urgency, and (name's) thought that urgency and pro-activity may go hand-in-hand and maybe necessarily, I think this would be a great topic to discuss. How to live with life in a pro-active way without a sense of urgency. What would growth look like if urgency did not accompany it? Is growth possible without a sense of urgency? Do we have to stay on the razor's edge to get the job done?"

That's the basic question. There were four or five emails from different people with bits of this. For example, one that addresses not the urgency itself but one's relationship with urgency: "As I write this I am also aware of the nature of my relationship with urgency. Sometimes more at ease and peace than other times."

This is what Aaron would like to talk about tonight. He asks, before he starts are there any specific questions from you regarding this?

Barbara: Aaron says hello and his love to all of you. He's asking how you would define the word "urgency" or "urgent"?

V: Sense of pressure?

K1: A feeling of perceived need to act or respond quickly. (Barbara: With a sense of pressure or not necessarily?) Depends how centered I am, but usually some contracted energy.

K2: Often there is fear of some consequence if the right action is not taken soon enough.

Barbara: So urgency is experienced by you as partially based in fear. Others?

K2: There is also the energy of urgency and fear to get me moving. That is one of my patterns.

Barbara: So you use that edge of fear to get yourself moving? (Yes.) So is the fear, he says the fear is perhaps brought in consciously as a device and is not necessarily an integral part of the experience of urgency.

K2: In actual situations, I will delay starting something until there is a sense of fear and then I start to move. It is not conscious in the sense that I don't say to myself, "Now I will make myself afraid in order to get moving." But when I look at what I have done, it looks like some part of my mind is working that way. Not very conscious.

Barbara: Aaron is asking, do you all experience, let us say, the water is running in the shower and the bathtub drain is closed so the water has raised up to the level almost to the rim. You see it from another room, water right up at the top. He says, there's urgency. "Got to turn the water off." But if the water is just running and you think, "Oh, I left the shower running," and it's just running down the drain, there may be a feeling, "I should turn the water off," but not a sense of urgency. You may finish dressing first. He says, one question then is, why do you need to come to that place of near disaster in order to act?

Any other comments about this?

R: I think that it's so easy to avoid certain concerns for a long time, certain concerns that are brewing underneath, because they're unpleasant, and suddenly they arise with great force.

Barbara: Yes that's just it; we want to avoid the unpleasant feelings, so we try to cover them up, as if that way we wouldn't have to experience them. But this is just a delaying tactic. Aaron asks if you have ever noticed that animals grazing in a large meadow who even have the faintest scent of a predator will turn and flee. Or at least will move rather quickly away from that scent. They don't wait until the predator is right there in their midst. He pauses.

Anything else before Aaron talks?

K2: I think R points to inner conflict and difficulty in facing a situation and postponing dealing with it as leading to a sudden breaking out of strong feeling, such as fear. I think that happens with me and then with the fearful urgency I may begin to act or face the situation.

Barbara: So we delay as long as we can, and then finally we have to act. Aaron asks, do you all feel this is necessary to the human experience or is it just habit?

K2: Some is certainly habit.

Barbara: He's asking, how about others of you who work in office situations, do you find yourself able to keep the work just flowing or do you need crises to push you?

K1: I experience that many people intentionally use and create crises to move themselves and others. From living overseas in a rural village, I have seen that urgency is not necessary. I have not experienced that much in that culture that seemed so time-focused.

Barbara: Aaron is asking, is this crisis mode a result of your extraordinarily busy lifestyles where there is just not enough time for everything so you've learned to function on a "do whatever is about to explode" basis?

K1: Yes, but it is still created, a choice, I think.

Aaron: I am Aaron. My love to you all. I do want to allow more dialogue tonight than normal and will talk but also move back and forth.

I recall a lifetime in which the being I was lived high in the mountains. It was a very simple life. I had a small but adequate garden and time to preserve some of my food for the winter. I had some goats from whom I got milk, and a small flock of sheep. I used the sheep's wool, spun and woven, for my clothing. Certainly it was busy. But season followed season and there was a predictability about the demands that would be coming up in the next season. To be certain there was adequate fuel to keep the cabin warm through the winter; to be sure the roof was mended before the severe stormy weather set in; to prepare and plant and harvest the crops. But everything was predictable. There was little urgency in terms of being controlled by fear,

Occasionally the unpredictable happened. I remember once out of season a terrible storm hit not only my own home but many other villagers' homes. Roofs were blown off. People were injured. In those days one could not simply go out and buy a tarp to cover the hole. The roofs needed to be re-thatched.

The morning after the storm, the whole community turned out. We walked from one home to another; some near each other, some spaced farther apart. Some few were further up the mountain and out of the village. Not much time was lost in talking or debate. It was clear that the old aunt and uncle's home came first.(We called them Aunt and Uncle although they were not our own familial aunt and uncle.) This elderly couple's roof was fully blown away, and she was an invalid, so they needed shelter quickly. Another family with an infant needed shelter. There was one home which was large and would shelter more than one family, so that repair also was a priority.

