March 21, 2007 Class One on Relationship

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. Those of you who have not seen me in this body before, she has a smaller energy field than I do, so I have to wiggle myself into it. (Barbara's body shakes a bit as Aaron moves into the body) That's what the shaking was about. It's like putting on a too-tight garment. Then I stretch it out so it fits!

We're attempting a 6-week series here on relationship. Back many months ago, I think when Barbara was in Brazil, she had to quickly write an email telling what the plan was. We created a plan but the plan doesn't quite work, and so I'm going to digress from it a bit as the weeks go on. You cannot separate your relationship with yourself, with others and with the Divine. It all comes together. So we will focus more on one aspect, within each 2-week period but also, it will all come together.

In the beginning, we have what may seem a paradox when we use the term 'relationship' at all. We speak here about non-duality, non-separation. Can this hand have a relationship with itself? It can have a relationship with this hand, they can clap each other, they can move together. Can it have a relationship with itself?

That is not a good metaphor because a hand is complex and there can be a relationship with the different parts of the hand. But when we think of oneness in the ultimate sense, we transcend relationship.

So we have the ultimate level on which there is no such thing as relationship, and we have the mundane level on which each of you are in constant relationships with yourself and the world.

The difficulty that's come up for me as I've tried to understand how best to teach this class, is that when we practice something, we keep it going. If you practice relationship as if there is a duality, you keep the illusion of duality running, and I don't want you to keep that illusion running! And yet, we can't say, 'Well, we just won't talk about it,' because you do live on that plane in which you do seem to have relationships.

So from the beginning, let us make it clear that we are playing within the illusion. There is no real thing called relationship. And yet, since the illusion promotes what seems to be two in relationship, we want to be as skillful as we can in living that relationship.

In the 5th and 6th classes, we will move toward transcending relationship and living in the One. For the first 4 weeks, we'll be more focused on how we live skillfully in the illusion.

Who are you? I see many bodies sitting here. Are you your body? No. There's a listening apparatus and a thinking apparatus. Are you your mind? That's a part of who you are, but no, you're not your mind. Some of you have had pleasant or unpleasant feelings as you've been sitting here, thinking, 'I'll enjoy this,' or, 'Too many people, I don't think I like this.' Are you your feelings?

You're not your body, you're not your thoughts, you're not your feelings. You're not the impulse energies that arise. You're not consciousness itself. These all arise in you and are expressions of something deeper, but they are not what you are. But most of the time you do self-identify with this, we call them aggregates of self.

So again, the seeming paradox: you are not any of these things, and yet the first step in this work is for me to help you look at what your relationship is with these aspects <of you> that seem to be self. And to look at how that relationship may become kinder and more loving.

How do you relate to your body? How do you relate to your mind? How do you relate to feelings that are pleasant or unpleasant? How do you relate to the various sense and mind consciousnesses? The way you relate to one will basically be the way you relate to all of them. That is, if there's a basic kindness to yourself, it will cover all of these aggregates, and if there's a basic hostility to the self, it will extend to all these aggregates.

It's very useful to see how you generally relate to yourself, and then to ask, 'Is this how I want to relate?' You cannot relate with kindness to others unless you relate with kindness to the self.

Let us start the investigation with something simple. Please take either a cracker or some of these small candies… Don't put them in your mouth yet, just take some, whichever you prefer, the sweet or the slightly salty. There's a spoon in there for sanitary purposes. I see that most people prefer the M&M's! We will test their advertising that it does not melt in the hand.

First, holding this small treat in the hand, bring it to the mouth. The body has the wonderful capacity to taste. How do you relate to anything that comes into your body? Is there a sense of wanting to push it away, or grasping? Is there unworthiness or is there a sense of joy and appreciation?

So I want you to look deeply here; what is your response. Feel your energy field. Is it contracted with some apprehension? Is there delight, 'Oh, chocolate!' How does it feel? I want you to watch your energy. When it comes into contact with something, does it open? Is there ease and pleasure? And as you chew it and swallow it, what happens to the energy field? Go ahead.

(Participants eat treats.)

So, taste. What is the experience? If it's pleasant, is there any hesitation about its being pleasant? Is there any grasping at more? What comes up? And how do you relate to what comes up? Not as good or bad; it just is. It's the expression of your conditioning. If there's the impulse energy and thought, 'Oh, I want more!' is there judgment about that? If there is judgment, how do you relate to the judgment? How are you relating to your mind and body?

