Day 1 - May 17, 2003

Barbara: ... About 2 years ago in Seattle, we were at an evening gathering with Aaron. Marcy said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could do this in Tokyo?" Michelle had said that before. We looked at each other and said, "Why not!?" And here we are. It took a lot of planning, a lot of working. Special thanks to Marcy, Michelle and Akira..

I'm Barbara... We'll go around in a circle in a bit and let you each introduce yourselves, starting with Aaron.

Aaron: Good morning. My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. It is a great joy to be here with you, with old friends and friends that we have not previously met in this lifetime. It is a joy to feel the sincerity of your seeking, and your deep intention to live your lives with greater love and wisdom.

I do not do a lot of planning before a workshop. Rather, I like to hear from each of you, to know where you are in your journey and what questions are most important to you. Let me present the basic premise of this workshop, "Angels in Earthsuits". Each of you is an angel, that divine aspect of your being, ever-perfect, radiant. Each of you is this divine beautiful spirit. Each of you is also here within the earthsuit, the physical, mental, and emotional container in which this spirit body finds itself.

The earthsuit creates many challenges for you because there is mind and body pain, confusion, doubt, and the arising of heavy emotions. This is especially true for those of you who are seekers on a spiritual path. These challenges are confusing because you aspire to live your lives with clarity and kindness, and yet so often, negative emotion emerges. You aspire to be loving to yourselves as well as others, and yet there will be body pain and mental distortion, which conditions give rise to a sometimes negative- or tension-filled response.

Our basic exploration then is two-fold. First, what are the nature of the angel and the nature of its earthsuit container? On the ultimate level, you are that angel. But of course on the relative level, you are simply a human being, a mind, body, and so forth. Another way to phrase the question then is, how do you live in balance in the relationship between ultimate and relative reality? How do you bring these various aspects of your being into balance so that you do not choose either above the other, but honor both?

The second aspect of our work together this weekend will be to look in depth at those specific areas of relative reality that are most difficult, most challenging for you, with the question, "Instead of viewing this experience as something threatening me, to which I must take opposition, how can I view even this body pain, this emotional pain, this sadness, this difficult relationship, this difficult work situation - how can I view this as a teacher, relate to it as a teacher, with my heart open, so that I can learn?

For what comes to you is a teacher, always. It is up to you whether you can accept it as that. You cannot just say, "I will accept it." That's just more force. The heart cannot open through force. How do we invite the opening of the heart so that we can be fully present with what arises in our relative experience and use it to teach us deeper compassion and wisdom, to find the growth which we seek?

The days will be a mixture of my speaking to you, your sharing with me, and specific exercises. I don't know yet what exercises will be appropriate; we'll see as we go along. We use experiential exercises so that what we speak about is not just intellectual but that you can know it in this moment. And we will teach you some meditation. As we go around I want to hear from you what your spiritual practice is. For example, do you meditate, and if so what kind of meditation. What are you passionate about? Share that with me, and also right now in your lives, what is presenting the most difficulty, the most pain?

Those who know Barbara and me from Ann Arbor are used to sharing in depth, have come to trust that our circle is a safe space. It is important that you honor confidentiality even though some of you may never see one another again, may be half a world apart. But what is said here is to be kept in this circle, to be held in a container of honor and respect so that each of you feels safe to share from your heart.

There are no other rules here. We have a schedule planned that I think will allow for adequate breaks.

A very brief word about myself. I give you the name Aaron, which was my name in a lifetime where I was a teacher. It is of course not my name, just one of many names that beings that I were lived with through the centuries. I think it's easier than calling me "Hey you!"

Once long ago a friend had some difficulty working with me because she felt she could not work with a male teacher. I told her very sweetly, "I can change my energy. I can change my voice. (voice changes) How would Arianna do?" You don't need to think of me as a male, I'm neither male nor female. I have been both in many lifetimes. When people come to me with questions about sexuality, they find it very funny that I truly understand both the male and the female, but I have clear memories of those lifetimes.

I'm going to retain my Aaron persona here, but if it helps you to think of me as female or neither, that is fine. I have lived in every color of skin in so many different cultures, through so many millennia. I have been rich and a pauper. I have loved and hated. I have grieved and rejoiced. So I understand these human experiences.

I have experienced most major human religions and many more minor ones. My final incarnation in the 1500s in Thailand, I was a Buddhist meditation master of the Theravada tradition, a part of that tradition that preceded the current northern forest tradition. In that lifetime I found freedom from this cycle of birth and death, and helped others to find such freedom. I do not teach you as that Theravada Buddhist master. He no longer is, only I have his memories and his understanding.

But the tradition within which he practiced was a viable path to freedom, as he literally discovered. I would not throw that away; I value it deeply. So no, I am not a Buddhist, nor am I a Christian, Jew or Moslem. I have tasted all of these. But I do use the tools of the Buddhist perhaps more than any other specific tools, not to make you into Buddhist but to make you free. My prayer for this weekend is that each of you may find a bit of advancement on that path of freedom, may come to understand the places where you're stuck, and how more skillfully to invite freedom, for with freedom come joy and peace.

It is good to be with you this weekend. Now, may I hear from you and get to know you a bit, and also to give you the opportunity to meet one another? I pause.

Barbara: Aaron explained what he'd like you to talk about. We've got 15 of you. So try to limit it to about 2 to 3 minutes. I know you can't sum up your journey in that time, but give us just a sense of what kind of spiritual practice you've done, what brought you here today. And, Aaron says, what you're passionate about, what you're seeking.

People share around the circle.

Barbara: There are many different forms of meditation. These forms tend to fall into 2 different areas. One is a fixed-focus concentration, where the attention is brought to one object. One absorbs into that object. The mind quiets down. It can lead to a very blissful experience. It's the kind of experience most of you have had somewhere along the line, playing a musical instrument, gardening, or painting, where you become so absorbed into that that the mind suddenly is quiet. One can go deeper and deeper into that space. This is called concentration meditation.

Any kind of meditation takes concentration, but with what I just described, we hold on to one object to the exclusion of anything else. The kind of meditation that Aaron and I teach uses concentration in a different way, learning to be present with whatever is predominant in our experience in this moment. So, while we start with a primary object, if something else becomes predominant, you let go of that object and move attention to the predominant object.

Once, working with a concentration practice, I was sitting and watching a candle flame, very absorbed into the flame. Unknown to me at that point, my 8-yr-old son's ball had gotten caught up on the roof. He had pulled out a ladder, and climbed up on the one-story roof to get the ball down. Climbing down, the ladder had fallen over. I was sitting and focusing on the candle and he was literally right in front of me out the window, hanging from the gutter, kicking his feet, trying to get my attention. I didn't see him, I was so focused on the candle! Suddenly, I looked up, and ran out the door to lift him down.

When we concentrate, things can come up that are very powerful and we push them away. There's a subtle preference, "I'll stay with this." It does have the effect of calming the mind. It does have the effect of taking us into a very peaceful and blissful experience. There's nothing wrong with this form of meditation if the desired result is tranquility and ease. Development of concentration is essential. But when you come out of concentration practice, everything that was difficult in your life is still there; you haven't explored your relationship with body pain, emotions, and the world. You haven't changed your relationship or gained any wisdom about the nature of what comes into your experience.

The meditation that we teach is sometimes called insight meditation. Its technical name is vipassana. Passana in the Pali language in which these teachings originated means "seeing". Vipassana is a deeper, clearer seeing. We don't teach this to turn people into Buddhists. We teach it to help people develop a deeper, clearer seeing.

We begin to ask, what arises in my experience? How do I relate to what arises? What are the habitual patterns I have with what arises? If it's unpleasant, do I shut myself off and withdraw from my body? If it's pleasant, do I hold on? What really creates the suffering I experience, the unpleasantness?

You may have heard a teaching or statement about suffering made in Buddhism. Sometimes it's misunderstood to say, "Everything is suffering". The word that's used in the Buddhist teachings is dukkha. The statement is, "Dukkha exists." The Buddha did not say everything is suffering in the way we sometimes interpret it. But everything is dukkha. The word "kha" in Pali means the hub of a wheel... Du means off-center. So the wheel is onto the hub in an off-center way. When the wheel rolls, the cart lurches. If we want the cart to run smoothly, there's an unpleasantness when the cart lurches. We don't want that. The experience of the lurching cart when we don't want it to lurch is dukkha.

We go to amusement parks and we want everything to lurch and whip us back and forth. We expect it to lurch. We'd suffer if it didn't lurch. We'd say, "This is a gyp!" But in our lives we want it all to go smoothly, and it never does. This is the experience referred to as dukkha. This is how things are. Whatever comes along that's wonderful and exquisite, like the rice crackers I just ate, such a lovely taste, each tiny cracker was different. As I swallowed each, this thought came up, "Oh, I want more of that!" But that one was finished. Each time we come to that experience saying, "Oh, I want more," we see we can't hold onto things. Everything comes and it goes. That grasping after it is dukkha. Sometimes we get one with a bitter taste. "I don't like this!" We can't keep it away. You've bitten into it, it's in your mouth. It's right there, this bitter taste. "I don't want it." Dukkha.

What we find when we are willing to be present with everything as it comes into our experience in meditation, is that things will arise and pass away, and then other things will arise and pass away, and they just are as they are. When we can be with them as they are, they may be pleasant or unpleasant, but there's no dukkha, no suffering. Some of you have experienced this with body pain. If you have something very painful in your body, the pain is one thing and your relationship with the pain is another. If you can be spacious with the pain and hold it with an open heart, then it's unpleasant. It doesn't make it pleasant that you can hold it with an open heart, it's still unpleasant. But we find we can be with what's unpleasant. We have a certainty, it will pass eventually. This is how it is. There's pain but there's not suffering.

The same is true with emotional things - somebody very angry at you, loss of a loved one, or fear - these experiences can be very painful. But we can learn how to make space around them. Watch the experience arise, be present with it, watch it pass away, sooner or later. Watch yourselves wanting pain to pass, watching that tension, "I don't like this, I want it to go. " You can watch without getting caught up in being a somebody, a self. We let go of me, my preference, no longer believing it's got to be another way just because I don't like it. It will be this way. Can you see where it shifts into suffering? It starts as pain and then shifts into suffering. So for me the value of this form of meditation is that it asks us to just sit and watch what appears. All kinds of things will appear.

When I travel and teach I often bring some books with me, books of poems and such. Coming to Japan I made the decision not to carry all of that material. There's a wonderful poem by a Sufi poet, Rumi, and I cannot quote it. It's called The Guest House. I'll paste a correct version into the transcript. (corrected version is below.)

The Guest House by Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks, from The Essential Rumi, 
(San Francisco, Harper San Francisco) 1995, p. 109

This human being is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

This is what we're learning to do in this form of meditation. We start very simply, using the breath. Aware of breathing in, just the light touch of the breath on the nostrils, aware of breathing out. Try it. Not the thought, "I am breathing in," but the experience of the inhalation. Don't say, "Breathing in, breathing out," just feel the touch of the inhale on the nostrils, on the upper lip. And then the touch of the exhale. There's no doubt which one is an inhale and which one is the exhale. You can tell the difference. The inhale is cool, the exhale is warmer and softer.

