Berkeley Retreat
July 12, 2008

Saturday morning (part 1 (morning) of 2 for the day)

Keywords: non-duality, habit energy, compassion, emotions, past lives, karma (heart opening, healing, releasing negativity) equanimity, unworthiness

Barbara: ... (Barbara's introduction was only partially transcribed, as it was a repetition of the previous days). So my meditation had evolved into this space where I was watching my breath, watching other objects as they arose into my experience, knowing when they were pleasant or unpleasant. Watching how I related to the objects. And also, becoming deeply aware of that innate spaciousness of being, where I wasn't going out to the objects or pulling back from the objects but just seeing them. Sometimes when I travel I bring a bottle of child's bubbles, blow bubbles. They float and then they burst. They arise because I dip the wand into the bubble solution, blow, and there's a bubble, and then poof! It's gone. They arise from conditions and pass away. Feelings, thoughts and body sensations are the same. They're not me.

So I had this practice as a background when I lost my hearing... (continuing on with introduction)

...I just began spending time working with Aaron, sharing Aaron with people. That 6 people in my living room turned into a dozen, turned into 2 and 3 dozen. One of the students said, let us form a non-profit organization to take the organizational end of things off your back. We were needing to rent space because it was too big for the living room and so forth. So Deep Spring Center was born.

The name Deep Spring came to me because we're all learning to access this very deep spring within ourselves, but it's not my spring or your spring, it's simply THE spring. It's the heart we all share, to live our lives from that heart, to keep ourselves grounded in that heart.

We are Deep Spring Center for Meditation and Spiritual Inquiry. There are now many students in Ann Arbor. There are probably a thousand on our mailing list around the country. There are, I think, 10 meditation teachers at this point and 6 more who are completing their third year of a three-year Teacher Training program. So these people are taking care of the meditation end of things. The spiritual inquiry basically is Aaron. I've taught classes on how to channel but there's nobody else doing the work of channeling as part of Deep Spring. Rather, we have emphasized the importance of people connecting with their own guides, for their own use.

So I teach meditation throughout the country, throughout the world, really, and do workshops with Aaron. It's a wonderful life. It's been wonderful to share this. People are asking the same questions wherever I go: who am I? Why am I here? How do I live my life with love? What do I do about the negativity within myself, the anger, the fear? How do I work with these experiences skillfully? How do I work with depression? How do I work with the judging mind? How do I love more completely?

(continuing on with intro of Aaron)

...So he emphasizes he's not a Buddhist, and Deep Spring is not a Buddhist center, we're an interfaith center. I'm an interfaith minister. But I have immense respect for the teachings of the Buddha, for the dharma, for this practice of vipassana. Passana means "seeing" and vipassana means deeper, clearer seeing. It's just the practice of seeing deeper with clarity, with love. It is a path to freedom, so this is what I teach. Amongst my Buddhist colleagues I am recognized as a Buddhist teacher, but I keep dodging that Buddhist label.

So that's enough about who I am. Let me tell you one more thing. I know a few of you have been to see John of God, yes? Who has been there? Lots of you! Most of you. (Many are going together in August too, for a first or repeat trip)

(Barbara's intro about John of God, and DSC materials resources available)

What I'd like to do now is go around the room and hear from each of you briefly...

(introductions not recorded)

Barbara: (resuming?) So much of the learning for me this year was about the simultaneity of the relative and the ultimate. On one level I'm deaf, and on another level I've never been deaf. When they worked with the balance, and more this year with the vision–(continuing on with introductory comments about Casa experience)

We get into a concept of self-limits and the beliefs in those limits, and define ourselves by those limits. Clearly I'm not a hearing person in the sense that the rest of you are, and yet I hear, of course I hear.

I saw that the teaching about the eye and about balance was a way of reminding me not to get caught into the limit of believing myself to be a deaf person, in which case I would just keep remanifesting deafness, but to really know the hearing. So this teaching was so much about healing and what heals. To let ourselves know the ever-healed and trust that essence of ever-healed in ourselves and in the world rather than constantly trying to create something as if it's not already there. So just a thought as you go to the Casa–there's nothing to fix, there's nothing to change. Just open to the feeling/healing that's already there.