Aaron: Some of you feel some tension, even minor tension. How many felt tension of some sort? Most. Okay. And what was the relationship to the tension? Were you able to see the tension without building a story, 'Oh, I'm bad,' about it? 'I want more, oh I'm greedy.' 'The cracker was too salty' or too plain, and then criticism of the self for having that judgment. Can you see how that happens? It doesn't really matter whether the experience was pleasant or unpleasant, the mind moves in its accustomed pathways and offers various kinds of judgments.

I'd like you all to take a good look around the room for a moment, looking at other people. Some of them you may know, some are strangers, at least strangers in this life. Without pointing to anybody, just note for yourself a person who looks like a friendly person to you, a person you'd like to know better.

Can you feel a relaxation of tension as you consider talking to that person? There's a certain openness and receptivity. Can you feel that? Now look around the room again, just letting the eyes move, not fixing on one person but letting the eyes move.

And then somebody with whom you feel some kind of hostility or tension. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with that person or wrong with you. It's probably just old karma, somebody you knew once long ago, or who reminds you of someone you knew once long ago.

Feel the tension that comes up. Is there any self story that you are bad because that tension has arisen? That you should not, in fact, find anybody in the whole world with whom there's any difficulty? I'd guess a lot of you have that story.

Let your eyes move again so it's not clear who you're looking at. (laughter)

Feel the tension that comes up as you consider moving into a conversation with that person. There's something about that person's energy field that creates some tension in you, even if it's from across the room. Stay with the tension, noting, 'Breathing in, I'm aware of the tension; breathing out, I smile to the tension.' It's just tension, there's nothing bad here. How do you relate to the movement of mind?

So sometimes there is seeing, and ease arises. Sometimes there is seeing, and tension arises. Sometimes there is tasting. Pass the M&Ms around again; the crackers, too. Sometimes there is tasting and watching the arising of ease and pleasure, or sometimes the arising of tension. Know the arising of tension can come with the pleasureah, nice taste! Oh, it's all gone!

My question again, how do you relate to these arisings in the mind and body? If there is judgment of what has arisen in the self, can you note that judgment with more openheartedness, with a clear intention to be loving to the self? Attitude of mind and body arise out of old conditioning, and they are not to be feared. You must learn this for yourselves before you can work on it in relationship with others.

So we have the different aggregates, what arises in the physical body, what arises in the mind and thoughts, what arises as feeling, what arising as impulse, and what arises as mind and body consciousness. And we have your relationship to what has arisen. I want to strongly emphasize this distinction: the arising and how the mind relates to it are 2 different things. What arises, arises out of contact and conditioning. It arises as mind or body consciousness. The tongue tastes the M&Msweet, sweet, pleasant! And these lovely rice/sea weed crackerspleasant, pleasant!

And then, something comes along that's unpleasant. It also comes through the touch in the body, through the eyes, through the nose, through the ears, through taste, and through the mind. Each of these sense doors touches an object. That contact and the consciousness of it either feels pleasant or unpleasant. Then various thoughts arising in relationship to what has been touched.

Then, the basic habit you carry of either ease with the self or hostility to the self. It may come as kindness, 'Here is an unpleasant object. Or hostility: 'I shouldn't have these thoughts. I'm bad to have these thoughts. I should have different thoughts.' That's hostile.

You're not bad because thoughts arise, but must see 'I'm bad' as a habit energy and ask yourself, is this how I want to relate to myself. And if not, what are you going to do about it? How can you begin to relate in a more easeful way?

…(counting) Roughly 32, 33 people here. I'd like you to try an exercise with me… Some of you might feel a preference not to do the exercise; it's okay of you don't want to, but if you're willing to try it, I'd appreciate your trying it. Let me describe what I want you to do.

Find a person sitting close to you, where it's easy to connect. Person A will turn their back to Person B. Please form the pairs now.

(Forming pairs)

Person A with their back to Person B. Does everybody have a partner?

Person A has turned their back to Person B. Person B is going to rub Person A's back! (laughter and chatter)

Hopefully it's a pleasurable experience for Person A. For some of you, there may be some tension. If you feel tension, be aware of the tension. Just note it.

