May 23, 2007, Class Five on Relationship (and Open Aaron Night)

Barbara: Good evening. We've been talking about relationships: relationship with one self, with the world, and now, in the 5th and 6th classes, relationship with the divine. Now I'll simply move into a trance and let Aaron speak.

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. It is often said that the seat of the soul is found through the eyes. In the last class, you spent some time sitting and looking, pairs of you, each into the other's eyes. People found that a very profound experience, not only to see the divinity in the other but through seeing it in the other, to see it in themselves.

I asked you to practice this at home, to find a willing partner, and also to practice looking into a mirror. One of the things I had asked Barbara to bring tonight was 2 dozen small pocket mirrors but she could not find any that had good clarity and were inexpensive. So it's something you'll have to do on your own. Later this evening we'll discuss some of those exercises, what happened when you worked with this at home.

Back to relationship; I said in the very first class that the title of this series is deceptive because a relationship implies two, and there is only one. How can you really be in relationship with anything? And yet, in your human experience, you do experience that illusion of duality, and you need to learn how to relate to that which seems to be outside of the self.

I promised you that first night that eventually we'd come full circle and transcend the duality. This is what I hope to do tonight. I cannot lead you into the experience of transcendence, I can only talk about it conceptually and lay a map that hopefully will lead you to the direct experience.

When I say 'relationship with the divine,' I'm really talking about your relationship with that highest aspect of yourself, the core of your being. Imagine if we all sat together in a close circle for many hours, until you really started to feel your connection with all the others in the circle and with me. And then I gave you each a big ball of string a mile long and sent you off to explore. Tie the string around you waist and just go.

You might find wonderful flowers growing, flowers you had never seen before, or a beautiful lake with startling fish, and feel an invitation to dive in and swim with them and see them. You might find a high cliff, with rocks to climb to an astounding view. You might find many different kinds of people and animals. How long would it take before you forgot that this cord was attached to you and where it led?

Q: About a mile…

Aaron: A mile or a minute! As the days went by, think about how quickly forgetfulness would come. Every once in awhile you'd look at the string and scratch your head, asking, 'What was this for? This was to remind me of something. What was it for?' Sometimes you might even follow it back a ways, but as it twisted through the trees or through a muddy place, you'd say, 'Forget it.' Something would catch your eye and off you'd go again. You know how it is. You all experience it on a daily basis.

In your meditation, you may touch home, so to speak. Then the world pulls at you and you forget. The touching home is important and learning to remember is part of that touch.

What is the nature of the string? I'm going to ask for some thoughts about it, here. What do you experience as the string, which if you were to follow it back, would lead you to remembering?

Q: I don't get the question.

Aaron: What is the nature of that string? Is it awareness, for example? Is it the open heart? Is it loving relationships with friends and family? Is it the body? What brings you back to center, to remembering who and what you are? When I say what is the nature of the string, I'm using the string as metaphor, of course.

Q: All of what you've said.

Aaron: Which ones are most important for you, P?

Q: Space.

Aaron: Thank you. Others, what's most important for you?

Q: … nada.

Aaron: Nada. I would think that is a very important one for many of you. Others?

Q: Meditation.
Q: Frequency of love.

Aaron: I assume you do not mean only the constant reoccurrence of it but the high vibrational frequency of it…

Q: That which connects us to the highest self…

Q: Nature and animals and children.

Aaron: All of these. Others?

Q: Being aware of my breath.

Aaron: The breath brings you home. Others?

Q: The sense of being, the sense I Am.

Aaron: Which is really a different way of phrasing awareness, I think. The I Am, you're not referring to the personal ego self but to that centered awareness or whatever we wish to call it. Any other thoughts?

Q: Coming back to dharma friends (from a friend who has been away for many months).

Aaron: We're so glad to have you here tonight!

Acts of kindness. This, I think, would bring you back; a beautiful sunset, a beautiful poem, beautiful music. Anything else?

Q: Colors. Light.

Aaron: So you don't have one string, you've got a hundred strings. What happens to you, then, that you get so lost? Let's talk for a bit about the process of getting lost. How does that feel?


What's happening in your experience? There's no right answer here, but I think through your many answers we'll come upon some common threads.

Q: No perspective.

Aaron: No perspective. Important one. Others?

Q: Fear.
Q: Attachment.
Q: Having to deal with immediate concerns and worries.

Aaron: When you deal with immediate worries, what happens in the mind and body?

Q: It gets tense.