Simply know when you're breathing out and when you're breathing in. Know if it's a long breath or a short breath. Feel the texture of the breath. Let it be peaceful. But if it's not peaceful, if it's sharp and erratic, just watch that. Breathing in, breathing out.

Sometimes a pleasant feeling will come with the breath, if it's calm, peaceful. Sometimes if the breath is very strong, harsh, it may feel unpleasant. Know if it's pleasant, know if it's unpleasant. Breathing in, breathing out. Sometimes it will be neutral.


As you're breathing, something may pull you away from the breath. Right now, my voice. Let go lightly of the breath and be present with the hearing. Hearing, hearing... When the voice stops, come back to the breath. If the hearing is an unpleasant sound (taps sticks), know that. (Bell.) (Bell.) Hearing. If it's pleasant, know that it's pleasant. As the sound dies away, come back to the breath. (Bell.) (pause)

Maybe after a few seconds with the breath, you become aware of an itch on your leg. Burning, itching. It's unpleasant. Don't scratch the itch, just be present with the sensation. As it changes or dissolves, come back to the breath. (pause)

Sometimes the itch may intensify as you watch it, and then something new comes, which is the strong desire to scratch the itch. Can you see that the sensation of the itch and the desire to scratch it are 2 different things? (pause)

If the strong impulse to scratch becomes predominant, be with it. It's a grasping, wanting energy. Just like the sound of my voice or the bell or the itch itself, it arose out of conditions and it will change, it will pass. Just because there's an impulse to scratch the itch doesn't mean we need to scratch it; instead we watch impulse, wanting. The exact label you use doesn't matter. Just be aware of that grasping energy, the contraction in the body. The tension. Wanting to scratch. Can we hold 'wanting to scratch' in a spacious container, and just watch it?

Sometimes the strong wanting energy will fade away and the itch is still there. Sometimes wanting will fade away and we realize the itch is also gone. As that wanting energy changes, just come back to the breath. If the itch is still there and pulls your attention again, note it again and be with it. (pause)

So we're looking at 3 different things, and the way these things arise in our experience and then pass away: physical objects, such as body sensations, sounds, seeing, even with our eyes closed colors, patterns will come; smell, taste. Second and third are mental objects and emotions. I'm not going to talk in depth now about working with thoughts and emotions. We'll talk about that later. I just want to give you a little at a time. But it's basically the same process. If it's a memory, planning, or whatever comes up, just be with it, note it. To note that the mind was planning doesn't mean we keep planning. That which is aware of planning is not planning. We come back into that centered space of awareness, aware that planning had been happening and now it's no longer happening. You just come back to the breath.

If the mind leaps into planning again, note it again, come back to the breath. At a certain point, just like the difference between the itch and wanting to scratch the itch, you see the difference between the mind leaping into planning and wanting to get caught up in that planning. You start to feel the impulse energy itself. Wanting to plan. Wanting to play with a memory. Wanting to fantasize. Different places mind can go. Each time we just note.

Whatever the object is, be with it. There is no object that is better than any other object. You're not trying to stay with the breath. If there's a strong physical sensation, be with it. If, as they cook food, pleasant smell comes up, just be with it. If mind moves up into fantasy, "What kind of food is it?" the smell is no longer predominant. That planning question is predominant, thinking, wanting to know. Note that energy thrust. Come back to the breath. The breath is just the place we come to rest when the mind and body are not anywhere else. It's kind of like sitting in a big comfortable chair in your living room. You're just sitting. The telephone rings. You get up, you answer it. Respond to the question, say goodbye, hang up. Then you go back and sit in your chair again. You realize how thirsty you are. Get up and get a drink of water. Go back and sit in the chair. The dog is barking. Go outside, quiet the dog, go back and sit in your chair.

So the breath is like that, it's the place we come back to. But we don't choose the breath over any other experience. Just be present with things just as they are.

We're going to sit now with this for about 10 minutes, and then Aaron is going to talk. We'll do more meditation later.. If, "Am I doing it right or doing it wrong?" comes up, just note the experience of questioning or doubting mind and come back to the breath. Remember, we're developing more insight into our relationship, our habit energy, or how we relate to objects. This is important because when there's pain, emotional pain, physical pain, when something provokes anger in us, we all have habit energy that we find predominant. We get carried off on it. Through this practice we start to learn we have a choice. That instead of getting carried away by our fear, our anger, our needs, we can just make space for it and watch it. It can be very peaceful. Even when it's very unpleasant it can be peaceful. Peace doesn't come through trying to force things into a pattern that's to our liking, but learning a way to be present with things as they are, and still develop the wisdom to attend to those things that are distorted, in skillful ways so we can bring about change. It's not about resignation that says, "I have to be with it as it is." One doesn't sit by an open window with the rain pouring in and say, "Rain. Rain. Wet. Wet." One closes the window.

I'll be quiet now for about 10 minutes and then Aaron will begin to talk.


Aaron: I am Aaron. You may continue to sit with your eyes closed or open, as you prefer. Feel free to stretch...

I am telepathic. I will never invade your privacy, but sometimes thoughts are offered out. I will never go beyond that, into the private thoughts.

As you sat, just now, many of you experienced small aches and pains in your body.. Many of you were sending out the thought, "My body should not be painful." Why not? You do have a body with nerve endings. Sometimes they carry pain. All of you experienced the mind that jumped from here to there and there to here The nature of the mind is to give rise to thoughts. There's a vast difference between watching the mind give rise to thoughts and climbing astride one of those thoughts as if it were a horse galloping off into the sunset. Some of you thought, "I should be able to do this better." That "better" is not the cessation of thought and feeling, but presence with things just as they are.

There will be physical sensation, thought, and emotion. These are a given part of human experience. They will not obey some inner preference and all be pleasant sensations and thoughts. To come into incarnation is to experience this. So I first want to address the fallacy, the myth, that if you only get it figured out, you can make life pleasant and keep it pleasant.

How could you do that? No matter how delicious a meal, there will come a point where you're full. You've had 2 servings, 3, 4; it's delicious. Your host says, "Will you have more?" "No." "Why not? I thought you liked it?" "No, I'm full." So first you wanted it and now you don't want it. If forced to eat another bowlful, it would be unpleasant.

This earth is your schoolroom and you are here to learn. You are not here to control your experience, although certainly I wish you well-being, happiness, pleasant experiences. But you're not here to control experience, you are here to learn compassion and unconditional love. Part of what stirs that learning in you is difficult experience.

There's a story told about a spiritual teacher, Gurdjieff. He had a spiritual center in France in the last century. There was a man at the center who was very rude to everybody, a very abrasive personality, and he did not do his share of the work. On top of that, he had bad hygiene, he smelled bad. One day he said to Gurdjieff, "I'm leaving." His bags were packed and off he went. The other residents cheered, "He's gone! He's gone!" But Gurdjieff went after him. When the man said, "No, I won't come back. People are mean to me.", Gurdjieff offered to pay him to come back. So he came. His greed was bigger than anything else in him. The others were aghast. "How could you invite him back? We're paying you, you're paying him! Why?" Gurdjieff said, "He is the yeast for the bread. He is the teacher of compassion."

You don't want that difficult person in your lives, and yet you do know they are often the foremost teacher of compassion for you. Much as I wish you comfort, you are not here to be comfortable, you are here to learn. And it does work out that the more you learn, the deeper your understanding, the more comfortable you become even with discomfort, and the more able you become to attend to discomfort skillfully and bring forth change in a wholesome way, through kindness rather than through hatred and anger.

You are here to learn how to practice love, even when there is strong fear. Fear is not a problem although it's difficult and unpleasant. Fear, like anything else, will arise. One can be loving with fear. No matter what comes, one can deeply understand one's habitual tendency, a very human tendency, to contract and separate oneself. One can begin to learn that there is a choice. That no matter how unpleasant, one can stay open and connected. Only from that openhearted place can you affect real change in yourselves and others.

This shift can never come from a place of "I should" but only from a place of "I will. I can." What I mean by that is that it can never come from a driven place of judgment that says, "Not this but that. I should not feel this. I should only feel that." Take "should" and put it in the trashcan. Literally, when you go home, write "I should" on a piece of paper and put it in the ashtray and light a fire to it. Or put it in your garbage. Make the decision for one week to be very watchful and each time "I should" comes out, to just note, "Ah, here is a judgment." For that is all "I should" is, the judging mind at work, saying how things ought to be, rather than being present with things as they are.

I repeat Barbara's words, this is not a statement of resignation. When you are present with things as they are, then and only then is there the possibility of change. Otherwise you're simply contracting yourself and pushing, separating yourselves. A number of you mentioned loneliness as a primary catalyst in your life. Of course there are many reasons for loneliness, but one primary cause is this separation. Sometimes it comes from a place that does not want to allow intimacy with others for fear of being hurt. Sometimes it comes from a place that does not want to allow intimacy with others for fear of hurting others.

Each of you is a separate being, different body, different memories. Let's look deeper.

Take these wooden seats you're sitting on. On one level we can say it's a seat. I wouldn't call it a chair, it has no legs but It's a seat made of wood. Wood comes from trees. The tree grows because there's nutritious soil, sun, and rain. The rain comes from a cloud. We could say you're sitting on a cloud. It's all there together. In this, what we call conditioned realm, that is, the realm of things that arise with conditions and pass away, the relative realm, there is nothing that is separate from anything else. You sit on a cloud, and on the earth in which the tree grew.

The water that is released from your body as urine goes down the drain, and eventually works its way out to the sea. It evaporates with the sun, becomes a cloud, rains on the forest. You're sitting on your own body when you sit on this seat.

The importance to this reflection, and especially if it develops into a deeper insight, is this. When something happens that's difficult - when somebody says something that's painful to you, somebody is angry with you - when this happens and you feel yourself separating you can begin to remember you are interconnected.

Clap your hands and look at the right hand and the left hand. Greeting, clapping. You experience right and left, yet they're two hands of the same body. You can begin to ask yourself, what is the interconnection between us, rather than, what is the separation and difference? Then instead of practicing your differences, you can practice your connection, and from that place of connection you can hear one another.

Sometimes what you are most separate from is yourself. Feelings come up, helplessness, vulnerability, rage, greed, fear, or distrust of yourself. You experience the thought, "this feeling is not allowed" and believe the thought. Then you work to subdue it. Here is separation. There can be no change as long as there is that which is not allowed. What invites you back into your own heart and body? Emotions are just emotions. Don't make them more powerful than they are. I know they can be strong and difficult. But you do not have to be afraid of them. They arose out of conditions, they are results. They will pass.

The most important thing I can say to you this weekend is this. That which is aware, of fear for example, is not afraid, that which is aware of anger is not anger. That which is aware of desire is not caught in the desire. This is the what I call angel side of experience, a knowing that comes from this space of deep centered awareness. You are able to be aware of arising thoughts, emotions and sensations, without being caught up in them, without developing a personal identity around them.

