May 10, 2000

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. As always it is a joy to be with you and I appreciate the effort you make by coming to share these evenings with me. I have had several requests in past weeks to speak about distortions of the body and the mind. What is the nature of these distortions and how may we more skillfully respond to them?

Let us begin this investigation not with that which is distorted but with the Ever-Perfect because for there to be a distortion, there must be an Undistorted. I want to comment here about my use of the word "distortion." There is no value judgment placed upon that. If you shine a light into a body of clear water, water whose surface is smooth and not rippled, the light will seem to bend at the place it hits the water. This is not good nor bad. It is simply the nature of the movement of light as expressed in the air and then in the water. The water is of a higher density. The light seems to angle off and we call that a distortion. When I use the word distortion, it is just in that way. Because of the way a particular body receives energy, it may express a distortion of its Ever-Perfect level of being.

Sometimes a distortion creates pain. Then because pain is unpleasant to you and you don't want pain in your life, you think of the pain and the distortion out of which the pain arose as bad. But this kind of value judgment is not implicit in distortion but rather is a reflection of your aversion to the discomfort that may be resulting from the distortion.

Another specific articulation I must comment on is the significant difference between the word "bad" and the word "unskillful." "Bad" carries very heavy negative connotation in the English language. "Bad" relates to evil. You see it in terms of duality, good or bad, no middle ground. So "bad" is a very judgmental word and I do not prefer to use it nor to use "good." I'm more comfortable with "skillful" or "unskillful," although those also convey judgment.

If you are angry and you act out that anger by kicking a can and in doing so you cut or break your toe, you would agree that was unskillful but it's not inherently bad. Just, it is the playing out of a specific distortion. It creates pain and because it creates pain we consider it to be unskillful. There are kinder ways of relating to your anger than something that may do your body harm or do the can harm.

With that background, let us plunge deeper into this subject. First, you have four bodies: physical, mental, emotional, and spirit. These are not separate from one another but there is a constant interplay of energy between the four bodies. Each body has various levels. There is the, let us call it form level, of each body. The form level of the physical body of course is just that, the physical being which you experience. The form level of the mental body is the thought; the thought is an object. The form level of the emotional body is the emotion itself: anger, happiness, pride, greed. These mental/emotional experiences are all objects of a sort.

There is a, let's call it transition level. We're going to skip the transition level for a moment because you don't yet know what you're making a transition from or into. The third level I would call the Ever-Perfect. I don't want to use the term purified because that suggests that there had been a process out of which purification grew. There's a vast difference between purified and Ever-Pure. You can purify the form level, bringing it back into an exact expression of the Ever-Perfect, but the Ever-Perfect level is not, never has been, and never will need to be purified; it's already perfect. Each body has this Ever-Perfect level.

The transition level is the movement from the Ever-Perfect into the present expression. Let me give you a very simple example. Before the flower can exist there has got to be a seed. Before the seed can exist there has got to be some idea of flower. I'm not just speaking of a genetic pattern, but this actually existent Ever-Perfect flower. Let us consider the seed to be an expression of that Ever-Perfect. However, the seed suffers a bit because there was a drought. It's not as vital as it might have been without a drought. When the plant comes into existence and the plant gives rise to flowers, those plants may be a bit smaller than they might have been, wilted-ooking. Their energy may not be as powerful. This, then, is a distortion of the Ever-Perfect. It is also the form level of the flower.

So, we have the Ever-Perfect, the transition level and the form expression. I am using the word "level" here because the English language is short of vocabulary to express this. I don't want to confuse the four bodies, the physical, mental, emotional, and spirit body with what this instrument is accustomed to calling the form, transition and Dharma bodies. Therefore I am substituting the word level for bodies in the second case.

The expression of the more dense three of these four bodies is both resultant of the conditions expressed by the other bodies and informs the conditions experienced by the other bodies. So it's a giant tapestry. We cannot point to any distortion and pinpoint a cause.

As you all know from your own experience, the physical body is prone to distortion. If you trip in an awkward manner, you might break your leg. From the mundane view, there is a process experienced in linear form, of breakage and then of healing. Yet, from the supramundane view, the Ever-Perfect leg is still there, the bone completely free of distortion. With that view, nothing has happened.

