October 26, 2005 -- Halloween Stories

October 26, 2005 Wednesday Night with Aaron, Halloween Stories

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron.

Some of you celebrate the holiday of Halloween by dressing up in costumes and pretending to be somebody else, especially to be something scary. You form an identity with that costume. It's a very interesting process, a mirroring, because when you come into the incarnation, you are putting on a costume of this particular body, this particular persona. You think this is who you are. But of course this is not who you are, this is just the outer form of who you are.

In your lifetime, you are born into a body and then you take on the improvisation. You, acting with all the other characters that come through, each of you acting as foil to the other or support to the other. It's a very interesting process because sometimes you come again and again with the same companions, and it's as if in one setting one says, “OK, I'll be the ghost and you be the one who's scared of ghosts. And in the next life, you be the ghost and I'll be the one who's going to be scared of ghosts. We can learn how it feels to scare each other, how it feels to be afraid, and how each comes to outgrow and transcend fear.”

So Halloween is just an outer play of what you do with the whole incarnation. Sometimes it's easier to see what you're learning in a small setting, like in a Halloween costume. What are the repeated roles? Have any of you put on a Halloween costume in the last year or two? Yes, wonderful. Anyone else? Yes, good. What did you pose as?

Q: Last year I was the Mad Hatter.

Aaron: That's perfect! And did you learn anything as the Mad Hatter?

Q: Yes. My makeup job wasn't so great so I frightened children.

Aaron: How did it feel to be the one who frightens children?

Q: I didn't like it.

Aaron: So you learned something, that you prefer not to frighten children. Would you dress as that again?

Q: I usually dress as a clown. Most kids aren't frightened by that.

Aaron: It's much easier to put on the Halloween costume and try it for one night than to have to come into the incarnation and spend the whole incarnation as the clown or the Mad Hatter, as some people do. Here you can just try it on for a night and see how it feels. What did you dress as?

Q: Three years ago I was a butterfly.

Aaron: Lovely. And did you learn something from being a butterfly? How did it feel to be a butterfly?

Q: It was really hard to walk around at parties because my wings were wire.

Aaron: The real butterfly has it much easier, is more graceful, I suppose, and with wings that are easier to move. And yet here you are expressing a deep part of your personality. Could you feel the aspect of you with which the butterfly was so deeply resonant? That which is lovely and aspires to be graceful and beautiful. (Q: Yes.) And yet, you don't have to wear that for 90 years. Others?

Q: I was a playing card, the black jack...

Aaron: And how did that feel?

Q: Very boxy because I was big box.

Aaron: What inspired you to be a blackjack?

Q: I like playing games.

Aaron: What mannerisms does a blackjack express? How does it feel?

Q: It felt very silly, like having fun, like a jester.

Aaron: Playful. So you were able to express that aspect of your personality.

Q: Yeah. I had a jester's hat, too.

Aaron: Others of you, did you dress up?

Q: Two years ago I was a mermaid.

Aaron: And I would guess that you have been a happy dolphin or some other sea life in many lifetimes. Did it feel comfortable to be a mermaid?

Q: Yes.

Aaron: S, M, have you dressed up?

Q: I have dressed up but not for Halloween. I dressed for an occasion as a goddess. I was Kali. Very strong, very full of energy.

Aaron: How did that feel? Kali is a very strong goddess, much power. Did it help you to tap into that place of power in yourself?

Q: Very much.

Aaron: And M?

Q: I dressed as a mime, so I did not have to talk at the party.

Aaron: And you enjoyed it?

Q: Very much.

Aaron: The quiet side of you was allowed to come out. Have any of you gone to a Halloween fun house or any other place where you were frightened? Will you share that with us?

Q: I don't go any more. I don't like the feeling of being frightened. I don't go on many carnival rides, either.

Aaron: No frights...

Q: I went when I was a kid. And I always liked the lights and the fog, but I didn't like the monsters that would jump out.

Aaron: Too close to reality, too close to the reality of negativity in the world.

Sometimes fear can lead us to a place of honesty, sometimes to a place of dishonesty. In other words, one can deny one's fear or one can transcend one's fear.

When I tell these Halloween stories, they're usually based on my past lives. They are stories where fear was experienced and transcended. Here are two stories.

I was a boy in a culture that was quite primitive by your standards. For me it was not at all primitive. What you judge as primitive is that which is technologically undeveloped. And yet, beyond the technology standard, this culture was quite well-developed, had trust of one's intuition, a deep access to the subtle bodies, and the subtle plane. There was trust of one's experience beyond what the physical senses told.

I was an apprentice working to become a shaman, deeply trained in healing fields, and related spiritual practices. I came to shamanism because I was crippled in that lifetime. I had an accident as a young boy and broke my leg, which did not set well. I could walk but with a clumsy gait. So I could not be a warrior, I could not be a hunter, and I was naturally drawn to spiritual practices. The shaman of our tribe became my mentor and began to teach me the many things I needed to know to someday be his successor.