If you are afraid of your anger, each time anger arises you must stifle it. Of course you can't act it out, that's not what I'm suggesting. But there's a vast space between repression or denial and acting it out. This is a space of presence and awareness that learns how to bring kind attention to what arises rather than constantly being on guard and afraid of what might arise. These things will arise naturally. If you step on a thumbtack, it will puncture the skin of your foot. There will be blood and pain. There's no one here who would say, "I should not bleed." You understand this is the nature of the body. Very few if any of you would say, "There should not be pain." You understand there are nerves, and if the tack punctures, there will be pain. You might say, "I don't want the pain. I don't like the pain." That's very different from "there should not be." "Should not" is a judgment. It's simply the habitual tendency of mind saying first, perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously, "I don't like this." And then, "should not happen" - control, fear.

When you have, figuratively, an emotional tack, a "puncture" from somebody who is angry and addresses you in an angry way, says rude things, there may not be blood on a real level but there certainly is pain. Sometimes we think of somebody's anger as literally drawing blood. Aversion rises in you. Desire to lash out at this, desire to defend. And then you say, "I shouldn't be angry." But why not? The arising of anger is just arising of anger. Just like the itch is an itch. The impulse, wanting to lash out or to defend, is just an impulse, no different than the impulse to scratch the itch.

Can you see why we practice with these simple things: the itch, the preference for more warmth or coolness? They're easy things to practice with, and as you build up your ability, you become increasingly able to note that the arising of a strong emotion is just that, and the arising of an impulse connected to the emotion is just that. None of it is bad; none of it is a problem.

If you turn the faucet on, water flows. If you turn the faucet off, it stops. It's not good or bad. If the drain plug is in, the sink will overflow. That's a parallel to the strong impulse to strike out, or perhaps to retreat and withdraw completely. The overflow is a result. When the sink overflows, you pull the plug out. You don't just run around with buckets catching the water, you attend to the conditions and trust that when you attend to the conditions, the results will resolve themselves. And then of course you may need to dry up with a towel a bit, but the condition has passed, the result has passed.

When strong emotion arises in you, it's a result. Usually there's some kind of fear, "I will not be safe. My needs won't be met." A habit energy may be to defend yourself or to withdraw. These are all results. None of it is bad or good. If you do lash out or withdraw, it can bring unwholesome results, create an unpleasant situation, and then that's your next learning point, seeing that what you do bears a direct result, and that you always have a choice. You begin to see how much habit energy has pushed you in one direction. Then from the deep place of commitment to live your lives with more love and clarity, you can note the force of habit, how strong it is, make space for it, and not enact it. And then you come back to what I called, "that which is aware", that spaciousness which has watched, hearing the unpleasant words or voice for example, watching the arising of anger, watching the strong impulse to defend or to run away. That spacious awareness becomes a container that can hold whatever has arisen and watch it dissolve.

Then all the old judgments fall away. The judgments like, " I should be able to prevent this emotion from coming up. I'm just no good. I'm unworthy. I'm incapable." These are just stories that you've built up. You begin to see how the whole chain of thought is just the flow of conditions. Let go of the separation from yourself; let yourself back into your heart. Find mercy for yourself and whatever difficulty you may be experiencing, and find mercy for the others who are involved in the situation. It's from this point that you begin to live from the angel aspect of yourself.

It's important to note that when I speak of resting in awareness and watching these emotions come up, I do not mean disassociating from the emotion. What I speak of is totally different. To disassociate is to separate. What I am urging you to do is embrace it, holding it in a spacious container, allowing yourself to be fully present. Fear, based on old conditioning, so often leads you not to be fully present in your life. What is the direct experience of anger with no stories of blame? No stories of how to fix? What is that raw, direct experience of anger? What is the experience of grief or sadness? What is the experience of joy? What is the experience of desire, of pride, jealousy, fear?

We can begin to note these simply saying, "Here is a tension, a contraction in the body and the mind." And not get caught up in the stories to which habit has led us.

There's a very beautiful and simple practice that I find helpful, called the practice of clear comprehension. The first 2 parts of it are clear comprehension of purpose and of suitability. If somebody raging at you, and you are feeling judged, feeling that this is unfair, feeling blamed for something for which you are not at fault, anger comes up. There is the desire to defend yourself or strike back, to act out that anger. You can ask yourself, what is my highest purpose here? Is it to be right, for example? Or is it to create a harmonious communication where we can both feel heard and understood?

Then the second part of clear comprehension, clear comprehension of suitability. Is what I'm about to do consistent with what I say my purpose is? To come to this purpose is hard work. For a younger soul, the purpose may be to defend oneself. "What is my purpose? To defend myself! Is punching him in the nose suitable? Yes". But then one sees the results. Through a thousand such brawls one sees the results and they are not wholesome; they do not lead to happiness. Eventually one shifts and begins to understand, "To defend myself cannot be my highest purpose. Because as long as I separate in that way, there cannot be peace. To defend both of us, yes". Does punching him the nose defend both people? No. "Restraining myself. Hearing him. Hearing his anger. Not owning what he blames me for, but being willing to listen to his pain." Here there is the growth of compassion and understanding, and the ability deeply to love oneself and the other.

You must be honest with yourself here. If you say, "To defend myself at all costs," and punch him in the nose, do it mindfully and find out if the results are good. You're probably not going to punch someone in the nose, but if you yell back and assault them verbally, are the results good? Is it taking it closer to what you want? You cannot restrain yourself from yelling back with, "I should not yell back." It must come from an authentic, loving place that knows, "I will not yell or hit because I know that in the long run, this is not consistent with either of our needs. My intention is to bring forth harmony." You hold that intention in front of you.

This is why Gurdjieff invited the man back. This is the community that lived so peacefully together, there was no friction. So he felt they needed yeast for the bread, or catalyst for compassion.

Now, I don't think any of you need to invite very difficult people into your lives, consciously, saying, "I need it in order to practice compassion." I think your lives have already provided you all the catalyst you need. But I want you to stop thinking of those issues in your life as problems and begin to think of them as opportunities. Right here is your opportunity to practice and to learn, to open your heart to yourself and whatever is out there pushing at you. Right here is your opportunity to grow, to find that place of awareness, that place of center. You can find the angel and rest there, more and more stably, and watch the human impulses without so much identification with them.

I quote the Dalai Lama, "My enemy, my teacher." For some of you the enemy is somebody out there. For some of you it may be your own body, places of strong pain. Or it may be your mind with stories of betrayal and hurt. The old abuses and terrible things that you've experienced. None of it is a problem. It is all a gift, a part of this incarnation experience. The earth is your classroom.

I will stop here and hear a few questions before lunch.

Q: During meditation, the mind had 3 directions. I felt the breath, I felt the body, and then sometimes a story came. I was confused how to stay in the present rather than going with the story.

Barbara: Stay with the breath unless something becomes so predominant that it pulls you away. If it pulls you away, be with it. Sometimes it moves very quickly. You're with the breath and then there's a sharp pain in the body. Mind moves to it and then says, "Ah, it's just that." At that moment, it's not compelling any more. Then you come back to the breath. If the sharp pain comes back again, and then the story comes up, "What is this? Why is this pain happening?", it's not the pain that's predominant any more; it's the fear about the pain. There's an unasked question, "What if it keeps going?" So one can just note, "fear, fear."

As it resolves itself, or if mind starts to go somewhere else, come back to the breath. In other words, if mind goes off to, "Maybe I twisted my ankle and that's why it hurts. What am I going to do? I have to do all that walking tomorrow?" Just note, "story, story," or "wandering…" Here mind is spinning off, worrying or planning. As soon as you note that kind of thought, you're not thinking it any more. There's a difference between physical sensation and thought. If we note an itch doesn't go away, when we note planning, we're not planning any more. There may be a wanting to plan, a pulling energy. "Wanting." If you experience grasping energy, note it as "wanting to…", or one of my favorite notes is just "tension".

You don't have to know exactly what it is. One of the ways we try to control our experience is to go after it and pinpoint it. This is fear. If I know it's fear and I can label it, maybe I can control it. Instead, know the fear and note, "tension, tension,." One can be present with the tension.

If the tension gets too big and stories start to come, know that again., Be with the impulse to go to a story, not the content of the story. Watch the aversion that is signaled by the arising story. "Tension, tension." The tension itself is unpleasant and we want it to pass. Here is tension around the experience of tension, and more stories may come, maybe about our helplessness, or as judgment, "I should get rid of the tension." Tension is just tension. Come back to the breath.

Sometimes tension or fear become very powerful, then you start to feel out of control. Then the mind starts spinning out into, "What am I going to do?" That's more tension, but often we can really see this is fear. Whatever comes, be with the direct experience and try to stay away from the story. But if you do et into the story, see it as it happens and step back out, like stepping into a mud puddle. We don't have to wade in deeper.!

There's a very simple practice that's very helpful sometimes. "Breathing in, I am aware of tension. Breathing out, I smile to tension. Breathing in, I am aware of fear. Breathing out, I smile to fear." Literally, smiling, can help to break the cycle. And you can do that for a number of breaths until you can it begin to resolves. Come back to the breath. If it comes up again, go back to it.

We have time for one more question. We'll have more time this afternoon. Is there another question now?

Q: I hear that nothing is separate, and everything is interconnected. But I wonder, in relationships or related to all of our relationships, who am I responsible for? Am I responsible for others? Or am I only responsible for myself?

Aaron: I am Aaron. You are responsible for what you offer to others. You can offer wholesome food or spoiled food. If you offer spoiled food, with the assurance that it's good, and they eat it and get sick, you are responsible for offering the spoiled food. They are responsible for choosing to eat it.

What this comes down to, is if something comes up that spurs anger in you, and you give out an angry response, and the other person punches you or slaps you, you are responsible for offering the angry response, but you are not responsible for making them slap you. They have free will. They can do what they are able to do with that angry response. They are completely responsible for what they do in return.

So, you are responsible for what you offer out into the world. But you are not responsible for what other people do with it. Nevertheless, while you are not responsible for their choice, you will bear the results of what you offer out. If you always offer out bitter, angry response, the other person will either offer his or her own anger back so that it keeps pouring back and forth, hurting. Or the other person will offer a kind response, but perhaps after awhile will make the statement to himself, "I don't choose to be with all this anger and bitterness any more," and will leave. And then you experience the pain of being abandoned.. Do you see how it works? I pause.

Q: I understand what he said. I guess I get confused between the idea of selfishness and selflessness.

Barbara: Aaron says let us pick that up after lunch...

I would like to invite you as you eat, to be very present with your food. Spend the first few minutes of your meal without talking. Really chew the food well. Taste it. If it's pleasant, know it's pleasant. If it has an unpleasant taste, know that.