From the mundane view, there is this transition level which includes the catalyst for the break, perhaps stepping in a hole and the sudden weight thrown against the bone, and the whole process of it breaking, ending in the form level, the final broken bone. Within western medicine, a doctor then comes along and pushes the ends of the bone together, puts a cast on it; and, if you are fortunate within four to eight weeks the bone will knit itself. What it's doing is moving itself back to the Ever-Perfect. Most people in your western culture do not much participate in aiding the bone to come back to a closer expression of the Ever-Perfect except by elevating the leg and staying off of it. Your medicine doesn't help it come to the Ever-Perfect except by holding it in place so it may heal itself.

Now, what's very interesting here is that there are cultures that still exist on your earth today, especially amongst the aborigines of Australia, but also in small pockets in other parts of the world, who have not been taught that they are helpless with such a distortion of the body. The process is very interesting. If a bone breaks, and it may-given the right catalyst the bone will break-the community comes around the one with the broken bone. They do understand that the leg must be splinted so as not to increase the damage. If a shaman is present, he or she will take over. If not, for instance, the situation of a small group of people traveling in the country, the community itself is empowered. They don't need the shaman. They will surround the one with the broken leg. That one will hold in his or her mind the image of the Ever-Perfect leg and so will her peers surrounding her. They will sing to the leg, bring energy into the leg, and above all, hold that image of the Ever-Perfect. Technically speaking, within an hour that person could get up and walk again but usually people are given several hours or overnight, just because there's a recognition that the system has suffered a shock. So, rest and sleep are invited. But the healing is instantaneous.

What's happening, basically, is a refusal to participate in the myth of "broken." There's no denial on the physical level that the leg is broken but there is no disempowerment that takes the being off into a perpetuation of this distortion. The being simply holds in her mind the lack of distortion and allows the body to recreate that lack of distortion.

There's nothing miraculous about this but it does necessitate certain insights that your western culture lacks for the most part. One, perhaps the predominant one, is the insight that the Ever-Perfect is present and accessible. There is awareness that you do not need intervention. I said the community will surround the being. I don't mean to imply that the being is incapable of doing it, but the community does offer support.

The second and equally important insight is that one has not been trained to believe in one's imperfection. One has not been trained in the possibility of moving into various physical or mental imperfections as a way to control, escape, or otherwise manipulate one's environment. There's never been taught a sense that distortion can be useful. So there is no intention to perpetuate the distortion when it happens.

In such a culture, disease is still possible, especially a viral or bacterial infection. What I have observed, and these observations go back 500 to 1000 years and are not based on present-day culture, what I have observed is that when a bacteria that is new to that particular physical body and that group of people, when such a bacteria appears, people may at first become very ill with it, even lasting over a period of days and weeks. This is not because one has succumbed to the idea of distortion; the Ever-Perfect is still held. That the Ever-Perfect is held is evidenced by the fact that people recover from severe bacterial infection without any antibiotics. They do heal. But the body takes a much longer time to learn how to control a bacteria and relate to it skillfully to bring itself back to the Ever-Perfect. When the bacteria is known, the healing time becomes shorter. Thus, an epidemic in such a community is very self-limiting. The first people are sicker. Then people catching that bacteria become well within a much shorter time. And eventually those who have not caught the infection do not catch it because their body has learned from their neighbors how to block off the entrance to that bacteria, how to rest in the Ever-Perfect without getting caught up in the bacteria.

This is a very different and fascinating expression of healing. Many of your eastern traditions rest midway between the western traditions and this ancient healing process. They recognize the body's ability to return itself to the perfect state and that medicine's role is to support the body's healing, rather than to take over from the body and fix the body. But most eastern traditions still don't hold that Ever-Perfect in such a strong way.

Distortions will also arise in the mental and emotional bodies. They are all connected. Let us look first at the emotional/mental distortions, and then at the way they touch the physical body. In these bodies too there is the Ever-Perfect level, the transition level, and the expressed form. Several of you are confused about what I mean by transition level. Let me use a simple metaphor. Here is a perfect, pure spring; fresh water coming from deep into the earth. There is absolutely no impurity in that water. It's underground. It cannot be contaminated by anything on the surface. Here is the Ever-Perfect, the dharmakaya.

It erupts out of the earth. In that moment, moving from the underground spring into the earth, into the air, it becomes susceptible to the conditions of air and earth, of the various elements which it experiences. Dust may settle on it. Chemicals that were added to the soil may pour into it. Small microorganisms may tumble into it. So it experiences a first distortion.