(Backrubs begin)

Is the body happy to receive pleasurable sensation? If there is some tension about this receiving, can you open your heart to yourself and relax, relax your energy field. Breatheahhh, and relax. Maybe Person B is not massaging you the way you'd like to be massaged. Maybe the touch is too soft or too hard. Maybe they're touching a tender spot, so that there's a bit of discomfort. It's okay to raise your hand and say, 'Gently,' if it's too hard. We don't want anyone to experience pain.

Person B, how does it feel to offer this massage? Can you feel yourself connecting energetically with Person A? Is there self judgment or tension, 'Am I doing this right?'

The work here is to watch the way you hold your energy field separate, or open your energy field and relax. It's about giving and receiving. How it feels to give, how it feels to receive. And how it feels to transcend giver and receiver.

I'm going to be quiet for maybe 2 minutes and let you do this, then we'll switch and the one receiving the massage will give, the one giving will receive.

Aaron: It's very interesting watching the energy in the room. From my perspective, when I first proposed this, there was a lot of light and fiery energy but also some contraction and dark flashes. Now it's all flowing together. Not only is the energy flowing between the partners but between one partnership and another. Can you feel the opening of energy in the room? I see it as light, a lot of light radiating out more and more from each of you until the separation dissolves and there's just light.

(Exercise continues)

Let's change places now. The receiver becomes the giver.

(Very relaxed chit chat during switch)

(Exercise continues)

Watch your energy fields. The light dimmed dramatically for just a moment as you changed places, and as you began the new direction of massage, and now it's opening again.

(Exercise continues)

Let me toss out what may seem like a philosophical question: who is offering the massage? Who is receiving it? What I mean is, is it simply form, the body, receiving? Does the mind also receive it? As touch is offered, do both pleasant and unpleasant thoughts come, such as, 'I wish it were a little harder,' or 'higher up near the neck,' or, 'Oh, it's going to end!' (laughter)

With your thoughts, you have the habit to create tension. If a grasping or judging thought arises, can it be seen simply as arising, like a small gust of breeze, blowing into the mind and then releasing. There is nothing you have to do about such a thought.

For the one giving the massage, is there any feeling of concern, 'Am I doing this well? Am I giving as good a massage as I received? Will somebody judge me and say, ‘He or she was not good at giving the massage?'' The mind can go to so many places, so many stories. Let them all go. No good or bad, just energy opening, joyfully connecting. And all the old habit energies of the mind and body blowing through and out again.

As I make the next statement, watch your energy field-- It's time to stop the massage! (laughter, 'oh no's', ahhhh's, background chatter, through following statement)

Were you happy when I said it's time to stop, or was there sadness? How do you relate to it.

We have a large group for dialogue, but I think we can do it. So I'd like to hear from some of you what you've been experiencing. Not just about the massage but the crackers and candies, taking something pleasant or unpleasant into the body, the arising of mind's thoughts about what has touched the body, and then how you relate to those thoughts. Hopefully what you are learning is that however you habitually relate to the thoughts, you're not trapped in that habit. You can see the habitual relationship and say, 'No, I choose to let that go, not to condemn myself because there was judgment. Not to condemn myself because I thought something was unpleasant or because there was tension.' It's your choice.

I'd like to hear from you… Any kinds of observations, they don't have to be deep insights. Just anything you'd like to share.

Q: I was very curious to see that the energy field was more open after swallowing the cracker and the next bite, the energy field closed so (I) was not really experiencing the whole full taste. Then, (the) second time, (I) focused on opening to the tasting and there was a Wow! sense.

Aaron: It's a very powerful-tasting cracker. You can taste the whole ocean in it. That's interesting. Can you see how the degree of presence influenced the depth of the taste? Can you understand what prevented or blocked full presence?

Q: (I) believe the habit is just to eat, not to taste, not there…

Aaron: Spacing out for a moment, no big deal, just spacing out for a moment. Thank you… Others?

Q: I was the first to give the massage, and I think I was worried that I would be worried about doing it right. And it was fun to notice that thought but that I was not attached to it. And I enjoyed giving the massage.

When I was the recipient, my massager did some wonderful things I had not thought of, and I was, for a moment, stricken'Oh!' And it was very funny.