Watch the impulse, how soon do you reach out for the next mouthful with the thought, "I want more." And you're still chewing. You haven't even swallowed it yet. Where does that impulse to reach out come from? Watch how that impulse comes and goes. Sometimes as you chew, the strong taste dies away. Your mouth is full of food that tastes bland. You haven't even swallowed it but, "I want more" comes. Watch the different impulses. Know why you are choosing this rather than that, how you reach for different tastes. When you're chewing, know you're chewing. When you're swallowing, know you're swallowing. See how much more delight there is. So often we eat and swallow and we don't even know what we eat. When it tastes good, be with it. One bite of something that's delicious can be much more satisfying than a big bowl full of something that you hardly taste. Try it.

So, as you sit down with your food, spend just the first few minutes in silence... 

(lunch break)

Aaron: I am Aaron. Well over 1000 years ago, the being that I was lived in Japan. The meals were not so elegant then! I want to begin by speaking briefly to some questions raised this week in some of your private meetings, and also today, asking for more specifics about the nature of who and what you are, and why your religions offer such seemingly contradictory articulations of the path.

First, a very basic description. This is not my articulation, but a very common one. You have 4 bodies: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. These have different vibrational frequencies, like a 4-stringed instrument that plays different tones. Also, like the instrument, if the untuned strings are played, there will be noise and not harmony. It's helpful when these bodies are tuned in such a way as to be harmonious with one another. Many seekers on the path have raised the vibrational frequency of the spirit body and moved out of the physical body, have abandoned the physical body to some extent, and also denied the emotions. And so the spirit body is at a very high frequency, and perhaps even the mental body. The emotional and physical bodies are not in tune.

Once in a workshop, somebody asked me, "Aaron, how do I have an out of body experience, an experience of astral projection, where the spirit body moves out of the physical body?" Immediately upon hearing that question, several other people said, "I have no problem being out of my body; how do I get back into my body?"

There is a wonderful line at the opening of James Joyce' book "Ulysses". "Mr. such-and-so lived a short distance from his body."

How do we get back into the physical body? Eating a mindful meal, as you began this meal, present with the body, is a start, and a pleasant start. Right now, some of you are sleepy. What would it mean to be aware of the experience of sleepiness, rather than identifying with it? Not, "I am sleepy," and no denial of the sleepy experience, just, "Here is the experience of sleepiness. This is how it feels in this body." Heavy. Warm. Everything slows down a bit.

As humans, you are what I call third density beings. This also is not specifically my articulation but a common metaphysical one. There are 8 densities. The first is gas and mineral. The second, in its physical expression, is vegetable and animal. When I say, " physical expression", there is a non-material equivalent of first and second density, and also third. But, since you're physical beings, let's pay attention just to the physical side of it. The third density is human.

Each density has its own specific highest focus of learning. It's not the only thing you learn, but it is the highest focus. A focus of first density is awareness, just a very basic awareness. Beings become increasingly self-aware. Second-density is self-awareness. I find this especially in your pets who have become increasingly self-aware. So, first density awareness is a more undifferentiated awareness.

The primary learnings of third density are faith and love. Fourth density primary learning is compassion and fifth is wisdom.

Fourth density, is the first non-material density. Prior to 4th density, in the material realms, because of karma you have come into a new form again and again. While on the astral plane between incarnations in 3rd density, the emotional and mental bodies are still functioning, and of course the spirit body, is always there.

When you reach the point where you no longer bring forth the karma to move into a material form, you make the transition into 4th density. The physical body dissolves although there is still an energy field. The emotions are still there, but there is no longer the same self-identity with them. The 4th density experience is unique. One comes into a group energy experience, always with free will. Often the groups with whom you join are dear old friends of many eons. There is still the mental idea of self, but it's understood just as an idea. So there is still self-awareness, but one understands that image as a tool and concept. One understands both self and no-self.

The most important part of this shift into 4th density is that within these groups, you are fully telepathic. That means that everything can be shared. If I asked you now, how would you all like to be telepathic today - and that means everybody in the room knows what you are thinking and you know what everybody else is thinking - are you ready for that? Probably not. Fear comes up, and maybe shame about a thought that you had, or discomfort with another's emotions.

The shift from 3rd to 4th density involves opening to equanimity with the mind and emotions. You understand that you are responsible for what has arisen but that it is arisen out of conditions. There's no energetic reverberation around a thought. If it's an angry thought, it may be followed with a sense of apology. It came, I'm sorry, it's gone. If you feel somebody else's angry or judging thought, you don't blame them for it; you understand how it arose out of conditions, that it's impermanent, and you don't have to be afraid of thoughts. At that point, compassion can deepen enormously, because for the first time you can learn directly from another's experience. It's very powerful.

So there is this point where there is no longer contraction around the emotions and thoughts, but equanimity with what arises. Thus, there is no longer karma with what arises, and no longer the energetic contraction that reinforces karma. Then, there is no karmic pull to come back into a body. Then, literally you are free of the cycle of birth and death. But, you are not yet fully evolved. You're only into the 4th of 8 densities.

In 5th density you move out of that group experience and you reflect back upon it. Often 5th density beings are the guides to 3rd density beings. Fourth density would not be such a guide because it's in a group, although very occasionally the whole group will serve as a guide.

In fifth density we see the development of wisdom. By the end of 5th density, the emotional body has dissolved, or almost dissolved. There is still a mental body, still the ability to direct thought. The emotions that arise are met with complete equanimity, so there's nothing to support their perpetuation. You have ceased to give them energy.

6th density returns to love again: here, unconditional love. 6th is perhaps the largest density in terms of the variation of the being from beginning to end of 6th density, because the beginning 6th density being still does experience emotion, but without self-identity to it. The emotional body dissolves during 6th density. Midway in 6th density, there are only the mental and spirit bodies. This combination, mental and spirit, is what we call the higher self. Please note there is still a self. There is a mental body. There is no identification with it. It's known to be a tool, which becomes increasingly clear toward the end of 6th density.

The shift into 7th density brings the complete dissolution of the mental body. One cannot go back. This is akin to the drop of water falling into the ocean. The drop of water doesn't cease to exist but you can no longer point to it and say, "Here is this drop of water." It is part of the greater thing, of ocean, and has lost its self-identity. And yet, if it was a very pure drop of water, it brings that purity to the ocean. If it was a very polluted drop of water, it brings that pollution.

As beings come back to 7th density and release the self, they come back into that undifferentiated awareness of 1st density, but with the difference, the same difference you find in a newborn infant or a wise and loving elder. The elder has matured, has had the opportunity to bring forth wisdom and compassion.

I don't like to use the term "purify the emotions" so much as to suggest that what happens is the shift into innate purity, that which has always been pure, and the increasing ability to rest in that innate purity. When you do that, the energy is taken away from the heavy emotions. That is the condition that kept them going, so they resolve themselves. All that's left is the innate purity.

An image some people find helpful here to clarify the process of move into 4th density. If you have a full bowl of water, full to the top, and you drop in a pebble so that ripples are created, the ripples will cause the water to slosh over the side of the bowl. If you see that happening and say, "Oh no, the water may not spill over," and reach your hand out, try to hold the water still, of course it doesn't work. The more you try to hold the water still, the more you create ripples.

The same is true with heavy emotion. We must look carefully at what kind of effort we give to the clarification of emotion. If you see a negative thought or emotion and say, "Oh no, I have to fix it," and attack it, it just brings in more negativity. If you see the increased negativity, and startle still further, "No! No!"- there is still more tension. How do we end the cycle? By ceasing to give energy to negativity or contraction. We'll discuss this in depth.

So you're moving through this progression of densities. There is talk in metaphysics of what is called a New Age, a shift into a 4th density. The whole earth is coming towards this shift, where earth will become a 4th density material plane, the first such 4th density material plane. Those beings who are not ready for that shift will continue to move into material form elsewhere. But many beings are making the shift together. Maybe soon, maybe in a thousand years. But it is happening.

You noticed I've only spoken of 7 densities. I really can't speak of 8th density. I am a high 6th density being. I understand what the move to 7th density will mean. I do not avoid that move out of fear, but my work is to retain the mental body at present so that I can teach in this way. Some beings come back into incarnation to teach, with the vow to be present until all beings find freedom. Other beings choose to do their teaching from the astral plane, not to move into incarnation. For me, this is advantageous. I feel I can teach with more clarity and reach more people in this way.

One choice is not better than the other, to move on or not to move on. Those who move on become the ground that supports all else. They bring their radiant, clear energy to hold that ground firmly, as the metaphorical sea that is ever purer and more radiant.

Where is God in all of this? And what do we do with the fact that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion? Is there really inconsistency between these areas of thought? The Buddha spoke of the Unconditioned as well as the conditioned realm. By Unconditioned we mean that which is, and needs no conditions to be. He called it the Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncreated. The path he taught was to explore the conditioned realm until one breaks through to a direct experience of the Unconditioned.

He did not say that beyond the conditioned realm there was nothing, just void, but he also did not say what this Unconditioned is. He didn't paint the picture of it that some other major religions paint. My conjecture is that he avoided this on purpose because he was teaching in Hindu India where people believed in many gods. There was a lack of personal responsibility. If the gods decree it, I will succeed. If they do not decree it, I will fail. Instead of personal responsibility, one put it on the gods to bring forth or fail to do so.

The Buddha's statement was, "you reap what you sow". It's not up to something out there. You create it yourself. And in that, there is hope, because we're not dependent on somebody to bless us or curse us. The divine is within you. This does not mean that there's not something greater than you. I am not saying that you each are god; only that which we might call god or divinity is in each of you. It is not a self, it is the place where you transcend self that you find the divine. But it is the essence of what every being is. It is the essence of everything.

The only further thing I can say is that as a human being involved in Christian practice and having had a direct revelation of God, and in another incarnation as a Buddhist having had a direct experience of the Unconditioned, they are the same experience, just called by different names. Granted, the direct experience of the Unconditioned is not about some white-bearded man sitting on a cloud with a staff, but the Christian revelation experience is also not that. This is only a concept; this is not the direct experience. The direct experience of divinity is of energy, light and love; power tempered with love; infinite intelligence. And it is not separate from you.

Here again is the metaphor of clear blue sky and the clouds. The clouds seem to block your knowing of this divine aspect of yourself. So many of you struggle to destroy the clouds, thereby setting up new clouds, instead of just relaxing, noting that the clouds will pass, finding those existent patches of blue sky and resting in them. When you're not focused on the clouds, the dissipate, and the clear sky grows.

From Kabir, here is part of a poem.

The Guest is inside you, and also inside me; 
you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed. 
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far. 
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

"The blue sky stretches out farther and farther, 
the daily sense of failure goes away, 
the damage I have done to myself fades, 
a million suns come forth with light, 
when I sit firmly in that world…

It goes on. The line I wanted to bring forth was, "The blue sky stretches out further and further." You begin to know this aspect of yourself and trust it. You develop the practice of how to work skillfully with heavy emotion, knowing you do not need to enact it in the world. You settle ever deeper into the spaciousness and clarity which is the divine self.

As you move deeper into that experience, by whatever path - Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Moslem - you will experience divinity. You will experience the Unconditioned. And then you will see the places where you are not consistent with that experience, and be led to do a bit more clean up. You bring forth the effort to be more honest with yourself and more loving with yourself, and thus further to bring into the world the clarity of your knowing of the divine.

