Emerald Isle Retreat, April 28, 2009 (Tuesday Evening)

Barbara: Good evening. I hope you all had a beautiful day. It's so wonderful being here with this endless sea and sky. A lot of joy...

Usually when I give a talk it's about something I have thoroughly digested and have a lot of feeling of deep clarity about. John's talk last night stirred up a lot of questions that have been hanging around me for the last couple of months, about doubt, trust, faith. So I'm going to give a talk tonight and I have no idea exactly where it's going to go in the end, which is unusual for me. Usually I have a very clear map of the talk in my mind, but we'll see where it goes.

Four stories I want to start with.

There's the story of the man in the Buddha's time who wanted to find enlightenment, liberation, and he believed, “If I can meet the Buddha and have direct experience of the Buddha, I'll be liberated.” So he asked around and people told him the Buddha right now was in a town a few days' walk in a certain direction. So the man set out to find the Buddha.

Meanwhile, the Buddha was himself walking and had come to a house seeking shelter on a wet, unpleasant night? He hadn't said, “I am the Buddha,” he just said, “Do you have shelter for a monk?” The householder replied,   “Sleep in my barn.”

A man who was seeking the Buddha happened to be on that road and saw the same house, asked, “Do you have room, a place where I can sleep?” And the man said, “I just told a monk he could sleep in my barn. You can sleep there, too.” So the man went into the barn and saw a monk sitting there in meditation. The monk opened his eyes kindly and said hello and inquired about who he was and where he was traveling.

And the man said, “I plan to be liberated so I'm looking for the Buddha.”

“Oh? And what do you expect to learn from the Buddha?”

“I expect to find liberation.”

“Do you meditate? What is your spiritual practice?”

“Well, I don't do any spiritual practice now but when I find the Buddha I'll be liberated.”

The monk offered to talk to the man. He said, “I have some ideas I think could help you.”

“I don't need any of that, I'm going to find the Buddha.”

So he spent the night with the Buddha and on he went the next morning, still looking for the Buddha.

How would we know the Buddha when we saw him? We'd like to think we'd know; would we really? When we're too full of our own ideas, we can't take anything else in. If we have a preconception, we can't allow anything else in. A preconception is a kind of limit or wall.

The second story relates to a fictional book I began to read last week, and I have read just the first 2 chapters, I was sitting on a raft just next to the shore at my cabin, and I read the first 2 chapters of this book.

The man is a reporter for a TV station and he's sent out to report on a situation where a 3-year-old fell off a third floor balcony, and seemed to be killed. Many people had gathered around; the mother was wailing and crying, the ambulance was coming, the police were coming, but the child was clearly not breathing. A man walking by, Hispanic-looking man, a little bit rough looking with a big tattoo on his shoulder, he walked up and looked at the child, put his hand on the child for a moment, and then he walked away. And in moments the child opened his eyes.

The reporter was out to talk to the mother—who was the man? Don't know; a stranger in the neighborhood. A week later he went out on another reporting mission. Apparently an identical looking stranger walked into the local hospital, into the children's ICU, where was a little girl there who was dying, who couldn't breathe. He walked in and he just put his hand on her face, talked to her for a minute, said, “I'm here with you, I'll take care of you.” The girl immediately could breathe better and other children in the ICU also began to recover. Who was this man? Again, he was gone. Who was he?

The reporter got a phone call. Remember this is just the first 2 chapters of the book. He got a phone call. The man said, “You've been wondering who I am. Please meet me at such and such a place.” He went there and sure enough, here is this man who meets the description, a little bit rough looking, clean clothes but very simple, blue jeans, T-shirt, tattoo on his shoulder. The man has strong energy.