After that very first expression out of the earth, this pure spring tumbles over rocks and down a streambed, becoming a mighty river. Each small piece of the river is resultant of what came before it. If you have a factory pouring pollutants into the river, that is part of the transition into the next piece of river. If you have a water treatment plant, that conditions the river.

Each piece of river as you come to it is the form level, and everything before it, between it, and that pure spring, is transition level. So the transition level is constantly becoming the new form level. The form level is constantly informed by, or conditioned by, the transition level. This is how I use these terms.

The Ever-Perfect levels of the mental and emotional bodies really are the awakened mind itself. It's easy to understand that in terms of the mental body. There is an Ever-Perfect level of the emotional body. The fully realized being still experiences emotion. It does not identify with that emotion as self. For such a fully realized being the emotions are purified so what is left are happiness and sorrow, even great grief.

I would not wish to define the Ever-Perfect level of the emotional body as that which experiences only joy and sorrow, that's too narrow a definition. Rather, I would prefer to say that these two are purified emotions: sorrow and happiness. Any emotion in which there is contraction, such as clinging, greed, anger, jealousy, pride, or even an emotion of great bliss, these I would call unpurified emotions.

So in the Ever-Pure level emotions are experienced but a) there's no identification with them as self, there's no contraction around them, and b) the heavier emotions, what Buddhism calls the defilements, are not experienced.

It's hard to explain this without becoming too technical. For those of you who are interested, the Buddhist scripture of Abhidhamma (Abhidharma) explains this in great detail and precision, defining the difference between mental state and emotional state, for example. All you need to know here is that there is an Ever-Pure level, there is a transition level and there is the present form level.

How does mental/emotional distortion touch the physical body? Here is one example. Because of your karma, by which I essentially mean because of the habitual patterning you have created blindly, through each lifetime and from lifetime to lifetime, certain distortions become stuck. A being who has a strong tendency to jealousy probably has carried the fear through many lifetimes, "My needs won't be met," and grasped at others' success and happiness, wanting it for oneself so that the heart closes.

When such an emotional/mental state is experienced in an ongoing way, it is going to have an effect on the physical body. Think about this. In fact, try this with me. Envision something that you would like to have. It might be as simple as a friend with loving arms stretched out to you. Maybe it's a new car, a million dollars from winning the lottery, a better job, a beautiful flower. Visualize somebody walking toward you with that for which you wished. "Is it for me?" They start to reach out their hands. Feel the desire to receive this object. And then, they reach over your head and hand it to the person behind you.

Catch the contraction. Let's run this film again. Here they are seeming to hand it out to you and then they reach up over your head and hand it to the person behind you. What contracts? The belly, the chest, the throat? There may not be strong jealousy. There may indeed be real joy for the person behind you who is receiving this. Yet there still is probably at least a minute contraction. The contraction expresses itself within the physical body and in the heart center. If a person is very jealous, very greedy, feels betrayed when others receive something good, and cannot find any happiness for them, that is going to be carried in the physical body, and the heart will be very closed. Experiencing that distortion in our visualization just now, can you see how the replay of that 10,000 times would erode the organs, affect the body?

So we cannot divide mental, emotional and physical experience, they all relate. Eastern medicine is more aware of this interrelationship. Some of your more holistic medical strategies treat the whole being, but they are still treating the distortion more than recognizing the existence of the Ever-Perfect.

Let us take a look then at illness, physical illness and what you term mental illness, and investigate just a bit what is the nature of illness. I am aware that we cannot cover this whole topic in one sitting. I am simply laying an outline for this tonight and we will go back and explore these three situations in more depth in another evening.

There are different kinds of physical ailments. One type of illness distortion of the physical body is the decaying of the organs resultant from habitual contraction, resultant from distortion in the emotional/mental bodies. Another type is such as the breaking of the leg, an accident, some impact or inopportune meeting with another physical object. One might say there are no accidents; at some level this is also emotionally/mentally conditioned. It is not necessarily a chronic condition, as happens in the first situation. Situation three: the meeting with bacteria, virus, fungus, which attack the body.

Then we come to what is traditionally called mental illness. What is mental illness? It is a distortion. The mind is conditioned just as the body is conditioned, and one is led into certain kinds of distortions which often become habitual. These may be carried only on a level of the mental/emotional body, or they may feed back into the physical body. Just as an organ can decay from certain habitual ways of holding and distressing the physical body, resultant from emotions, so the body chemistry can be altered by specific habitual movement of the mind or emotions. The resultant distorted body chemistry can give rise to organic disease or mental disease. In western medicine you usually treat that shift in body chemistry without any recognition that it may be the result of an imbalance in the mental/emotional bodies.