Aaron: Tension, exactly. This is what I'm looking for, contraction, the experience of contraction. All of these that you've named, and whatever else you might name, have this in common, whether it's fear or anger, distraction, worriesyou contract.

I want you all to try something, here. Not yet but when I ask you, I want you to tense your muscles, tighten your fists, tense your belly, tense your jaw. Hold your whole body in and try to be very focused on what that experience is like. All I'm asking for you is that you see and recognize the experience of contraction so you're able to say yes, this is contraction. Is it pleasant or unpleasant? When there is that kind of tight contraction, do you feel more connected to the energy of those around you or severed from that energy?

So, I want you first to regard the experience of contraction, how it feels in the body and in the energy field. And then I want you to reflect on what the result of that contracted experience is. How does it affect connection?

Alright, let's try this all together. Hold it as long as you are able. When you need to release it, it's okay to release it. Keep everything tight, even down to the toes. The eyelids tight, jaw clenched, throat tight. Does the energy field also close? Maybe, or perhaps not. If so, when you release, see if you can feel your energy field re-opening again.


Have you ever bent a hose through which water was flowing, perhaps to carry it from one place to another, and seen the flow of water stop, and then you release it and the water comes out again? So I'd like to hear a bit from you now, what is the experience of contraction? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Do you feel connected or disconnected? Or is it too hard to tell?

Let's talk about contraction first, and then the experience of release. First, let's try the contraction again, focusing first just on the contraction. Do it again. (pause) And release.

Aaron: May I hear from you?

Q: This time it was painful, had some shooting of pain up my arm and actual cramping of toes. So it moved into pain.

Aaron: Literally painful. Thank you, Q. Others?

Q: Heart center hurt.

Aaron: Again, painful, but painful specifically in the heart center.

Q: It was physical painful and more than that.

Aaron: Energetically painful, the energy stoppage.

Q: That's what I felt, I felt like my breathing was almost stopped. Like there was pressure within, I felt like the blood wasn't flowing well.

Q: I felt like being stuck.

Aaron: Blockage. Thank you…

Q: I was using a lot of energy but going nowhere! Jammed up energy.
Q: I felt very dense and involuted, turned inward.
Q: The forcefulness was unpleasant.

Q (R): Not all negative. Two positive qualities, also. One was the, just of the same kind of energy and effort as hard work, hard exercise, which is often really wonderful.

Aaron: You're talking here about simply the use of the muscles.

Q: Muscles and concentration and energy. And the second thing, we were all doing this together and there was solidarity.

Aaron: I think, Q, that you have the perhaps unusual ability to be able to contract on the physical level without contracting your energy. Many people are not able to do that, at least not without training.

Q: Sometimes contraction can be isolating, This contraction was just of the body, unpleasant but without any story.

Aaron: So the contraction can feel isolated, but it can also just be a contraction. Then the energy is not blocked. Is that what you are saying?

Q: I think so.

Aaron: Thank you. Others?

Q: I felt closed off and unable to deal with anything but that.

Aaron: So for you, it was separating. Others?

Q: But aren't there times when that sense of being closed off or isolated is useful?

Aaron: It seems to be useful but ultimately it is not useful. It's a strong habit energy that most of you have developed as a way of protecting the self. When there is perceived threat or a discomfort, most of you barricade yourselves. It leaves you with the illusion of feeling safe, and at some point there may actually seem to be safety. And yet, in the long run, it creates the dilemma of isolation and alienation.

Q: For me, when way early up in the process of this tightening, that for me is a signal that something's going on, it's time to take a breath and step back and open up. It's a reminder that contraction is about to get much more intense. For me, I use it as sort of a tool.

Aaron: Thank you. That's a valuable reminder of the power of mindfulness.

There's a guided meditation that I've done many times here in which I ask people to envision themselves in a beautiful and very peaceful flower-strewn meadow, with butterflies, deer, a stream and woods on the other side of the stream. Picture a very beautiful place. Behind you is a hillside. Let's do this here, now.

The air smells sweet. (pause) Butterflies land on your arms and on your nose. (pause) Beautiful colors. (pause) Deer are browsing, rabbits. (pause) There is a sweet breeze and a lovely scent of flowers, fresh grass. (pause) The stream gurgles and sings its song. (pause) The sun is hot and the breeze is refreshing.

Behind you is a hillside pockmarked with caves. They're very special caves, wish-fulfilling caves in which when you enter the cave, you simply touch the doorway and it closes like a camera aperture, closing tight. Then lights go on within the cave. Warm or cool air blows, as is needed. It's softly lit. Whatever you need, such as food or water, soft cushions to rest on, this is all available. But each cave is for one person only.