When I say to be his successor, he was quite old at that point and yet still he was the one who trained me, but there was one who would take over as his successor long before I would. So it would not be until I was middle-aged that I would finally become his successor. But he trained me well so I was no longer an apprentice but truly was named as a shaman. To finally hold this title, it was required of me that I would spend a night in the cave of the elders. This cave was so named because at the death of each shaman for many, many generations, the bodies were wrapped and taken into the back part of this cave, into a deep, dark chamber at least a 20 minute walk from the cave entrance. There it was pitch black. The releasing of the spirit of the dead shaman was a ceremony in which the new shaman and members of the tribe carried the wrapped body back and laid it on a table of sorts, created out of rock.

There are a number of these tables; the newest table holds the wrapped, freshly deceased flesh, but upon an older one, perhaps from 30 years ago, there is just the skeleton left and of earlier bodies, only dust remains.

So when you enter, there is the strong sense of the loving power of these very wise, ancient ancestors. And yet often such presence can also call forth negativity which senses an opportunity for power if it can find a chink in the armor of love within these remains, and with those who come into this sacred space.  So there is a sense of both the radiance and wisdom of their lives, and also of negativity which has gathered seeking an entrance.

As a boy I was apprentice and now I was stepping beyond the apprentice stage. In the ceremony, I was led into this chamber of the elders and asked to spend 24 hours. I was given water and a blanket, but no light. They brought me in, there was an hour of prayer and chanting, and then they took their torches and they left, leaving me in pitch blackness.

I sat there for the first hour alone, continuing the chanting that had been going on around me. Needless to say, the chambers echoed and it was a large cavern, so my voice returned to me in different tones, different pitches, until it sounded like there was an entire chorus around me.

It began to sound distorted, fearsome so I stopped chanting. I decided to sit in silence. What I first thought would be silent was not silent at all! There are many creatures deep in a cave, bats, of course, and a fierce  kind of snake that lives in these caverns. Rats and other things. Noises were all around me of life that I could not see. Soon terror began to come.

I had seen the direction in which the elders left, but of course I could not fully mark that direction, and we had come in by a winding path. I knew I could not escape. All I could do was to stay there until the next day when they would come for me. And so I was forced to be there with my own terror, or become mad. I admit that part way through the night, I began to scream, literally to scream. Then I began to sob. I fell asleep crying and woke up to a new wave of terror, feeling icy cold, not sure where I had left my blanket. The imagination grasped every noise. There is a negativity in the universe, not any absolute evil but beings of negative polarity, but with our imagination we create so much greater negativity. Each noise became not a living creature moving, but a voice of intentional evil, though I knew there truly was no absolute evil. The mind creates its own horrors, not needing the world to create them.

There was no way of telling the passage of the hours, as the chamber was dark. Twenty-four hours can seem like an eternity. Finally I began to calm down, to move into my meditation and spiritual practice. I was able to touch on that which was afraid and offer it kindness, to not be so involved in the stories and creation of phantom spooks around me. I called on the loving and wise spirits of my ancestors who surrounded me and asked their help. I moved to awareness of the breath, feeling the breath in the body. With each moment, being born and new with the in breath and literally dying to the out breath, not knowing if there would be a new in breath. Hearing the noises around me, watching the imagination jump into creating some kind of monster who would attack me, and knowing the mind's games, noting “imagining, imagining,” and coming back into the heart.

I needed that full 24 hours. Some of you have read with Barbara the Bhayabharava Sutra of the Buddha, wherein he resolves to meditate at a haunted shrine. This is before his enlightenment. He says, “As fear and dread would arise, I resolved to stay present with that fear and dread and allow the experience of it until it dissolved itself.” It doesn't dissolve itself quickly. I needed every minute of that 24 hours.

Finally I felt calm. There was just noise around me, just darkness. Still some unpleasant energy, but I was no longer so afraid of it. Then I began to think, if I tell them of my terror, they won't let me be a shaman. They'll say, “You failed. You were terrified, you failed.” I'm going to have to lie and tell them I was just peaceful like I am now. So here I created the worst horror of all, a denial of my experience.

I sat there in meditation touching the deep wisdom and love of my ancestors and I knew that I could not lie in their presence. If I was not to be a shaman, so be it. Because of my crippled leg, this path was all that was left to me. And now I had to face the fact that I had failed at this. I had not been able to sit here all night and hold the space of love. I had failed!

They had told me they would return. They had not told me how they would return. They came in beating drums. Long before I saw any light I heard the boom, (pause) boom, (pause) boom, resonating through the chamber. What was it? What devilish thing was upon me now? But at this point mind was in  such a space of calmness, equanimity and clarity, that there was just hearing. The mind jumped to, “What is that?” This sound, that sound, then coming back into the heart. Holding space for that, I can't call it a frightening sound, it was only frightening in the mind. Boom! Resonating off all of the walls in this large chamber. And then finally the lights.