Such a shift in body chemistry can also be the result of bacterial, viral or fungal infection, and the body's inability to resolve that infection. The factor of karma is also important. If at a cellular level the body experienced that chemical distortion resultant from certain outer or inner influences-that is, environmental influences or emotional/mental influences-the imprint of that cellular distortion as condition for a shift in body chemistry is carried and may express itself in the next birth, and the next birth and the next birth until it's resolved.

I find it distressing that different kinds of illness are categorized as they are. I recognize that this is your attempt to deal with them in a logical and consistent way, but it denies the tapestry effect: many different streams feeding into this one result. Therefore you become much more likely to try to treat the result rather than simply acknowledge that the result is the expression of many conditions, and attend to the vast array of conditions. I think you do this in part because that array of conditions is so great and you have felt helpless before all the possibilities. But you don't have to look at every possibility, especially those of you who have a meditation practice. When you allow yourself to penetrate deeply into the experience of the distortion, insight into the predominant conditions will arise. For the intuitive medical practitioner, insight into the primary predominant conditions will arise. Unfortunately in your culture this use of intuition is considered unscientific.

So what is mental illness, if I dare use that phrasing which I have just said I rather abhor? Distinguishing between what your culture calls neurosis and psychosis, I would state that neurosis is a result of conditioned programming gone awry. In other words, an ongoing flow of distortions, each compounding the next, closes in narrower and narrower, so that the being has increasingly less ability to recognize how the tunnel is narrowing around him or herself. Insight into the whole nature of the process through meditation, through therapy, can strongly diminish the identification to that neurotic programming and allow the being to know its illness.

What about what your society labels psychosis? I emphasis I am very uncomfortable with these labels but I do need some way to articulate, to convey my meaning to you, so I'm using conventional terms.

Only in very rare incidence does psychosis not have a physical/chemical component. It is still just programming gone awry. If one ceases to focus only on the resultant distorted state, and begins to investigate the conditions-I don't mean by fixing the body chemistry with medication, although for a short term that may be very helpful, simply giving release from distress-but if one begins to attend in a very deep level to the distortion in body chemistry, one can bring the body chemistry back to an undistorted level by attending to the conditions that shaped the distortion. The distorted chemistry is result, not condition. It becomes condition for further distortion. This is basic Buddhist Abhidhamma.

Simultaneously, working within therapy or meditation or both, one must help the person experiencing such distortion to understand the attachments to the distortion. One doesn't have to see the whole karmic flow of it, only to understand how certain mind and emotional states have conditioned the body states, leading one into the cellular level chemical distortion which fixes one within a physical distortion which then further compounds the mental/emotional distortion. In short, what I am saying is within my experience there is no distortion of the mental body which is not workable and resolvable if you understand how to work with it and resolve it.

My talk has already gone well over the usually allotted 45 minutes. I'm going to pause here and let you take your break. I will be happy to speak to specific questions related to my talk or related to anything else. We will come back to future exploration of this in future weeks. We are not finished with the whole thread we have been exploring in past weeks. Somewhere down the road we will bring these two threads together.

I thank you very much for your attention. We will continue after your break. That is all.


Barbara: We're talking to K here during the break. I'm paraphrasing Aaron, he is saying that an antibiotic, for example, certainly does save many lives in part because we've forgotten how to heal ourselves. Until we remember how to heal ourselves we need the antibiotic, but unfortunately the reliance on the antibiotic keeps us from the need to remember how to heal ourselves. He says there's got to be a gradual transition. You don't want to kill off people to create the learning. But you also need to remind people that they don't need to rely solely on such medication.

He says that in his example of people who had deep self-healing, when a new bacteria sprung up, which that people had not encountered, there could be a lot of death, a lot of pain. So the antibiotic is helpful. In the ideal situation, when such disease comes up within a community, some people will first take the antibiotic and others will move deep into meditation and examine the cellular structure of that bacteria and learn how to work with the bacteria without the antibiotic so that both people won't have to die and an epidemic won't happen. He says he's not negating western medicine, only stating the need for balance.


Barbara: May we hear your questions?

