May 11, 2005

Barbara: We have a combination of Spiritual Inquiry Class and Wednesday Night Group.

This is from the end of the transcript from the last class. I'm just paraphrasing a few lines for those who weren't present. We've been working the last 2 classes with the focus on rebirth. He began that around Easter, I think. Our recent work in the Spiritual Inquiry Class has been about rebirthing those beautiful qualities we wish to bring forth in ourselves. When there's fear, how do we bring forth fearlessness. When there's grasping, how do we bring forth generosity. When there's impatience, how do we bring forth patience.

Aaron has emphasized that these are not qualities that we have to create in ourselves, but are qualities that already exist. Much like the spring plants that are all blossoming now, we didn't go out and paste blossoms on the trees; the blossoms are inherent to the tree. They come forth when there's warmth and sunshine. What allows us to bring forth the qualities that we seek in ourselves?

He asked everybody to make a drawing of their own personal garden, what it might look like. What's strong in your garden? What's not so strong? What is it you wish to pay special attention to?

Aaron has talked quite a bit about supports for bringing forth those plants. Mindfulness, of course, and the practice of lovingkindness, presence. We talked quite a bit about energy and watching the difference between contracted energy, very restless, grasping energy, and even, flowing energy. All 3 of these energies may appear at different times. It's not a problem that these different energies come and go, the point is, can we be aware of the movement of them and especially can we be aware when we get stuck in one mode.

The flow of energy is normal, sometimes open, sometimes contracted. If I reach out to pick up something, there's tension as I grasp it. There's got to be. I can't close my hand without tension. I bring it in to me and the tension relaxes. If I held the tension, then I'd create a lot of pain. If I don't have any contraction, I can't pick up anything.

It's the flow, the balance, that we're after. So Aaron's question was what creates balance. He asked the class to watch this.

(Reading, with paraphrasing of actual text)

"I would like you to watch the energy patterns in yourself. When there's a very openhearted energy, a lot of joy, reflect. Don't stop the joy flowing then and say, "What is it?" and get too analytic about it, but afterward look back and try to reflect, what kind of energy balance was there? How does it feel to be in balance? When there's something tough and your energy contracts, be aware of that."

And he asked people, "A question I really want to raise with each of you is, at the point where there is too much tension, what helps? When you find yourself reaching for something, hanging on to it with grasping, or something coming at you, rigid, and hours after the episode there's still that rigidity, what helps you to come back into balance?" So he asked people to watch that.

The third thing he asked, "I would ask of you to think in these next weeks about what quality lies closest beneath the surface but it still dormant. What is it you really want to see start breaking through the soil?"

This is where we left off at the end of the last class. At this point I'm going to move into a trance state and let Aaron take over.

(tape off and on)

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. I greet you in joy and love. Everybody in this room is here because you wish to live your lives with more love, more clarity, and to bring forth the inherent goodness in yourselves. Each of you aspires to that, and every one of you feels the sense that you have failed at times, especially when heavy emotion arises and there's turmoil in the mind and body, lack of clarity, anger or greed. Then you judge yourselves; you tense up, and say, "How can I get rid of this negative energy so as to bring forth that which I seek to express?"

Here we have the basic fallacy, that you must get rid of something in order to bring forth something else. When you climb into an airplane on a stormy day, the sun is hidden by clouds. The blue sky is covered by clouds. The plane takes off and suddenly you're in a dense gray cloud. Then you break through and the sun is bright and the sky is blue. You don't believe you've created the blue sky. It's always been there. You've opened into it by breaking through the cloud. You relax in the plane. You know the plane will come through the cloud, or at least if it goes high enough it will. There's no grasping, no fear, because you understand the process by which the clouds are present and the plane breaks through.

But you do not yet trust that process in yourselves. Thus, when negative energy arises in you, the habit energy is to greet that negativity with further contraction. I'm not going to go into the technical terms that we previously shared with the class. Let's just talk about energy in terms of contracted, whether it's a pushing away or grasping contraction, and relaxed. One is not good and the other bad. When you reach out for something, the energy must contract. When you set something down, the energy relaxes. When you take a swallow of water, the throat muscles must contract. If you did not contract the muscles, you couldn't swallow. But they don't remain contracted after the water is swallowed or you'd end up with terrible pain in your throat.