So here you all are, you and your friends in this beautiful meadow. Feel your body energy open. Relaxed, connected.

Suddenly you feel a sharp stinging sensation, pain on the shoulder, and you look with surprise to see a big rock has hit you and fallen on the ground. Shouts come from across the stream, and you see people there with slingshots, throwing rocks. There are many of them and they look angry.

You get up and run as another rock hits you, this one on the face. Run into a cave and close the door. You can feel the tension. It is a relief to feel safe. What was that about? Did anyone get seriously hurt? Did everybody find safety?

You hear the rocks continue to fall on the outer walls, but you know the door cannot be opened. Eventually the sounds die away. You dim the lights and sleep. When you wake, you refresh yourself with good food and water.

There are no sounds. How long will you stay in this cave? What invites you out? Is it curiosity? Love? Some mixture of them? Some of you may choose to stay there for a long time and others, to venture out almost immediately. You do not have to fully open the door and step out, you can open it just a bit and peer outside and know that at a quick touch, it will close again. So you may look outside, and you don't see anyone there. The deer are back in the meadow. No people. Are you ready to step out? Suddenly the deer lifts his head in alarm and runs away. You don't hear anything but he heard something. You close the door again.

Sit with this now for 2 or 3 minutes. See what leads you to a readiness to open the door and step out. Watch how your energy field is when you're inside the cave. On the one hand it feels open and relaxed because you feel safe. And yet, it's also stagnant. You're barricaded. There's no more fresh scent of flowers, no more sound of stream. Just you.

I'll be quiet now for 2 or 3 minutes while you sit with this.


Several days have passed. If you have not stepped out, I want to invite you to consider it. Open the doorway just big enough that you can sit in that space looking out, but knowing that at a moment's touch you can close the door again.

See what leads you to more readiness to step back out into the meadow. There are other questions we could look at, such as whether it was possible to stay in the cave and keep your energy field entirely open. From my perspective, that would be possible, but it would be the result of a deep practice that understood how you could choose the cave from a place of love and not fear.

What happens as you step out? A small fawn comes up and nuzzles you; rabbits are playing. You look around and see your friends all emerging from their caves. It's another beautiful day. How do you feel?

I'd like to pause here and hear some of your experience with this.

Let me begin with one simple question: when you were in the cave, were you energetically barricaded as well, or was your heart open and spacious in the cave?

Q: I was still fearful, wondering what was going on outside.

Aaron: Thank you. Others?

Q: I felt right when I went into the cave that I wanted to come out of the cave, and so I came out of the cave pretty quickly, knowing I could go back in. And because I was not in the cave from a place of love, I was definitely feeling trapped in the cave.

Aaron: How many of you felt trapped in the cave? Several. How many of you felt safe and at ease in the cave? More felt safe and at ease.

Q: There was no sense of being any more separated in the cave than out, except I was missing the experiences with the animals and sounds outside.

Aaron: The cave metaphor falls short a bit. One could choose this literal cave from a very loving place, and use it as a place of safety without closing yourself off energetically. Most of you, when you move into the interior cave of a barricaded heart, shut your energy off. The question is not really whether you choose to move into the cave or not; it's whether you're able to keep your heart open or not. May I hear from others?

Q: For me, I too wanted to get out. Like okay, I'm in here, I'm safe from all of it, I want to get back out. I had no sense of energetic separation, at least in my body. I don't think otherwise, either. There was, I guess, a sense of equanimity. I sort of was there following your instructions, but there was safety outside as well, that I didn't choose to explore.

Aaron: Thank you.

Q: I felt helpless in the cave, so helpless and frustrated and angry, and sadness, and got stuck, couldn't move, didn't know what to do. Also I wanted to be outside so badly.

Aaron: Thank you. I think it's important that fear can hold you in, and likewise, fear can push you out. Fearing loneliness, fearing separation, fearing you're missing something. What if everybody else came out and went away and left me behind? There are many kinds of fear that can come up. But love can also lead you out.

What we're really talking about is twofold. First is the basic choice of fear or love, which may lead to different choices of action at different times. When we act from love, we are always openhearted and know our innate connection. Love can watch fear without getting caught in the separation of fear. When we contract into fear, we lose touch with the strength of love.