R: When you talked about psychosis, I've been particularly interested in spiritual emergencies and how that is a quest for balance rather than an illness. And that the people who seemed normal are people who haven't reached the capacity to transform their energies, to go through the dark side to reach the light, so to speak. I wondered, in other words, the people who are considered normal who are the people who may be in worse shape than the people who aren't normal.

Barbara: I'm paraphrasing Aaron, he says, he would not put it as "worse shape/not worse shape," simply everybody is in transition and some people are on a fast track and some people are on a slow track. He says, the fast track is sometimes very difficult.

He says he agrees basically with what you have said, do you have a specific question, or just talk further about it?

R: I think that the question is, I don't know if it's a question, that people who go through spiritual emergencies don't have any place to go.

Barbara: He asks, can you explain what you mean by that a little further?

R: Well, it's just that there are many people who go through spiritual emergencies on their own. Graf, for instance, tried to institute spiritual emergency clinics and he couldn't maintain it because there wasn't enough money.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I agree, R, that there is a real need for some place where people with experience with their own spiritual emergence and with proper training can support people in the midst of such emergence. To me this would be a sign of a wise and compassionate society. But most people in your culture today don't understand this need, and most do not properly differentiate between illness and emergence. Allow me to speak further on this subject.

This is easiest explained by use of a metaphor. Two people want to cross a range of mountains, each with the determination, the highest intention, to reach a sea that they have been told exists on the other side. Both of them have attempted to cross this range of mountains before. There is a path. It winds around with hairpin turns, twists around on itself. There are many forks in the road. Some of those forks seem to meander forever. Yet, if one is persistent, one can cross the mountain by staying on this path. No matter how far one meanders on side tracks one will eventually come back to the main track. So this is one model for getting across the mountain.

Another being has attempted to cross the mountain on this track before, has looked down from heights and seen the road curving below itself, looked up and seen where the road supposedly is on higher peaks. Finally that being determines, "I'm just going over," and strikes out off the trail.

We cannot say one will get to the sea before the other. The one who breaks off the trail may come to seemingly insurmountable obstacles and need to backtrack. We can't say that one has more determination than the other, only that both paths will reach the sea. However, if one has walked this road many times before, and seen how the paths meander and how easy it is to get lost, one may instead set one's sights on the pass between the highest peaks and just keep heading toward that pass. And each time an obstacle appears and one has to backtrack, one goes just far enough to get past the obstacle and again fixes one's vision on that pass between the high peaks.

This is a very direct route. It is willing to scale cliffs, willing to ford rivers, willing to take whatever comes because of that firm intention to cross the mountains and reach the sea. The other being, we might say, is a bit more conservative. He has not yet experienced getting lost so much on all the side tracks. She has not starved on this lost side track or shivered with cold on that one. So they have the idea, "I'll stay on the safe path." One is not better than the other. One can reach the sea on either path. But the one who sets her sight on the pass between the peaks has a certain determination, often based on the awareness, "I've tried the other and it hasn't worked. Therefore I am willing to suffer what I need to suffer to get there directly."

Such a being's journey may then be to invite in something such as a kundalini awakening. It's not a conscious thought, "Now I will awaken the kundalini." Rather, the force of the intention-I hesitate to use the phrase, "to heal what needs to be healed," because on the ultimate level nothing needs to be healed, but on the relative level, it does of course-to heal what needs to be healed and to come to the realization of the Ever-Healed. "I invite in whatever is necessary," and by that statement one might invite in strong energy movement such as kundalini. One may move into mind and body states that are very unfamiliar and very difficult.

There is something else that is going on that is crucial to consider. Our first beings walking the more conventional path, they are not attempting to work with this in the more direct way that I expressed in my talk, seeing a holistic view of body, mind, emotion and spirit, so much as they are attempting to bring each area, each body, to purity. There may be insight into the interrelationship between the bodies but it's a much more linear track. First, I'll do this then I'll do that, or I'll do some of this and then some of that.

The person entering what you label as spiritual emergence or emergency experience is often shifting to a totally non-linear track, holding the goal in mind consciously or unconsciously, and just attempting to burst through. In that attempt, the prior patterning of the cellular structure of the body, of the chemistry of the body, may be temporarily shattered completely. The being then has no sense of who it is. It loses all sense of placement in the relative world. Instead of investigating the distortions on the form level in body chemistry, the cellular structure of karma, the distortions in the emotional and mental bodies, and very carefully processing each, it plunges into it all at once.