Now this reporter is quite a skeptic. He's met all kinds of situations, all kinds of charlatans. Maybe this man is very psychic, maybe he has special skills; who is he? He sits down with the man and he asks, “Who are you?” and the man replies, “I'm Jesus.” Well this brings up a lot of doubt and skepticism for the reporter. True, there seem to have been 2 miracles but maybe there's some explanation for them. Maybe the child who fell off the balcony was just in a state of temporary shock, seen not to be breathing but really had some breath. Who knows? Maybe the girl just at the moment was starting to respond to some medication. Who knows?

So on one level he feels, “ it could be Jesus; who am I to doubt this? These 2 things really happened. And yet there are so many explanations, how could I believe this?”

In a sutra, the Buddha tells us, “”If you touch my robes, you still don't know me. To know me you must know your own awakened nature.” If a great being, the Buddha, the Christ, some other great being, if he walked in and sat here, would we know him? What allows us to know and trust the deepest truth of another person, to look at another person and see their awakened nature? Can we see their awakened nature if we can't see our own? What blocks us from seeing our own?

Okay, part three of this talk. You all know that I've gone to Brazil the past 6 years for extended stays. I've been deaf for 37 years now, a long time to be deaf; deaf and with the balance nerves dead. No inner ear semi-circular canal balance nerves. No hearing.

In the early years I worked to find more equanimity with the situation. There was so much rage, “Why me? Why is this happening?” So much grasping at not being deaf and so much suffering. And finally I learned that it was okay to be deaf, that the suffering was not coming from the deafness but from the grasping.

I developed what I felt was a true equanimity. Equanimity and resignation are quite different. So as I began to explore my so-called equanimity, I saw that there was some resignation in it. That this is how things are, yes, but there was no sense of any other possibility, just, this is how things are; bear with it, be stoic. Fortitude, and so forth. There wasn't much spaciousness.

As the years went by, I began to find more spaciousness, to develop what felt like a more true equanimity, and as that equanimity opened, there was more sense of the possibility, “Maybe I can hear.” I think in the beginning it was too scary to think maybe someday I could hear, because that brought up the grasping again. So I had to keep it, “It's okay just the way it is.”

I went down there to the Casa the first year and the entities said, “Possibly, we don't know yet. You'll have to come back. We'll work with it.” I went the second year and there was still equanimity, it was okay, because they weren't saying, “You will hear,” they were saying, “Possibly,” and I was able to stay in the spaciousness that holds the possibility of hearing and also the spaciousness that accepts, “This is how it is right now and it's okay the way it is.”

The third year they said, “You will hear.” Now, this brought up so much grasping! As long as they said, “Maybe, maybe not,” it was okay, but when they said, “You will hear,” “NOW?” Grasping!

I understood that the grasping got in the way of healing. What is Right Effort? Right Effort asks us to extend effort but not with grasping, not with fear. We hold open possibilities. It's an effort to bring forth that which is wholesome, to release that which is unwholesome. These are very specific in the Buddha's teachings. To open our hearts to that which is wholesome and invite the possibility of it. To keep giving energy to that which is already manifest which is wholesome. To seek to release that which has already manifest which is unwholesome. And not to get caught up in that which has the potential to arise and has not yet arisen, which is unwholesome.

But in that way it can be a lot of doing, but what it really amounts to is just holding space. It takes us back to the non-duality teachings. This has the potential to arise, it has not yet arisen, but if the conditions are present, it can arise. If it can arise then at one level it already exists. Can you see that? If it didn't already exist at some level then it could not arise. So we need to stay open to be aware of the conditions out of which it can arise, to cultivate those conditions, but we do it without grasping because we don't really know what the end will be.

All along these 6 years at the Casa, my highest intention has not been to hear but to hear if that is for the highest good of myself and all beings. And if it's not for the highest good, that's okay, then I can let go of it. I can't really see what that highest good is. I can see what it seems to be to me, but spirit has reminded me in the last year that my deafness serves people in certain ways and my deafness is still serving people. Spirit has offered the idea, “The hearing will come; are you willing to wait until you fulfill the karma, fulfill the intentions with which you took birth, to serve others in certain ways and to balance old karma through the deafness?” “Yes, of course.” So there's no grasping but there's still the intention.