There was no sense of fear. There was a deep sense of loving commitment to work as hard as possible to get these roofs covered before the end of the day. Perishable items were brought under places where shelter still existed and were covered as best as possible. Although further storms threatened, none hit that night, so the second day we all came out again, the whole village working on one house after another.

Yes, there was a sense of need to get it done, knowing that if there was not shelter and another storm came, not only would possessions become wet but there was no way to keep the home warm, for it was winter. The roofs needed to be repaired in order to keep in the heat. There was pressure. We did not feel that we would be overcome by these elements. If anything, we felt a confidence so that it was more a joyful challenge than a threat. Perhaps therein lies the distinction. That when you relate to something as joyful challenge, with a sense of confidence, there's no contraction of fear around feeling threatened. You are able to work well, skillfully, quickly, with strong motivation. But the motivation is not fear-based. There's no sense of contraction.

I do consider this kind of work urgent work but not fear-based urgent work. So I would not agree with the definition of urgent necessarily as fostered by fear. Is it joyful challenge or is it threat? I would pass this back to you for some further discussion. I pause.

M1: I think of living in the monastery where one thinks one will get away from worldly types of urgency. But what I found is that energy is recreated. (Barbara: That the fear-based energy is recreated?) Yes, according to the personality of the person. And I watched especially the senior members who often had enormous responsibility grapple with this very issue very profoundly, as they had to attend to administrative duties and also manifest their practice as well, more than in the world. I don't have an end to this story but it's just interesting that in a monastery this issue is still very present.

Barbara: A related but different example, I remember some of the monks and nuns at Plum Village talking about this. We were talking about the eating practice there, and that the meals are quite long periods of time. Even when things are busy nobody just sits down and grabs a bite for five minutes. In normal times they sit at the table for twenty or twenty-five minutes in silence, eating very slowly and mindfully. Then a bell sounds once and mindful conversation may begin. People then enjoy talking to each other and spend another twenty, twenty-five minutes, half an hour, at the table.

So we asked in curiosity, "In times when it's very busy do you do this?" And the response was, "Yes. In times when it's busy it's even more important." They talked about a "crisis" situation where they had gotten phone calls about Vietnamese boat people who were in danger of drowning; rescue needed to be arranged for them. There was a lot of work involved and many lives were at stake. Meal time was approaching and they had been working at a very clipped pace all morning. Thay noted, "Ah, the bell will ring for lunch in five minutes." Somebody said, "Do you just want us to bring some food here?" He said, "Oh, no." The bell rang for lunch and they all went. They expected him to make the lunch fast, but he sat and slowly ate his meal. Then the bell for conversation rang which meant people could rise and leave if they wanted to. Usually people didn't leave until Thay left. He just sat there and began to talk to people.

People were thinking, "But people are dying. He's just sitting at the table." He wasn't just making chatter. He was talking about the situation and some of the plans, but he poured himself a cup of tea. He was clearly very present, very relaxed, just letting this time re-nourish himself and the others. The nun who told me the story said she found how valuable it was to just sit like that. That was her first experience of that kind of situation in Plum Village, but after that she experienced it a number of times in similar kinds of crisis situations.

It's not a denial at all, but allowing oneself to nurture one's own quiet center in that way, to remind oneself to just let go, come back to center, relax, and then go out and begin to move again. To me this seems a very direct answer to the compulsive, "Keep going. Faster! Faster!" which we so often get involved in. Part of this approach was just adhering to the monastic routine there. The bell rings, it's time to put the work away.

I experienced something similar at Amaravati. I was working in the wood shop making some frames for vines that were growing up the walls. I was busy drilling holes and assembling pieces that I had cut. I was enjoying what I was doing very much. The bell for tea rings at a certain time. There was a monk working in the shop. He said to me, "The tea bell will ring in ten minutes." I said to him, "That's okay, I don't really want to go, I'll finish what I'm doing." He said, "You don't understand. The bell for tea will ring in ten minutes." And he was very clearly making the statement, "When it's time for tea, it's time for tea. Put away the work. Don't get caught up in the work." This was not urgent work.

V: I was at Crazy Wisdom this morning. In the tea room they have a sign saying, "Slow down. It can take us fifteen minutes to make your sandwich and we have created a place for people to relax and enjoy their food. If you are having a day where you are too busy to wait, please go somewhere else and come back on a day when you can enjoy the rest and peace here."

M2: I don't frequently experience what I would call urgency. Well, I have, but I was just told by two different people, both very spiritual people, and separately, that I really need to slow down. One person just told me that this morning. I didn't fully understand what she meant but I'm fascinated that I'm here listening to this tonight!

Aaron: I am Aaron. To slow down does not necessarily mean to move at a slower pace. Sometimes there are many things which must be attended which really are, if not crucial at least very important. Coming back to the same lifetime which I just spoke of, there might be a new lamb which needed some care, not in an hour but now. Perhaps it was about to rain and certain crops needed to be picked before the threatening rain. Clothes hanging out to dry needed to be brought inside, and a hungry baby was crying for its breakfast. The crisis-oriented person flutters around from one task to another. While it's helping the newborn lamb, drying it and getting it up on its feet and nursing with its mother, its mind is with the baby inside who is hungry, and whether it can beat the rain. Drying the lamb, which can be a very joyful, peaceful chore, becomes a frantic task. Mind is not present with it.

