Sunnyside Senior Retreat
March 4, 2009

Keywords: non-duality, (earth consciousness evolution, belief, sword and shield)

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. I will offer more of an inspirational talk tonight than a deep and conceptual dharma talk.

You are souls living here in this human experience. You have come into the earth at this crucial time, a time of great transition on the earth. The earth is moving through many changes including, most importantly, a change into higher consciousness. It can be a higher consciousness of negative or positive polarity. Negative polarity is also capable of higher consciousness. This is not what you would phrase as non-dual consciousness in the same way as positive polarity envisions it but more an oppositional consciousness, based in service to self, whereas positive polarity is based on–I dislike to phrase as service to others because at the non-dual level there is no self or other–simply non-self-centeredness rather than self-centeredness. Yet even self-centeredness approaches the non-dual as the self becomes everything.

In non-self-centeredness there is lack of contraction; there is openness and spaciousness. In self-centeredness there is contraction, tightening, grasping, and holding. So a major distinction between positive and negative polarity is in the contracted vs. the uncontracted state. This is one reason why we focus so much on recognition of spaciousness, not because I’m trying to convince you to be positively polarized beings but because you already are positively polarized beings, and the recognition of spaciousness will help you to express your positive polarity more fully.

All of you have made a decision to live your life with as much love and wisdom as is possible. If that were not so, you would not be here at the retreat. You are learning how to live in that way.

As your earth goes through the changes of the coming years, it will ask more and more of those beings who are willing to be leaders, to be guides, helping others to orient themselves. You may help others to learn how to work with their negative impulses without contracting around those negative impulses, because to contract around them is just more negativity. So much of your practice is learning how to hold space for negative thought and impulse, not to act it out. But also not to make it into something that must be fixed, not to create a duality. If you think of anger or greed or impatience or any such emotion as something bad that must be fixed, you’re just giving it more energy. Every time you see impatience, for example, and become impatient with the impatience, “No I won’t have that,” you’re contracting around it; you’re feeding it. Each time you can smile at it and say, “Oh, you again. Have tea¹,” you’re no longer feeding it, and in fact you’re coming back into the non-duality of knowing both impatience and that which is patient, there in that moment. With generosity, that which is greedy and grasping and that which gives freely, there in that moment; with anger, that which is kind and compassionate, there in that moment.

This is a practice of non-duality. Any place where you practice duality leads you into negativity. And yet of course the human does sometimes practice duality. Then it becomes a practice to watch how you are creating duality and say, “Ah, here’s another one.” No contraction about it. Just awareness.

You are human. You’re not expected to do this perfectly. There is no such thing as perfect. There is only an increasing progression into more and more light and spaciousness. What is perfect spaciousness? Could you envision that? You can’t because it’s unlimited; it just keeps opening up.

As you do spiritual practice–do this vipassana practice–so much of our instruction to you has been first to note the object, because unless you’re aware that it’s arising, you can’t attend to it. You deepen awareness so the presence of the object is observed, and then notice the relationship with the object. Ask, “Am I holding it with contraction or am I inviting some spaciousness and some kindness?” It’s all relative, a little bit of spaciousness and a little bit of kindness are there, then a bit more and a little bit more.

There’s no right way to practice kindness, there is only the deep intention, “I am a being of Light, a being of Love, and it is my intention to model this on the earth for the highest good of all beings, to teach peace by being peace, to teach kindness by being kindness,” including forgiving oneself when one is not kind. It is through each of your efforts that the world will be transformed, literally, in these coming years.

You are seeing times of great chaos and instability. This instability in part is result of the coming transition and that the forces of positivity and the forces of negativity are at a stand-off, but have very different attitudes. The forces of negativity think there’s a fight, a war. Let’s use the football image, they want to kick and push the positivity away, push their way through. But the positive team knows there’s really no competition at all.