I will pause this. Aaron will come in.(pause)

Aaron: I would ask you to center yourselves. Feel the body sitting in the chair. Be aware of the breath coming and going in and out of the body. Feel the blessings of this space where we are surrounded by spiritual friends, pictures of spiritual Masters, crystals with beautiful energy, and flowers. It's such a great blessing to be able to sit together in a room like this. We take it for granted sometimes. But how wonderful it is.

With these reflections, allow the power of gratitude to open the heart. From that open heart of gratitude, bring into your heart and mind your deepest intention, for today and for this part of your life. For those going to the Casa, I'm sure you've thought about your intentions for going there, so bring that in also.

Hold this not as something that you will attain at some point but at that which is already present, like a window that's open behind you but your back is turned to it; all you have to do is turn and open to it. Hold that space of possibility, of love. State your intention that this be for the highest good of all beings and of the Earth itself.

You may open your eyes. My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Thank you for including me in your circle. As Barbara said, don't try to figure out if I'm real or not, just listen with your hearts.

You are spirit and I am spirit. You have a physical body. I have no body, no need to move into incarnation. But for that small difference, we are not so different. I am no longer controlled in any way by the emotional body; the emotional body is refined to experiences of joy and sorrow. But I have a mental body. I have no self-identification with it. I need it as a tool, to come to speak to you.

Hearing you talk about yourselves before, I feel I want to speak to you about non-duality. You are evolving, all of you. Those of you here in this room, you are all old souls. It has nothing to do with chronological age, but rather you have evolved through many lifetimes and you are coming through the final periods of your incarnation process, not necessarily the final lifetime. But all of you have been through the experiences of fear-based consciousness and rational consciousness, a separate human being trying to control things, and all of you have learned it doesn't work.

Some of you feel lost and frustrated because the whole world seems to revolve on this rational consciousness. But your heart sings out your unity with all that is, and to know and live that interconnection, and somehow you sense that only when you begin to live that connection will the world and everything in it thrive. You are on the threshold of the whole world shifting to become what I call 4th density planet, opening into higher consciousness, higher energy vibration, and the breakdown of duality.

Non-duality does not mean you cease to exist. If I hold these fingers up, one would say, "Ah, they're separate fingers." One could paint a face on each one. Yes, they're separate but they're part of the same hand. That doesn't mean the fingers don't exist, that they're merged into one mitten–each one has a function.

The work is to learn to cherish your uniqueness without building stories of separation on that uniqueness, but to allow yourself deeply to know your interconnection with all that is and still cherish the uniqueness and the beauty that is you.

I call you angels in earthsuits (laughter). This radiance, this divine radiance, is the core essence of you. But if that's all there was, you wouldn't be here in incarnation. You are here in the earthsuit. People tell me it's such a burden. The body is heavy and slow. The mind is burdensome. People sometimes tell me, "I have memories of once being telepathic and really being able to communicate; this language is so awkward. Why am I here with this heavy mind and body and the burden of these heavy emotions?"

These are gifts, not problems. You allowed yourself to come into the incarnate experience because you wanted to deepen in compassion. There's a powerful story told about Gurdjieff, that there was a man in his community that was rude to others and he didn't do his share of the work. Nobody liked him. Finally the man said, "I'm not appreciated here," and he left. Gurdjieff went after him and said, "Please come back." The man said, "No way. I'm not coming back there." Gurdjieff said, "I'll pay you to come back." Everybody else paid something to live in the community but Gurdjieff was going to pay this rude man to come back. The others were aghast. "How could you pay him to come back?" He said, "You need him. He is your teacher of compassion."