One who does not work in a crisis mode will stop for a minute and take stock. What is most urgent here? If the lamb is not attended, it might die. The baby will be uncomfortable for a few minutes and cry. It's all right. The baby who has been treated that way, whose needs have been met regularly but who has occasionally been told, "I must do this first," if the adult comes to it with calmness, wraps it up in a blanket and takes it and lays it down in a place where it can watch, at some level that baby will understand that its turn will come. The clothes, they can get wet, they'll dry. The food that must be brought in before it rains or before a frost, perhaps it really does have to be brought in.

How long is it going to take to feed the baby? How long is it going to take to save the lamb? What are the priorities? You don't have to dwell over this with a contracted sense of, "I should be able to do it all," with a lot of fear and judgment. It's very clear. Take care of the lamb. Pick up and feed the baby. If necessary, feed the baby as you walk around and pick some of the crop with your other hand. You don't have to do just one thing at a time. If you are feeding the baby and picking that crop, just feed the baby and pick the crop. Don't plan what to do next. Don't think what you should have done, that maybe you should have picked the crop yesterday. That decision was made yesterday, to the best of your ability. Trust yourself.

When the mind is focused and doing one thing at a time, it can move very quickly from one chore to another. You actually can get more done when you are not scattered, you are present with one chore at a time. Not only that but even if that chore is urgent it can be very pleasant. There's not a sense of crisis about it. Urgent does not equate with crisis. Crisis, to me, is fear-based. Urgent is simply, it needs to be done now.

I realize that some of you find yourself in a situation where you've got, figuratively, five or six newborn lambs all needing your attention. There is a sense that you cannot choose one above another, that they are all urgent and equally urgent. My question to you then is, how did you get yourself into this situation?

If you find yourself repeatedly in a situation where crises threaten to overwhelm you, where there is nobody to share the work, "You take care of that one; I'll take care of this one," no sense of space, in some way you've invited that situation. It seems probable that you are a person who is invested in your problems or their solutions as self-identity.

Humans do like their problems. You claim not to but they make you feel not only important but vital. When you are solving a problem, you feel in control. You feel powerful. There's "somebody" there solving a problem. Self-important too. You like your problems so much that if you don't have any, you go out and ask others if they have any and you try to help them solve their problems. What if there were no problems that needed to be solved? What would life be without problems? What if there were only situations which needed loving attention?

If you are constantly embroiled in crises, begin to consider in what way and for what reason you are inviting that into your life. I pause.

Barbara: He asks for your thoughts.

Q: I have a question. How can one lovingly respond to others' sense of crisis when you are asked to become involved?

Barbara: I'm paraphrasing Aaron, he says, you have a choice: to jump into their fear with them or to make the very kind, skillful statement, "You sound very worried. What do you envision is going to happen?" And they tell you, "Oh, this and this and this!" You can respond again, "I hear your fear. Is there a way that we can work with this situation together without the fear? What is the primary task here? How can we come together and begin to work on that task with love and kindness?" He pauses.

He says you must distinguish between the task and what kind of energy you bring to that task. The task may be urgent. One can still do it with love and from a centered place. The outflow is much more peaceful. He says so much of this is habit, to run around in circles!

Aaron is asking me to relate a story. One moment.

A few years ago I was sitting with my family at the picnic area at Friends Lake. It was a time when Mike was home and we were sitting at some of the picnic tables reading, reading letters. We had been swimming and were in bathing suits. It was a very windy day. It was early spring so the water was cold.

A man who knows how to sail and his teenage son went out on a sailboat. They were clothed, and did not put on life jackets. There is not a lifeguard there and it's not my responsibility to tell another adult, "You should wear a life jacket."

The boat caught the wind in a funny way and the boy fell off. The wind was blowing so hard it was pushing the boat away from the boy. The boy was having trouble swimming. The father was trying to get the boat back to the boy. He is a competent sailor and I thought he would just come about and pick him up. I wasn't alarmed.

But he seemed to lose control of the boat. The next thing, I saw the father dive off the boat. I realized as soon as I saw him dive that they were in trouble. I tapped Mike and just said, "They're in trouble. Let's go." Mike looked up, he gathered what was happening in one glance and in an instant got paddles and lifejackets for our boat. I grabbed the boat and pulled it out into the water and we jumped in. There was great urgency but no sense of fear about it. We were paddling as fast as we could. There was really no sense of fear, just stay present and do what needs to be done.

It was very interesting. By that time the father and son were screaming, "Help!" And lots of people were on shore running around saying, "Look! They need help! What are we going to do!" And they were running in circles, panicked. A second boat didn't get launched until Mike and I had reached them. It took people that long to get themselves together.