Let us use a different metaphor here. Have you ever seen somebody topple a pile of blocks, all supporting several others. When you move one, the entire group shifts. Instead of laying each one down separately with care so as not to disturb too many of them at once, the one who is taking a route that may lead to what is called a spiritual emergency just says, "Poof! Let them all fall down!" It is not usually a move of desperation, though. It's usually a move of faith based on wisdom. It's as if that person briefly had the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon and look down on the landscape, and see that amidst all these twisting and turning tortuous paths that it's been wandering on for so long, there is this one small thread of direct path rising and then coming back down to the ground level. It knows the path is there intuitively. And its heart is so deeply set on reaching its goal that it's willing to risk everything to break through.

Of course, this being experiencing the spiritual emergency and letting go of the ground of prior experience carries with it its old karmic conditioning still. And this is what is seldom taken into account. In order for it to thread its way successfully up this slender path directly to the mountain pass, it's got to have guidance that says, "Go a little to the right. Go a little to the left." The karmic conditioning keeps pushing it off to one side or the other. Thus, it is very difficult to walk this path without some sort of guidance because the being attempting this walk can't quite see the path any more. Because it has become so disconnected from the linear experience, it can't see where it is situated on the path and how its karmic conditioning is pushing it.

The assistance that such a being needs, then, is simply a guide who knows the path who is willing to walk with our traveler. One who has the vision to see the path, not to rescue the traveler from falling off the edge but just to remind them, "Look how this karmic conditioning is pushing you off to the right where there's a precipice. Come back a bit. And now look how it's pushing you off to the left. Come back a bit." Thus the guide helps subtly to ground the traveler, not too deep, you don't want to pull them back into linear thinking, but to protect them from tumbling off the precipices and help them stay centered on the path.

What is most difficult here for our traveler is that there is a total body chemistry shift. The whole mind and body no longer relate to the relative experience as they have previously. It's almost the kind of experience you would have if you went off in a spaceship and landed on a planet. Before the door opened your instrument panel told you, "This air is breathable. There is nothing here that will harm you." So the door opened and you stepped out. There's a big field of green and in the distance you see what seems to be a blue pond. There are structures that look like trees, small trees, 10 to 12 feet high, purple with what looks like a white marshmallow fruit. They're rooted in place, or seem to be; not moving but swaying a bit with the breeze. There are beings that look vaguely humanoid, have limbs and central body and head-looking structures and seem to move around and articulate in some way.

Now, the traveler is going to assume that the green substance is grass and the blue is water. The purple structures are marshmallow trees, and the moving beings are the sentient beings; it's going to relate to them as such. Imagine your astonishment when you step down and find yourself swimming up to your neck in green! When you shout for help and instead of one of what you thought were sentient beings coming to your rescue, one of the marshmallow trees extends a long limb to you. Everything that you ever understood about relative reality seems shattered. There's no way to get your footing. There are no longer expectations that things will behave in a certain way.

This is the difficulty our traveler experiences moving into this direct track. The body chemistry is altered. The whole energy system is altered. It's part of the body's bringing itself back into balance, as our questioner suggested. But temporarily there's a total lack of orientation. The way one will relate to that total lack of orientation is karmic and depends on one's prior conditioning. One who has enough grounding in dhamma and in one's meditation practice, will simply note, "disoriented" and be with the experience of disorientation without feeling alarmed by it.

However, many people that open to such an experience don't have that deep supportive practice. And there may be a strong time of fear, grasping, other ways of being with disorientation, which throw one further off the path into despair, helplessness or confusion. There may be a karmic conditioning to be a failure. There may be karmic conditioning to be in control. All of these different kinds of karmic conditioning influence the experience of spiritual emergence and create spiritual emergency.

Let us not confuse the two. The traveler's moving into this non-linear mode is spiritual emergence, but when the old conditioning is not understood and when there is no guide to help the traveler understand the conditioning, then being overwhelmed one moves into spiritual emergency.

It's a direct response to the disorientation as based on the karmic conditioning. The proper support understands this and can guide one through the process. Such support is increasingly vital as your whole society moves toward emergence. That is sufficient answer for now, I think. I would be glad to speak to further questions. I pause.