The cloaked elders who came were all dressed in costumes, with fierce-looking masks, and they surrounded me. They just stood in a circle around me. I was able to look in each one's eyes that shined through the mask and I was not afraid. Then the one who had been my teacher pulled off his mask and he said, “Were you afraid?” And I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Wonderful. Then we accept you. You have passed.”

There is much that is frightening in life. To be present with it, not to try to push it away or deny it, and not to get caught in the stories, is our work. My situation was extreme but not much more extreme than that which many of you face in your daily lives. Seeming monsters surround you. There is darkness even though the light is there, and you feel lost. And when you open your heart to yourself and allow yourself to be present with fear, you find that which transcends fear, which is love. Love and fear are not mutually exclusive. Right there with the fear is love. You don't have to get rid of fear to find the love, only to create enough space for the fear and the love to be there together.

Here is another story.

The boy I was lived in very early Europe in a small village. At the outskirts of the village was a very old house. Sometimes elders would go into the house briefly and come out. The other houses were lit with candles, or with oil lamps. This house always seemed dark at night. I realized years later it was because there were heavy curtains that were drawn, but for me as a boy, we just called it the House of Darkness.

There was an old crone who lived there, a bit stooped, snaggle toothed, always with a cloak. Occasionally we would see her out in the yard doing some chore or other, carrying in some wood, bringing in some water. When we saw her in the yard, we fled--she was the “witch” of our childhood nightmares.

When I was a boy of perhaps 11, at the age where boys dare each other, my friends all said, “Who will go into the House of Darkness tonight?” It was that season of All Saints' Day, the Day of the Dead, and so forth, a time when according to our myth, witches, goblins and monsters were abroad. I was the tallest of my friends, not the eldest but the tallest. So when they said, “Who will go in?” they all looked at me.

They said, “If you go first, then I'll go the next night, and I'll go the next night,” different ones. “You go first, Aaron.” My name wasn't Aaron in that lifetime, but “You go first.” Refusing to be seen as a coward, I  went into the house. I crept in by a back window, windows not being glass as they are today, just shuttered, a shuttered opening. I lifted the latch on the shutter, pulled it open and climbed through. I was terrified!

There was just a little bit of light. I crept very cautiously from the kitchen in which I found myself, not a kitchen as you would call a kitchen, more a sitting room that had a stove in it, and boxes of odd shapes that led the imagination to conjure monsters.  There was a lantern in the next room, a small bit of light. I crawled in, creeping along close to the ground. Then I saw a figure with its back to me. It was not the old crone, it was someone smaller.

Just then the floor creaked under my feet, and this figure turned toward me. The face was dreadful to be hold. There was no mouth, just a wide opening. There were no arms, only short stubs on either side. Two piercing eyes looked at me. I screamed and ran out!

But as I ran out of that first room and toward the window into which I had come, a hand grabbed me at the nape of my neck. I turned and saw this old crone glaring at me, fury on her face. “I'm done for,” I thought. Will they eat me? What will they do to me? Will they throw me in the dungeon? Now this was not a house that could have had a dungeon, but the child's mind said, “They'll throw me in the dungeon. They'll torture me.”

She looked at me with a fierce angry gaze. “Why did you break in here?” I was honest, I said, “On a dare.” “On a dare? To learn what?” “We knew that there are monsters that live here. So I was the one who was chosen to come and see what the monsters were.” Fear was not my natural state, so even in this predicament, held by the senior monster, I was forthright. “Do you want to see them?” she said. “Not really.” But she did not give me any choice. She had me by my ear, now, and was pulling me back into the room wherein I had seen this hideous-looking being with a hole in his face. “Come,” she said, “I want you to meet my grandson.”

She picked up the lantern and carried it with her. She called a name, and that gruesome appearing visage turned around again, his gaze meeting mine. She brought the lantern up to his face.

At first all I could see was the deformed mouth and arms, but then I looked into the eyes, and saw that they had a soul to them. “This is my son,” she said. “He was born with these defects.” There was what today would be called a cleft palate, and for some reason the arms had not grown, they were just small stubs with fingers at the end. He was a bit hunchbacked. He could barely speak; his speech was not very intelligible. But with what speech he was able, he said, “Hello.”

I struggled at first to get past the dreadful hole of a face,  and suddenly there was no longer a monster there, there was a human being enclosed in a horribly deformed body. She saw my confusion and at first she shamed me. She said, “Did you come to make fun of him? He's human just like you. He wants friends just like you. You came to win the approval of your friends—will you go out and tell them you saw a monster? What will you tell them?” But then she saw the tears in my eyes.