We think of love as open and fear as contracted. But one may bring armoring around oneself when one feels threatened, and move into a place of isolation but with the heart and energy still open. One of your questions was whether it's ever useful to armor yourself. One can do that lovingly. It's not kind to let people throw rocks at you. One can simply protect oneself. One doesn't have to separate to protect. How do you protect without separating? We'll discuss this further. May I hear more of your experiences?

Q: My primary concern was for the safety of others. So I'd risk immediately opening the cave to see if others needed help or assistance. And I felt totally safe and at peace within the cave, but drawn to the outside for the sake of others.

Aaron: So for you it was a loving movement to come out.

Q: I was going to say the same thing. I was ready to come out almost immediately because I wanted to see how the other people were doing.

Aaron: Thank you. Others?

Q: I wanted to come out pretty soon, and I just realized just now that I had forgotten about the rock-throwing and I just wanted to come out and play again with my friends.

Aaron: In the incarnation, there are always rocks. The incarnation does tend to throw rocks at you.

You can live your life in a cave or you can learn how to duck skillfully and not get too caught up in the fact that rocks are being thrown, and just learn how to dodge them. And learn how to say no when they get heavier. 'Stop, that's enough.'

Q: I felt sort of crabby because I too forgot about the rocks. And I felt so comfortable in the cave that I was kind of bored…Didn't know what to do when I got outside. Plus I felt like I was there, stuck at the threshold.

Q: I had a different experience because I decided to go deeper into the cave, down where the caves connected!

Aaron: And you found it? Wonderful! Any others?

Q: I was very comfortable in the cave with my books and music and pictures on the wall, but then I started missing the light and nature, and I wanted to go out. And I imagined going back out and getting hit with rocks again or worrying about that. Finally I was getting irritated and I imagined, Gee, do I have to be the person who gets everyone organized to go investigate this? And I was imagining running from cave to cave, dodging rocks, to organize people so we could go down into this valley and get to the bottom of this! Somebody's always got to be the one!

Aaron: Thank you! (laughing) This exercise is taking us a little bit off the track, so I want to come back to our original work with the contracted energy field. As I said, your life does throw rocks at you. What is your habit energy when it throws rocks? Do you withdraw? Do you withdraw in a skillful way? Do you simply hold up a shield and dodge the rocks? Do you say no to the rock-throwers? If the rocks sting you, how long do you stay inside avoiding them? When you withdraw, do you shut down or remain open?

Let's return now to what we started with, the question of shutting off one's energy field, contracting one's energy. Clearly in the cave, one may or may not contract one's energy. What leads you into the cave may or may not be fear. It may simply be wisdom, find some shelter for a moment. The heart may stay open; the energy field may stay open.

What I want you to explore now is the experience of open connection and the experience of contraction. We're going to go back to the exercise we did last class. There are more of you tonight; we have… 24. Find a partner. First you're going to look into your partner's eyes, just sit and look into each others eyes as you did in the last class. So find a partner. Relax and go deep. Feel your energy field open. Feel the depth of connection with one another.

(Forming into pairs)

In each pair there will be a Person 1 and Person 2. After connecting for some time, I want all the Person 1's to close their eyes and close their energy field, and I want the Person 2's to see how they feel when #1 goes away like that. Person 1, what happens to you when you go away? Stay in that contracted place for about a minute and then come back and reconnect. Feel that connection forged again. Then, Person 2 go away. And then come back in a minute or so.

I want you to experience specifically how contracting, literally contracting, closes the energy field. It's almost impossible to contract in that way and keep your energy open and flowing to the other person. The person who was contracted, the other person, I want you to notice whether you feel that the other person's energy has literally gone away or whether they're simply muscularly contracted. Is there any sense that the person stays present energetically with you while closing their eyes and contracting their muscles?

Q: Is your instruction to have us close both physically and energetically, or attempt to keep energetically open?

Aaron: Let's do it twice. Let's go through it, Person 1 contracting and reopening, Person 2 contracting and reopening, holding back energetically as well as physically, so that the opposite person feels the cut-off of energy. Then we'll go through it again for Person 1 and Person 2 and I want you to see if you CAN contract physically and still stay open energetically. I doubt many of you can do it, but try it?

Q: Could we do a blind test so the other person doesn't know what we are attempting?

Aaron: That's fine. Do it in whichever order you choose. Try it and see what happens and then take some time to discuss it. So please, begin.


Barbara: Aaron will come back, but for now you've got me. Someone is asking me if when Aaron is in my body, I feel like I'm in that cave. Where I go when Aaron is in my body is similar to that cave experience, it's a very peaceful, light-filled space. No thoughts of coming out. No thoughts, just there.