This is the difference between panic and response to an urgent situation from a place that's present and free of fear. I'm not saying that I could always do that. Without Mike I don't know if I could have done it. We kept each other steady and calm. And we both trusted each other's ability to handle the situation. We're both trained in water and small boat safety and have practiced just this scenario many times.

We can come back to this place of center which says, "I don't have to relate to this with fear." It's part of the training, if you've learned to be present with fear and to say no each time fear arises, bow to fear, invite it for that cup of tea, but know, "I'm not going to get caught up in this." One watches the arising of panic without getting caught in an identity with panic; then there's the possibility for very skillful response even in crises situations.

It was very powerful for me. I didn't stop to look behind me until we got there. But we got to them, we gave them life jackets and they were holding on to our boats and we were trying to figure out how to get them up into the boat without tipping our boat. At that point we looked around and saw the people on shore just getting started. Mike related to me afterward all the shouting that was going on. Very interesting.

Q: In a non-life-threatening situation, I often feel the other person's anger or impatience with me because I am trying to stay calm myself. I feel I am trying to control my reaction, yes. So I do not panic. I know I work better when I am calm and think better too. Perhaps I am still trying to be the good daughter? Or wife or friend, to meet their expectations that I am totally sympathetic with them?

Barbara: They are angry because you haven't panicked and you feel you "should" panic to meet their expectations! Yes, we do that.

Aaron asks if you all can see how a panicked response is a way of disassociating from the true impact of the situation? When we panic we can separate ourselves from our sadness, from our pain, and just spin around, so to speak.

Aaron: I am Aaron. When you panic in this way, often it is because you cannot bear or are afraid you cannot bear to be present with the situation. But when you do not panic, then you must be with your experience. This is part of this human fight or flight response. It is both habitual and trained in you. There is a physical response of increased adrenalin when there's danger, and the adrenalin running through your body does provoke tension. But you're not ruled by the chemicals in your body. You're not ruled by the movements of mind. You have free will. Just because the body wants to run doesn't mean you need to run, just because the body wants to fight (and any kind of panicked response is a kind of fighting) doesn't mean you need to fight.

This also is part of your training, learning to observe these kinds of mind and body states and not get caught up in them. Can there be an experience of contracted mind or body, and can it simply be noted: here is contraction? That which observes the contraction is not the contraction itself. When you bring this focused mind to bear on the contraction it helps you to re-center. Here you are creating a new habit, a different way of working with this kind of situation.

When you see the tension or contracted state as something "wrong" which needs to be fixed, then you are always on guard against that state and thus, controlled by its arising. The contracted state itself is just contraction, no problem at all. Learn to be present with contraction just as with any other object.

I don't know if any of you have ever worked with bees. Unless you are a child of beeworkers and introduced to them as a baby, the first time that you go with an experienced person to tend a hive of bees, there's going to be fear. Through all of your life these have been small, stinging adversaries. You may love their honey, but you've not appreciated the bee itself. Here you are, sometimes with some protection and sometimes not even with that, and the bees are flocking around you. There's going to be fear. Your experienced friend will tell you, "Just be still. Don't make any quick actions. Don't run. If they settle on your hands or face, just let them be there." And of course as soon as you settle down and are not afraid of them, they will not harm you.

So much of your experience is like this bee encounter. If you enact the habitual response, you'll get stung and then the tendency to fight becomes even more habituated. It takes a great deal of self-discipline, kindness and awareness to just rest there and let the bees alight. I pause.

Barbara: Aaron is asking, has anybody here ever tended bees? I haven't.

K1: Not formally but I have had encounters with them, such that I learned that lesson, that they are not going to harm me even when I was hurting their home unknowingly.

Barbara: It's 8:30, why don't we pause here for tea and then we'll come back to this.


Barbara: V just said that they, A and V and M1 and M2, have been talking about how difficult it is to support people who are in crisis without buying into their world view and panic, because one of the things they're asking of you is to buy into it. If you don't buy into it, you don't please them. And yet if you do buy into it, you can't help them.

So, Aaron is asking, what do you think about this idea that urgency can exist without fear? (Group: Yes.) He says, the question then really becomes, what is the habitual response to urgent situations? For most of us the habitual response is fear. How can we begin to shift that response into one of more spacious kindness? He is saying, can you simply observe how fear moves into urgency, this obsessive voice that's saying, "Oh! Fix it! Fix it!" Then just say, "Shhhh!" and not get caught up in that voice.

Aaron: I am Aaron. A contraction is a natural thing and not necessarily based on fear. I'm going to ask this instrument to hold the cup in her open hand, touching the cup, and the hand contracts around it. This is not a fear-based contraction, it's simply a necessary contraction in order to get the work done, the work of holding the cup. If you are present right here in this moment with the contraction which lets you know something is urgent, that contraction is not necessarily a sign of fear.

There must be some contraction in order to direct energy in a certain direction. It does not have to shift off to fear in order for that energy to move and the work to be done. You need to differentiate between the contraction of relation to an object or thought, and the stories about it.