But each year as I come back and they say, “You will hear,” the grasping comes up again. With the grasping comes doubt. Is what they say real? Well, I've seen enough of their work to know that for the most part if they say, “We can help you with this,” then they can help, that they're very honest.

A couple of years ago, many of you, most of you probably know about the bad accident I had when I almost drowned a mile or two down the beach at the house we were at that year. Broken facial bones, back injuries, broken ribs. They pulled me out of the water unconsciousness. Some of you were there and participated in pulling me out.

Something, a shell, a fragment, something embedded itself in an artery in my lip. With all the other injuries, they weren't much concerned about a bleeding lip at the hospital but for months it just kept bleeding. When it would bleed, it would spurt blood and I'd put compress on it and an ice cube, sometimes for 6 to 8 hours before the bleeding would settle down. Anything, knocking it with a toothbrush or spoon, would start it bleeding again.

My doctor said, “Let's wait and see if it will heal on its own because the only way to fix it medically is to incise the lip, cauterize the artery, and stitch up the lip, and it will leave you with a big scar on your lip.” But it wasn't healing. So I was scheduled for surgery when I came back from Brazil.

When I walked up to the entity, it had been bleeding all morning. I was holding some paper towels against it and they were all soaked with blood. My interpreter brought me up to the entity to ask, what about the ears? I wasn't talking about the lip at all—what about the ears? The year before he had said, “You will hear.” Okay, where am I with this now?

He looked at me penetratingly, in my eyes, and he said, “I told you, you will hear. Be patient.” And then he took my hand away and he looked at my lip for a moment and said, “But this we can take care of now.” Now remember this had been bleeding for 9 months. He said, “Go sit in the current.” I sat down. Within about 2 minutes it had stopped bleeding. I had been moving the paper towel trying to find a clean area to put against it. The bleeding stopped. I could feel it, no bleeding. That was it. It never bled again. It healed perfectly. By the time I got back from Brazil two weeks later there was no sign of it whatsoever, completely gone.

What if these beings say I will hear, I will hear? Why do I doubt? And yet doubt comes up. How do I work with doubt?

I have found that I need to know doubt as doubt, the energy of it, the tension of it, and not get caught in the stories. The stories of doubt are not the doubt itself. Doubt is just a kind of mental gymnastics, something the mind is doing. The body gets caught up in it and there's contraction, there's fear. Ah, this is doubt. I don't want there to be doubt so I move into a place of blind faith. “If I do this right, it will be this way.” But that's also a contracted energy because there's grasping to it. It's different from a deep trust.

I'm looking for an image here... if you're walking in the rain and somebody pauses her car and says, “Do you want a ride?” It's pouring out. You don't normally ride with strangers but it's pouring. You get in and you see the beer bottles on the floor of the car and you smell the liquor on her breath. You hold your breath. “Is it going to be safe? Can I trust this.”  Can you feel the tension in it? Very different situation than if a friend drives by, a friend that you've known for a long time and you know this friend is a safe driver. It's a wicked storm, wind is blowing, rain, but you're relaxed because you know, “I'm safe.”

I want you to feel the difference between that kind of deep trust and what we might call, I don't think blind faith is the word for it but a kind of grasping, wanting to believe. It's almost a self-brain-washing. What allows us to have a deep trust? The answer is probably different for different ones of us. This is what caught my attention last night in John's talk because it's something I've been working with so much recently.

Again this year at the Casa, I was told “You will hear.” Most of you have read the article in my newsletter where the entity said to me, “You will hear.” I didn't actually even ask him this year, I just went through the line the week after my surgery to ask, “What do you want me to do next?”  and he smiled at me and said, “You will hear.” Before I could ask, he told me. Then he said to sit in his current;  I was sitting in there, eyes closed. He got up from his chair and he walked over to where I was sitting and put his hands on my head. I felt this strong energy come through me, the whole body was tingling. Zap!