So please share with us. When your partner was contracted, could you feel energy still flowing from them? Could you tell when they were shutting off both physical contraction and shutting the energy field down, and when they were trying to stay energetically open? Or did the energy flow automatically stop with the contraction?

Q: I think we blew it. I don't think we understood… we started out being quiet, just looking at each other's eyes. But then everyone else seemed to be talking, so we started talking, too. And we never really got to the contraction part.

Barbara: Aaron says that actually he blew it because we went out to talk to L and R as L was feeling ill and had to leave. He had told you he was going to tell you when to contract. Did you contract without his telling you? Yes, most of you did. He apologizes. So for those who contracted, was there still energy flow and connection or did the contraction shut you off in the cave, so to speak?

Q: I felt very connected with her the whole time?

Barbara: Even when the body energy contracted? Yes.

Q: I didn't feel her contract. I felt her physically contract, but I could connect with her breathing.

Barbara: Even when she physically contracted? (Q: Yes.) Good. Others? There's no right answer here; whatever you experienced.

Q: We tried to close the energy and stay connected through the eyes. And in my case, I was able to <inaudible> open even when I tried to close. When I contracted and closed the energy, <inaudible>.

Barbara: Did you also close the eyes? Did one person close the eyes? (Q: Yes.) And when one partner was contracted with the eyes closed, you still both felt connected?

Q: No, we felt connected when we were looking into the eyes, but not when eyes were closed.

Barbara: When the eyes closed, the connection dropped away? Thank you. Others?

Q: My partner and I each closed our eyes, one closed and contracted and we each had a chance to do that. When I closed I chose to try to stay connected and my partner felt me stay connected. When my partner closed, she did close and I felt her close off. But what was interesting was when we were looking at each other with our eyes open, I became distracted by everything in the room, the talking in the room, and she felt that I was closed off perhaps more so than with my eyes closed because I wasn't being fully present (than when I had my eyes closed and was trying to stay connected).

Barbara: Interesting. Others?

Q: I felt like whenever she closed off her energy, I could feel a pull towards her away from me. It was like, something like rubber was pulling towards her. And then eventually it just let go.

Barbara: And then there was connection?

Q: Then whenever we reestablished the connection, it took me a minute to be able to feel the energy again. And as I told her, it felt like there was, the word trust came up, and I don't know how that has anything to do with that. (Once we reestablished, after the contraction was over and we were reestablishing.)

Barbara: Thank you. Others?

Q: We were able to feel the contraction as closing off between us. And what was interesting was that it was very painful in the heart when we did contract. We were not able to hold that contraction very long.

Barbara: Good!

Q: We each knew which one was contracted with energy or without energy. He felt my energy even though I was contracted, and I figured that he was sending connected energy but I didn't feel it as much. But I could tell it was less contracted in some way.

Barbara: Anyone else?

Okay, I'm going to let Aaron come back into my body and talk. Why don't you all simply stand in place and stretch…

Aaron: Let us attempt now to tie this together. First, my apologies that I did not lead you more fully in the exercise as I said that I would. My friend who I have not seen in some months is experiencing a recurrence of her cancer and I have not had a chance to talk to her, to connect with her in these months.

Let us come back to the theme of the evening, which is your innate non-duality with the divine and how you can open to that divine essence of your being. We've explored the experience of cutting off energy. We've done the exercise to close yourself off into the cave. These are all part of what you do in your daily life. I spoke at the beginning of that mile-long string, how you forget that you're attached and wander off.

It's not so much negative energy that cuts you off but the self-identity as the one who is negative. Let me repeat that. Negative thought, negative body sensation, negative emotion, these will arise when conditions are present. Sometimes there will be fear or anger, confusion, distraction, or body pain. These do not lead you to forget that connection with your deepest essence of being. But when you get lost in the self-identity as the one who is angry, fearful, in pain, or bad in some way, then you cut yourself off.

That the experience of fear or anger or pain arises is not a problem. You can keep your heart open when you experience pain, fear, sadness, or confusion, with love. It's like being the cave with the heart open with love, the heart resonating with all the sisters and brothers, each in their own caves. And right there in your own cage, you feel connected. As one of you said, you went inward to find where all the caves came together. And of course they do all come together.

But when you move into the cave from a place of fear and build on stories of the self'I am alone, I am separate, I am bad, I am angry, I am fearful, and I should be otherwise,' you create and enhance this story of self, this is what creates the loss of awareness of your innate divinity.