We talked years ago about what I call "jitsu" energy. I described the flow of energy in two parts: "kyo" and "jitsu." I used a wave as an example. The wave gathers its force until it's cresting and ready to break onto the beach. That's a jitsu wave, giving out energy. And then, there's a moment of its falling, when it has ceased to crash onto the sand and before it begins to recede. For that moment, it's neutral. Then there's a drawing energy. The very beginning of it is kyo, very empty. And then as it pulls back it gathers more energy again. It pulls under, swirls around and crests again, back into jitsu.

Please hold out your hand. Take your other hand and just touch your palm gently; begin to receive the touching hand in the open palm, closing the fist around it. (Pause) There's a certain energy that must be there in order to receive. It's a softly jitsu energy. If we look closer at this process, the hand just at the moment of touch is neutral. There's no kyo and no jitsu. The grasping hand has some jitsu energy, then it's neutral. Then, as it receives the object and relaxes completely, it becomes kyo. This is an energy pattern natural to, truly essential to, all life.

Another place where you can see this pattern is in the arising and falling of the breath. Breathe in, watching how the breath comes in, drawing in more and more breath until there's a discomfort, a tension. Jitsu. Begin to exhale, and it becomes very flat, neutral, then kyo. As you exhale more and there's a new tension to grab at another breath, the energy becomes jitsu again. I'm not talking about the breath itself as being kyo or jitsu but the energy around breathing. As soon as you begin the release the energy is neutral, and then it becomes kyo, a very still energy. As you continue to push out the breath, there's a new tension. Wanting to get a new breath. It's really the wanting that creates jitsu. Grasping.

The whole cycle of life is in this kyo-jitsu energy. It's symbolized well through the yin and yang symbols. Kyo moves into jitsu, moves into kyo, moves into jitsu. It is the whole cycle of all being in the universe, this smooth balanced flow of kyo and jitsu.

I pause to ask this instrument to move into a deeper space. When she tries to listen, her channeling is less clear. I tell her she must give up listening and can read the transcript.

The healthy balanced human being has a balance of kyo and jitsu throughout all the organs and systems of the body. Crisis situations create an excess of jitsu, with very uncomfortable energy. I think this is because jitsu relates not just to receiving, but to grasping. The mind says that what you are about to receive, you must grab at, and everything tightens. Feeling that extreme tension, the mind says "danger." One of the things that you naturally seem to do, a learned behavior, in the presence of jitsu, is to push too far the other way. Then instead of balance, like a see-saw, you have something that's swinging wildly up and down.

When a situation is urgent, you often move into this jitsu energy pattern in large part because urgent is a learned uncomfortable experience. You are not used to being present with that urgency experience with equanimity. Fear arises out of "urgent." But it's just a question of bringing love to fear. Fear is like any other conditioned object which arises. If you bring love to it, it loses its sense of separateness, and thereby, its power. Then the whole kyo-jitsu cycle comes back into balance. How are you going to relate to fear?

Several of you during the break were discussing the question, "What do I do with those people who want me to get caught up in their fear and crisis with them?" The same thing you do with yourself. When the fear-based mind is saying, "Come on! Jump in! Jump in! Do something!" tell it, "Shhhh! No."

Love says no to fear. "I do not have to go there. I do have a choice." This affirmation that you do have a choice is very powerful because so much of the slip into crisis mode is habit.

What if it was an icy winter day. You are in the woods by a lake. There is a long dock projecting out into the water. You live in the forest and suddenly you became aware that the forest is aflame. Hundreds of humans came running out of the forest, run down the dock and jump into the icy water. They're going to get hypothermia. Even though the forest is aflame, they're going to die of cold. You run with them out of the forest onto the beach, down the dock. Everybody's jumping. Do you have to jump? You have a choice. At the very least, you can sit there on the dock and see what happens to the fire. If the fire starts to come out over the water onto the dock, then you may have to jump. Maybe you can just sit there on the dock. You have a choice. You don't have to react to fear, you don't have to act in a certain way just because that's how everybody does it, just because that's how you have always done it. This is the beauty of free will, and the beauty of mindfulness. You have a choice.

Each time that you say no to fear in this loving but firm way, whether it's your own fear or another person's fear, you reestablish and strengthen in yourself your ability to offer metta to your fear and to not get caught in its grip. Basically you establish a new habit, a much more skillful habit. This is the whole essence of right effort. Right effort is often expressed in four parts in the Buddhist scriptures. The skillful effort to avoid unwholesome states that have not yet arisen, to abandon unwholesome states which have already arisen, to nurture wholesome states which have already arisen, to invite to arise wholesome states which have not yet arisen.

On the surface it sounds like a lot of doing: inviting, nurturing, abandoning. What this really is about though is making the skillful choice not to follow the habitual tendencies of fear. We know that fear will arise, we've been through this countless times. If there's a noise, you don't have to run out and yell at the person outside making the noise. There's just hearing. If it's a loud, really unremittant noise, you note it, and know it's unpleasant. Hearing. Noise. If an itch arises, you don't have to scratch it. The desire to scratch is not the itch. Watch them both.