What would happen on the football field if one team said, “We’re going to win,” grabbed the ball, broke all the rules, tried to stomp over the other team, but the other team just stepped out of the way? The score is 99 to 0, the negative team says, “We’re winning,” and the positive team says, “We didn’t know there was a competition.” Then the positive team, when it’s their turn, laughs and tosses the ball around and has a good time. They’re not concerned with the score, they’re just enjoying throwing the ball and enjoying being on the field.

As long as you believe there’s an enemy that has to be conquered, whether it’s out there or the enemy of your own shadow, you create this competition and contraction, pushing against it. Relax! You already are where you want to be. There’s no football game, there’s no score being kept. Relax!

And yet, you must continue to do your practice, to be aware, to note the arising of negative thought. Be aware of it, hold it in spaciousness and watch how it dissolves again and again until that which is innately radiant, clear and beautiful in you can more fully shine forth.

If you tried to launch a boat today, what would happen? It would go plunk on the ice. (our meditation hall is by a frozen lake; boats are pulled up on shore) No good. You get in the boat, you hoist the sail, but it doesn’t go anywhere. The paddles won’t go into the water because there’s ice. What if you got out there and started chopping at the ice with pickaxes? That is a lot of effort, yes? What if you just sit on the shore and meditate, knowing, another month and the ice will be gone. The sun will warm it naturally. There’s no competition, there’s nothing I have to push or do. The clear water is already there, although there’s still ice. We’re not denying the ice. I’m not denying that you experience negativity, but you don’t have to fix it, just hold light and that which is clear will come.

Many of you have heard Barbara talk about her experience in Brazil not this year but a year ago. Up until that trip she used her walking sticks for balance all the time except indoors. She walked down to the Casa the first day, and the entity said to her, “No more walking sticks.” She said, “But I need them or I’ll fall.” He said, “You only think you’ll fall. No more walking sticks.”

She returned to her pousada at lunchtime and she left her walking sticks there. She began to walk back to the Casa after lunch and her body was very tense. There was a lot of fear, “I’ll fall, I’ll fall.” Her back hurt because she was holding her body in such a stiff way. It was her second week back. She had come the first week and the entity had done surgery on the first day. Now that morning when he said, “No walking sticks” it was in the surgery review line. So she was tired and her body was not quite back to normal after the surgery.

Part way down the street she simply stopped and said, in her meditation because the entity was not beside her in physical form, she said, “I can’t do this, I need help.” She heard them saying in her meditation, “Just walk and I will support you until you get your balance.”

So she started to walk and he said, “Bigger steps, bigger steps.” She was walking in little mincing steps, as you walk on the ice, so of course her back was cramped. She started to feel if she leaned to one side or the other, to feel a push on either side until she felt balanced. She started to take long strides and finally she heard him say, “You’re on your own now,” like a parent letting go of the bike. And she just kept walking. It was fine. Right there with imbalance was balance.

So she walked for a week. She came back to the entity. She reported, “Thank you. I have walked for a week with no walking stick.” She thought he was going to pat her on the back. He said, “Now get a bicycle.”

So she rented a bicycle and her first thought was, “I can’t do this.” She tried to swing a leg over, it was a man’s bicycle, she fell. She said, “See, I can’t do it.” I said to her, “Can’t or won’t? How much are you limited by your belief system, ‘I cannot do it’? If you believe you cannot do it, of course you cannot do it. What is this belief?” I think I irritated her a bit. She got up, she swung her leg over the bike and she rode off and never looked back.

She rode her bike around town the rest of the stay last year, and this year on her first day she had a bike arranged. She got on the bike; she rode off. She rode the bike for the 5 weeks she was there, no problem. And yet of course she would say to you, “I have no inner ear balance.” Well, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have balance.

In what ways are you limited by your beliefs? You come to your vipassana practice and so many of you believe, ”I cannot concentrate,” “I can’t note well,” or, “I’m okay with pleasant objects but if unpleasant objects come up, they overwhelm me.” “I’m incapable of this, I’m incapable of that. I can be openhearted with some things but not with others.” These are just beliefs. You each have your own core beliefs with which you grew up. A belief in who you are, as the bad one or the good one, the one who must save others, the one who must always be good and loving and kind, the one who was never good enough no matter how hard he tried.