What we're talking about is a bioenergetic process which in parts of your life such as the easy flow of breath or the swallow of water, comes so easy, but which, when around negative emotions and thoughts, becomes very difficult for you because you habitually contract around a negative pattern. There are two reasons why you contract in that way. One, because of the strong aspiration not to release this negativity into the world, you tend to back up, hold it, to try to block it, smother it.

The second, when negative energies such as anger or greed arise, then tension comes up, "Uh-oh, feeling angry," there's the taking personal power from the anger, which allows you to feel strong and safe. For some it's one, for some it's another. In other words, you may smother negative emotion or hold it to draw on its power. Whether you smother or hold it, you may move into an obviously contracted state, one of agitated contraction, or into a state that is so contracted as to be impacted energy and feel lifeless and stagnant. In either case, the negative emotion is met with further contraction.

Each of you have certain patterns that are predominant. I don't want to get too analytical here. The important thing is that when a pattern of contraction comes up and you feel yourself holding contraction and not moving back into the flow of contracting/releasing/contracting/releasing, or if contraction expresses as lethargy, no energy, no contracting, the important thing is that you be aware of it. As simple as that.

Some of you have had patterns of headaches. One reason for headaches is a pattern of imbalanced contraction. Some of you have worked very successfully by watching the pattern, seeing the contraction held in the body, especially around the head area. The same for some of you who have recurrent stomach distress. Energy is held there, imbalanced. The question then is how can you balance more completely, seeing what has arisen and inviting the release of it. The simple question, what restores balance? There are many tools.

Two weeks ago Barbara led a week-long retreat at the ocean. They spent many hours a day meditating on the beach, with warm sunshine, cool breeze, sand, waves breaking at their feet, sometimes literally on their feet. I asked people to work with the 4 elements that were so clear in this setting, that is, the earth element, the sand; water, the ocean; air, the wind, the huge blue sky; and fire, the heat of the sun. What I asked of people was to watch when they felt an imbalance to see if they could discern what element was out of balance. This is a practice I'd like to introduce to you tonight, unfortunately without the benefit of the ocean beach. I've not been able to find a way to bring that to you. You're going to have to imagine you're there.

I'm going to ask you to close your eyes and sit. With a cushion, put your hands down on the floor beside you. Feel the ground through the cushion. If you're in a chair, feel the chair itself. Feel your feet on the floor. Connect to the earth. Bring energy down through the spine and connect into the earth.


Become aware of the earth element in the body. Earth is a major, not the predominant but a major element in the body, the whole body structure of cells and matter. You are the earth. Earth is heavy and solid. It can be fertile when balanced with the other elements. Alone it can be barren. Unbalanced earth feels dull and unable to move.


So earth will feel heavy with no other element to balance it. Now hold in your mind the image of waves breaking. Hear the sound of the waves.


See if you can touch in to the water element of the body. Here is the predominant element of the body. Its qualities are fluidity and motion. Water is joyfully alive. Ungrounded, it becomes turbulent.

The next step may take a bit of trial and error. Try to feel the balance of earth and water in the body. Every cell has a high content of water, and yet there's also dense matter. What if there was no water in the body? Can you feel how heavy and stagnant the body would be? What if the body was all water? It couldn't move; it couldn't support itself. It would be like the glass of water when you spill it on the floor and it spreads. There's no structure. The body is a miraculous balance of earth and water.


If the sea were to beat on the beach in this way, mixing with the sands, but there was no fire element so that everything would freeze, again it would become rigid. Feel yourself on this beach, with balanced earth and water but no fire. Feel the deep chill of it. Even though there's earth and water in balance, everything freezes, everything stops. Earth with no fire or air is barren. Water is ice.


Now bring in the sun. Try to feel the sun burning just behind the navel, as if there was a large inner sun sending out rays of heat and light, warming the earth and water. Don't let it get too warm or it will boil away. Too much fire brings agitation and restlessness. If it gets too hot, bring in a bit more earth and water. Keep it in balance.


What does air do to this mixture? Stand on the beach can lie flat, but when the wind blows, the sand blows across the beach, drifting. The wind blows the waves. Wind and fire create energy. They energize the earth and the water. But if you had no earth and water but only wind and fire, there would be no ground, no stability. See if you can feel these things in yourself. How do you feel with too much air? Too little? Look for the balance of the four elements.

(longer pause)

Now I'm going to ask you to recall a moment in the last day or two when you felt anger. It doesn't have to be rage, just some impatience at a traffic light, perhaps. But if it was stronger anger, that's fine. Without going into the stories that the anger may have promoted, see if you can bring forth in memory the direct experience of anger.