When anger arises, you don't have to scratch that itch either. When panic arises, when fear arises, you don't have to scratch that itch. What is the experience of fear before the stories about it start to arise? How do you change your relationship with fear? If you do change your relationship with fear and become kinder toward fear, what does that do to panic? Does it shift it into a simple urgency that is challenge, even joyful challenge? If it's a life and death situation, it's not going to be joyful challenge. It's just what is present. Not based on fear.

You stand in the middle of a highway; trucks are coming from your right, trucks are coming from your left. A very busy road. You're trying to get across. It's an urgent situation, really. You can't just stand there, you've got to move and move skillfully. There can be loving intention to move yourself skillfully across the road, or there can be a fear-based image of yourself being smashed and mangled by a truck. If anything, that fear will hinder you, where the image of successfully moving across the road will assist you. It does not take fear to cross the road successfully, only presence. I pause.

Barbara: Aaron invites further comments.

M1: I notice that I have a sense of urgency with some very repetitive things in life, like eating. It seems to be deeply ingrained, like it came from very early experiences.

Barbara: Aaron says it may come from childhood conditioning, it may come from past-life conditioning. It can be a very deep-he says most of our habitual tendencies are very old. But that doesn't mean that we still have to keep following them. Just that we acknowledge how old it is, how strong, almost obsessive a push there is toward acting in that way. He says, you are human, the unique and special thing about a human … he'll say it himself:

Aaron: I am Aaron. The unique and special thing about a human is that you have free will. You are not destined to do anything. There may be a karmic push but you always have a choice. But of course, the being that is caught up in its habitual tendencies and follows its fear has very little choice. With mindfulness you have a choice. I pause.

I would caution you, though, not to chastise yourself when you do get caught in the habitual tendencies. It's of no use to say to yourself, "I should have known better. I should not have followed this." Simply note, "Got caught." As soon as you're noting that, you're not caught any more. Come back. K1 related how, driving across town today, she was caught in the fear and pressure, "I'm late. I'm late." She made the very skillful decision, "I'm going to put the clock away." It was one way of freeing herself from involvement in that old habitual tendency. This is part of the right effort I just cited to you, to allow to arise those skillful tendencies which have not yet arisen and nurture those skillful tendencies which have already arisen. To refuse to move deeper in involvement with the unskillful tendencies. To abandon them.

It takes a very simple decision, "Is this what I really want to be doing? Is this skillful and for the good of myself and all beings?" It doesn't mean one has an attitude that says, "So, I'm late. Who cares?" which inconveniences people. One makes an effort to be on time but that effort is not based on fear, it's based on mutual respect and kindness. I pause.

Barbara: He says, so we're right back to the usual question, how do we bring love to fear? He is requesting that we talk a bit about right effort as part of the Eightfold Path. What is right effort? He says, beyond the basic scriptural quote he just gave. What is right effort? He is saying, right effort is an integral piece of the puzzle of how to relate to urgency with kindness, so it doesn't move into panic.

K1: For me, today, right effort is about living without harm. Living in a way that does not perpetuate harm. That is my focus, an aspect of right effort.

Barbara: That's one piece of it. Each of us may have a different kind of focus, and for K1 it's loving without harm. But the living without harm is the result of right effort and not the effort itself. What is the effort about, to live without harm?

K1: To honor my highest intentions.

Barbara: Again, that is a result. What is the effort itself? What is the energy, might be another way of phrasing it?

K1: Open, inclusive, non-separate. And maintaining that as I be or exist.

Barbara: Aaron says it may be contracted but it's an uncontracted contraction.

K1: An unfearful contraction.

Barbara: Just like the closing of the palm, contraction may be necessary. Effort does take a certain contraction, but it's a love-based, not a fear-based, contraction. Receiving, not grasping. Receiving, giving, receiving, giving.

K1: Like an active engagement.

Barbara: He says, a dance with the universe. A contracted and uncontracted and rhythmic flow, but the relationship with the contraction and lack of contraction is spacious and not fear-based. He says, precisely, this is very precisely what he would term right effort. The next question is, how do we bring right effort into our lives?

K1: No need to bring it in because it is already there?

Barbara: He says, on the ultimate plane, yes, but we may not be enacting it. For it to actually manifest in the world, we have to enact it. The Eightfold Path usually starts with right view on the mundane level. What is right view? Seeing things just are as they are. Being present with things as they are, but in relative reality. And we move through the different stages of the path of panna, deepening wisdom, of sila or moral awareness, of samadhi, deepening mindfulness and concentration. One of the stages we move through is right effort. We come around and, remember it's a spiral, really, as we come back to right view it's not on this mundane level any more but the super-mundane level. There's one level of right view of the human relative reality and there's another level of ultimate reality. I see right effort … if we've got the relative reality here and the ultimate reality here, Right Effort holds both of these in balance, the wisdom of ultimate reality and the compassion of relative reality. So right effort is the place that brings them together. Does that make sense to you?

Q: I've always found with that formula of right effort, the part about abandoning the unwholesome and giving rise to the wholesome, is very complicated, actually, because in trying to abandon the unwholesome, so often judging mind is in charge. In giving rise to wholesome states.