Whatever these core beliefs are, they stop you from being who you are. Even the belief, “I am unlimited” is still a belief of sorts. There is still the idea “I am something, I am unlimited,” and then if a sense of limitation comes up, you think, “I will not have that. No. No idea of limitation, I am unlimited.” You draw out the sword and slash limitation into little pieces. Then you’re waging war again. Don’t be anything. Don’t be limited, don’t be unlimited, just be present in the moment.

I just used the image of the sword. I’ve used this image with a few of you in the past few days. Many of you are carrying around a shield and a sword. You are almost born with them because of your culture and your karma. You learned very early on to barricade yourself from some kinds of things, to be ready to protect yourself. Your protection might be simply in being the good and kind one, the caretaker, that’s one kind of a sword, and hostility is a different kind of sword.

Holding your self separate; so many of you speak about loneliness and alienation, feeling different. Have you ever thought that perhaps you’re holding some kind of armor that doesn’t allow you complete intimacy with your world, with your life? Here on retreat many of you are talking about the deep experience of intimacy with the natural world around you, in silence, because it feels safe to allow that intimacy. You ask me, “How do I take that back out after the retreat?”

Are you ready to put down your shield and sword? Watch tomorrow as you walk through the day, use the literal image of picking up the shield, as something that’s separating you from an experience that feels uncomfortable, an external object or even your own judgment. Watch how you reach for the sword. Judging yourself is a kind of sword. Judging others. Old belief of failure, of limitation, these are all kinds of shields and swords.

You don’t have to put them down; just be aware they are prsent. There’s an old story about William Penn, the founder of the state of Pennsylvania, who was a military man, used to carrying a sword at his side. He became a Quaker and he asked his Quaker teacher, “When must I give up my sword?” His teacher said, “When you can’t carry it anymore.”

How long do you need to carry it? I think you can see how the contraction I spoke about at the beginning, and the wielding of the sword come together. As soon as you hold out the shield, or pick up the sword, your energy is contracted. When you put them down, can you feel the spaciousness, willing to be present with everything that is there? Here is a state of unknowing, not trying to label experience, to control it, to fix it–just, what is it? What is this emotion that’s arising within? What is this body sensation? What is this thought? Not good or bad, just here it is. What is the direct experience of it? When you are open to it, fully open, you begin to see right there with the emotion, with anger, is that which is not angry. With pain, is that which is not experiencing pain right there in that moment. With sadness, is that which can hold space for sadness and is not caught up in its stories. This is the putting down of the shield and the sword.

As you do this work it leads you in the direction you have planned to go in the incarnation, that is, to move fully into your wholeness, your unlimitedness, your radiance. To be those on the football field who say, “Where’s the contest? We’re just out here having a good time, sharing love.”

Have you ever played New Games? In the New Game competition, everybody plays but nobody wins or loses. No score is kept. We play a game called Catch the Dragon’s Tail. We divide the group into two teams, each person on one team holding the waist of the person in front of them; the last person on each team has a long piece of cloth that’s the tail. So there are two lines that are weaving and running. The person in front on each team has to try to grab the tail of the last person on the other team. The teams are weaving in and out and they’re trying very hard to protect their tail and to grab the other’s tail, but when they grab the other person’s tail, all they do is, they tuck the tail into themselves and the person who took the tail becomes the new tail. And the game keeps going. There’s no winner or loser. The joy is in the playing.

Life is like that. There’s not meant to be a winner and a loser. It is meant to be played and the joy is in the living. Intention is needed. That game could not be played if there was no intention to grab the tail. But the end result is not to win, the end result is to grab the tail because that’s the fun of the game.