I want to pause here to hear your questions and do an exercise with you. That is all.

Barbara: Aaron would like to hear real questions about your life experience, and how that relates to what he has said this morning.

Q: I'm struck with this: he said one is never enlightened. I wondered if he could say more about that.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Let me modify that statement... Very, very occasionally, there is a being such as the Buddha who comes to that stage of pure enlightenment during a lifetime. Let's call that 100%, the arahat.

There are various stages of enlightenment. For all but that one stage of one stage of arahat, in other words, that final stage of the fully enlightened being, everyone else is becoming enlightened. There may have been profound enlightenment experience, profound clarity and understanding, a very deep ability to live that understanding in the world. There may be no karma to draw you back into a new rebirth, so we're talking about the non-returner, but even that one may not be fully free. No matter how clear you get, there is almost always still more clarity possible. Since so few beings come to that stage of arahat, or even non-returning, the being who does not need to come back, it's not useful to think that just because you've resolved karma and do not need to come back, you're finished.

In technical terms, what we're talking about is a shift from third to the highest level of 6th density without need to go through 4th and 5th and lower 6th densities. At that level, everything is resolved and one simply stands at the brink, making the decision, whether to further resolve into 7th density or to remain accessible to others. As I said, neither choice is better. The one known as Jesus remains accessible, the very highest end of 6th density. The one known as the Buddha is accessible in another way, no longer directly through his mind, since there is no longer a mental body, but as past of the energy that grounds everything.

For the average human being, it's much more helpful to ask, "What do I still have to learn?" and keep going, rather than to simply rest on one's laurels. Does this clarify it?

Barbara: He says he wants to make it clear that he's not saying that full enlightenment is not possible. He is only saying, so what if you're enlightened? Just keep going!

He says, but most of us are not there! Let's hear some practical questions. How does this relate to your everyday life? What kinds of situations come up for you that are difficult and leave you puzzled as to how to work with them skillfully?

Q: I work with children... (hard to hear) are very willing to play games and do the activities together... <>... I learned how to balance my frustrations when I can't control them. I'm trying to learn, when it is appropriate to allow them to express their needs,... and when is it appropriate for me to be the boss, can't think of a good word. I don't want to squelch the children, I don't want to push them down. But in some cases organization is important too. It's a thing I struggle with.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Let us expand this question while using the basic examples M's giving. But let us ask also, when anybody is contradictory and doesn't go the way we'd like them to go, and we feel that we need to go as a group, how do we deal with that in a skillful way? It might be one's parents, partner, boss, coworkers, or neighbor.

When the children are agreeable and happy, you can see there's no tension. Everything is flowing smoothly. When a child resists, that resistant energy feels like something reaching out to push you. It's uncomfortable. The instinctive move is to harden yourself, and often to push back.

This is a fear-based reply. Often there's no longer even fear in it, it's just a habitual reply that originally was grounded in fear. So one cannot necessarily look for fear there, but one can look for the hardening of the body. Tight belly, tight shoulders, feeling pushed, hardening.

The most common next steps are either mindlessly to push back, or as in M's case, to question, to doubt. What should I do? Sometimes the thought may arise, Am I being bad to push back? Will I do harm? So there's some fear or doubt. At some point, generally, one sweeps that doubt away and either backs up or forges ahead, but it's a move based more on fear than kindness and clarity.

The child, or any being, creates opposition and friction. Imagine 2 sheets of paper, one rough and one absolutely smooth. If one side is completely smooth, there can't be friction. No matter how rough the other side, it just slides off. It is your own prickles of fear that create the friction. The other is just being as he or she is.

Two porcupines with their quills out cannot easily slide past each other in a narrow space. But if one's quills are flat, even if the other's quills are out, he will slide past. So the question is, what brings in my own quills? What quiets this prickliness? As always, the answer is kindness. Presence and kindness. Presence to be aware of feeling of tension; and kindness, no condemnation that I'm feeling tension, just holding it in a loving space, Here is tension. I will be witness to it without fear until it dissolves.

Let's use the child as example. He doesn't want to be with the group; he doesn't want to do the group activity. He's creating a disturbance. Your dilemma is that while you deeply understands that this is not wholesome, now it is fear that says no. Seeing that fear, you contract. Love needs to say no, but love is not accessible while you are contracted around the fear. You need to remember compassion is not weak, but is strong. This is not about saying, "Yes, do whatever you like, create chaos", or saying, "No, you may not create chaos". It's about how you say it.

When you can be present with your own discomfort that you're not in control, then you can very skillfully invite the child, "You may join with the group activity or you may sit over there. Here are some crayons. You can color in this book. Those are your choices. Or, you can leave the class today and go out in sit in the outer office." But you're not saying it in a scolding way. You're holding the child and his fear and discomfort, his need, in your heart with respect, not forcing the child but holding the door open for him. You make it clear that he may not harm others, which is a kindness to him, not to allow him to create disturbance and therefore create unwholesome karma of disturbing the class. But it comes from a deeply loving place. The only way to get to that loving place is to be present with your own discomfort that you feel out of control and challenged. Do you have further question?

There is a wonderful pushing exercise we often do around this question. Perhaps we'll have time for it later. I pause.

Barbara: He says, do you understand the difference? He's asking others of you, he says this gets right to the heart of what we're talking about. And he'd like to hear other situations besides that of the children...difficult people or co-worker, a difficult person in your family...

Q: I'm working with severe physical pain. It comes and goes, and I never know when it's going to be there. It leaves my body in such contraction. It comes so quickly I can't work with it. It's so severe I can't find that space around it. It seems like the meditation technique we did over lunch was a slowing down of awareness, became more aware, everything became slower. But this is so fast I can't seem to create that space around it. Is there some way of working with this?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I hear your questions, K. There are two parts to the answer. One is to distinguish more clearly between the pain itself, which is a physical sensation, and your habitual relationship to the pain. So often at the first twinges of pain, we see the mind and body tense. There's fear, "It will be overwhelming." There's anger, "I don't want it. Why me?" And so one separates from one's body, trying to disassociate from the pain to get away from it, to control it, to fix it. Fear of pain is predominant then, more than the pain itself. Can you feel that distinction? I pause.

Q: yes.

Aaron: Coming to know the pain as pain, and the emotional turmoil as emotional turmoil, one can choose which one is predominant in the moment, where to bring one's attention. Then if the physical pain is predominant, one is able to see just the physical pain without this intertwining of emotions. It's not that one denies the emotions; one sees that they are separate and can take each one separately.

It's like juggling. Have you ever juggled? (Q: Not well!) If you see each ball as you catch it, just as that ball, you can keep it going. Five balls are in the air but there's only one in this moment. If you try to think of all the balls and where they are, they'll all crash. There's no denial here, just the decision to stay with just this one ball. To do that, there may need to be a period of deeper opening to the emotions: sadness, fear, anger, and acknowledgment of their presence. Make enough space for them that they can float there, like the ball just hovering in air, waiting for you to catch it. Sometimes one moves to a different object as habit, to avoid the one that is unpleasant. If that happens, you must know it. Watch it, but without judgment.

As for the pain itself, once you come to that point where the pain is pain, empty of fear, when you're present with it in that way, it begins to break down. You start to understand that it is constantly changing. It may be fiery hot or icy cold. It may run up and down the limb, or stay in one place. It may be a strong pinpoint of pain that then breaks up into a hundred different points, or a burning sensation. It may increase itself, like metal turning into a molten globe. Or it may come to that point of almost boiling and then begin to cool. It may shift from one spot in the body to the other.

Again, the different sensations become like different juggling balls. You can't be with all of them but you can be with any one in any moment. It's hard. It's very uncomfortable. There will be the natural wish to be free of this pain. There will be sadness. But instead of the pain being pain, it becomes "this heat" and "that prickle", "this sting" and "that ice". And it moves around. You start to see that it's not solid.

I have found for myself, when I was in a human body, that the more I was able to stay with pain in that way, the less it was experienced as "my pain". And I began to understand that this was the pain of the incarnate sentient being. The pain of having a body with nerve endings. My heart broke open with compassion for all beings experiencing such severe pain, and in that breaking open of the heart there was even more spaciousness. It did not make the pain pleasant, that's not going to happen. But it made it workable. Instead of pain leading to armoring, which deepens the pain experience, the pain leads to softening and kindness, and it is this move that makes it bearable.

There is a beautiful Sufi quote I would offer here: 

Overcome any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain that was entrusted to you. Like the Mother of the world who carries the pain of the world in her heart, each of us is part of her heart and is therefore endowed with a certain measure of cosmic pain. You are sharing in the totality of that pain. You are called upon to meet it in joy instead of self pity. The secret: offer your heart as a vehicle to transform cosmic suffering into joy.

The practice of lovingkindness meditation would be helpful. It's something we will do together with a guided meditation at the end of today.

A number of you have heard this. You've tried to do it, and I think what blocks your doing it is that old friend, "I should". Because you can't seem to conquer the pain, you feel like a failure. You feel, "I should be able to create spaciousness around this pain." With "I should" comes a contraction of the body and the heart. "I should" is not in this moment. Can you feel that? Here you need to note , "judging" , which is just another way of hardening, part of the habit energy toward safety and control. It is very hard to stay in this moment without "I should" and just be with things as they are. Do you have further question? I pause.

Q: I feel little acceptance or respect from a family member. Whatever I say is acknowledged but there is no response to that question or statement. I feel I talk to a wall.

Barbara: In other words, you say, "I need this" and the other person says, "Yes, you need that," but there's nothing else given?

Q: I'm speaking to a wall.

Barbara: Can you give a more concrete example? A hypothetical example is fine, or an actual example.

Q: For instance, I've reached the age where I like to make decisions. But even if I want to make a decision, my son doesn't want to give me his opinion. He says, "It's your own decision."

Barbara: But if you make a decision for yourself, why ask your son?

Q: (Explains she is looking for encouragement.)

Aaron: I am Aaron. I see several aspects to the question. Do you want to make a decision yourself or do you want another's input? Perhaps it is necessary to let your son know what you want, to tell him, "I want encouragement." He may not be able to give that.

This is a difficult issue. You cannot violate another being's free will. You can open a door for another, but you cannot force them through. You can invite a response, but you cannot force a response. Somehow, karmically, you have co-created the present situation. I don't know you well so I cannot speak to you specifically, but the image comes to me of person A who found it hard to hear others, was stuck a bit on their own views. When they elicited others' response, they didn't want to hear it unless it supported their view.

Person B may have said, "I'm not going to respond any more. I'm not heard." Person A did not create that decision in Person B. Person B has free will choice to respond in a wholesome way or not. But Person A planted a seed, and because of the karma between them, Person B reacted in a certain way to that seed. Now Person B is reacting in that way. Person A has changed. All Person A can do is continue to hold the door open to Person B.