If you sit out on the beach beneath the hot sun, quite a distance from the ocean, fierce wind blowing at you and the sun burning your skin, does that enhance the anger? Now pick yourself up and walk right down to the shoreline. Sit on the damp sand with your anger. Extend your feet forward in your imagination so that the waves coming in may lap over your feet, coming over your legs, and washing back into the sea. Not huge, rough waves, but gentle waves coming forth. Let the spray cool your whole body. Feel the rhythm of the waves, the rhythm of the water outside of you, and also the inner rhythm of the water element moving through the body. What effect does this have on the anger? Does it cool the anger a bit? I would think so.


What brings balance?

Now let us shift to a new image. Think of a time in the past few days when you have been very low in energy, feeling drained, tired, perhaps frustrated, which is a closed, low energy form of anger.


If you take yourself back to the shoreline, the movement of the sea may help, but not a lot. Stand up and feel the breeze, feel the heaviness of that frustrated low energy state, and then stand up and let the breeze blow through you. In your imagination, take a kite. There's such a strong wind that the kite goes up quickly, a big kite. Feel it pulling. Feel the breeze blowing your body, blowing the kite. Feel the energy and movement of it. Feel the sun, the heat of the sun warming, bringing its own energy. It's very hard to hold on to a low energy, frustrated state, while flying a kite on a windy, sunny beach. It's very hard to hold on to anger while soaking your feet in the ocean or in a bubbling stream.

You do not always have such a sunny beach or the ocean or stream, but you always can bring forth consciously the elements that will help give balance when you understand the imbalance.

In past months we have looked at many ways of bringing forth balance, through mindfulness, through work with lovingkindness, with the other so-called Brahmavaharas, or heavenly abode states, compassion, joy, and equanimity. So we're just adding this element practice to the toolbox. Using the elements in the body, and mindful awareness of imbalance of the elements, to invite balance. Not to create balance, to invite balance, the balance that has always been there.

I want to shift the focus a bit to what blocks the initiation of balance. I'm through with the guided meditation and you are welcome to open your eyes. What blocks you from inviting balance? Here we must go into the role of habit energy. As you look at imbalance in the elements, and imbalance in mind and body states, or if you are chronically restless or with low energy and fatigued, or frequently contracted and so forth, you can't simply say inviting balance just needs mindfulness. If it were that easy, you wouldn't hold those imbalanced states. You must begin to explore more the whole of habit energy and the outflow of such habit energy.

There are two Pali words that I want to bring forth here. I try to avoid foreign terminology as much as is possible, but these words say something for which there is no precise translation in English. These words are anusaya and asava. Anusaya is simply habit energy. Think you here of what happens when a herd of horses are in the field and the farmer comes down to the gate with some feed for them. The prevalent habit energy is that they all come to the gate.

They hear him walking. They see the grain bucket. They all come to the gate. That is a very simple example of anusaya, habit energy. The habit energy has an outflow. The second part of this, asava. One horse habitually gets closest to the gate. He's the boss of the herd. He's the dominant one in the herd. But there's a younger horse who is challenging his dominance. They see the farmer come, they all come to the gate. The first horse with his habit energy comes closest to get the feed first. All the others hold back except this one who is challenging. The first one sees the other challenging and he nips. And if that's not enough, he turns around and kicks.

So there's a habit energy, "I will be the first to the gate. I get the food first." And then the outflow of that energy if it's challenged is to react, nip or kick. Punch, scream, however you feel it in yourselves.

Let's translate this into human terms. You're driving down the big street here. Traffic starts to stall at a light. You sit at the light through 2 or 3 changes, just a few cars able to go each time. You look at your watch; you're late. Anxiety comes up. The habit energy, it's hard to label it as one form of habit energy and separate one kind of habit energy from others, but let's say that the predominant habit energy in this situation was wanting to be on time, both for wholesome and unwholesome reasons. Wanting to be on time because you feel responsible to be, because people are waiting for you. Wanting to be on time because you are concerned that people will look at you and say, "Why are you late?" There is worry for their anger about your lateness and if they will judge you..