The end result here is simply to know your radiance and divinity and to help mid-wife the earth into a higher consciousness and vibration. It helps to enjoy it doing it, not to live with some idea that there’s some enemy out there to conquer. When enough of you grasp this, the earth will move in that direction, toward joy, love and the non-contracted state.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, we’re not saying “Go ahead” to negative polarity, we’re saying, “We end the war because you are no different from me. You are also inherently light.” I compassionately challenge you when I see you doing harm to others, but I do not do it with a sword, I do it with love, with kindness. You learn how to say no with compassion to that which is negative, not to pull out the sword and heighten the war, whether the seeming enemy is another’s or your own negativity.

I think the world is in the state of chaos and instability that it is right now, because so many of you are aware that there are choices to be made right now, that this timing is crucial. So many of you have been challenged. For example, deeply seeing the non-duality of all beings, deeply aspiring to an earth where all beings are fed and sheltered, have what they need, and yet there is still within you a bit of self-centeredness and fear that says, “Well, I want everybody to eat but I’m hoarding a little just in case.”

Many of you have the understanding now, “Now is the time for the shift.” Yet many of you have to some degree been unwilling to face the ultimate consequences of that shift. So in a sense you’re backing yourselves into a corner and saying, “Okay, this is it. Am I willing to live what I believe? Am I willing to let go of this or that so others may live? Am I willing to live more carefully so others may live?” It’s not a question of, “Will I starve or they starve?” It’s a question of, “Do I need twice what I believe I need at the cost of others starving, or am I willing to look deeply at those fears and let go?”

I think a lot of the chaos and instability in the world right now, especially the financial chaos, is based not on the negative but on the positive fact that many of you are ready to challenge yourselves and ask, “How can I live more simply and openheartedly, with deep care to all beings? What old beliefs do I have based in fear, that I must hoard and hold on?” As you come to that edge, momentarily there is increased fear.

The earth has the capability to support all the life upon it when enough of you realize that truth and let go of the old beliefs. I’m not suggesting here that you need to invite 20 homeless people to come and live in a house like this. There are many ways of bringing forth this shift. There are those on earth who are, let us simply use the term lazy and/ or greedy, who don’t believe they should have to work for what they need, and it’s not wholesome to simply say, “Here, take everything,” because those who take will just keep taking. But those who are holding against these who would take beyond their share need to begin a model of letting go and then finding new ways to say no with compassion when such a “no” is needed.

A simple example; if you have been hoarding food packages and there are hungry people out there, you can keep for yourself what you feel you need. Then you distribute the remainder but you don’t let somebody grab 15 of them, you ask people to be responsible for taking what each one needs. How this is done, this is something the president and you as a country are going to have to learn, you as a world will need to learn. But I firmly believe that the leadership and the intelligence, the compassion, are present in the world today to do this work. It’s going to be very challenging work but you are ready for it.

This is where your meditation practice interfaces with daily life. You leave the retreat and you go out into the world. What do you do about the beggars in the street? What do you do about the homeless people? Are you interacting with the world in wise and compassionate ways? You need to keep taking it back into your meditation, watching for contraction, watching for the sword, and the shield, watching for separation, and simply to attempt to live your life from a place of connection and love. Expect setbacks; it’s not going to come easily. The habit is toward contracting.

That’s okay. You are creating a whole new paradigm, living from a place of love instead of a place of fear. If you don’t do it, who will? This is why you have incarnated now at this time of great transition. Those of you who are older have been preparing yourselves for this throughout your lives, and those who are younger have come in, some of you, as very old souls, holding this vision clearly and knowing what the work is.

What you do has repercussions through the whole world. The way you react in this moment, is how you react to anything that’s frightening that comes toward you. If the shield and sword fly forth out of habit, what does it mean to lay them down? How are you going to respond to fear with love? It really is as simple as that.

(recording ends)

1. “Have tea:” here Aaron is referencing the story of the Tibetan saint, Milarepa, who tell us to invite our demons in for tea. [return]

Copyright © 2009 by Barbara Brodsky