We talked about the nature of this string. The string for me is largely awareness. When you are aware of the string, you think to follow it back. 'Oh yes, my divine essence is here. I can't really lose it, it's here.' Sometimes you get distracted but you can't lose it. But when there's no awareness, you just look and say, 'What's this string? Get scissors. Cut it off.' You forget.

For many of you there is the habit energy that, when there is negative thought, you judge yourself on that negative thought. Judgment equates with contraction and enhances the story of the separate self, promotes the illusion of duality if I could phrase it that way.

Each of you is a divine and radiant being that has come into the incarnation to learn. Your essence as a divine and radiant being does not change just because you have a body. How could it change? Rather, you forget and you have agreed to that forgetting.

To some degree it's part of the incarnate experience. Why would it be part of the incarnate experience? If you constantly remembered, then when difficult experience arose, instead of compassion growing with that catalyst, you would simply grit your teeth and say, 'No, I remember who I am. I will not react.' It would become a practice of willpower and that's not why you're here. You're here to learn love, to learn compassion, to open the heart. You learn love beginning with the self and the painful experiences of the self so that when there is confusion, fear, shame, anger, body pain, and the heart stays open, it's not because you remember who you are and say, 'No, I am a divine being and will not close my heart,' as a practice of will, it's because you develop the capacity to keep the heart open no matter what comes.

That's why you're here on this heavy density planet, to learn that compassion. It's easy to do it on the astral plane. You don't see negative catalyst in the same way on the astral plane. On that plane, if you were to perceive those beings throwing rocks, you'd just say, 'What are those guys up to? What are they playing at?' And you would simply dissolve your body in such a way that the rocks would run through you. No problem. 'You want to throw rocks, okayI'm not solid! You can't hurt me.' But here you have a heavy density body and it can be hurt. You have emotions that can feel hurt. And this is what teaches you compassion.

So the work is, as it always has been, to stay as connected as you can to that which is loving in the self and is right there with that which is negative. It's not one or the other. Right there with fear is that which is not afraid. Right there with anger is that which is not angry. Right there with confusion is that which is clear. Right there with grasping is that which is generous. You do not negate what has arisen, you simply know, 'This arose out of conditions. I will hold space for it and I will focus on that which is inherently loving, clear, spacious, generous, kind, unafraid, right here in this moment.'

Sometimes that's harder to do than at other times. When you're very contracted, you cut yourself off from the heart of love. As we have demonstrated, it's very hard to find that which is loving and unafraid when you are contracted. Therefore, the simple practice to observe contraction is very helpful. When you are contracted, note, 'contracted.' When you note, 'contracted,' that which is aware of contraction is not contracted. There still may be some contraction but the flow is opened again.

Think of a balloon (making blowing noises like blowing up balloon), big balloon Then you want to let the air out of it but you've got it tied in a knot. The air can't come out. But if you open it, the air flows out.

When you contract, you put yourself into a dark, tight space. Now it is spring and some of you are planting flowers. Is there anybody here who would go out and buy a beautiful pot of flowers, good potting soil for the flowers, put them into a beautiful pot, water and fertilize them and then put them in a dark closet?

Can you see that that's what you do with yourself when you move into that cave and hold yourself there? What holds you in the cave? We didn't go into that but it's something you may wish to explore. Explore it in your daily life. Become aware of the movement, retracting into the cave. Something's throwing rocks. In that moment it may be skillful to move into the cave. How long do you keep yourself there? Can you stay in the cave and still feel the light, energy and openness you need? Perhaps you can. We pointed out that it's not the cave environment but the attitude toward it that's important. So in each of these cases, the metaphor falls short. You cannot be in the dark closet and have light come in, and yet you can move into contraction and still keep your energy field open. The question then is, how do you keep your energy field open? How do you invite it to reopen? That core of you that I call the divinity is always there. Your light and radiance is always there. How do you remember that, how do you keep reconnecting with that?

Here I'm going to ask you to do something that may seem very simple. When you go home tonight, I'm going to ask you to find a little piece of string and tie it around your wrist or around a finger. Think of this as the string of connecting you back to the divine, which we mentioned at the start of the evening. When you find yourself contracting, closing off, separating, moving into a strong self with judgment against the self, and you lose your connection with the divine, I want you to just take that string, hold it. Take 3 breaths and remember: this is my string. Where is it leading me? Can I allow myself to reconnect?