She sat me down and made us both something sweet to drink. A warm drink. And we sat and the boy brought out something akin to your chessboard. Setting up the board, he asked, “Do you play?” It was a game that I knew. And so we played. When I got past the distortion of his mouth and face, I started to be able to see the smile on his face, the joy.

Now I had been in there for over an hour. My friends had expected me to be in there for only 5 or 10 minutes. What were they thinking? Was another of them going to break in? She said to me, “It's time to go.” And she asked me, “Will you come back?”

He was capable of a guttural kind of speech, hard to comprehend but when I tried it was understandable. So he said, “Will you come back?” He looked at me and I saw the longing in his eyes; he said, “Please?” And I said, “Yes, of course.”

She let me out the door, I did not go out the window. My friends were in the back watching for me to come out the back window. I sneaked around the house, back to where they were, got behind them, and said the equivalent of “Boo!” They all leaped 10 feet. “What happened?” What was I going to tell them? “There was a deformed monster in there,” I said,  and told about how he looked and how he scared me, but then I said, “He's a boy just like us, almost our age exactly. And he needs friends.”

So I asked if the next night somebody would come with me. One of my friends was courageous enough to do that. The two of us went in, this time through the front door, knocking on the door. The old woman opened the door. She welcomed us. It was earlier in the evening and she offered us bread and soup. Once my friend got over his dismay at the boy's appearance, he began also to be able to see the human underneath. We spent the evening in play, meal and conversation and departed.


I wish I could tell you that all of my friends opened up to this boy. Many of the others were so disbelieving that they thought we were under some kind of spell. They separated themselves from  us, they didn't want to spend time with us any more. But we found we enjoyed the beauty of our new friend. We stopped seeing his misshapen face. We found his heart, his soul.

It took 3 years before we were able to convince him to come out on a beautiful summer day. Through the woods there was a nearby river where we liked to swim. He had never been outside in the woods, nor to the river, so we brought him there. He could not swim because he had no real arms, but he could walk into the water and enjoy the cool freshness. The grandmother trusted us enough at that point not to come with us, to leave him in our care. So that was the first day that the other boys saw him, and most of them, seeing his delight in the water, began to come up and splash water on him in a friendly way, play with him in the water, show him how to sit down and kick his feet. To talk to him. Through our friendship his speech had become increasingly intelligible.

It was a powerful lesson for us all. The only monsters are imagined ones. We create monsters everywhere, but when you get to know the monster, what you find underneath is the potential for love, kindness, intelligence. I'm not saying there are no truly negative people in the world; certainly there are people who carry enormous negativity and take delight in harming others. Those people often have very normal appearance and you would not know them just by their appearance. But so often when we see something that disgusts us, and we say, “This is awful!” it's just our fear. It's our imagination creating the monster. When somebody acts in a way that is unpleasant, perhaps talks with anger, we say, “This is awful!”, instead of looking through and finding the human soul underneath that anger. But when you touch that soul and invite it out, you find beauty. The anger may be present, and the beauty, both at the same time. But one has to get beyond the face of things and into the heart. So this is what I learned from that experience so long ago, not to judge things by their face but by their heart.

So you have heard two of my stories. I will have more stories if you wish, but now I would like to hear from you. Some of your questions, tonight, some of your thoughts. Not necessarily about Halloween, but about anything you wish to speak.

Q: In your first story about sitting in the cave, I thought I heard you say that the remains of the shamans that had passed away and were lying on tables, that there was goodness but also evil there. Will you talk more about that?

Aaron: Positive polarity, that which is deeply intended to do good in the world, has a lot of power. That which we call negative polarity exists within contraction and fear. It takes delight in creating pain, draws its energy from fear and pain; certainly this exists. It is not absolute evil, but it is severe distortion, and we see that distortion in those who do delight in the killing and harming others, and using their power to cause pain to others.  

Such negativity sees the strength of positive polarity and wants to see if it can use it to its own purpose. It seeks the weak places in what is largely positively polarized, the places where there is still self centeredness, fear and doubt, and  the taking of these expressions as self,  as an entrance way. So negativity seeks out beings like these shamans who were strongly positive. Newly committed positive polarity especially  may actually attract negative energy at first, which wants to see if there's a way in, if it can use the power of that positive energy and distort it into negativity. So in a chamber like that where there is such a high positive energy, when they bring in somebody who aspires to hold that high positive polarity, negative energy comes around quite interested. “Ooo, can we use this?” Do you understand what I'm saying?

This is something Barbara encountered quite a lot in the beginning when she began to channel. Her intention was for the good of all beings and in the spirit of love, to allow me to use her body. But when negativity began to see the power of my thoughts to help others move beyond fear and negativity, and the power of Barbara's commitment, they said, “Oh, how can we use this?” There was a time for a year or two when any negativity in Barbara, such as her own anger that was not resolved, her own fear that was not resolved, became an open door into which negativity could come and attempt to build.