In the physical body and with the challenging arisings of the emotional body, there's often a tendency to close off and separate yourself. The primary learning of the human is compassion. Each time something is challenging, you want to draw back, you want to judge, and then perhaps you judge yourself for judging. Each time that contraction experience arises, can you remember, "I am an angel, a divine and radiant being, and right here with this judgment, this anger, this fear, is compassion." It's not something you have to go out and get somewhere else, it's right here in this moment. If you think it's not here, you're going to go looking for it, and you don't look in the right place.

Another story from the teaching literature, that rascal Nasrudin, the wise fool. Somebody sees him on his hands and knees under a street lamp. "What are you looking for?" "My key, I lost my key." "Well where exactly did you drop it?" He points up the hill where it's dark. He said, "Up there." "Why are you looking here?" "It's light here." (laughter) You've got to look where things are. If you think compassion is someplace else other than here in this moment, you're not going to find it.

The only limit is your doubt of yourself. When you begin to pay as much attention to that which is beautiful in yourself as that which you judge is wrong with the self, then you're on the road to learning about compassion. How often do you stop and appreciate yourselves? Not very often, I bet. How often do you judge yourself? More often than appreciation?

I'm not saying that you never make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the human experience. Can you open your heart to know the innate loving kindness and compassion that are the essence of your being and begin to offer forgiveness for the human emotions of fear, impatience, anger, frustration, greed, and so forth? I do not suggest that you act out those feelings, of course not. There is an intention to non-harm. But when the challenging emotions arise, instead of judging them can you just hold them and greet them with kindness?

There's a beautiful story of the Tibetan saint Milarepa. He was meditating in his cave when the demons of anger, fear, and greed appeared. They were hideous; the skin hung in shreds from the bones. The organs seeped out. They had a foul stench. The bones rattled. They bore bloody knives and swords. Milarepa took one look at them and said, "Come in. I've been expecting you. Sit by my fire. Have tea." "Aren't you afraid of us?" they asked. "No, your hideous appearance only reminds me to have mercy, to have compassion. Come sit by my fire and have tea."

So much of your spiritual practice is learning to invite your demons in for tea. But, there's something else to remember: when you invite the demons in, you don't get into a conversation with them (laughter), you offer them a cup of tea. "Shh! No stories!" Because they're simply going to tell you how bad they are, how bad you are, how rotten the world is. They're going to tell you all kinds of negative stories. That's what the mind does, that's the habit energy.

What does it mean to simply open your heart to this moment of fear, anger, greed, frustration, sadness, without trying to change or fix it? It's impermanent. It arose out of conditions and it will pass. It's impermanent. If you try to force it away, you're giving it energy. It's as if you had an angry dog at the end of a chain growling, snarling, lunging at you, so you took a long stick and tried to push him away. Is that going to help? It just feeds him more energy. But if you simply stood on the ground with the dog–– he's on a chain, remember, he can't really hurt you –– eventually he'll tire and lie down.

Neither can anger or fear or any of these emotions hurt you. They're uncomfortable. Sitting on the ground staring at an angry dog is uncomfortable. Imagine yourself just sitting there and (snarling noises), he's growling, he's snarling. You just sit there. Hold space for him. How long is he going to snarl and lunge? An hour? 10 minutes? 2 minutes? Eventually it's going to get boring because you're not feeding him more energy, in a negative sense, you're just holding a quiet space.

So these "demons" that come, whatever they are for you, anger, feelings of unworthiness, doubt, confusion, whatever they are, do as Milarepa did; just invite them in for tea, sit there with them and hold the space. When you hold such a space, it's miraculous. You start to see into these habit energies and that there's really nothing solid there. They're something that the mind has been creating. Simultaneously you begin to see the spaciousness of loving-kindness and compassion that can hold not only your own doubts and fears but the whole world's fears and heavy emotions. There's so much space. You constantly close yourself into a small space and forget the vastness of Being.