A very clear and simple experience that someone shared with me some months ago. This is not a person I knew well, and I met him only once far away from home, so I don't know the outcome of his experience. When his daughter was a child, he had abused her. He was often drunk at that time. And so for several years she experienced his abuse, physical and emotional. Then he attended to his alcoholism, stopped drinking, learned about his abusive behavior. He worked very hard at it. So as an adolescent, his daughter experienced the cessation of his abuse.

Now she is an adult. She will not visit this father. She will not bring her children to visit. He's heartbroken. He says, "I stopped abusing her. I did what I could." He cannot make her change. Her heart is still closed. All he can do is understand the ways he participated in the situation, truly forgive himself and her, and continue to hold the door open by sending notes. He can talk to the daughter, ask her to consider how she is the one now who is abusing, and ask her if she wants to continue to do that, ask what she gets out of it. But he can only ask that from a place of kindness, with humility and forgiveness.

This is an extreme situation, and you have not abused your son. But we give subtle cues to people that we hear them or don't hear them, respect or don't respect them. We set certain things in motion. Sometimes others have set it in motion, yet we're involved in the situation. So you may have not listened to your son and now he can't respond. Or you may have heard your child very well, always been open to him, but because of his own karma he is withdrawn and unable to give you feedback. All you can do is keep holding the door open. If you can speak to him from a place of kindness and respect, let him know, "It hurts me when you cannot speak to me more openly. How can we heal this between us?" Let him know what you want from him, and be sure you can accept it if it is offered.

But you cannot force him to respond simply because it is your need, and you may need to seek elsewhere to find people who can meet your need so that it's not so intense, so that you can have more spaciousness and patience with the one who cannot meet your need.

Looking at this specific example, it feels important to ask if your son is indeed giving you the feedback you do want, that is, the freedom to make your own decision? I pause.

Barbara: He say he thinks what's so important for you to do is to ask yourself, in what way may I have contributed to this situation as it is now? Have I done the clean-up that I need to do? Because all you can do is examine your own heart, and then depending on the age of the son, be able to say to him, "I've done my share, the ball is in your court, so to speak. What do you want here? What would allow you to be more responsive to me?" He says to say it once when you have his clear attention, and then to let it go, to let him know you love him regardless whether he is able to respond or not.

Barbara: You'll notice that we are deviating somewhat from the schedule here. It's very difficult to set a precise schedule at the beginning of the day, not knowing what the group's needs will be..

Aaron suggested an exercise earlier, and we're going to do it now. Some of the people from Deep Spring have done this with me before. We'll form pairs and literally take turns pushing one another in a gentle way. The person who is pushing and the person who is being pushed have the need to be mindful. It's not just for the person being pushed to watch how they experience it, but also how you feel when you push somebody. Of course, your intention is not to harm. We're doing this as an exercise. And yet, for some people it's going to be hard to push another, even knowing there's going to be no harm. So it's important to be mindful with that.

I'll demonstrate it.

(taping off and on)

Being pushed, we feel the experience of tension, which becomes just habit. Pushed/ tense! Tension will come. What happens when there is tension around the tension? What happens when there's no tension around it? Just relaxed, watching "pushed", and then watching, "contracting". Let it be as it is, so that one comes deeper and deeper into a spacious place, even as one tenses. Do you understand what I mean?

Use an erratic pattern of pushing so there's no sense of expectation. (pause, demonstration in progress)

So I'd like you to form pairs... (group forms pairs)

(taping off and on)

As home exercise, please reflect: what do you experience as the strongest push in your life? For some of you it may be the way the physical body pushes at you. For some it may be something in a relationship, feeling responsibility for another, your need to take care of another. For some, a push may be something around sadness or loss. For some it may be a very ongoing emotional push, maybe somebody taking care of an ill parent, or somebody with small children with incessant demands, constantly feeling pushed. It may be a needy friend, or a boss that's constantly pushing you.

Question 1: What is it that pushes at me? What do I experience now in my life as a major push.

Question 2: How have I habitually related to that push? Is there a certain habit energy I have going with it, like, "I shouldn't mind this." That's one kind of habit. Or, "I have to overcome this, I have to fix it." That's another kind of habit. Or denial... Many possibilities... What has been your habit energy with this push?

Question 3: How could I do this differently?, Without changing the circumstance - the ill parent is still there, the job pressure is still there, the child who needs your care is still there, the abusive person is still there - in what way can I relate to this in a different, more spacious way?

Tomorrow I'd like to go around and hear what you discovered as you reflected about this. If you have somebody at home, a partner, a friend, a child, anybody, with whom to do this pushing exercise, try it some more at home. What happens when I get pushed? Because this is how our lives are. Things are constantly pushing. We can't always change the push. If we can, we skillfully do that. If we can't, how do we relate to it? How do we relate to it in a more skillful way so there's less suffering with it? For ourselves and for others. How do we say no to the pushing in an appropriate way?


Barbara: (beginning lost) …and what you find is if you look at what was the push 3 months ago, the habit energy was probably the same. We just transfer that habit energy from one push to another push, we just keep doing it the same way. So, the way we deal with pain in our body is probably the way we also deal with the pain-in-the-neck neighbor.

I asked: What is the predominant push right now? What has been my habitual way of dealing with it? And what possibilities are there? What else might I do with it? What might be a less fear-based response to it?

Let's go around and hear, how did you respond to this exercise? And there's no right way to respond...

Q: I found I didn't have a firm seat, and so I never could relax and go with the push. I couldn't wiggle around and get firmly placed in order to be able to relax.

Barbara: So you needed something to lean back on, you'd feel secure. (Q: Yes.) Aaron is saying, can you see that as a metaphor in the relationship? Can you see how insecurity leads to need to control? (Q: yes)

(tape turned off and on)

…Finding that firm resting place from which we can respond skillfully to pushes.

Q: It kept my body tense all the time.

Barbara: He's asking you to reflect tonight, in what ways is your body tense often around all the everyday pushes. What body pain does this create? How might there be more openness of the body, more spaciousness. In what ways is your body bearing that tension. He says, maybe even just around anticipation of the push, not the actual push.

Q: I was doing this with a partner. I was trying to be very playful with her. For me, what happened was initially there were a couple of pushes and I was relaxed. Then there were unexpected pushes around my face and my head and I felt fear.

Barbara: Aaron says, when you felt fear, did the whole body contract around that fear, or was the fear just fear?

Q: I think it was just fear....

Barbara: He says the important point here of course is that sometimes there will be fear, and we don't have to analyze it and say, "why do I not feel fear at my abdomen but I feel fear at my face?" Simply, here there's fear. That's how it is. Not necessarily to analyze it to death, just to know that if fear arises out of these conditions, that's just one more push. I relax with it. He says, can you feel the difference?

If fear comes up just around the face, then we say, "well that shouldn't happen. Why is that happening? How do I fix it?" This questioning is just more fear. The analysis is a form of trying to control, wanting to be back in control. When we can see that, we don't have to go after that and try to fix it.

Aaron: I am Aaron. I will say this for myself. There is a vast difference between attending to fear, which means taking care of fear, and trying to fix fear, which involves not only the experience of its unpleasantness but a judgment that it's bad. Something doesn't have to be bad to attend to it. It's not bad if Barbara spills the water glass, but it would be skillful to wipe it up. Nothing is broken, but we attend to it.

Attending comes from a place of love. Fixing comes from a place of fear. Can you feel the difference? I pause. (Q: Yes.)

New Q: For attending and fixing, what I sometimes want to fix - someone else - my son, maybe all my sons! That's judgment. Shouldn't I change it, and not judge?

Barbara: So you're saying, when "I want to fix" comes up, mind runs to condemn the self for judging? This is like a horse coming by and just because it's running past you, you believe, "I have to jump on it." Fear comes running by and it's just fear. When I say, "it's just fear", I mean it has arisen from conditions and is just a movement of the mind. You don't have to jump on it. You don't have to fix it. Aaron says, wherever we catch it, we catch it. There can be fear and the judgment, "I have to fix it", and then a feeling of shame, "Why don't I get this right?" Mind just keeps building one story on top of another until the point where one suddenly realizes, "Where am I going with this?"

Come back. Take a deep breath. Just be present and know tension. Breathing in, I am aware of tension, breathing out, I smile to the tension. I smile creating a spacious container for it. It will go. In a sense, the more catalyst that comes up, the better; the more chance to practice! Each time it comes up it's an opportunity to look at it and say, "Ah, here's another judgment! They're coming faster!"...

Instead of saying, "Oh no! Not another one!", there can be a whole sense of relaxing and trusting your lives, knowing, whatever comes up, it's just a chance to practice. And the things that catch you are the things where you must need practice. I agree, judgment can be hurtful, but you won't stop it by judging it.

Aaron is saying, if a child in school is excellent on arithmetic, you don't keep throwing them addition and subtraction of 1 digit numbers. Give them a challenge. They're never going to learn if you just keep saying, what's 3 and 1? These difficulties are your challenge!

Aaron: I am Aaron. I will speak for myself. Basically you offer an intention. Your highest intention is to grow spiritually, to find out who and what you really are, and to bring that radiance into the world. There also may be a very real intention to do that with some degree of safety and comfort. But because there is the intention for growth, there's going to be the intention to move yourself off into those areas that are a bit difficult. Consider the new swimmer who has been swimming back and forth in the shallow water, clinging to the side of the pool. Eventually he or she must let go and swim out a little into the open water. Otherwise, there's no growth possible. Growth comes from letting go.

Stepping off into just beyond what seems possible and finding out, "This also is okay." So you've already made the choice.

Some of you look around at people whose lives seem easy. Of course, they're not always going to be smooth, even that person someday is going to age, get sick, perhaps, die, lose loved ones. But meanwhile, right now, their lives seem very smooth. Everybody needs an R&R break now and then. It's OK to choose that for yourself, to say, right now I just need to stop for awhile. But eventually the strong aspiration for growth comes forth again, because you see that you are caught in unwholesome patterns that cause harm to yourself and others. And there is the deep aspiration to move beyond harm.

Once you start on this path, there's really no way out but through. Go at your own pace. But if catalyst starts coming toward you fast and hard, instead of tensing up and saying, "Oh, no! It's going to overwhelm me!" relax and just know, "This is part of what I have karmically invited, and the results can be quite wholesome and good if I allow it."

Yes, the judgment may cause pain to you and your sons. Attend to it with this care and concern, knowing when it arises. Feel the mind tighten and that a judgment is about to come. Note it, "judging," or even, "impulse to judge," not yet out in full. Know it comes from both fear and from habit. Know you have no need to believe the judgment. But there is no need to get a stick and chase it away with shouts of "bad, bad!" Just let it be, without believing in its story. It will go. This is attendance. I pause.

New Q: I kind of found the pushing exercise to be fun. R sometimes surprised me by being stiff, resistant. Those times helped me to think about resistances that I make up, that are sometimes real and sometimes not real. But overall it went smoothly, I would say.

Barbara: When you say resistance that you make up, can you give an example?

Q: When she became resistant, I said to myself, what am I doing wrong here? Why is she resisting me? (I was pushing in this instance.) It's my fault.