Barbara: Aaron says maybe you're making it more complicated than it really is. He is saying, he's got a two pound bag of those little snack chips. He says he knows you enjoy these. He says he's giving it to you and you start to eat. You take a little bowl out, you start to eat, and they're good. You dip your bowl in again and you eat a second bowlful. And again, mindlessly. You just keep dipping, they're good, and you're not quite present. You keep eating. And suddenly you start to get a belly ache. Then there's no problem paying attention or stopping the eating. He says, can you see that to abandon the unwholesome is to cultivate the wholesome; they are literally the same thing? To attend to what is most skillful here is to naturally let go of what is unskillful. You must do this to reach towards the skillful.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I will speak for myself. If I hand you two bowls of food, one of them has a very lovely scent and flavor, perhaps fresh baked apple pie, and the other one quite literally stinks, I hold them right out to you under your nose, "Here! Here! Here!" The whole mind and body are geared toward moving toward that which is not only pleasant but skillful, loving, helpful. This apple pie, it's got good food in it; it's wholesome and will nourish your body and it smells good. The other is some kind of rotten concoction which is likely to make you sick. When you follow the natural inclination toward the wholesome, right there in that movement toward the wholesome you abandon the unwholesome. The difficulty is that you often don't trust that you understand what is wholesome and what is unwholesome.

You get caught in this delusion of self, you get caught in your fear. You grab the extra bowl of chips anyhow, even though the belly is aching, because there's the fear, "What if somebody else eats the rest and I won't get any more?" That is a hypothetical example, not something anyone in this room would do. (Laughter) But in different ways you do that. I am noting to this instrument that sometimes late at night after a class she goes down, runs through any new e-mail messages on her computer and pushes herself to answer them. She gets hooked into the unwholesome rather than simply noting, "It's late. I'll go to sleep now." She knows what is wholesome; why does she follow the unwholesome? Because she's asleep, already she is asleep, even if she thinks she's awake. The whole time she's grasping, she's asleep; in this dream state she forgets the deeper truths.

You know what is wholesome. You know what is useful for yourself and all beings, and cultivates well-being for yourself and other beings. It's really very simple. Listen with your heart. Not just in terms of the compassionate heart but the wise heart. Intuitively you know what is wholesome. Follow it. How far would you follow that stinking bowl of food if I started to walk away from you holding it out in front of you? You'd take one sniff and turn away. Get to know what stinks.

K2: What Aaron said about kyo and jitsu in breathing awakened me to non-discursive mind. My thought about right effort was no effort. No effort was right effort. My breathing has been so natural and spontaneous I was totally happy with that. And the words were there but a part of my mind which would usually follow them very, very actively was just let go. And I just sit here happily.

I did have a question about the proportion of jitsu to kyo. I have found that jitsu energy was a longer part of the breath than kyo.

Barbara: He says you are misunderstanding jitsu then. It's really very balanced. That jitsu was only that point where there's tension to release it. He says the whole building wave is not jitsu, it's just building wave, neutral. There's just a moment of kyo and a moment of jitsu. That moment where it's just about to break, breaking, once it breaks, it's not jitsu any more. The energy is releasing. It's that energy about to spring out. So at that point of tension before it springs out is jitsu. And it springs out and moves into neutral. And the point where it's just completely empty of energy, before it builds up again, is kyo. In the hand, that which wants to receive, feel that wanting energy. I've got something to put in your hand. Feel that tension, it's jitsu. As soon as it touches your hand, the hand relaxes. There's a moment of kyo. Then as you start to bring it in, it builds up to jitsu again with the intention to do something else with it, until that intention is satisfied, then it goes back and relaxes into kyo. But the whole process, kyo, and then it's neutral, and slowly it builds up into jitsu again to release this, and then as it comes out of the hand, the hand comes back to kyo. It's released. Then it starts to reach out gently to receive more but it's not yet jitsu. It's like (sound effects) a wave is a good example. It's very balanced.

Read some of the transcripts. I think there were some Wednesday night transcripts about it several years ago. And there was also a lot about it in Project Light. We worked with it for almost a year in Project Light watching kyo and jitsu energies in different parts of the body. Talking about them in relation to distortion of different organs, and so forth.

V: We ate things as part of a jitsu/kyo practice.

Barbara: I don't remember what I did with Project Light and what I did on Wednesday. But it's all in the transcripts.

V: It was a long thing over several weeks. We picked up things and then ate, looking at the contractions around that, and the buildup of energy and release.

Barbara: He says, more recently we threw zafus back and forth across the room. He didn't use the terms kyo and jitsu that day, he doesn't think, just contracting and not contracting.

K2: At the moment of release of the in-breath, I could call this the beginning of movement toward kyo?

Barbara: Aaron says, think of a Mobius strip. There's no inside or outside, it's just always flowing. There's no kyo separate from jitsu or jitsu separate from kyo, and they're not dual with one another. They're constantly moving into each other and becoming one another. It's flow.

K1: There is also neutral, yes?