Tension is building up, impatience. Finally there's just one car ahead of you at the light and you think, "Ah, when the light turns this time, I can go." You're watching the driver ahead of you. She's not watching the light. She bends over. You see the head disappear. What's she doing! The light changes. The car in the right lane goes, the car in the left lane goes, and here you are behind the disappeared driver! So you honk your horn. What happened? Here's the habit energy and the outflow. The outflow is resultant on the habit energy. That is, the asava is built in part upon the anusaya. More specifically, the outflow is resultant on your relationship with the habit energy. If the habit energy of impatience came and you were able to be mindful of it, not afraid of it, just aware, "This situation has triggered my habit energy of tension. Breathing in, I am aware of the tension. Breathing out, I smile to the tension" but not criticizing the self that there's tension, the outflow will be different. That which is aware of the tension is not tense. Right there, there is space. Then impatience leads to compassion, not honking with rage.

Right there at the light, you can work with elements practice and other balancing tools. Feeling the heat and imbalanced fire energy, you can just begin to visualize yourself under a cooling waterfall as you wait. You can practice with metta, offering loving wishes to all beings who are held in a confined place, unable to move freely. There are many ways to work with it. Just creating space.

The outflow changes, then. When the woman bends over in front of you and disappears and the light changes and you're in the middle of lovingkindness meditation, you're not so likely to tense up and curse at her. Rage isn't so likely to come. Just a big sigh, "I love you, I truly love you. May you have well-being. May you be happy. May you find the… lifesavers that rolled off your seat and are on the floor. May you be happy." Can you see how that transforms everything?

You can't do that as long as you're caught up in perpetuating the habit energy, either because you're not mindful of it, because there's self-righteousness, or because you're attacking yourself because of the habit energy. Sitting there saying, "I shouldn't be impatient" is not going to help you have patience when she doesn't move. Only kindness allows it.

The point I want to make here is that there is a progression: anusaya, habit energy, and then asava, outflow. You can watch the progression knowing that the second is related to the first. You cannot change the second by force. All you can do is attend to the first. We could put this in very simple terms. If you have a garden and the flowers are not getting heads because the weeds are so tall, no matter how much fertilizer you pour on them they're still not going to flower. The lack of flowers is a result of the weeds. If you tend to the weeds, the flowers will come.

If you don't want to curse the man who bends over to pick up his coffee cup or whatever has spilled, if you want to express deeper patience and compassion, you've got to start with the first habit energy. We come back to the horse. His habit energy is, "I'm going to be first." He can't help but bite and kick, he has no choice. But if somehow he could learn that he'll get his share of the food even when he's not first, then he no longer needs to bite or kick.

What I would ask you to do is to apply this to everything we've done this far this year. When strong negative emotion comes up, remember this is a result. See the two parts, the habit energy into that emotion and the outflow of it. Forget about, I don't want to say forget about the outflow, I don't want you to bite and punch people in the nose. But within reason, forget about the outflow. I don't think anybody here is going to punch another in the nose. Rather, come back and ask yourself, "What habit energy is predominant here? And what is out of balance in me that can help me shift that habit energy to allow the inherent kindness, patience, generosity, spaciousness, to come forth?"

When you do that, you change the karma. The habit energy shifts. The long line of traffic becomes an invitation to compassion rather than to restlessness, fear, and impatience. As soon as you see a long line of traffic, instead of tensing up you can begin to think, "Ah, here is practice." You can begin to relax. You need to look at that which is afraid that others will judge you. You need to look at any tendency you have to start too late, so that you're always tardy. This is something that's a different kind of habit energy. But assuming that you have started on time and that there was an accident that caused this blockage, what brings balance? What brings relaxation? What allows you not to flow into the whole negative thought stream with all its stories but come back into a centered and loving place, and therefore to bring forth that plant of lovingkindness, patience, and joy?

Let us pause here to allow you all the opportunity to stretch. After the tea, I would like some discussion about the guided meditation we did, how that element practice felt for you. And also the opportunity to ask any questions you wish to ask. We'll take a 10 minute break. Now I'm going to return the body to Barbara, and we'll come back into trance to lead the discussion. I thank you for your attention.


Aaron: Let us continue. How did you experience the guided meditation with the elements? Will you share some thoughts about it with me? Let me ask a direct question here. Could you feel the shifts in your body and energy field when you sat on the beach with no sun, and then brought in the sun with that sand and water? Could you feel the opening? When there was just hot sun beating down on the anger, could you feel the shift when you put your feet in the water? Some yes, some no. Whatever you'd like to share.