Aaron: I am Aaron. One of you is asking, can there be a-I put this in quotation marks as I have said before I am not happy about the use of categorizing-but can there be a "psychotic" element to this spiritual emergence? In general, the spiritual emergence is in part a way to break through any old chemical and cellular conditioning, in effect, to break through any psychotic distortion. The spiritual emergence, if well-supported, can dissolve psychotic distortion. More usually, unfortunately, our traveler becomes trapped because of the strength of the old karma and lack of guidance. And instead of freeing itself from the distortion can further enmesh itself in the distortion. As panic sets in, the symptoms of what you call psychosis may appear. At this point medication becomes a helpful intervention, briefly, to get the traveler back to a comfort level where it can resume its journey. I pause.

There is one more question coming in. I am simply fielding these questions on a telepathic level rather than pausing and having this instrument move in and out of a trance state. The question is raised, is it useful to provide medication when there is not this "psychotic" distortion? It can be, if the traveler becomes very disoriented. It is simply a resting place during which time our traveler can regain his orientation. However, with proper guidance, disorientation will merely be disorientation, free of panic, or if there is panic, that also will be seen as workable. Then medication is unnecessary. I pause.

I would add something to that. I say, "merely a resting place." We are not trying to induce the traveler to go back to the track that meanders up the mountain in such an arduous manner. We want to encourage his direct passage, but to acknowledge that there may be a time when he needs a rest from the direct passage. If he takes one small lap of the main trail, he can come back to the non-linear path, which is constantly crossing this long meandering trail. I pause. May I hear your questions?

M: What would the meditation practice consist of that would be sufficient to hold this disorientation?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I would always include vipassana here, but the support practices would depend on where our traveler is and in what way he or she is out of balance. It may be that wisdom needs more development. It may be that the opening heart needs more development. Ultimately the vipassana practice will provide the balance between compassion and wisdom. But a strong emphasis may be needed on one or the other. The guide is perhaps better able than the practitioner to point out where imbalance lies and guide the practitioner toward that which would skillfully bring in this balance of wisdom, of compassion. When I say "guide," a teacher or spiritual friend, one who knows that path a bit. I pause.

Barbara: He says, is that sufficient or do you want to expand your question?

M: I guess my question concerns concentration. How deep samadhi must be and if it's possible in a busier life to have the meditative framework, and to continue that journey.

Aaron: I am Aaron. One is always continuing the journey. One does need to pause and eat a meal now and then and get a good night's sleep. I'm speaking both literally and metaphorically. Sleep is healing. If you keep pushing the body and say, "I'm going to climb 22 hours a day," eventually you're going to exhaust yourself. Speaking of this as metaphor, the places where you seem to be resting are the places where you are gathering up energy for the next phase of the journey. They're not wasted time.

Speaking of concentration specifically: concentration is a tool. It's a necessary tool but it's not an end in itself. Moving into practices that result from high concentration levels, that is, the jhanic states, is not at all necessary for our traveler, although sometimes such states will be a result of opening kundalini. In some ways I would say that the jhanic states are a reward for the practice of concentration. And the concentration that developed while moving into these jhanic states is then turned toward a more fruitful use of concentration by taking the concentration that has been practiced and using it on a path other than this jhanic path.

For those who are not familiar to this term, this is simply the label given to these very high states of absorption. If you concentrate on something deeply enough, the mind process changes, the body chemistry changes. One moves literally into an altered state which can be extremely blissful. There are certain insights to be gained in those states. But I do not see it as a necessary part of the path. I do like to think of it as a reward for practicing concentration, but one can get addicted to these states and therefore regress from the path.

Within the practice of vipassana, simply being present with the breath and being present with what is predominant in one's experience, watching the moment of its arising and the experience of it and also watching it literally dissolve, being present in that moment of opening or aperture between when one object that was predominant dissolved and a new object arose-the concentration that is developed in this way is a more useful concentration. I believe this for two reasons. One, the unprepared practitioner does not get lost in the blissful states and the addiction to them. Two, within this experience of choiceless awareness and observing arising and dissolution, one cannot help but encounter the aperture between the dissolving of one object and the arising of another. And in that space, literally one is resting in pure awareness, present with the Unconditioned. So it takes you to a direct experience of your true nature, of the Unconditioned realm and of the arising and passing of the conditioned realm. Staying with these objects all the way through to the dissolution, very strong concentration arises but it is directed toward the enhancement of insight and of compassion rather than simply toward the enhancement of-I don't want to say just blissful experience. Toward some not-quite-understood goal. I would be happy to talk further about this, but I would like to open the room here to further questions at this point.

Q: With manic-depressive, is there a way to work with the underlying causes that gave rise to the predicament in a way that is in accord with dhamma and allows a reasonable level of functioning in the world? What about continued medication?