Think how it would be if you were sitting in a small box. I came up with a tarantula in my hands. I reached to put the tarantula in the box. Are you going to jump out? (chatter) You're not? Most people would. You, are you going to jump out? ...Big tarantula. Okay, now think about if the box was half the size of this room, with nothing else in the box. You're alone in the box, no furniture, no objects, and I come with a tarantula and put it on the opposite side of the box. Can you stay there for just a few seconds, until it begins to move (laughter)? Now think of a box 3 times the size of this room, again no obstacles. I put the tarantula here in the far corner. Can you sit there and just watch it crawl around a bit? As it starts to approach you, you don't panic, you just get up and walk around to the other end of the room. You sit down again. It explores. And actually this is a very gentle creature; it's not vicious. As you begin to watch it and get used to it, you lose your fear of it. Perhaps you even eventually let it climb up on your lap. Stroke it; make friends with it.

This all comes out of the inviting spaciousness. As long as you are enclosed into this constricted space of fear so that you believe that fear is an enemy that must be defeated, you lock yourself into the old patterns and the repetition of those patterns, fighting against any negative judgment of the self. "I shouldn't feel this, I shouldn't feel that. I shouldn't feel anger. I should feel love. I shouldn't feel selfishness. I should be generous." When you invite these, let's call them demons, in for tea, hold space for them, open your heart and feel the possibility of spaciousness and know the innate radiance and compassion of the heart, then you start to be able to be with these human experiences without reaction. The heart opens.

What happens as you work in this way is that when there is an object that is challenging to you, instead of fearing it you start to say, "Thank you. Here is my teacher. My teacher has come again. My teacher of compassion." Equanimity begins to develop. The object may still be unpleasant but you stop believing in it as solid and perpetuating it.

Let's use unworthiness as an object because I think feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, or low self-esteem, are at least part of many of your experience. Perhaps somebody says something rude to you. Fear comes up and the thought, "I'm not appreciated. I'm not loved. I'm not good." Maybe you're at a gathering, you're talking to somebody and they say, "Goodbye," or maybe they don't even say good-bye, they just turn their back and walk away. "What did I do wrong? Why are they abandoning me?" I know some of you know these feelings.

So here instead of trying to fix it and saying, "I AM worthy," we just take this demon, the old "I am unworthy," and we hold it with love. You can ask the little question, "Is that so? Am I really unworthy? Is there really anybody unworthy here?" No, we see it's just the outgrowth of conditions.

If we took a patch of earth out here, raked it and added fertilizer, covered it with grass seed, added water and sunshine, grass would grow. If we drop a seed of a weed, a dandelion–I don't know, do you have dandelions here in the west? yes-- we drop a dandelion seed right there in the grass seeds, would you be surprised that a dandelion will grow? Would you say, "I've done something wrong," or would you simply say, "A dandelion seed must have fallen in with the grass seeds"? It's the outgrowth of conditions. There's nothing else there but conditions expressing themselves.

When the idea, "I am unworthy" pops up, it's just a plant that's growing because of conditions. You don't have to think that you've done something wrong because that pops up, and you don't have to believe in the story of it, you simply know this is a result of conditions. In this moment there is only a person here experiencing the result of conditions, not somebody who has really been unworthy, just somebody experiencing the result of conditions.

The nature of the mind is to give rise to thoughts, and often these are thoughts are born of your old conditioning, your own beliefs about yourself, your long-held myths about yourself. For some, it's "I am unworthy," for some it's "I have to be the good one. I always have to take care of others. I have to be the helper." And that also can get to be a burden if you believe "I've got to be that" all the time. To be anything can become a burden.

When we see deeply into this pattern and begin to open our hearts to the true self, to that which exists before the conditions and after the conditions, then we start to be able to live life with freedom and joy.

This is true also of conditions of the physical body. As Barbara was saying, at one level yes, she's deaf. And at another level, certainly she can hear. At one level she had no balance, and at another level, as the entities' pointed out, don't focus on that which is unbalanced but go to that which is balanced. Trust the balance. Begin to experience your innate balance. Ah, yes! It's there! Don't focus on that which can't see, begin to know that which CAN see, right there with that which can't.