Q: Immediately I became aware of an imbalance of fire that I have. As soon as you started to talk, I just thought, "Oh yea, there it is." When you talked about bringing in a balance in the water, cooling the fire, I thought that was really a great image for me to use when I feel that fire.

Aaron: Thank you.

Q: When I felt the cooling water, a sense of gentleness and relaxation came to me, and just spaciousness. It was really, really nice. I felt much kinder. Then my attention to the whole situation kind of relaxed, and I started thinking about other things. I noticed that the anger came back. Like some part of me was still holding on to it underneath everything.

Aaron: I think this is a very important insight. To observe the holding on is to see there is habit energy there. We come back to that same statement, "That which is aware of the habit energy is not locked into it." Immediately there's freedom. The mood may maintain itself for awhile, but the self-identity with the mood is shattered. That's what's important in shifting the habit energy. You don't shift it by force but by stepping out of the identity of it so that it naturally just fades. It takes as long as it takes. There's no problem with it's being there. Take the sense of "holding on" itself as the object. Feel the tension and contraction in holding. What brings balance. Get out of the immediate situation and into "holding." Whatever the object of holding, it is no longer primary.

Q: I felt it's a very good exercise in developing loving, compassionate observer. I really feel kind of sad at the awareness of how much I judge my emotional habitual patterns.

Aaron: This is the same situation, moving from the object to the larger experience of judging as habit energy. Will you watch, my sister--when that judgment comes up, stop and look in and see what is out of balance. Is judging an earth-heavy state? Is it a fire-heavy state? I can't answer that for you.

Q: Earth.

Aaron: Earth-heavy. It will differ for different ones of you. Judgment is not always earth-heavy, but the way you experience it, it is earth-heavy. Then taking that earth-heaviness as an object, ask yourself, "What will bring balance here?" Remember your intention not to hang on to this earth-heaviness, which is the habitual tendency in order to feel safe. Judgment comes for a reason. In some way, judgment has allowed a certain sense of safety, power, or control. The intention to bring balance is very powerful because it's a statement, "I'm not going to keep running with this old habit energy." Does that feel workable? (Q: Yes.)

New Q: I found it difficult to bring balance to feeling lethargic.

Aaron: The feeling of lethargy is a predominant one for you. It's a hard energy for you to work with. I think it would be very helpful for you to do a regular meditation of feeling the heaviness of the earth energy and how that has become a safe space for you, and then literally you might go outside on the beautiful days. Take yourself outside and feel the sun, feel the breeze. Feel the joy of the sun and the breeze. Simply invite balance. If you have a place to do so, put your feet in some water, even just turning on the garden hose. Let the water play over your feet a bit, feeling the energy and movement of it. And see what that does in the long term, not to fix something right now, but in the long term to support becoming more capable of inviting balance. Is there more you wish to say? I interrupted here.

Q: I'm getting to see the difference between fixing and finding balance. There still is a process, a thought process at least, or an after-process, that brings about the balance that you have to do. And it requires an analysis, for instance, any exercise of what made you become angry. I had to look at why was I getting angry at that point. And it was something altogether different from the situation I was in. It was more from my past. But for years I've been groping with this.

Aaron: I think this is an important shift for you. It's not brought about by tonight's talk, it's brought about by the whole process of growth in the past year. It's the readiness to trust yourself so that you don't need to fix. Can you see that? Fear comes. It's okay. You're making friends with it. Bringing balance is attending to it; it comes from a place of love. Fixing comes from a place of fear. For you and for many of you, that moving from a place of fear has simply become a habit energy, and that's why paying attention to the body, whether it's the elements or just muscle and contraction in the body, can be very important because it helps you much more quickly to see the moving into fear, to bring awareness to that move into fear, and simply to note, "Here is fear," rather than getting involved in all fear's stories. As soon as you're involved in the stories, it triggers the fix-it process. But awareness observing fear is able to attend. That is the beginning of bringing balance. Then once there is the readiness to attend, there are all these very available tools. Balance will come very quickly.

Do you have a further question?

Q: No. What you just said at the end cleared it up. Your reference to fear confused me. But when you added it, I remembered I was afraid to do this before. And after working with it for a time, I am more used to it and not afraid. So that seems to loosen me up and allow me to remember.

Aaron: Yes. Watching the progression.

Q: It's subtle, very subtle.

Aaron: One may understand how to run and jump, but first one has to learn to walk. Now you're jumping. Pretty soon we'll put up a bar and give you a pole!