Now, this was really a gift to her because it gave her the need to address her own negativity and the means to address it, to make space for it and not be self-identified with it. After awhile, while negative thought still arose, there was not a self-identity with those thoughts. Because there was no self-identity, there was no longer an open door for negative energy.

But I was an acolyte, new, young. I was going to have a night of fear. They could have destroyed me, or I could have destroyed myself more correctly. The real initiation was about whether I could transcend the self-identity with fear so as not to hold that open door to negativity. In other words, if something had touched my arm, would I have smacked it and killed it, despite my deep intention and vow to non-harm? Would I have killed that night? If I had, then increasingly negative energy would have had control of me. I'm phrasing that in perhaps an incorrect way. It's not that some creature would have controlled me, it's that my own negative energy and possibilities would have controlled me. I would have started to think of myself as negative and thus become increasingly negative. But when we know the divinity in us then when fear, anger, greed arise, we have compassion toward them. Anger, even strong anger, serves as a catalyst for compassion. And then neither our own negativity nor external negativity can control us. By external negativity, people around you shouting “Kill! Kill! Kill!” cannot make you kill. When you know within yourself that you cannot kill, you will not kill. Does that answer your question?

Q: I live with 3 other people right now and I love two very much. But I have a hard time dealing with the third person. He brings up a lot of frustration for me. He's very needy. I usually deal with it by leaving the situation. I want to know how to deal with it in a loving way.

Aaron: Let me begin by asking you a question. At any time in your life have you thought of yourself as being needy? (Q: Yes.) Is that self-view a pleasant one or an unpleasant one to you? (Q: Unpleasant.) When we have a negative resonance with certain traits in another person, it's usually because they reflect back to us something that we are unhappy with in ourselves. The reason that his neediness upsets you so much, discomforts you, is because it shines back to you something that you are judging  in yourself. And I am not saying that you are needy, I'm not saying you act out your neediness, but there is a fear in the self that you might do that or that you have done that, and shame about it.

So, he's mirroring you. What you are reacting to is not him but her reflection of you. And the answer, of course, is lovingkindness. He is your teacher of lovingkindness, to help you open your heart to that which is needy in yourself, and eventually to transcend self and other. To open your heart to that which may be needy in all beings. To move beyond the self-judgment, “I shouldn't be needy,” but rather to get to know the feeling of neediness, which is really a kind of fear, “I'm insufficient. My needs may not be met. I'm not capable.” To transcend that fear by allowing yourself to know that which is strong and capable.

It's not quite that easy, though, because I have a sense that at some level you know that which is strong and capable in yourself and that it scares you. To know that which is strong in the self is to know one's innate power. That's fine. But there's still some negative thought in you, still anger, still judgment, still greed. What if you ARE immensely powerful, what havoc could you wreak on the world, if you have that much power?

So many beings need to deny their power and so they move into an idea of being unwhole, inadequate or needy. This is really a denial of one's own power out of fear of that power. So one has to see the whole picture, to ask yourself, in this moment if I were all-powerful, knowing that I am angry would I really do harm? You must come to trust, “No, I would not. I can be present with that anger. I don't have to react to that anger and do harm from that anger. In this moment, seeing the greed within me, would I act in ways that harm others if I were all-powerful?

“But it's okay, the world is safe from me. I will not take because of my greed. I will not take or lash out because of my fear. Thus I can own my power, the infiniteness of me, the radiance of me. I can allow myself to shine out that brightly.”

And once you begin to allow that, the neediness will go away on its own, and as the neediness fades, the fear of another's neediness or the discomfort with another's neediness will fade. Does that answer your question?

Q: Yeah, I guess I already knew that. It's just hard to think of that when I'm stressed out and busy with work.

Aaron:  These are the things that the human is doing to pass the time while you're doing the real work for which you came into the incarnation. (Q: Right!) Don't get caught up in the busy-ness so you forget the real work! It doesn't have to be so big, just when this man comes into the room and you feel yourself bristling at his presence, feeling his neediness and bristling, stop and take a deep breath. Breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in, I am aware of tension. Breathing out, I smile to the tension. Then ask yourself the question, whose neediness am I afraid of, here? I hope you come up with the answer, both, his and your own. And then see if you can just let it rest there, sending it love. Do some metta practice.

Just that simple breathing in I am aware of discomfort. What is this moment's feeling of neediness. How does neediness feel? What is sensation in the body? It's a feeling of incompletion, something needed. As if there is no breath. In the water, rough sea, can't get my head above the water. Neediness, grasping.

Reflect how throughout the whole world there are so many beings experiencing this. May all beings come to know their true radiance, strength and completeness. May I come to know my own true radiance, strength, and completeness. May this man come to know his. Just that as a reflection. It doesn't need to take long, just a minute or two. But if you are persistent with it, it will take you a long way in learning what this friend has come to teach you, to remind you. I think you can do it. Don't make a huge project of it! Keep it simple.