Barbara: So you took blame for her stiffness, or felt responsible for it? Yet you were doing exactly what you were asked to do, and not acting with any harmful intent. There is a clear pattern to look at, the taking responsibility, and even blame, for that for which you're not responsible.

Aaron: I am Aaron. You have commented on the different relationships with your different children, that one is challenging. You've told me that in the past there was anger going both ways with this challenging child and that you felt responsible for his anger. I think this is a very valuable insight for you, to see that you have a pattern to take responsibility for another's reaction. Another person may be uncomfortable with your truth, but if it is said with no intent to harm, their anger is not your fault, just a statement of their discomfort. It's valuable always for all of you to ask not, what am I doing wrong, but, am I speaking or acting with the primary intention to cause pain in this other person, or is this reaction just an expression of their pain and discomfort?

Ask it with a willingness to be honest, and if you get a "No, I'm not doing anything with malicious intent", can you let go of their response, just allow them their discomfort?

If you're always on the apologetic end, even though in truth you've not done anything wrong, the other person may continue their negative behavior just to make you defensive. But when you refuse to be put on the defensive by their negative behavior, and also do not take an offensive stance, but just are there, willing to absorb their negative behavior and feed back the energy, eventually there's no more reactivity. The person is not getting anything out of continuing to give forth negative behavior. They're not getting a rise out of you; they're not getting a sense of defeat or guilt out of you. There's nothing from you to support their negative behavior. They may still continue on. They may not. Do you understand where I'm going with this? I pause.

Barbara: He says this is for all of you who have children who are sometimes a bit angry, it's important to look and say, "Am I participating in this anger through something I'm doing? Am I acting aggressive or controlling in some way? Or am I taking the guilt, saying, 'Well if he's being angry, I must have done something wrong.'" Let it be. But it's okay if he's angry. He can just be angry until he's ready to stop being angry.

Aaron says, but one also can say, "Your anger is very unpleasant. I don't choose to be around it." To make it clear that you still love that person but it's not acceptable to dump their anger on you. That reply is different from feeling guilty.

New Q: For me, living in Japan, I'll be pushed and shoved every day when I get on the train, so that wasn't the shock I expected. But when M touched my head, it was disconcerting for me. I guess because there's never a situation where that happens. It didn't make me angry, it just made me feel my space was invaded. Whereas your space is invaded every day during rush hour here, so it's not something I'm not used to. But around the head, I'm not.

Barbara: We boarded the train at rush hour a few days ago. I observed something very interesting. As we stepped onto the train, 6 of us, there was a man in his 30s standing near the door. Suddenly there was a big crowd of people. He had his eyes open and he closed his eyes and he inhaled. He just drew into himself and his face became a mask. Yet I could feel such strong energy coming out. It was interesting to me because I'm not used to that kind of pushing. I saw the ways that one can deal with the discomfort of such pushing by control, which is what he was doing, vs. by open hearted spaciousness, where there's nothing to repress.

It would be an interesting experiment, I think, when you're on the train at rush hour, and feeling pushed, this is a perfect place to do this exercise. Can you let yourself feel the discomfort of being pushed? If it's anger, it's okay that there's anger. How much habit energy is there that says there shouldn't be anger, or that says to control the anger with judgment?

But if anger comes and we know, this is just the way things are, then the energy shifts. Instead of being controlled, there's a softness that can happen. Just with things as they are, knowing they're very uncomfortable, and that's okay.

New Q: I have a question about the opening of the heart. An open heart is good. It's not supposed to cause you pain. I've had a lot of chest pain in the last, maybe 1 month. A psychic I talked to told me I was too open, that I was too sensitive, and I'm feeling the collective societal angst when I'm riding the trains. So, I guess my question is, the difference between the opening and the protecting of the self.

Aaron: I am Aaron. This comes back to our selfish/selfless question. There is no such thing as too open a heart. There is such a thing as being somebody who is determined to open their heart, who feels they "should" open their heart and take on others pain, for neurotic reasons or even for reasons of truly wanting to alleviate suffering. The distinction is this.

When my heart is truly open, it's part of the infinite heart, and it can hold anything. But when there is a concept of me, and the idea of "I should open my heart", I'm still a limited me and I can't contain that pain. I'm asking myself as an individual to take something that's too big for me. Before the heart can open thoroughly, there's got to be a connection to the infinite. It's a gradual connection that happens. The whole opening is a process. It doesn't happen always in the same pattern, but it's an onward flow. We feel what pulls us back into the self. We attend to our fear with kindness and presence. We begin to find more compassion for other people's situations and for our own. The sense of interconnection deepens, the heart we all share, the pain we all share. And then, the heart is more open and able to make space for more pain. It's a gentle movement, sometimes difficult but never forced.

So, I think in your situation, what would be most helpful is two things. To watch for this "I should", "I should be openhearted", which creates a somebody. Instead, let the question be, "where is spaciousness here? Where is kindness?" Not, "I should feel it", simply, can I open to the spaciousness and kindness of the universe and participate in it?

Second, I would very much suggest that you work with the compassion meditation we're going to do at the closing today. I think you'll find it very helpful. I pause.

New Q: I think I'm just going to talk about my experience in this exercise. So, I had a lot of fun, but beforehand, before we started, I was more anxious, because I wanted to partner with my friend, because I knew I could push him without fear. But I was afraid if I had to be with somebody new, that I wouldn't, that I would be more worried about them and not as free to push easily. Or, that I should be more careful.

Barbara: Aaron asks, can you feel how this relates to H's question? When he asked, "Am I giving offense? What am I doing wrong?"

Aaron: I am Aaron. We all have stories, special story lines that you have lived with all of your life. A friend calls them the Top Ten Hit Parade, the songs that are most popular in your repertoire. "What am I doing wrong?" is on many people's hit list. "I'm bad, I'm unworthy." That's a number 1 bestseller! Will people love me? Will I be safe? Will my needs be met? Am I good enough? These are habitual response stories that come up repeatedly in different kinds of situations. This is why I ask you to look at the predominant habit around a certain kind of push, because I expect when we talk tomorrow, many of you are going to find this, "I must be doing something wrong" or "Am I good enough?" or "Will I hurt somebody?"

Unworthiness is a frequent visitor for travelers on a spiritual path. The younger soul knows that people will step on him and he will step on others. When he steps on others, he just shrugs and says, "Well, everybody does it sometimes." There's not a lot of soul-searching about it, up to a certain point of the journey.

And then a shift begins to occur, and that being begins to realize, "I cannot harm others." And yet, the same emotions still come up, the same fear and greed and anger. But now there's a new element. When anger comes up, shame and judgment arise with it. "I shouldn't be angry." "I shouldn't be greedy." "I shouldn't be afraid." These come up largely because of the strong intention not to harm, and the fear, "What if this force arises in me in a manner so strong I lose control, and do that which I am determined not to do?"

For so many of you, as you approach the last parts of your third density spiritual journey, there's a strong aspiration, "I want to come home. Enough of this heavy density, I want to come home." However you've experienced that home, there's often a sense, supported by many of your religious traditions, that you must purify your energy. The taste you have of that divine spaciousness is clear and filled with light. Beside it, what you see as the shadow in yourself feels irreconcilable, and you despair of ever being free of that shadow. You understand that the shadow cannot be carried into the home. But you don't understand the whole process that we call purification, which is not about destroying the shadow so much as simply slipping out of identification with it and stepping into the light, being that radiant clarity that you are without contraction around the shadow. This idea to destroy the shadow is the primary myth that so many of you carry.

The religions that most of you are most familiar with carry this distortion very deeply in them. It is not the heart of the religion but a distortion created by those who practiced the religion and brought a fear distortion into it.

A friend who was a Buddhist monk in Thailand talks of coming to a monastery with a sign over the gate in the Thai language, "No anger permitted here." He shrugged and he thought, "I guess I can't go there."

There is a sutra that says, "Abandon the unwholesome," and people often mistake that "abandon" to mean destroy. But destruction is always destruction, and involves giving energy to it. To abandon is always to say no and turn your back to it. Not to get involved in the stories of that negative energy. The Christian scriptures have the same distortion written in, in interpretation of scriptures, such as, "Thou shalt not" have certain emotions. But what do I do if I have them? The intention was not to forbid with a statement , "you are evil if this happens," but to guide, to know distortion as distortion so it can be attended.

To take this step, then, into increased clarity is to find the balance whereby what arises out of conditions will continue to arise until the conditions are no longer present for it to arise. We see it arise. We determine not to enact it in the world but to hold a space for it until it dissolves. We don't condemn ourselves. We don't move into the story, "I'm bad, I'm unworthy because this arose". But only, "here is anger, here is greed." That means at some level there is fear and misunderstanding. Can there be compassion for this human that you are, caught right now in the pain of this emotion? This is how we abandon the heavy emotion, by abandoning the self-identity with it, and the old story that says, "I am bad because this occurs." I pause.

New Q: For instance, when Barbara said, "Let's push each other," I saw A pushing M in her face. So, if I would push my husband in the face, for example, he would become angry and push me back hard. But if you do it among friends, if you know beforehand, then it's not dangerous. Because I could never push anyone in the face unless I saw this demonstration.

Barbara: I don't think anybody here would just walk up to somebody in the street, or to a friend or family member without any explanation, and push. That would be a hurtful thing to do. But if you came home and explained to your husband, "We did an exercise, talking about how different things in our life push us, and how we react to that push, and I found it very helpful experiencing that push and seeing how I tighten up around it. Would you like me to show it to you?" And he might say, "No, I'm not interested." In which case you have to respect that. Or he might say, "Let's try it." Then it's different. Basically what we're doing is offering a situation where the intention is not to harm. Whereas, if you just walk up to your husband or anybody and push, you can't do that without some intention to harm.

We will have more time for sharing and questions tomorrow. I want to speak about one more thing before we end today, which is to take our meditation instructions a step further. We have talked about physical sensations. Let's talk more about thoughts and emotions and look at how the meditation might flow. .

Think of an unpleasant sensation like an itch. There is the itch and a tension of wanting to scratch. First the itch is predominant. Feeling how strong that is. And as you sit with it and breathe with it, it fades. Back to the breath. It comes again but this time, the aversion is very strong. Note the aversion. The itch may pass, and also the aversion. Come back to the breath. Itching again, and intense desire to scratch. The desire to scratch is not the itching or burning sensation. Fell it as impulse, or as "wanting." Another few seconds may pass, or a long time. Noting, "impulse to scratch," or "wanting to scratch." Feel the tension off that wanting in the body.

Suddenly it's gone and a thought might come up. What am I going to do tonight? "Planning." As soon as the mind goes there, and you catch it going there, note, "planning", and then immediately come back to the breath, because you're not planning any more. The itch comes back, and almost immediately the pull to scratch it. Note the tension of wanting,. Just stay with it until it changes or dissolves., Don't try to fix it or chase it away. Don't try to force the attention away from it. Just be present with "wanting," or "tension." As it finally changes or dissolves, return to the breath.