So those of you who are dealing with issues of the physical body, I'm not suggesting you ignore the relative reality, but don't get stuck in the relative reality and lose the ultimate reality.

In this human journey, fear will come, grasping, aversion, of different sorts. These are simply objects. If you were walking barefoot on the carpet here and stepped on a thumbtack, would there be a bit of pain? You pull the tack out. A drop of blood, yes? Would you say there shouldn't be blood? This is the way the body is. If you stub your toe, there's pain. There are nerves in the toe. This is how the body is. You might say, "Who left that tack there?" "Who left that rock there?" But you wouldn't doubt the experience of the physical body or judge it. You may not like it but you wouldn't judge it and say it shouldn't be that way.

When something comes to you that brings up anger, most of you, I would guess, will say, "I shouldn't be angry" at least some of the time. There will be a drop of blood, that's how the body is. Certain conditions are present and anger will arise. That's how the mind is and the emotional body. The question is not whether these arise but how you relate to it. If I look at the foot, "Blood! That shouldn't be there! Get that out of here!" Not very kind, is it?

Anger. Somebody says something rude to you and anger arises. The issue is not that anger has arisen but how you relate to the anger; how you relate to fear. We learn to relate with whatever arises with kindness. This is the title of my book on the table, Presence, Kindness, and Freedom. With full presence in the moment, we see things literally arising. We don't just roll down the hill like a snowball but we see the process.

Picture yourself on a sled on the top of a hill. It's a steep hill and you see trees at the bottom. The sled is starting to pick up momentum. You know you're going to bashed and battered if you go down and hit the trees. If you're present, you roll off. You see where it's going and you don't go with it. But so often you just are sitting on the sled, trees at the bottom, well, guess I'm going to crash!

This is self-fulfilling prophecy. "I'm going to get caught up more and more in this anger, I've got to fix it. I've got to stop it, change it." Just roll off the sled! Presence. Kindness. Being present with whatever has arisen in your experience with kindness, instead of the usual judgment of it. And as you are able to do that more and more, there's increasing freedom to live from the heart, to live from this place of clarity and love and not be caught in the old habit energies and old karma.

I'd like to open the floor here to questions-- not at this point so much personal question because this afternoon we'll have about 10 minutes a person to go around and hear your deep personal questions and response to them. But what I'd like to hear now are more the universal questions related to what I've said or to other things.

Q: I understand and can see, in myself and in others, that when things like fear or anger or loneliness arise, they are conditioned.... (Things) that arise due to previous causes–they just arise without fault or without blame. They arise unbidden and <>. The reaction to fear, for example, also in my experience is a conditioned response. How I relate to fear, if I can be open or accepting or resisting or hating, that's also conditioned. So the frustration is that when I hear instruction, you know, when fear or anger arise, just relate to them in an easy, open, accepting way. Well that's not a choice I get to make, most of time-- that's also a conditioned response. (Signer (paraphrasing): He feels that accepting those feelings is difficult. It seems hard to just accept from an open space because the response feels so conditioned.)

Aaron: Of course it's hard. You would all be enlightened and liberated, and wouldn't need to be in human incarnation if it was easy. There would be no problem. But let's use that angry dog on his chain again. How many times are you going to try to walk by him and push him away with a stick before you finally realize this isn't working? It's very hard to sit there and look at him lunging at you, snarling at you. Fear comes up. "What if the chain breaks?"

I'm using this as a metaphor, of course. Each of you must have people in your lives who are difficult people, who are metaphorically lunging at you all the time. And the reaction to them is to try to control, to push away, to back yourself out of the situation. To get caught in the stories of helplessness, anger, and so forth. What happens if you just stop?

A beautiful Buddhist teaching story. There was a murderer and thief, Angulamala, who had the habit, when he killed people, to cut off their fingers, and string them on a necklace around his neck. People feared him immensely. One day the Buddha came into the town. Somebody came to the doorway and said, "Come! Come! Come into my house quickly for shelter!" because this murderer is out in the town. And the Buddha said, "Thank you," and continued walking down the street. Sure enough, in a few minutes he heard a voice behind him saying, "You there, stop!" And the Buddha kept walking. "I said, stop! Stop!" The Buddha kept walking.