Why is the habit energy there to separate? I think it's because there's shame, because for most of you, your experience of the divine, whether it's as an internally experienced or as something out there is that it's radiant and light and beautiful, and when there is anger or some other negativity in the self, there's a feeling of shame about it. There's a sense of shadow there. There's search a yearning to come back into that light, and it seems as long as there is shadow, you can't come back into the light. So you have a deep habit energy to judge the self, to cut the self off.

There is the idea that this part of the self, which is negative thought, must be eradicated. But of course, nothing must be eradicated. To think you have to eradicate it is just more negativity. Can you love it instead? Can you see this arose from conditions? You do not have to act out this fear or anger. You can actually use it as part of the means to reconnect to the divine. You have a choice here: to continue the habit energy that uses such negativity as a means of separating from divinity, or to use it as a reminder to love even this and reconnect to the divinity.

Ask yourself, 'What do I get out of it if I separate?' I think you'll be surprised. When you ask yourself that, I think you're going to see how strongly it is just habit energy and not something you really need to do anymore, that you really don't get anything from it although once maybe you thought you did.

Are there questions?

Q: Can you give us an example? …It is abstract for me. Can you give us an example of how to do this, how to stay open, and then how to be loving… without getting hurt (more not transcribed).

Aaron: Without getting hurt… First, I cannot give an example of how to do this without getting hurt but I can remind you that if you close off, you will also be hurt. So the question is not how to do it without being hurt but how to stay open in a way that is for the highest good of both, and to make space for any hurt that will come. The hurt will come whether you close or stay open.

If both people are participants with a desire to do this together, it's easier. If one is consumed with anger and negativity and the other desires to stay open, and one is being abusive, kindness can say no. You do not have to sit there and tolerate the other's abuse. But it's very different when kindness says, 'No, you may not speak to me in that way,' than when fear says, 'No! Stop!' As soon as that tension comes, you shut off. But with kindness, there's deep compassion for the other. You're hearing the other's pain. There's awareness, 'This human being is suffering terribly. My heart goes out to him or her. And yet, I must speak my truth and say no, he or she may not speak abusively, may not throw rocks at me.' Then you stay open.

The habit energy to cut off and separate is the old habit energy of pulling into the cave. The rock comes and before it even hits or you see that it's going to hit, you duck into the cave. We did not speak about this tonight, but what about the option not to move into that protected space? What if we stand outside and say, No.' What allows you to do that?

What we're really asking ourselves to do is not to duck into the cave, but to disarm the other through kindness or to create in the self that non-solidity so that the rocks simply go through. If you yell and curse at me, I don't have to accept such abuse. Of course, if you're about to hit me with a knife, I'm going to protect myself but I don't have to shoot you to protect myself. I can find skillful ways to protect myself, such as not to walk down that dark alley where you may be lurking with your knife. If I do go there in that dark alley, literally or metaphorically, then in some way I'm inviting your violence. So if there is somebody who is habitually abusive to you, why are you perpetuating a relationship with that person? At what point do you say, 'No, this really has to stop,' and walk a different pathway? But one makes this choice with the open heart, not out of fear. Does that answer your question?

Q: Yes. How about forgiveness?

Aaron: Forgiveness is a very powerful practice. It can be very helpful to reconnect you with those who've hurt you or seem to be in the process of hurting. But basically, once there is real compassion, there is nothing left to forgive. We start with forgiveness; it's a human practice. With forgiveness there's connection and there's openness, but then the forgiveness sees how deeply the other is suffering and how deeply the other is acting from their own habit energy, and compassion says, 'No, you may not throw rocks at me.'

Forgiveness of the self, perhaps, is a very important practice because each of you so deeply has judged yourselves. But in the same way, once compassion is deep, there's nothing left to forgive in the self. What have you done that is evil? What have you done that is terrible? Each of you has acted out of your own fears and pain. It doesn't mean that you condone the hurting of yourself and others, but rather that you see how the one who acts with violence is acting out of their habit energy.

Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of this very eloquently in his poem, 'Please Call Me By My True Names'. The poem is essentially about a pirate who rapes a girl. Then she jumps off the boat and drowns herself. He says it's so easy to condemn the pirate, but he realizes if he grew up in that pirate's village with all the pirate learned as a young boy, the violence the pirate experienced as a young boy, he too might be a pirate. It's not so easy to condemn himself.

We do not condone or allow the violence. We learn to say no. But we don't hate the one who perpetrates the violence, nor do we hate ourselves when there is a negative thought or even action. We say no with compassion. So forgiveness is an important practice to lead you to compassion, but the end result of forgiveness is simply compassion.

