April 28, 2011 Thursday, Morning Instruction, Emerald Isle

I'd like to suggest two specifics for your practice today. First, deepening presence with each object, deepening mindfulness. Be present with the primary object, and if something pulls attention away from the primary object, simply be with it.

Be aware of any mental formations that arise around that new object and any body tensions that bespeak resistance or tension. What is your relationship with the object? And then, as the object slips into the background, what is your-- I don't want to say "your", at this point there maybe not be a strong sense of a self-- but what is the object that arises next, that speaks of the relationship with the first object?

Cold wind, "blowing, blowing, cold." It may feel pleasant if you're bundled warm. It may feel unpleasant. If it feels unpleasant, watch the subtle tension that comes. The experience of coldness ceases to be predominant. Tension and resistance, aversion, any one of these may become predominant.

What is the texture of attention with it? (holding up half shell) The cup half full, the cup half empty. You find this on the beach. Is your first response to say, "Oh, it's lovely, it's so beautiful!", or is your first response to it, "Where's the other half? How did it get broken? Oh, what a shame that this is broken." Can you see the beauty in it?

Similarly, when a tension-inducing experience arises like the cold wind-- unpleasant, resistance, tension-- can you see it as a gift? Here is a strong object. Not, "Oh, no, there's tension! It will destroy my practice!" but "Ah, what a nice strong clear object with which I've been presented." It's just tension. That quote that was on the board yesterday from Barbara, "Can a brownie just be a brownie?" Can tension just be tension?

Think of the shell touching the foot, just a prick, just a bit of pain. Momentary, no blood, just, "Ouch! Sharp." There are those of you who would scour the sand afterward trying to remove every bit of sharp shell. You'll never do it. There will always be sharp shells to prick your feet. Include them in your practice with kindness, furthermore, with appreciation.

I said two parts to your practice. That's Part I. Part II. As much as is possible I'd like you to watch the dissolution and/or arising of objects. Dissolution is usually easier to watch. It's very hard to see the object coming up out of that field until it's right there in your face. But if there's a strong object and you stay with it, you usually can see it dissolving.

As it dissolves, literally go with it. You can raise briefly, just once or twice in the practice period, the practice question, "Where does it go?" When it dissolves, where does it go? Everything is arising out of conditions and dissolving back into this sea of conditions. "What is it?" What is this sea of conditions? Don't keep asking, it would be disruptive to practice, but raise the question the first time something strong comes and dissolves, "What is it?" or "Where did it go?" Hold the intention to allow yourself to relax into that emptiness, that empty cauldron that's ever-full, and just to be there, within the akashic field.

Body sensation is a wonderful place to practice this is, especially a constricted sensation somewhere in the body. Watch the sensation, and of course it will dissolve. As it dissolves, go with it, but also, not by way of hurrying it along, not by way of forcing it out, but also right there with that sensation, you can see that it's something that has arisen. Literally follow the sensation down to its base and see it dissolve into the akashic field, even while the sensation is still on the surface. Is there a question about that instruction?

I'm speaking of the simultaneity. The sensation may still exist. You're not trying to hurry the sensation away, but you're also going to the place where the conditions for the sensation were being formulated out of this... karmic mud, if I could call it that, this primordial ooze. Here are the various conditions and, Oh, here's one, (sound effect), and it comes up. Go to where it's not.

It's a very powerful practice. And often you'll find that the sensation, especially if it was a strong, painful sensation, or strong contraction somewhere in the body, that it will resolve, but remember you are not doing this to make it dissolve; you are simply doing it because that's the kind thing to do.

If your dog comes home with burrs all over his coat, you comb them out. You don't comb them out because the dog is ruined in some way, with burrs all over his coat, you comb them out because if don't, the dog is going to grab them with his teeth and pull them out, and leave a mess, and probably hurt himself pulling them much more than you will. It's the kind thing to do, to remove them. You also don't go down the warpath and cut down every briar bush in your neighborhood or shave the dog.

It is literally this kindness – this willingness to be present with the condition as it is; to see literally that whatever has arisen is the expression of conditions; to move down into the place beyond those conditions where this expression has not yet come up; and just to hold that primordial ooze with spaciousness – that resolves karma because you are in effect changing the conditions by bringing spacious and ease to them rather than contraction.

Regardless of whether it's a strong physical or strong emotional object, you can do this. You may find it easier at first to see it with a physical object because it's more usual to be caught up into the experience of the emotion. There's usually a bit more space around the physical object, unless we're talking about a broken leg or some such extremely painful condition. But even there, it can be done. Some of you have heard me talk about a lifetime in the bush in Australia where we would gather around a person with a broken leg and sing, using vibration and harmonics to heal the break. But of course, there's always more to it than that.

We were all, as a group, also going down into that akashic field and singing the wholeness back up into the leg. So it's not that we were simply singing the bone to knit itself, but we were singing the always-present wholeness back up, going to the place where it's not broken and inviting it to come up and express. Going to the place where sadness or fear or anger is not present, and without aversion to those objects, seeing the conditions out of which it will not need to express, purifying conditions.

I invite you to explore this, but please, explore it not as a way of fixing. Explore it as much as possible within your vipassana and pure awareness practices. Beyond anything else, my intention is that you continue to see deeply into the impermanence and non-self nature of everything that's arising until finally you become exhausted with it and say, "What I am looking for is not in all of these arisings of mind and body," and then you're ready to allow that shift into the lokuttara (supramundane) citta.

Through this practice you're inviting the awareness of the akashic field and the Unconditioned that holds the akashic field. You're simply shifting your gaze from the mundane into the spaciousness, which is precisely what the Theravada path points out, through the various flow of insights and knowledges.

So that's my practice talk for today. Are there questions?