New Q: This conversation has been very helpful for me. For so long I have judged my own anger as bad and wrong. Any amount. Now when we talk about the energy of anger, in my case being like the fire of the sun, the sun to me is beautiful. It has a reason for being warm and sometimes hot. And therefore I can take away the judgment from my emotions. It is as if I'm seeing life right now as almost a beautiful blend of the elements: fire coming through me sometimes, and wind, and water, and the earth. So I can no longer judge because nature to me is perfect.

Aaron: That is profound. Thank you. Do you all see that each of these elements is vital? None of them is bad. You can't say the water is good because it's cooling and the fire is bad because it's hot. Without the fire, everything would die. Balance.

There's a wonderful poem.

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I'd side with those who favor fire.

But if I had to perish twice,
I'd say that for destruction, ice
is also great and would suffice.

Who wrote that? Do you know the author?

Q: Robert Frost.

Aaron: Robert Frost. Salutations to Robert Frost. But if you bring fire and ice together, you get a very pleasant lake on a summer afternoon. Others? Do you understand how to proceed with this elements practice? Are there any questions about that? You remember you are not fixing.

Q: I want to share. When we looked at fire, it was burning everywhere. When I put my foot in the water, it cooled down and I was so comfortable. What I see is that I have a story around the fire that has always kept me safe.

Aaron: What has kept you safe, the fire itself or the stories? (Can't hear Q) Anger has kept you safe.

Q: The fire has been an illusion of safety.

Aaron: This is a very important observation for you and I think something that many people here will resonate with.

Q: And when I can see that the fire can be cooled and I am still safe, then it all shatters the whole story, the whole, everything. Then there is only the fire and the water and the air and the earth.

Aaron: And it's all there together, a lovely beach on a lovely afternoon. I'm curious, now. For some of you, you may have the feeling that Q just expressed, that fire, anger, is the place you go for safety. To be powerful, to have control. For some of you, earth is the place you go for safety, withdrawal, shrinking back into the earth. The flower that came up, looked around, and didn't like it and disappeared again. How many of you see one or the other of these patterns as predominant? Almost all of you. And it will differ from one to another.

Air and water are not usually the predominant places one goes. The fire element is too heavy or the earth element is too heavy and then we balance those with the other elements. Some people, a few of you, may feel that when things are difficult you space out, that's literally going into the air element. But also part of that spacing out is earth withdrawing and disappearing. So it can feel like the air element is out of balance and too heavy. But I think if you investigate, you'll also find a lot of earth is available. Water will help to bring balance in either case.

Very few people move into the water element for safety. It's not a predominant movement for the human. But watch this with earth and with fire, and with Q's insight that you can add water, you can cool down the fire, you can make that decision. It's very important not to push yourself here, no force, but rather simply to observe and to bring forth in your heart the intention, "For the good of all beings, let there be balance." The intention is given not to go off into the habitual place. The move into the fire or earth is the anusaya, the habit energy. And then the particular way you do that, through an outburst of anger, just feeling the anger even if you don't burst out with it, through disappearing, shrinking, closing down all the chakras and energy meridians, this is the outflow. Remember, you cannot change the outflow unless you attend to the habit energy itself. So don't go after the outflow; the outflow is just the result. Look at what caused the result. Thank you, Q.

Q: But what I see also is that the reason that the anger came up was because the heart was too open and I was feeling vulnerable.

Aaron: Interesting observation. Take that into your practice. Just as it's safe to cool the fire, it's safe to rest in the open heart, safe to be vulnerable. You are entering a situation in which you are very vulnerable. It is important to respect that. What does "too vulnerable" mean to you? Can you see the sense of fear? Be with the fear itself, as fear, without the story of "too vulnerable."

Are there others who wish to speak?

Q: Could you explain what coming from the water would look like?

Aaron: What going into, getting lost in the water, would look like? One who moves into a water imbalance would feel very ungrounded, perhaps not spacey so much as, not restless in the way enormous fire energy would make you restless, but… picture yourself in a fast-moving, turbulent river. You've got a lifejacket on. You're not going to drown. There are no big rocks for you to bash against. But the water spins and eddies here and there from rocks deep underwater. There's a sense of feeling out of control and moving too fast. There is no grounding.

Q: Manic?

Aaron: Manic is an odd mixture of water and fire, boiling. Just straight water isn't manic so much as turbulent. It needs more earth to balance it. The earth slows the river down so it's just floating along. Then you start to be able to feel the sun on your body. You can put your feet down on the bottom.