Two days later it was the Sunday morning service that they hold and I was just sitting there meditating, there was nobody there to sign for me and I don't usually go to the service if I don't have a friend with me to sign. But I felt, “I'll go. We'll see what happens.”

So I went. I was a little disappointed because I didn't find anybody I knew there to sign for me. I just sat with my eyes closed and suddenly I began to hear such clear musical notes that I opened my eyes and I turned around. There was a man standing and singing. I've never heard the song Amazing Grace because before I was deaf 37 years ago it just was not a piece of music I had ever heard, but I have loved the song. The sound was coming through so clear there was no doubt he was singing Amazing Grace, and I could hear each note, so clear and so pure. It turns out he was a world-famous opera singer. If spirit is going to give you hearing, they know how to do it in style. I just sat there with tears rolling down my face, drinking in this music, this heavenly music, note by note by note, so beautiful. We hugged afterwards and I told him my story. He came to my posada, a couple of you were there, and sang Amazing Grace for us there. We sang with him. And again I could hear him.

Now, I haven't heard much more than that. I'm still hearing clear pure notes, not words but clear pure notes of music. But, part of me, the heart is so open and saying, “Wow, yes!” and another part is saying, “I want more! When is it gonna come?” Grasping.

We need to be able to visualize that to which we aspire. Again, coming back to the non-dual. If the potential for hearing wasn't there, then I couldn't hear. And yet I cannot deny the deafness in the moment. So I need to continue to work with an openhearted equanimity with the deafness, to watch grasping and be willing to look deeply at grasping and not get caught up in the stories of grasping, not get caught up in despair, not get caught up in doubt and its stories, but be willing to be with each experience as it comes up knowing, “This has arisen out of conditions. It's impermanent. It's not self.”

This deafness, this body, is simply the result of conditions, the fruition of conditions. It's all moving through, and right now it seems to be moving through very fast. The more I can be present with it, the more I can process it and release it. There are many conditions that must come together for the hearing to happen. Just because they say I will hear doesn't mean tomorrow, it doesn't even mean in this lifetime, although I believe they mean it that way. But if I'm in a car accident tomorrow then their forecast won't come true, if I am killed in an accident somewhere.

“You will hear,” but yes, for me to hear, certain conditions still have to come forth. But if I believe I will never hear, then I will never hear. If I believe the hearing is already here and I simply need to stay open to it and do whatever I need to do to help support this opening, then I enhance the possibility of its happening. No promise.

But there's no longer doubt about whether I will hear, there is simply a spaciousness and patience and waiting. Now it's easier to wait in some situations than others. If somebody has a life-threatening illness then it's very hard to say, “We'll see what happens,” because you don't have the luxury of time. In this situation I have all the time I need and that makes it easier.

If somebody is in a challenging relationship and is working hard to try to heal that relationship, you might on one level see the real possibility of healing, how it can be. You might be able to vividly picture the changes that you are making in yourself and the changes that your partner or friend are making or attempting to make in themselves, and how you can both grow in certain ways that can heal the relationship.

Doubt may still come up, “Can we do it?” because such healing is the result of conditions. Here we have 2 people. One is doing their work; one maybe is not. If the one is not, then the relationship can't fully heal.

When doubt comes up; it paralyzes everything so that you can't do the work you need to do. You can never do the work for somebody else, you can only do it for yourself. But when we continue to do it for ourselves, we keep the door open.

I warned you at the beginning I wasn't sure where this was going!

For me it's all about non-duality, about holding, we talked today, Aaron talked on the beach about nirmanakaya and dharmakaya and sambhogakaya, the mundane and the supramundane. They're not 2 separate things, they come together. The mundane realm is always here and the supramundane is always here.

In our practice, doubt can come up and we think, “I'll never be liberated. I'll never get this. I may as well give up.” And that freezes everything. When we can see doubt as doubt, we can see that which is already liberated. Right there in ourselves amongst all the chaos is that which is already liberated. We learn to hold both.