Q: I have a small practical question. Sometimes I have difficulty staying with an object until dissolution. I seem to contract somewhat in order to stay, rather than staying in a looser or more spacious way. Then I try to shift to see the clenching, but sometimes I get lost in terms of allowing dissolution, and just go from one object to another.

Aaron: I understand. Daughter; impermanence and emptiness have always been a challenge for you! Following dissolution takes you right into impermanence and emptiness. There's going to be resistance to it. There's a subtle fear, and then you, being Q, with your particular way in the world, say, "No, I should!" and that's where the force and constriction come from.

Instead of noticing the constriction that's the secondary result, I'd like you to find the subtle tension about the whole idea of allowing dissolution and simply be present with that tension with kindness. "There's some resistance here, some fear." Right there as the object is beginning to dissolve, and before the "I should" comes in, feel the subtle tension and find the field of spaciousness that can hold that tension.

Before your sitting, state your highest intention to open to the deepest levels of being for the highest good of all. Ask for help. Ask me. Ask me to take your hand as you watch those objects dissolve, and to go into that emptiness with you.


Q: I'm used to the idea of objects arising and ceasing, and somehow I think of that as happening very quickly. But in the past 24 hours, I've had a very intense object arise and other things followed it: feelings, emotions, stories. I watched them, I could see what I was doing. And with the passage of time, other things came up and became predominant. However, that object was still there somewhere, and its ceasing has been extremely gradual. Could you speak to that?

Aaron: Create an imaginary pocket, right here at the heart. Take that object and place it in the pocket. I want you to be so close to it that you ask after it at least every 10 minutes, "Where is that object?" as if it was a very infant baby bunny that you found, eyes not yet open. It needs the warmth of your heart; it needs your attention. "Does this object need anything right now?" Not, "Does it need to be stomped under my foot?", but "Does it need love? Does it need care of some sort?"

I want you not to try to keep it at bay but to keep bringing attention back to it, and keep bringing attention back to the impulse energy to overwork the object, to keep chewing on it, in a sense, keep playing with it. T (our cook) will tell you, if you overwork dough, the bread will get tough, yes? We don't want a tough bunny (laughter), we want a very openhearted, easeful bunny.

So bring attention to it but don't fret over it. But if fretting arises, that's a different object. Grasping, fear, wanting to fix, these are all different objects. But that predominant object, it's either the thing that happened, or the feeling about it, the words that were heard, whatever it might be, you keep going back into with presence, not to fix, but to offer full presence.

I do not imagine what the object might be, but perhaps a call on your cellphone, "Sorry, Mom, I burned the house down!" Now that's an object that's going to keep coming back! Mind keeps fretting, worrying. You put it in the heart pocket and just keep it loved.

Q: Before you finish, could you summarize the practice you'd like us to do, because it's a lot of information.

Aaron: As you sit, start with an inner statement of your highest intention. Start with that first thing when you wake up in the morning, knowing your highest intention for the day is a mix, perhaps: liberation, service to all beings, liberation for the highest good of all beings, deepening insight, heart opening, a combination of these. These guide you.

If you keep remembering your intention, it's strong guidance. As you sit, moving into presence with the primary object, first give the body a chance to settle, a minute or two, then directly focus attention on the primary object. As anything becomes predominant and takes attention away from that object, go to it.

Contact, consciousness, feelings of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral, will all arise. Perception; that is, "What is this object?" Awareness of whether there is relatively bare perception or very biased perception. Awareness of the movement that is arising mental formation. That is, aversion, grasping, stories of any sort. Whatever comes, what is my relationship with it? If there's a contracted fear-based relationship with it, note it, but don't try to fix it; just be there with it.

You can work with that, say, anger, in many ways. One is simply breathing in and breathing out and being present with it. Another way is looking at the imbalance in the elements in the mind and body in that moment. This is not done as attempt to fix the anger, just seeing that there's an imbalance in fire energy, maybe too much wind energy, too. Wanting more ocean, more grounding. You can literally get up and give yourself that, not to fix the anger, just as kindness to bring things back into balance. If you have a cup of coffee and it's boiling hot, you don't drink it right there, you don't say, "I should, it's fresh," you take it out on the deck and let the breeze blow it a bit. That's kindness.

As this object ceases to be predominant, come back to your breath. However, if an object dissolves and you're able to stay with it and watch it dissolve, go to the place that it dissolves into, just go along with it.

Listen to the bell, here. Ear touching sound, hearing consciousness arises. It's probably a pleasant sound. Stay with the sound. Where does it go when it stops? Can you go with it? Close your eyes and listen.


And then thoughts or other objects start to come in again. Many of you experienced, briefly at least, that spaciousness into which it dissolved. Again...


Now here's a slightly harder one. See all of these conditions in that vast sea of the akashic field. A little hammer, a tube correctly suspended, an arm, an intention, a gathered retreat, many different kinds of conditions. There's no bell yet, but it's all there, and we will bring it together, literally see it arising and coming together before the bell sound arises, as the intention lifts the hand...


There it goes... All the conditions were present. They came together and the bell arose. It is not self, it simply came together out of these conditions. Go into the place before the bell arose. Do you want to change the bell? Bring loving energy to Barbara's arm and rest it on her lap, and the bell will not arise.

So this is the basic instruction. Be with the primary object. As something becomes predominant, go to it. Either stay with it until it is no longer predominant and return to the primary object. If you are able in that moment, stay with it and watch its dissolution, and go out with it. Rest in that space. Stay there for the rest of the sitting if nothing else pulls your attention away, but don't force yourself into that space by pushing other objects away. Gradually you will discover the space that has always been there, and become familiar with it. Know it as the akashic field, and also know the deeper emptiness beyond.

(session ends)