Q: How do you take care of the resentment?

Aaron: By noting that it's there and creating space for the pain. Instead of judging yourself and saying, 'I should not feel this,' or going to the extreme and enhancing the anger and resentment to gain power, you simply say, 'This resentment is a result of conditions. I see by the immensity of this resentment, by the strength of it, how deeply I have been hurt. I nurture myself. I love myself. I open my heart to myself and to my pain. And I know that my pain and my brothers' and sisters' pain is one.'

When you deeply open your heart to yourself and all beings, there's no more fuel for the resentment. It will take time to die away, it's not instant, but slowly it goes. And any that remains just needs a reminder, 'Here is something else that needs more tending, something still there that I haven't looked deeply into. Some old hurt that needs to be touched with the open heart and allowed to release itself.'

It's hard work. But I know of no more worthwhile work, and it's the only work that any of you can do which ultimately is going to lead to peace and lovingkindness on your earth.

Thank you for your questions, my sister, they have been very helpful. Are there others?

Q: Is it possible to have open energy and closed heart?

Aaron: I have never found that possible. I would rephrase that. Open energy is energy that's flowing choicelessly, lovingly, everywhere. But some very negative beings develop the ability to keep the energy field open for their own personal power. The decision comes from a very self-centered place that uses the energy as power. It's open energy only within the self and not in connection with the world. Sometimes you will find a very powerful being whose energy field feels very open and yet who is very self-centered and negative. But the positive being cannot have open energy and a closed heart.

I'd like to ask you to do 3 things. We did not talk about the eye exercise at the last class and the homework I gave you. I will talk about this with the class next time. Barbara's energy is fading so I'm not going to ask to stay in the body for too much longer.

If you were willing to try this, find yourself a plant. It can simply be a dandelion plant you dig in your back yard. You don't have to go out and buy a violet or a pansy. Find yourself a plant. Put it in a pot. Water it. Give it good soil, fertilizer, and put it in a dark cupboard. See how long you can keep it there. … That was not phrased very skillfully! None of you would choose to keep it there very long.

Put it in there for a day or two. Watch it droop. Let your heart really open to it. Feel its misery, how much it wants to be in the light. And then bring it out and rejoice with it how it feels when it comes back into the sunlight.

Reflect on the ways that you put yourself into that dark cupboard. Watch through the week the times when you close yourself off and how long you might want to stay in that closed place and how, like the plant, you yearn to come back into the light and how it feels to bring yourself back into the light. So use the plant as your teacher because the plant will awaken compassion in you. You'll feel the plant's sadness at its place of darkness. And your loving heart will say, 'Okay, I really need to bring this out now. I can't keep it trapped here anymore.'

So I don't expect you to kill your plant; of course not. But rather, I invite you to use the plant to remind you of how strong the compassionate heart is and that you cannot really keep the plant in darkness. When are you keeping yourself in darkness? Can you bring yourself out?

Tie the string around the finger or the wrist, and when you feel yourself closing off, just look at it and say, 'I'm forgetting.' Wind it back to source, back to center. Just a couple of deep breaths and let yourself come back.

Here is the third part. Watch physical contraction. It may come when you're startled, sad, tired or hungry, angry or afraid. Note it as contraction. 'Here is contraction. Contraction has arisen out of natural conditions. It's part of the habit energy. When certain things happen, this mind and body contract. The contraction is not a problem. What am I going to do with the contraction? How am I going to relate to it?'

It's like the plant in the dark closet. Are you going to look at the plant and say, 'Oh it's getting more and more wilted,' and close the door? Or is it going to open the heart and so you say, 'This needs to get out and into the light'?

When you contract, are you going to push yourself further back into this place of darkness or are you going to remember, 'Time to come back out into the light. I have a choice.'

There is not a problem that fear, anger, sadness, confusion or body pain has arisen. They are uncomfortable situations; that's all. Are you going to use them as an excuse to push the self further into the darkness or are you going to pull the self back out into the light?

Are there questions? (no)

My blessings to each of you. Thank you so much for being here with me tonight and for your hard work to bring yourselves back out into the light, because the further you are in the light, the more you are available to others to help remind them that they can come into the light. Each person reopening into the light brings the whole world out of darkness. Thank you. My deepest love to you. Please remember that you are not alone. Each of you has your own guides, as I am, your own teachers, and we are all with you and support your work.

I'm going to release the body to Barbara. She will have a few announcements…

Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Brodsky