Breathing in, breathing out. But what do I have to do tonight? The thought becomes insistent. "Thinking, thinking," and return to the breath, "breathing in, breathing out."

"But tonight, what do I have to do?" At this point, planning is not predominant, but this compulsive, grasping kind of energy. Simply note it as "grasping, tension." The label is not a big deal, just a way of bringing your attention to the object. "Grasping." To be there with the grasping energy that wants to plan is very different than planning. Can you feel that? You're not planning, you're just watching this wanting to plan, no different than wanting to scratch the itch.

"Breathing in, I'm aware of grasping; breathing out I'm aware of grasping". How does it feel in the body? Where is it centered? Where is grasping energy without any of its stories? Not good or bad grasping, just grasping. Like everything, eventually it will change. As that strong impulse begins to resolve itself, come back to the breath.

See the difference here between the thought, that dies away immediately and impulse , which is energetic and stays for awhile.

The emotions are more like physical sensations; they stay for some time. They may come as joy, or sorrow, anger, feelings of kindness and gratitude, impatience. The emotions and physical sensations can be difficult to deal with because we have so much habit energy, so much fear. Basically we offer the same instruction for the emotions and the body sensations, knowing itching as itching, small as small, knowing anger as anger. What is the direct experience of anger? That's very different than the "How am I going to fix it?" or "Who's to blame?" which are stories that come out of anger. Can you feel the difference?

Do you understand what I mean by stories that come out of anger? The anger is just an energetic movement, and then the mind goes into its routine stories, "Who's to blame? How do I fix it? What will happen?" Aversion, fear, grasping, are just energy felt in the body and mind. Then the story comes. The experience of anger is no longer predominant, but the wanting to fix, to be in control of the anger, comes. That grasping energy is a special kind of energy, impulse energy. If we know it as energy, it stops there. If we don't recognize it as energy, and are very uncomfortable with it, then the stories begin as an habitual way of escape. To stay with the direct experience is to stay with , "don't know," feeling out of control.

What is impulse? One of the useful ways to watch impulse energy is while eating. Watch the impulse to go for a new mouthful. Watch the impulse to take different food. You don't always have to follow the impulse. What happens when you just note it?.

When you put the food in your mouth, there's a strong impulse to chew. What happens if you hold the food in your mouth for a few seconds, even 10, 15, 30 seconds, without chewing? Just feeling the food in your mouth. Get to know impulse, how impulse energy feels, and that just because there's an impulse doesn't mean we have to be a slave to it. It's okay; it's just an impulse.

The impulse that comes up in meditation, if there's a strong thought or emotion, then wanting to fix, that's just the habit we have with that emotion. Wanting to fix. Impulse. Can I be with that impulse energy, which is sometimes very strong and unpleasant, and see how much I want to resolve that unpleasantness? I might be aware, "if I go with the impulse, or the story, then I won't have to experience the tension of 'Don't Know'." That's really what it is, anger and don't know.

Anger and don't know!. Don't know how it's going to work out. Don't know if it will be painful or not. Don't know if I'll feel safe or not. Don't know. Here is anger, here is jealousy, pride, greed, whatever might have come up. Don't know. No one to blame, nothing to fix, just here with it. Don't know.

Impulse; wanting to fix. Be with whatever is predominant. As it changes or dissolves, come back to the breath. We just keep doing it over and over and over again. We see our habits, our long-held habits, face on and sometimes they're not very pretty. We find a little compassion for ourselves. We've brought forth these habits because at some level we needed to. Now maybe we've come on a different more skillful way of being with these energies. Then there's so much freedom and so much peace because whatever comes, you're just there. It doesn't unbalance you. Whatever comes up, that's what came up.

It can be very painful, but there is also peace. Sometimes life is painful. The summer before last, my brother, my only sibling, with whom I was very close all my life, died unexpectedly. He was young, he was active, and had been in seemingly good health but he had a sudden heart attack and he died. It was very powerful for me to realize how firm my practice was, that I was able to experience sadness, grief, pain, and not build any stories of, "Will I be safe? Is he safe? Why did it happen? Who's to blame? Could he have gotten better emergency care somewhere else?" Just, okay this happened. There was such a sense of letting go. So it was painful but there was no suffering. There was a very big difference from the way I had experienced my father's death some years earlier, where my mind went off to many stories like, "the nursing home didn't take good care of him, they should have done this or that."

Here there was just pain and response to that pain.. It's a very powerful kind of freedom. It just all flows.

Let's sit for a few minutes, and then Aaron will start the guided meditation called Compassion or in the Pali language, Karuna Meditation. There are different kinds of guided meditations that resemble each other. Lovingkindness is the offering of loving wishes to ourselves and others. Compassion takes it a step further. It looks deeply at others' pain and offers them love; that's what we're going to do. We'll explain it as we go along. And then we'll sit silently until 6 o'clock.

Aaron: I am Aaron. Traditionally this meditation often begins with the self and progresses to a loved one and a neutral person, and a difficult person. My experience is for many of you, you are your own most difficult person, and that it is helpful to begin with a loved one. So I offer this order different from the tradition.

Compassion (Karuna)
A Guided Meditation
A very similar, formatted version of this has been substituted. You may wish to work with the neutral person first, using the same words. Neem Karoli Baba)

To be read to yourself or shared aloud with a friend. Please pause at each space between lines. 

Traditionally loving-kindness meditation begins with the self. I find that in your culture it is very difficult for many people to offer loving wishes to themselves, and so we begin with one to whom it is easier to offer such thoughts and then come around to the self later. In the traditional practice, one also offers loving wishes to a neutral person before the difficult one. Here I have left out this step to make the practice shorter. Please include it if you wish. 

Compassion is not forgiveness, which is a further step, but only the opening of your heart to the pain of all beings and wishing them well. 

There is no wrong or right way to do this practice. If resistance arises, simply note it and reenter the meditation in whatever way you are able. You are not requested to dive all the way in but only to enter as deeply as is comfortable. 

As you work with this practice, please modify it and make it your own. 

* * * * * 

Find a comfortable position, body relaxed, back erect, eyes closed softly. 

Bring to the heart and mind the image of one for whom there is loving respect. This person may be a dear friend, parent, teacher, or any being with whom the primary relationship is one in which you have been nurtured. 

We often take such a person for granted, see what is offered to us but fail to see deeply into that being's situation. Look deeply at that being, deeper than you ever have before, and see that he or she has suffered. He has felt pain of the body or the heart. She has known grief, loss, and fear. He has felt loneliness and disconnection. She has been lost and confused. Along with the joy, see the ways this dear one has suffered. 

Speaking silently from the heart, note this one's pain, offering first the person's name.

You have suffered. You have felt alone or afraid. You have known pain in your body and your mind. You have known grief and loss. You have felt alienation, and the constriction of the closed heart. Your life has not always brought you what you might have wished. You have not been able to hold on to what you loved or to be free of what brought pain. You have suffered. 

What loving thoughts can you offer to this dear one? Let the thoughts come with the breath, arising and moving out. 

May you be free of suffering. 
May you find the healing that you seek. 
May you love and be loved. 
May your heart open and flower. 
May you know your true nature. 
May you be happy. 
May you find peace.

Please continue silently, repeating these or alternate phrases for several minutes. Go slowly. Allow your heart to connect with this dear one, to open to his or her pain and offer these wishes, prompted by the loving heart. I will be quiet. 

(Longer pause) 

Now, let this loved one move aside and in his or her place invite in your own self. It is sometimes hard to open our hearts to ourselves. What blocks this love? Just for the sake of experiment, please try to follow the practice and see how it feels, even if it is difficult-but always without force. 

Look deeply at the self and observe that, just as with the loved one, you have suffered. Speaking to yourself, say: 

I have suffered. I have felt pain of the body and the mind. I have known grief, loss, and fear. I have felt loneliness and disconnection, felt lost and confused. I have not been able to hold on to what I loved, nor to keep myself safe from that which threatened me. I have suffered. 

See the ways you have suffered. Without engaging in self-pity, simply observe the wounds you have borne. 

Speaking silently from the heart, this time to your own self, say your name. 

What do you wish for yourself? 

May I be free of suffering. 
May I find the healing that I seek. 
May I love and be loved. 
May my heart open and flower. 
May I know my deepest connection with All that Is. 
May I be happy. 
May I find peace. 

Please continue silently, repeating these or alternate phrases for several minutes. Go slowly. Allow your heart to connect with your deepest self, to open to your pain and longing, and to offer wishes prompted by the loving heart. I will be quiet. 

(Longer pause) 

Now let the self move aside, and in its place invite in one with whom there has been hard feeling. It is best not to choose the heaviest relationship at first, but allow yourself to practice with a less difficult relationship and then move slowly to those relationships that bring up heavier emotions. 

It is so painful to maintain separation. A wise teacher said, "Never put anyone out of your heart." What blocks opening? 

Letting go, we invite the open heart. 

If it is difficult, use no force. Note resistance. 

For the sake of experiment, you might follow the practice just to see how it feels. Please express your own pain too, as you speak to this one. Can you feel the space where your pain and that person's pain are one? 

Say this one's name. Speak from your heart. 

You have hurt me, through your words, your acts, even your thoughts. 
Through what came from you I have experienced pain.

When I look deeply, I see that you have suffered. You have felt alone and afraid. You have known pain in your body and your mind. You have felt loss and grief, have felt alienated, felt your heart closed. Your life has not always brought you what you might have wished. 

May you be free of suffering. 
May you find the healing that you seek. 
May your heart open and flower. 
May you love and be loved.

I invite you now to bring your attention where your heart prompts. Others may come into your heart and mind, asking for this attention, this acknowledgment. Seeing them deeply and wishing them well. You may choose to extend these wishes out to the earth itself, to nations, to political leaders, to the environment. If you wish at this point, lay the meditation aside and simply come back to your breath. We'll sit in silence for a few minutes until the bell.


Throughout this earth, beings are suffering. We include each sentient being in our circle of well-wishes, <putting> outward and outward to beings of every sort without exclusion. Feel the wonderful possibility of opening your heart in this way.

May all beings everywhere be free of suffering. 
Whatever living beings there may be, whether they are great or small, omitting none, may all beings feel the power of these loving wishes. 
May all beings everywhere be happy and find peace. 


Barbara: I want to thank you all for sharing yourselves with me today. We'll do more tomorrow.

Q: (someone is asking to go over the steps)

Barbara: We start with a benefactor, someone who has supported or helped us, somebody who has loved us. Ourselves. If you have time, include a neutral person. And then a difficult person. And then spreading outward, wherever you feel inclined to go, whatever needs your compassion at that moment. Your sick cat, your unhappy aunt or uncle. The neighbor kid down the street who fell off his bike and skinned his knees, <>.

Aaron used a specific set of words but you can use the wishes that feel most <important> to you. You don't need his wishes. Whatever your heart prompts. Keep it simple. It's fine to repeat the same wishes over and over.

I'll see you tomorrow morning. Have a pleasant evening.

Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Brodsky