Q: Thank you.

Aaron: You can simply use the reflection with him, “I am quivering with tension. May I be free of tension. He is quivering with tension. May he be free of tension.” Breathing that in and out for a half dozen breaths, and then go back to your work. Just a reminder, nothing to be fixed here. Letting yourself come back to that which knows your power and completeness.


Q: A silly question.

Aaron: There are no silly questions!

(The Q's below regarding Halloween come from various participants, not just one.)

Q: If you were going to dress up for our Halloween celebration, what would you dress up as?

Aaron: Perhaps a butterfly. One of my favorite forms of life. Perhaps a human, another of my favorite forms of life. Remember, I am not human any more, I am simply energy and light. So perhaps I would put on a body and just go out there and dance a bit.

So I might choose to be human, just to put on a human appearance and spend a few hours walking around the earth, I think, wading in a stream, walking in a garden, dancing. I might choose to be a rainbow. I love rainbows.

Q: You could dress up as something scary for Halloween like a tape recorder?

Aaron: Or a computer! Not a Mac, they're not scary. I'd dress up as a PC. (Aaron is teasing two friends here)

Perhaps a shooting star. What would you dress up as?

Q: Aaron!

Aaron: As Aaron! Saturday or Sunday at the retreat I expect to see you coming out as Aaron. (Q: A challenge!)

When you dress up as something, it is as the child dresses up to see how it feels to be that, as the child puts on different behaviors, sometimes acting helpless, sometimes acting strong, sometimes acting arrogant, sometimes acting sweet, trying on different forms of behavior to see what fits. And you are here now trying on a human form. The difficulty is you have forgotten that you are not the form that you are trying on. You are so self-identified with your habit energies, your opinions, your self-image, that you mistakenly think “This is me,” that this is who you are. How can you shake yourself free of that a bit?

I did an exercise with the spiritual inquiry class last week. Are any of you in that class? If you will excuse a bit of repetition here, I asked them to imagine that they were traveling in some foreign country, a country though that spoke their language but with a very different accent so the language was not quite clear. They came out of their hotel one morning, walked down the street and in some way fell or injured themselves, hit their head. When they came back to consciousness, concerned people were gathered around them, and they said, “I'm okay, just a bump on my head,” so the people went away. And you sat there and said, “Where was I going? Who am I?” Amnesia. Who am I?

So you sat there for a few minutes experiencing this amnesia. Where am I going? No wallet, no identification. Do I have a home somewhere in this town? But it feels a bit foreign to me, the language doesn't quite ring true. Am I in a hotel? Who am I? Where am I going? Where am I from? What am I doing?

You look around. You're in a town square. Over here there's a coffee shop. There's a cathedral. Here's there's a park. Over here there is a bar, a sports stadium, a meditation center, whatever else you might imagine. Maybe a place to rent bicycles. A sign on a window that says, “Help needed this morning to feed the homeless.” Without using your brain—you can't use your brain and your old self-identity, you have to come back to your heart—what resonates for you here? Where might you be going? What does your heart tell you?

If you go to the bar and that doesn't feel comfortable, you leave We went around the room and asked, “Where would you go?” Not just the places I mentioned but other places you might think of. Then we found that many people had found their way into the meditation center, that it felt like a safe place to go. So I said, “We're all here, you're all a bunch of amnesiacs sitting here in this meditation center, trying to figure out, ‘Who am I beyond all those lost memories of who I thought I was? What does my heart tell me? I am free to create life from here on without any old preconceptions of who I think I am, without any old limitations. Who am I? Where will I go? What will I do?' ”

This is very much your human situation. You're amnesiacs. You've forgotten who you are. You've tumbled into this space we call incarnation, and now you're trying to figure out who you are but you're basing that on all the habit energies, all the old stories that have built up throughout the incarnation. The newborn infant doesn't have any stories like that. The newborn infant doesn't think, “If I cry because I'm hungry people might not like me. Should I cry or should I not cry?” The baby just knows discomfort in its belly and it cries. Then when the parents pick it up and comfort it, the baby stops crying. It doesn't think to itself, “If I stop crying, they'll appreciate me so I'll stop.” It stops because it feels comforted and safe.

Who are you beyond all of the self-images? And the way this relates to the Halloween story is simply, each of you have come to think of yourself as limited in some way. Why not be a rainbow? Why not be a shooting star? Why not be the entire galaxy? Why limit yourselves? Who are you?

Do you have further questions? That transcript is on the website if you wish to read it in its entirety.

Q: A friend had a question but she's going to come next time.

Aaron: Better for her to ask it for herself.

If you were to dress up for Halloween, what might you dress up as? Don't think too much about it...

Q: The first thing that came to mind was a wand.