Aaron: But you were able to release any, to see the judgments as objects and release them. Wonderful. Thank you. Others?

Q: I felt some subtle grasping. The M&M's came near me and then went in the opposite direction, and they never came to me the second time! But then I forgot about them. With the massage, I was happy to massage my husband because I know he had been driving all day. But then I was getting tired and was ready to switch, and it seems like it was going on for a long time. But then it switched and I got mine and it was fine.

Q2: And it was much shorter when you got yours…

Q: Exactly! (laughter) But he's very good.

Aaron: Thank you. The most important question here, once again, is not what arises, which is simply a reflection of your karma and habit energy, but how do you relate to what arises. Sometimes very unpleasant things can arise. Angry thoughts, fear, difficult body sensations. I know that in the hour that we've been sitting here, at least some of you have experienced some body pain. How do we relate to what arises? If the conditions are present, it will arise. How do we relate to it?

This week and next we're focusing on what arises in the self, and then we will look at that in terms of our relationship to other people and to the outside world.

I'd like to hear if there are any more people who would like to share something.

Q: When I was getting the massage, I did start to worry about it stopping. Not worry so much as just anticipating the end. And I think I do that a lot with a lot of pleasurable or fun experiences. It's hard for me to just recognize it and let go.

Aaron: That these thoughts arise is not a problem. It's all in the mind, 'Oh, I shouldn't feel that, I should feel this.' As I said, the work here is to bring mindfulness to the experience to the point that you can see the judging mind and not believe its stories.

We have that wonderful T-shirt that some of you have with the statement, 'Don't believe everything you think.' The thought arises. Ah, here's a thought.

One of my favorite questions, it's very helpful when some kind of a self-judging thought arises, is, 'Oh, is that so?' 'I shouldn't feel this way.' 'Is that so?' 'I should be more patient.' 'Is that so?' 'I should be kinder.' 'Is that so?' It's just a thought.

So this helps you to smile at the habit energy a bit, and that relaxation of energy is what helps to create the shift and releases the habit energy, releases the self-identification with it and then slowly it ceases to arise so strongly and so often.

I have another exercise, now, that I'd like you to try. This next project is going to involve you all getting up and moving around a bit. We're going to need to push the chairs back and stack the cushions to make a clear space in the room. Please do that and then just gather around, standing up, for a moment, while I introduce the exercise…We're going to do this exercise completely in silence…

If you would each take a marker, whatever color you like. There are enough and more to go around. If you're faced with a black one and you don't want it, you can note 'Grasping! I want that color!' (smiling) Then trade it in.

What we're going to do is tear off 5 pieces of paper from the large pad, with 5 or 6 of you to a sheet of paper. Spread them around the room. Person 1 draws a line or several. Then Person 2. Each group is going to draw a picture. Each person may have 4 or 5 or a dozen turns at the picture. The group can keep drawing as long as they like. If someone feels they are finished and someone else wants to draw more, that's fine.

I want you to watch your energy. If you create a beautiful sweep of line and then your turn is finished and somebody comes along and puts a black slash through it, watch your energy. Watch any grasping, watch any judgment. I want you to do this slowly and mindfully. You have about 20 minutes for the exercise; take your time. If you finish the first drawing and the group nods yes, it's finished, then it's fine to take another piece of paper.

(Exercise begins, chatter and sounds of paper tearing which drowns out some of following talk)

Completely in silence, 5 or 6 people to a sheet of paper. Mindful drawing. You are not trying to be representational and create graphic art.

Let's give each a group a second sheet of paper so it doesn't bleed through onto the carpet…

I'm going to tear some more sheets so you can come up and take another sheet any time you wish…

Mindfulness with the body, the experience of drawing. If somebody is using a color you wish you had, watch that grasping energy. If somebody is drawing something you find unpleasant, watch the judging mind. The question is not to control the judging mind but to watch that it arises out of conditions, and to be spacious with it. Use 'is that so?' often. Don't get caught up in the judgment or the judgment of the judgment. Just be aware when the judgment arises, be spacious with it.

(long pause)

Watch yourself as you draw--what allows energy and creativity to flow freely? What kinds of thoughts block free flow of energy? It's not the thought itself that blocks it but your belief in the thought as true. Observe how that works, that the thought can arise with no problem when you simply note it with an 'Ah, is that so?' But when you become invested in it as self, then it blocks energy.