Aaron: I am Aaron. The specific course taken will depend again on the individual: on their own karma, their own habitual tendencies, their own confusion. For this person with bipolar disorder there will be body chemistry involvement. This instrument and I have worked with a small number of people with this condition, perhaps six or eight, with a good deal of success in enabling them to function well, first with reduced and then with no medication necessary. Such persons were often referred by psychologists or psychiatrists with whom they continued to meet. The process, in brief, and I would be glad to go into more detail with you at a future time-the process has been a rather lengthy one, working with such a person over a number of years.

First, guiding them toward the insight that these swings, while related to body chemistry, are still conditioned. Fundamental to the work with such a person has been the understanding through their meditation practice that they do not need to become identified with the presenting mood as self, nor is it necessary or useful to disassociate with it. We begin the work with a much simpler experience such as pain in the body, an itch, restlessness, and the person learns how to relate to these less severe experiences in a more spacious way, and develops confidence.

Simultaneously we have explored the neurotic conditions, especially the childhood experiences and occasionally the past-life experiences which have created certain tendencies in the body which shifted the body chemistry. So we're addressing it on two levels. One is developing wisdom about the arising experiences as impermanent and not self. One is beginning to observe the shift into a distorted chemistry and that one has the choice to move out of that distortion. Often we've explored why one has held to that distortion, in what ways one felt safer within the distortion than in letting go of the distortion. So this is work of a more psychological nature. Slowly these two strands come together. The person has developed the means to relate far more spaciously to the distortion, to know it as not self, to allow the arising of distortion to be a catalyst for metta rather than contraction. And simultaneously they have learned to identify certain shifts of experience in the body as simply the result of old conditioning and to have committed themselves not to need to get entangled in those old stories, which has allowed the chemical distortion to heal. And also simultaneously we've worked with inviting an experience of the Ever-Perfect, but you can't take that step until you understand the nature of the distortion or you are simply avoiding the distortion by escaping into the Ever-Perfect. So it's got to be done very carefully. Does this answer your question? If not, we can talk further about it in the coming days. I pause.

Barbara: We have time for one more question.

Q: I'd like to hear more on that same topic.

Barbara: Do you have a specific question?

Q: No.

Aaron: I am Aaron. We come back to my introductory talk. We need to stop relating to these combined distorted mind-body states as something abnormal that needs to be fixed in a pathological sense and to relate to them as simply the result of conditioning. That which has been conditioned can be understood. It's not that we de-condition it; it de-conditions itself. If you are accustomed to eating something, you eat it every day, and you're sick a lot, and finally you discover you are sick because you're allergic to it, you don't have to de-condition yourself not to eat it. I'm not talking about something to which one is addicted, such as nicotine. I'm talking about, you're allergic to strawberries. You love strawberries but you realize they are giving you hives. As soon as you have that insight you know, "I can't eat strawberries any more." The desire to eat strawberries may come up but wisdom says, "No, I'm not going to hurt myself in that way." One's basic kindness takes over. One has to discover this basic goodness and kindness. One doesn't create it; it already exists. One discovers it. The person who is suffering from such a disorder then develops the capacity to offer that innate kindness to itself, which capacity often was sidetracked as it attempted to control uncomfortable experience. It begins to understand how it moved into these mind-body distortions because it did not understand what it was doing. It understands that it has a choice, and that its innate wholeness is available to it.

I find there's usually a long steady progression of growing wisdom and compassion during which time the being may need to continue his or her medication. Then often suddenly a major shift. The old distortions just drop away. It's very powerful.

The greatest difficulty in this process is that people don't have enough faith in the path of meditation, the path of dhamma, for healing, and so they quit part way through. They don't see quick progress, but of course it can't be instantaneous. This is not about getting rid of the bipolar disorder, this is about spiritual growth. The bipolar disorder will take care of itself as the growth that is sought occurs. May I speak further on this, my brother, or does this sufficiently answer your question? I pause.

Q: It helps a great deal.

K: That was very helpful.

Barbara: It is one minute to 10 and let's just sit together for two or three minutes before we close.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I thank you very much for your attention and presence, for allowing me to share these thoughts with you tonight. I hope they have been helpful.

May all beings everywhere be free of suffering.


May all beings find happiness and ease of well-being.


May all beings everywhere find perfect peace.


(Taping ends.)

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Brodsky