(There is a quote from the 8th century Zen Master, Hongzhi, “You're already radiant and perfect but you still have to enact it.” Not an exact quote. This awakened mind is there. Therefore the potential for liberation is there. Therefore the potential for trusting this awakened nature is there, and for recognizing it in others. When you look at others, do you see their faults or do you see their radiance, or perhaps do you see both? It's wonderful to see the radiance. It's okay to see the faults. This person maybe exaggerates and this person is impatient and this person is very meek and this person is so outgoing that sometimes it's overwhelming. This person is sad and this person is always smiling no matter what's happening. And we look at these people and we say, “This gets to me a little. I wish this person could get past this.”

But you just see those qualities are like the clothes they're wearing. Underneath those clothes is radiance, this divine nature. If you don't see both, you're losing so much. When you see both, it really resolves doubt because there's nothing left to be doubtful about.

They may or may not become less impatient. They may or may not become less helpless seeming. This is up to them. But that awakened nature is there, and the same is true for you. You may or may not become more patient. You may or may not have a clearer, more loving energy. These changes may or may not transpire. Just do your practice and know your awakened nature. Know the potential for it.

Aaron teaches what he calls the pole meditation. He taught this to me to do in the Current Room the first year I was in Brazil. He asked me to literally hold my hands up for a moment and to feel the high energy, huge energy, coming in from around me and then to hold my feet on the ground to feel the heavier earth energy. And it came out almost like a tonglen practice with the earth, breathing in light and bringing it down and releasing it to the Current Room there around me, or to any difficult situation around me. Just releasing it, opening it. So that my whole body and mind were serving as a vehicle helping to bring down a high energy and releasing into this place of lower energy.

I said to him after a few days of doing that, “Am I really doing anything?” At one level it felt like I was, and at another level I was skeptical. Am I just imagining it? He said, “You're not imagining it. Just keep doing it.” So I did that for the better part of a week. This was my first trip to the Casa. And the next week when I came past the entity he smiled and said, “Thank you.” Thank you—when I got through the line the interpreter said he said thank-you. I said, “Thank you for what?” And she said, “I don't know, he just said thank-you.” Then I thought,  “Maybe I am doing something!”

When I'm in that spaciousness, I am connected to the dharmakaya and the nirmanakaya, serving as this bridge between them, openhearted, knowing doubt as doubt without getting caught in its stories. It's not that there's no doubt or no fear or no negative thought, but I'm not caught in the stories. My energy field is uncontracted. I use this as a kind of biofeedback. The energy feels spacious. My body is open. I can feel that the chakras are open. There's a certain ease.

When I'm caught up in doubt or any kind of negativity, or grasping, wanting to be certain, something closes. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's strong. So I've learned to use this as biofeedback. If I am aware of closure of my energy field, I just note, “Tension, tension.” I come back to the teaching, “That which is aware of tension is not tense.” Right there in this moment of tension and closure is the potential for opening. It's already there.

Does anyone have a big piece of paper?... I think at least 9 out of 10 of you have seen this example before. But we'll toss it out there. Perfect unwrinkled sheet of paper, right? No wrinkles. Can you see that? (crumples paper and displays it) Is the perfect unwrinkled sheet of paper still there? Are there wrinkles there? Can you see both? Where would it go? That perfect unwrinkled sheet of paper is there, and the wrinkles are there...

So when I feel contraction, I don't try to fix the contraction, I don't worry about the contraction. I just go to the place where there's no contraction, and at the same time I offer lovingkindness to the contraction. They both go together. I can do both. In order to do that I have to be willing to be present with the contraction, present with lovingkindness. And then I'm no longer stuck in the contraction, it's just a passing object arisen from conditions and passing away.