The man ran around in front of him and said, "I said stop!" And the Buddha said, "I have stopped, it's you who haven't stopped." When are you going to stop? To stop the incessant stories of negativity, fear, and doubt?

Let's use an example. This is a real life example of somebody with whom we worked with many years ago and far away, so no privacy issue here. This person was much abused, not sexually abused but emotionally abused as a child and even beaten at times. Whatever he did, he was told it was no good. No matter how hard he tried, he could not be good enough to please his parents. Like every child, he wanted and needed to be loved. He learned quickly that if he said, "I did not do anything wrong," the parent beat him or screamed at him, but if he said, "You're right, I'm no good," then the parent at least didn't beat him. So he learned that he had to agree with the parents' view of him, that he was unworthy, that he was rotten, just essentially bad in some way.

So he grew to adulthood with this belief about himself. He came to understand through his vipassana practice that whenever he was in a situation where the feeling, "I am unworthy" arose, and that contracted energy, shame, wanting to disappear, that what was really happening was that he wanted love. He wanted the parents' love that he would never get, but he could love himself, he could learn to cherish himself and find the beauty in himself.

So with guidance and with the support of his practice, he spent several years–it didn't happen all at once–but he spent several years, each time unworthiness arose, asking, "Where is love, here?" And "Was there ever anyone who was ever unworthy?" He could literally see that child who so desperately wanted to be loved, needed to create this myth and believe in this myth of unworthiness because it was his only protection. It was the only way he could feel valued in any way, to be the one the parent wanted him to be–to be the unworthy one, the bad one. So there was never anybody who was unworthy, it was just a myth that supported the child's needs, but it no longer supported his needs.

It took time and work but the whole thing cleared. He started truly to understand right there with this myth of unworthiness was a radiant human being, not unworthy and also not worthy. We'll let go of both labels. If there's no unworthiness, there's no worthiness. There's just a being with a loving heart who has created these stories out of some conditioning and necessity to survive. He began to give himself credit that he had been able to do this to survive and began to see how he was carrying this heavy burden, and that it was time to let it go. It's not easy but it really is the only way. How long are you going to carry these burdens? <There is a time to put them down, or as the Buddha said, "I have stopped, it's you who haven't stopped."

The reaction to fear is conditioned. Fear arises, and as you noted, there is a conditioned response to it. Begin to see that response and literally bow to it with a greeting, "Ahh, you again." Don't try to chase it away but just make space for it and try not to get caught in the story it wants to tell. This is where we start, with kindness to whatever arises. Gradually, the patterns will shift.

Q: This question is based on Q's question. The ease at which we're capable of stopping, how directly correlated is that ease with our past lives or our past experiences and what we've learned and gleaned from those experiences?

Aaron: If I can use this as metaphor, it's like that sled going down the hill. Maybe it's not just one small hill but (sound effect). The sooner you get off, the less speed you've picked up. When you know there are huge trees and rocks at the bottom, you know you've got to roll off sometime or you're going to crash. The more often you've rolled down this hill and not gotten off, the harder it gets. But once you roll off once and you learn, "I don't have to crash into the rocks," then it gets easier.

So we in a sense recondition ourselves, testing the possibilities. Did you see the movie Groundhog Day? This is a good example. We just keep doing it the same way until suddenly we see a different possibility. And it works.

Imagine yourself walking down the street. You see a man coming toward you, maybe a neighbor with whom you've had a difficult relationship. Whenever you see him he's abusive. He's always angry. Seeing him walking down the street scowling, angry, you want to get away. But he's not going to let you get away. He walks right up to you. Your old habit energy with him is to say, "Now what are you angry about?" Clearly it's going to invite an angry response, isn't it?