Manic in the sense that you can't stop, but there's also a fire element in there boiling it away. I do not perceive you as imbalanced into the water element.

Are there others who wish to speak?

I would like to invite those who are… I'm going to stretch these legs out, they're cramping. Interesting because I do not feel pain, but I'm aware that Barbara will feel pain! I want to invite those who are not part of the class and are perhaps newer to this work, if you have other questions that you'd like to bring into the circle.

Q: I have a question. My element is fire. And when I encounter someone who also possesses the same element, and there is a conflict or tension, it really brings out the fire. Turns up the heat. Can you recommend the techniques for dealing with people in general who are like me?

Aaron: There's a wonderful practice that is an accompaniment to mindfulness called Clear Comprehension. The first 2 parts of the Clear Comprehension practice are clear comprehension of purpose and of suitability. What is my highest purpose in this moment? For example, is it to be right, to be powerful, to win, or is it to promote harmony and to truly hear each other, to bring forth that which is truly for the best for all beings, and bring forth growth, and lovingkindness. It's very easy to get caught up in the impulse energy and stories and that clear comprehension can stop everything, can stop the stories cold. It must be done without judgment. The habit energy is taking you one direction.

Picture here a river that comes into a fork. You're in an inner tube and you've tubed through here before. You've seen pictures of the right-hand fork but you've not taken the right-hand fork; the current sweeps you left. On the left side there are a number of rapids with jagged rocks, and small waterfalls. Every time you go through, you end up with scrapes, cuts and bruises. It takes some effort to push yourself out of that main current and into the other current. You've seen the picture of how the water in that right fork just goes downhill very smoothly and openly, deep, no rocks to hit. A lovely kind of a ride. But the whole current is pushing you into the left-hand fork. The practice of clear comprehension has the effect of pulling you out of that habitual current, bringing forth the effort that's needed to draw you into the right-hand current.

The second part of clear comprehension practice is clear comprehension of suitability. Is what I am about to do suitable to this highest purpose? You do have the strong intention to live your life without harm to others, and without harm to yourself, if you remember your highest purpose. It may help if every morning you develop a practice before you get out of bed, to stop and state to yourself your highest intention for the day, or several intentions, there may be intention to be productive. There may be intention to experience joy in your life, to live your life without harm to yourself and others, to grow as a human being, grow in the ability to love. Whatever may be the several highest purposes. This doesn't need to be a prolonged activity, just for a minute before you get out of bed so that it's very clear, this is the intention that I hold for this day.

Then you don't beat yourself up if you fail to fulfill that intention. But you hold it before you, it's like having a map. If you're driving and you have no map and no clue where you're going, you'll meander through many roads. Some may be lovely and some may be muddy and quite unpleasant, but you just wander. But if you have a map and you know, "This is where I want to go," then you're not going down all these side trails.

I use this metaphor with caution because sometimes it's wonderful to take the side roads. But here we're talking about simply drifting with habit energy rather than holding forth the intention. Part of the human experience is that of intention to explore, literally to experience, experience different emotions, different physical sensations and so forth. It's part of why each of you came into incarnation. But by now in your lives you have experienced it so many times, you may need to ask yourself, "Do I need to experience anger again? Unworthiness again? Frustration again? Maybe I've had enough of that. Maybe today I can hold the intention of harmony and joy." Then when you come to the situation, and you feel yourself moving one way, you stop and ask, "What is my intention? What is my purpose? Is what I'm about to do suitable?"

If you find it's not suitable, then you can ask yourself, "What would bring balance here or will help shift me to that more wholesome stream?" And begin to work with the elements, with lovingkindness, with whatever form of practice seems most supportive. Does that answer your question?

Any further question?

Those of you who are in the class, I would ask you to bring your garden drawings back next class. Let us see what you've added to them. What's changed or grown. What, if anything, has wilted or faded. So bring them back and share them again, and we'll go around with them.

I believe that we have 2 more classes. May 25 and June 8. The next open session with me is June 15.

Those who have been here tonight who have not been in the class, if you feel interested to make such a drawing yourself, please do it. Please read the transcripts for the last 2 spiritual inquiry classes for some further instruction about these garden drawings, and go into this exercise for yourselves.

It has been a joy to be with you all tonight. I wish you well.

I am going to close and move the body back to Barbara.

(taping ends)

Copyright © 2005 by Barbara Brodsky