I said there were 4 parts to my story. The last one seems a bit outlandish, perhaps, but maybe those of you who know me won't think of it as so weird. You know I am a medium and this is what I do. Spirit comes.

So I had read those 2 chapters about the appearance of Jesus, and reflected on it a little bit, sitting there on the raft. And I was tired so I lay down and went to sleep. I had a very powerful dream. In the dream I was in the village near where my cabin is, a small town, on Main Street. I was just standing there and there was a woman with a puppy in one arm and holding a toddler by the hand. The puppy jumped out and ran out into the street and the toddler ran after the puppy. It's a Main Street and a lot of traffic. Cars go by, trucks go by. So in the dream I'm standing watching the puppy and then the 3 year old run out into the street. A big truck is coming that way and a big truck is coming this way. And I'm frozen in place for the moment.

And the idea comes, “I have to help them.” But I know there's no way I can go faster than those trucks. It's not fear that stops me so much as, at one level it was registering as a dream, there was some lucidity to it, but there was also the feeling, “I cannot stop this. I need to watch it.”

And then I saw a figure across the street. Remember I had just read these two chapters. I saw a figure across the street and he just held out his hand like that, and he started to walk, to move fast. And it looked to me like, as he grabbed the puppy and the 3 year old, that the truck rolled over them, but the other truck on my lane came past going the other way and blocked the whole view.

What does one do? Well, one's training kicks in. Just hold the light, hold the space, hold love. Not, “Oh, they're dead!” Holding the space, holding love. And the truck went by and the other truck went by and here he was, walking out of the road holding the puppy and the child. And he handed them to the mother and looked at me and said, “Thank you.” And at that point I woke up.

It was a very emotional experience. It really hit me in a deep place because of the reading and reflection I had just been doing. What is real? What is real in our experience, what can we trust? How do we come to trust?

So I began to meditate. I sat for about 45 minutes and moved into a very deep, quiet place. I was just coming out of that meditation, had not opened my eyes yet, was feeling a very high energy around me and Aaron said, “Just sit.” I had experienced this before so I didn't open my eyes, I just sat. And there was this powerful energy.

Here's where you may be even more skeptical and that's okay. I've come to know a certain energy as the Christ energy. And I've met this energy a small handful of times, 4 or 5 times before. And it's always been a life-changing experience. So I felt myself looking at this energy, eyes closed in meditation, feeling this energy, feeling its presence, feeling its love. And immediately the voice of doubt came up. “Is this real?

How much have I been influenced by the book I've just been reading?” And I just felt this strong energy. He put his hands in my ears and he said, “It's time. Are you ready?” And I said, “Yes.”

And I started to feel huge energy. And just then, my dog, whose leash was wrapped around my arm and who had been sleeping for all this time, gave a big pull. And my eyes opened and there was somebody 50 feet away on the shore trying to get my attention. So I spoke to them for a few minutes, took care of what needed taking care of, closed my eyes again, trying to bring this back. But of course it was gone; it doesn't come back.

Was it real? How do we resolve doubt? How do we open to possibilities? How do we keep our heart open without grasping? You recognize I'm asking you a lot more questions than giving you answers. But the questions remain: how do we do this? We can learn to do it. We can learn to develop a deeper trust of our experience. Not grasping, not pulling back, just holding space, holding our hearts open, open to whatever possibilities are there, and to do that we have to be willing to investigate the painful things that come up so we're not running from anything, so we're very certain in our experience-- I'm not imagining this because I want to create something because there's something painful I want to get away from. I'm not grasping at hearing. There's equanimity about the deafness, true equanimity. Therefore I'm probably not creating this in some way; I can trust this experience. When the time is right it will come back. Just let it go. I can't recreate it, I can just stay open to it. It will come back. Whenever. This week, next month, next year.

It was a very powerful experience. If you met the Buddha on the beach tomorrow, would you know him? What would it take to allow you to know him? To sit down and have a useful talk with him and listen to his suggestions about awakening?

Thank you.

(session ends)