Seeing the tension that wants to respond from anger, one breathes and holds space for that tension. "Breathing in I am aware of the anger, breathing out, I smile to the anger; aware of the fear, I make space for the fear. My heart opens in compassion. I am suffering and he is suffering, our suffering right here together." And maybe from that space you're able to say to him instead, "You look very angry today, what's happening?" That can invite a completely different response from him. Maybe he'll even say to you, "My boss just fired me." You can go off and get a beer with him and pass some time and find a new opening between you. Who knows? Maybe he'll simply say, "Your dog has been littering in my yard. Get him out of there!" In which case you can respond in an appropriate way. "I'm sorry that's been happening, I'll keep a better eye on the dog and I'll come clean up the yard." He can continue his anger. You can't control that. But you don't have to keep feeding back his anger. And when you stop feeding back his anger, it changes him.

No matter how many times, how many lifetimes, there has been one response, a new response is always possible.

We had a good friend who had a house on a lake with a dock where he kept his boat. The shoreline curved in such a manner that this man's lot had only a very short shoreline and it opened wide toward the back of the lot. His new neighbor's yard had a long shoreline. His neighbor, the first year he moved in, the day the ice broke out the neighbor put his dock right out into the water at an angle, jutting out across our friend's narrow shoreline. So literally there was no place for him to put his dock. So he said to the neighbor, "Can you move your dock over a bit? You've got 100 yards here." "No, I want my dock there." His dock was only barely touching his property, just jutting out into the water and blocking our friend.

So our friend moved his dock but had little space. Two or three years went by with this. This man would come at the first break-up of the ice in waders and set his dock into the water fast before our friend could get his dock in. So our friend was thinking, "I'm going to have to move. What am I going to do?" So much anger, so much fear, were coming. I asked him to reflect, this man is your teacher of compassion, as in the Gurdjieff story How can I relate to him in a different way? He was feeling very stuck.

At that time our friend considered going to court with this situation and saying the man was invading his water rights, but he decided, "I have to live next door to him. I don't want to sell my house." The issue was not really where the man put his dock but how engrossed our friend was getting, caught up in his anger and helplessness. The man could not abuse him unless he allowed himself to feel abused. Just then the neighbor on the other side had a wonderful suggestion. He said, "Let's put out one dock together, right between our properties. We can both put it up together and every spring take it down together. We can share it. We can each do half the work and have the joy of sharing it together." This solution allowed the release of tension so our friend was able to relax and reflect on the grasping neighbor's pain.

He started to meditate about the grasping neighbor and to do metta, lovingkindness meditation with him, to see deeply into how frightened this man was. He talked to the neighbor, brought him some baked goods, played ball with the neighbor's sons, and found he had let go of the anger and opened his heart in compassion to this man who was so stuck in his grasping and fear.

Coming back to your question, as we talked about this and looked at some past lives together, it became clear to our friend how often he had dealt with similar kinds of situations in many past lives and not been ready to see a solution. The old habit energy was, "I have to stand up for my rights." As soon as he let compassion in, the whole thing opened. So it healed in this life and it healed right back into all those past lives, the whole thing became a non-issue. And it remains a non-issue in his life. I don't mean that particular dock situation ––this is 15 years later –– all the following situations that he's found himself in. He keeps coming back to this experience and realizing when somebody is pushing at him and abusive, instead of being afraid and feeling he has to come back and control things, he is able to relax, open his heart with compassion to this person's pain, and sometimes that's enough to shift what's happening in the situation and sometimes it's not. If it's not, he's learned how to say no with kindness rather than fear. He now understands the strength of compassion.

Q: This just kind of answers a question but I want to clarify it. I've wondered about past lives and have had a recent experience of one, but I've wondered how much that matters. And when you just said when you heal something now it reaches back and heals past lives, too, then I wonder about all that and is it important to know about that...

Signer, paraphrasing: She wonders about past lives. She has had some recent experiences remembering one past life. But she wonders does it really matter to know about them (right, Q?)

Q: Yes, because if you can heal it now...

Signer: So your question is, does it matter to learn about your past lives, or if you heal something now...