Aaron: Please explore what it might mean to be a wand. Please explore in what ways you are already a wand and want to bring that further into expression. And you, J?

Q: Just today I thought I should be a dog because I'm obsessed with my dog, and when I act like my dog, I really like her.

Aaron: Will you try it? Spend a day being a dog. You don't have to do it in public. But in your house, really get into the feeling how it is to be the dog. How does the dog think and feel and react? What is the dog part of you? Explore that. Very rich.

Q: I was planning to be a banana.

Aaron: Interesting—tell me why.

Q: Because I like eating bananas.

Aaron: What does a banana feel like? It has that soft, sweet interior and then a hard skin. Do you?

Q: Maybe.

Aaron: Explore that a bit. I'm not saying you ARE a banana, I'm saying to reflect, “In what ways am I at all like a banana? What do we have in common?”  And you?

Q: Well, I really like music so I was thinking of dressing as a record. I think it might be hard to make the costume, though.

Aaron: You are thin but not that thin! What does music mean to you?

Q: A lot of things. It helps me express a range of emotions and sometimes I can feel what the artist was feeling when they made the music.

Aaron: Very helpful to reflect on how you can more fully be the music that is inside you, the music that is inherent to you. In what ways do you turn off the record player? In what ways do you allow it to play out into the world?

Q: Abraham Lincoln.

Aaron: Tell me more about that, please.

Q: (inaudible)

Aaron: Yet deeply wise and loving.

Q: Useful to others even though depressed.

Aaron: I see other characteristics of Lincoln which may be inside you and want to get out. Try being Lincoln for a day and see what's there. Be that which you find most admirable and beautiful in Lincoln.

Q: Struggling to keep everything around me together.

Aaron: Yes, that and also a man of great integrity, strong principles who would not sacrifice those principles.

Q: A ghost.

Aaron: A goat? (laughter) Ghost! We'll trade places. On the 31st, you be me and I'll be you!

Q: That might be scary for both of us!

Aaron: I think I would rather enjoy spending a day being you. You have such a good heart. I hope you would enjoy spending a day being me.

What do you think of when you think of a ghost?

Q: Spirit.

Aaron: Not bounded by the body and its perception, far-seeing, broad-seeing. So in what ways can you bring forth those qualities more fully?

Q: I'll practice!

Q: Maybe a grandmother.

Aaron: A grandmother. What comes forth for you with the word grandmother?

Q: Lots of different things. If I am a grandmother, I am old and wise and... I have something to offer. But I have left behind the physicality of youth. This is a positive thing and also a scary thing, so it is useful to step into that in a pretend way before I actually get there.

Aaron: Yes, also for the grandmother, we think of the grandmother more as an elder which means she no longer has to be so concerned about pleasing other people. She can touch her own intuition on things and trust that and move ahead rather than having to ask, “Is this okay? Is this okay?” And I think that's something you might like to find more in your life right now. And of course it's within you, the grandmother has been there since you were little. Just plan to let it out. M?

Q: I would either become invisible or just be the monster.

Aaron: Which one? Which do you prefer?

Q: Invisible.

Aaron: Would you spend a day, and I'll ask (her partner's) help with this, choose a day, it doesn't have to be the whole day, just a few hours, where by your mutual agreement, you decide when to start and for that morning or afternoon, M is invisible. And I would ask M to find out how does it feel.

Q: I know how to do that very well.

Aaron: Do you know how to do that when S plays along and doesn't see you?

Q: I could probably figure it out very quickly.

Aaron: Why does this bring you ease?

Q: Because there is no harm to anyone and I learn a lot by watching.

Aaron: Please try it mindfully in the coming week just to see both what is easeful about it and what is difficult about it, what might be painful about it. At what point do you want to come out of that and touch base, touch and be touched, see and be seen? And if that wanting to be seen comes up, then you have to tell S, “I'm ready to stop being invisible. I want to be seen.” And S for you also, how does it feel when she is invisible? When she is ready to be seen, how does that feel? Are you giving her cues that you would like her to be invisible? I don't see much of that, but look at it. I don't think that's true, but look at it.

S: I think it is really M's gig, her favorite play. I do not think I suggest it to her, she brought it with her.

Aaron: I agree... And it's interesting because with your dog you do not wish to be invisible.

Q: She (dog's name) would not allow it.

Aaron: Good. Try to tell her, “P, this morning I'm invisible,” and see what she says.

Q: She would say, “I want my breakfast!”

Aaron: So play reflectively with these possibilities, with the masquerades that you constantly are going through, the masquerade of being the good one or the bad one, the helpful one or the insufficient one. The one who is needy or the one who takes care of others. There are so many masks the human puts on and does it without mindfulness so you don't have the opportunity to learn. If you're going to put on these masks, put them on mindfully and ask, what is the mask I have worn today, the predominant mask? And in what way was it helpful to me, did I learn something from it? And is it a mask I want to put on again tomorrow? If so, why do I want to put it on tomorrow? If it was pleasant, in what way was it pleasant? If it was unpleasant, and I still want to put it on tomorrow, why?