(The exercise is done and the pictures are being held up for all to see.)

Aaron: Looking at the pictures, there is a superbly free-flowing exuberance; they're full of humor and whimsy. It's easy to see that the groups were working together, creating with joy, not blocking the energy. Could you feel energy flowing as you worked? Could you feel the shift in the energy, because in the beginning it was giving, taking back, giving, but then it began to flow. In each group there was such a strong flow of energy.

Q: I felt the difference between the first and second picture, dramatically.

Aaron: Putting down the pictures for now…

(Sounds of paper)

Were you able to watch the arising of thoughts and sensation in yourself, and how you related to them? What was your experience? What did you learn?

Q: I was experiencing the struggle or tennis match between wanting to gain resolve or wanting to, sort of, just very conscious of letting it create itself, and not being attached to my next ‘contribution', if you will.

Aaron: Thank you.

Q: I felt the tension between trying to be creative and strike out my own area, and to go along with the others in my group.

Aaron: And were you able to watch that tension mindfully and transcend it to some degree? Good. Others?

Q: For me it was just the sense of joy and amazement, and at the end, gratitude. Just a give and take, and observing the creative nuances that contributed, that show up out of nowhere, it's really pleasurable.

Q2: This one was my group, and I found myself finding it so very precious. This happens to me when I do my art, and I think it blocks my creativity. I get too fond of the piece too soon. So I don't want to mess it up and stop too soon, but my group kept going.

Aaron: And it's delightful and free-flowing and full of joyous detail. Others?

Q: There was one great big scribble that came right in the middle of the picture, and I could feel resistance and shock, but then I realized it put so much energy into the picture. And the group sort of resolved around putting that scribble into the rest of the picture. You almost can't tell where it is now. (Group views and comments on picture, including about a cat.)

Q2: I was very tense during most of the drawing. And now that I think about it, I think that's why I did that big scribble. I also realized that I was tense because I was worried about what others thought about what I was drawing. But then you reminded us to be present while we were drawing. And I started drawing more slowly and presently. Then it was okay if people were judging or not judging.

Aaron: Others?

Q: Our group got excited and stopped taking turns! We just kept at it, and we exchanged colors! (Group: Ooohhhh!)

Aaron: Anyone else?

Q: I saw during the first picture a wanting to balance. If someone put a sun, I wanted to put a moon. If someone put night, I wanted to put day. It was interesting.

Aaron: I'd like you to take these reflections home with you, regardless of whether you are in the class and working with this on an ongoing basis, or just here tonight. Reflect upon how you relate to your own mind, body, thoughts, feelings, impulses. And if there's a negative thought, how you relate to that negative thought. That is, with belief, 'Oh yes, this is true,' or simply noting, 'This thought has arisen out of conditions.' That very gentle, 'is that so?' Letting it go.

Please reflect, how when you came together during the massage, during the drawing, there was an opening of your energy field, a connection. Relationship is on the mundane level, this self or that self to objects. But on a deeper level, relationship is simply resting in the whole, expressing with the whole and from the center of the circle.

When the drawing process worked for you, each of you at some time during this process felt that sense of no separate people doing the drawing. You all came together. There were various hands that were all expressions of the same one.

How can you do that in your own life? How can all the voices of your bodyyour hands, your speech, your hearthow can they all be expressions coming from a unified whole rather than fragmenting yourselves, as you do with, 'This is good and that's bad'? In other words, how can you live more fully from your wholeness not from fragmentation? And what wonderful things happen to you when you do live that way?

We're going to have a break here. If you remain seated for a moment, I'm going to return the body to Barbara so she can describe what will come next. I thank you all for being with me tonight and sharing yourselves in these ways. I have enjoyed it. I deeply enjoyed the energy that was in the room as you drew your pictures. Thank you.

Barbara: Thank you. Wow! Fun! (seeing then pictures)

(smiling) Aaron sent me out to buy packages of markers. I said, what are you going to do with them? And he said, I'm not sure yet, just buy them.

The ‘drop ins' left and, after the break, there was another 20 minutes of class discussion, just for the registered class. That material either was not recorded or not downloaded to transcriber. We will look for it and add it if it's useful material. Aaron did not speak further.

Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Brodsky