Q: ... a second question: if you heal something now, in this life, I'm thinking you come with whatever you brought from all your past lives. So can we work on, just stay right here in this one? Does that heal?

Signer: Her question is, if you heal something in this life, does it heal the wounds in the past life?

Clean to here

Aaron: Yes. It always goes both ways. You bring forth the past life from the purity of your intention to heal. If you bring forth the past life from a place that wants to control, it won't heal anything. But when it comes forth from the deepest intention to heal and for the highest good of all beings, you draw toward you the memories of those situations that are directly relevant to the conditions creating the present situation, and then there's clarity.

Barbara was speaking yesterday about a situation, perhaps 10 years ago, when she was in the hospital for an extended period with a cellulitis infection in her leg. The leg was grossly swollen and inflamed, the skin splitting, very painful. For 10 days they had tried several intravenous antibiotics and none of them were controlling this. The infection was spreading up the leg, above the knee. So finally the doctors had talked to her about the possible need to amputate if they could not control it, so that the infection would not come up into the organs.

She understood how she was literally separating herself from the leg. "I don't want this leg anymore." Of course, on one level she wanted it to heal. But it was so painful and frightening that she was not giving it any energy. She had a very strong memory of a past life in which the being that she was, was captive with an ankle iron, being led back to a place where she would certainly be tortured and burned at the stake. The woman, a nun, was considered an heretic because this woman believed that one could hear God directly and not only through the priests, so she was being led back, dragged by the leg iron. She determined she would not die that way; if she was going to die, she was not going to be tortured but was going to die free.

So late at night she took a rock and literally carved away at her leg to literally cut it off, no anesthetic, not even a sharp knife. As Barbara watched this past life, which she had seen before, she saw how this karmic ancestress had needed to separate herself from the leg. How can you cut off your leg and still hold it with love? You can but it's very difficult, not separating from any aspect of the self.

As she saw deeply into that situation, she began to see how she was separating from this present inflamed leg. The infection actually was just at the same place where the leg had been cut off and where the leg iron had been. As she sat there meditating on this past life that night, they wheeled a new patient into the empty bed beside her. It was an elderly woman with a newly amputated leg. The curtain got pushed aside and Barbara could see the doctors and nurses working on this newly amputated leg. She saw that the woman's other leg had been previously amputated, a healed stump.

At that point, her heart just cracked open. All these legs lost. She began to think of all the people all over the world who had lost a leg that day, in an accident, walking into a landmine, through illness, and she began to hold this leg and began to understand, one leg to heal for us all. Not MY leg anymore; THE leg, the leg to heal for us all. She really let this leg with its pain and swelling back into her heart. And as she did that, she began to allow energy into it, so the leg healed. The next morning the infection had started to subside. And in the course of that learning, she learned not to separate herself from parts of herself. So she was able to see that first through seeing this karmic ancestress, then working consciously with her own experience and of course the synchronicity of the wheeling in of this woman who lost her leg. Her dharma practice led her to be able to open her heart to all of this pain.

Everything heals, all the way back. She didn't have to go into every past life where she separated from some aspect of herself; it's just an instant, a flow of healing. This is how one works with a past life, knowing whatever has come up is exactly what one needs to see in answer to the current situation. Can one open one's heart and really be with this usually challenging emerging situation.

Q: Can you help me with the difference between compassion and empathy?

Aaron: Yes. Compassion takes it further. With empathy there is a deep opening, a deep experience of how another is experiencing it, but if there is judgment,... Let me put it in this way. With empathy, it's as if you were experiencing what the other is experiencing,. But if there's judgment of you experiencing it, there's still judgment. There's empathy but there's still constricted energy. The heart isn't open to the situation. So there's empathy in terms of understanding but not compassion in terms of embracing and the letting go of judgment.

With compassion there needs first to be empathy and second the release of any negative attitude toward what is being mutually experienced.

Q: Thank you.

Aaron: Let us stop here. The clock says 12 o'clock...

(recording ends; lunch break)