Begin to reflect on this. You find that you wear many different masks on any given day but there will be some predominant ones that recur over and over and over. What are the predominant masks you wear?

Q: Now that sounds scary!

Aaron: Now: that sounds scary - to look at that masks that you wear? All I heard was, “Now, that sounds scary.” Now is not at all scary. You know I'm making a play on words here. “Now” is his cat. Think about that. Now is not scary. The mask “Now” is not scary, it's just the mask. One sees into it, picking it up, trying it on, taking it off, the way little children put on different masks.

Is there any further question or discussion?

Q: About the examining what masks that come up a lot... I worry that if I thought about it I would maybe be delusional about it.

Aaron: There's a difference. The brain that picks up the idea of the mask and builds a self-identity with it can be delusional. Awareness that watches the whole process of picking up masks and laying them aside is very clear and awake. It's not caught up in any self-identity with the masks, but it develops a deep compassion for the human that sometimes has to pick up the masks out of its fear or discomfort. And sometimes the masks can get you into a lot of trouble. Even the seemingly wholesome masks, being the caretaker and so forth, being the stoic ones.

Barbara, some years ago she was drenched with gasoline at a malfunctioning gas pump, filling her car. They took her off to the hospital. They had her remove all her clothes and wrapped her in a sheet and took her to the hospital. But they neglected to wash her off. She sat there in the emergency room meditating, her scalp burning, her skin burning, her eyes burning. The doctor walked in, (breathes) saw her looking very calm, figured, “Nothing needed here, nothing urgent.” It took several hours before they came in and said, “Are you okay?” and she said, “No, my skin is on fire!” “Why didn't you tell us?” Well, she was putting on a mask. And it was a wholesome mask to some extent; there was real equanimity. But this was the delusional aspect, she was becoming the person who had equanimity. True equanimity would not scream, “I'm burning! I'm burning!” but could say emphatically to the doctor, “My skin is burning, I need to wash it off.”

A mask. But that true equanimity is not a mask. Do you understand the difference? True kindness is not a mask. But having to be the caring one is a mask. And so forth. True fear is not necessarily a mask, it's just the direct experience of fear. But the story of inadequacy is a mask.

And you will put them on and you must have compassion for the human that puts them on. Don't believe that there's a goal never to put on a mask, only invite yourself to be mindful of the coming up of the mask.

Too bad we cannot have a Deep Spring Halloween party.

Q: We could next year, if you think to suggest it.

Aaron: It would be very pleasant. Might not be on Halloween but the weekend before. It would be fun to let people put on their different masks, even to come with several costumes and change several times during the night, and just reflect on, “What is this costume I am wearing? What am I wearing now?” And again later.

Is there any further question or discussion?

Give me a moment please.  I'll finish with a short story. I think we'll need to put a new tape in...

(taping ends, next tape)

Clean to here 

I was in a lifetime again in what you in your culture would consider a witchdoctor, a healer within my tribe who put on very fearful masks and danced in the presence of the sick one to chase out the negative spirits. The idea was to frighten the negative spirits. I was quite good at it. I took myself into a deep self-identity with the persona of the mask. I was really just being an actor, putting on some kind of face and acting in a compatible way to that face. But here I was not putting on a face so much as a mask over the face.

I was called one day to travel some distance to a neighboring child where there was a child who had been sick for several months, and my colleague in that tribe could not heal the boy, could not scare away the spirits, as our culture thus believed. So somebody came and said, “They want you to come. See if you can scare him away.” I was a bit elder than this one.

So I took my collection of masks. And I had a lot of confidence, “I can scare this disease away. I know I can do that.” I wasn't going to fool around. I put on the most fearsome mask right in the beginning. It was quite horrible. The room was lit with torches. And I walked into the room and the child took one look at me... and he burst out laughing! He said when he was able to control his laughing, “I was able to see your kind eyes under all that horrible appearance.” He was perhaps 6 years old. He said it's the funniest thing. Your mask is so wonderful.

So I thought I failed. But he began to get better. The laughter was just what he needed, not to be frightened. Because of course there was no evil spirit to scare away. What he needed was just to come back to joy, to remind himself that he was alive and vital. And his laughter did that for him.

It was a puzzle to me. I stayed there for a week and watched him recover. He had been sick for several months. I was very tempted to abandon my masks, but I took them home and continued my old practice, to try to scare away the evil spirits. I never had a cure quite as thorough and fast as that one. I can't explain it. Perhaps we don't need to try to explain some things, just to trust in the love within the human heart and the power of wholeness to shine through.

I bid you a good night. Thank you for sharing yourselves with me this evening. I will return the body to Barbara.

(taping ends)