Barbara: Yes. He says, but neutral, it's perhaps harder to define neutral than kyo and jitsu. He says, in the breath you can find neutral. Neutral is usually, he says as the breath comes up and there's a lot of jitsu energy, and then that moment of, he says it's the moment before the exhale, at the peak of the energy when there's the decision to exhale, the mind's decision or the body's decision or both, there's a moment of neutral. As soon as the exhale starts it shifts into kyo, the release of the tension. Then the tension builds up again. Through the release, it's very tensionless. Then as the breath goes out, there's a new tension. Need to take a breath. Tension. There's that moment of intention to draw in the breath. It's that moment of shift from jitsu to kyo. Neutral. And then as soon as the breath starts to come in, it's neutral, then flows back into kyo.

He says normally we don't breathe in and out that deep. So it's a very gentle kyo/jitsu pattern with the breath. You have to breathe very deeply, inhale and exhale deeply, in order to experience that as a strong pattern.

R: I just wondered how it compares to the wisdom of the I Ching which deals with the yin/yang energy.

Barbara: When you say how it compares, can you be more specific?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I would simply say, as our teachings of non-duality, everything is constantly in flow, in process of becoming. If something is kyo it will become jitsu. If something is jitsu it will become kyo. They're part of each other, the Mobius strip. I pause.

Q: What happens to that energy when we die?

Aaron: I am Aaron. Unless you are either a fully enlightened being or a non-returner, a certain level of consciousness remains with the kyo and jitsu patterning which has been habituated throughout the lifetime. If there is non-identification with this pattern of kyo and jitsu energy as a not-self, clarity that it's not self and no identification which gets you caught into it, then it's simply seen as movement of energy. It's no longer in the physical body because there is no physical body, but it's still in the emotional and mental bodies. Pure awareness is of the Unconditioned and does not experience the conditioned patterning of kyo and jitsu. But as long as there is any concept of any of the bodies-physical, emotional or mental-as being "self," those particular bodies will carry the imprint of these energy patterns. Does that answer your question? I pause.

Barbara: He says, very simply this is karma. This is what brings you back into being, into becoming. He says, think of it as an imprint.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Imagine these various bodies to be a tangible surface on which one could paint. And the karmic patterning is like a color painted on. Slowly clarity makes it transparent and eventually washes it away. Perhaps an even more correct metaphor is to think of a canvas. As long as these bodies have a low vibrational frequency and a heavy density, they seem opaque, solid. So there's something for the paint to adhere to. It's like a woven material, a very fine weave, painted with gesso to create a surface for your paint. It seems solid; you dip your brush in the color and paint on the canvas. What if you make the canvas more spacious, so to speak, by spacing out the weave? What if the gesso is omitted? The more you space out the threads of the canvas, the less surface you have for the pigment to adhere. If you finally begin to see these threads of the canvas simply as a multitude of empty lines, so that the whole thing disintegrates completely, you can paint but there's nothing for it to adhere to. Do you understand? I pause.

Barbara: He says when there is clarity that there is no independent self, there is nothing for these karmic pigments to adhere to.

I'm paraphrasing Aaron. We've gone somewhat far afield from our first question of urgency. Do we have a different answer now than what we started with?

Aaron: I am Aaron. Can you conceive that urgency can arise in your life without relating to it from a state of panic? There does not have to be an imbalance of kyo and jitsu energy. The panic is a jitsu state. You can relate to urgency with kindness. When you do so, it's a very different situation. You're not going to be able to prevent urgent situations from arising in your lives. Sometimes it will happen.

You can investigate what invites more frequent urgent situations, and whether you in some way are choosing to create urgent situations that are not necessary. You can investigate when you relate to those urgent situations from a place of fear. It's interesting as you observe this to see that in relating to urgency from a place of fear, what we call panic, simply invites more urgent situations. Relating to urgent situations from a place of kindness and love settles you so that urgent situations seem to arise far less frequently. Begin to see how much of your fear-based response to urgency is an habitual attitude to that urgency. Can there be a deadline or some other kind of pressure? Can there be the baby lamb, the crying baby, and the crops that need to be brought in? And can you be with just one at a time, in this moment? Answering the phone, stirring the kettle, patting the crying baby, whatever needs to be done. You can only do one thing at a time. Do it. Or if you're doing two things at a time, just do that.

Get to know this fear-based mind that wants to enhance problems, to turn you into a problem-solver. When you're being a problem-solver, what don't you have to experience? What does it protect you from experiencing? I pause.

R: I've been overwhelmed this week with the whole idea of what happened in Bosnia and the Holocaust, and I couldn't, for a moment there, I felt ashamed of being a human being. It affected me very deeply to see the terrible sadism. And I wonder if, I just can't understand it. Even when I am in touch with my own shadow, I can't understand the intensity of that cruelty. And also, the whole idea in spiritual practice that there are no victims, I can't, that strikes me as not true when I think about the victims of the Holocaust and all of the terror in Bosnia. And I wonder if there could be some explanation or discussion of this.

Barbara: Aaron says he appreciates your pain and concern, and will speak to it another week. I think we're going to stop here. It's a few minutes to 10.

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Brodsky